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Sempozyum: 6th Internatıonal Computer and Instructıonal Technologies Symposium
Standards, Benchmarks and Accreditation of Distance Education Programs in The United States
Yasin YALÇIN
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University

Vanessa Paz DENNEN
Florida State University
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Sempozyum: 6th Internatıonal Computer and Instructıonal Technologies Symposium
Standards, Benchmarks and Accreditation of Distance Education Programs in The United States
Yasin YALÇIN
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University

Vanessa Paz DENNEN
Florida State University
Abstract :

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2003), among all 2- and 4-year institutions in 2000- 2001 in the United States, 19 percent had degree or certificate programs designed to be completed totally through distance education. This means that there were more than 780 distance education programs during the 2000- 2001 academic year, a number which has steadily grown over the last decade. As there is an increased demand for distance education programs, there exists a need to determine that the quality of distance education courses parallels the quality of the courses that are off ered on campus. In order to assure quality at a distance, accrediting
agencies and various commissions have developed standards and benchmarks. Within this study (a) the standards
that have been employed by recognized agencies for the accreditation of distance education programs in the United States; and (b) the benchmarks that have been off ered by various commissions to be used in distance education programs in order to encourage best practices have been presented.

The overlap between standards and best practices has been discussed, along with strengths and shortcomings of the system. Although various commissions have developed extensive standards and benchmarks in order to provide interested institutions with guidelines, regional accrediting bodies’ accreditation standards are unable to address distance education off erings thoroughly. Because these accrediting commissions accredit the institutions entirely and expect all parts of the institutions to meet the accreditation standards, distance education courses and/or programs that are off ered within these institutions are also expected to meet these standards, although the standards are not developed solely for the accreditation of distance education off erings.

Some of the accrediting commissions have “guidelines” for educational institutions in measuring their distance education off erings; however, these guidelines are intended to be facilitator rather than exact indicators of quality for distance education off erings. On the other hand, the accrediting commission of Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), a national career-related accrediting organization recognized by Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE), accredits specifically distance education institutions, and has the most comprehensive accreditation standards for distance education programs organized under twelve categories. As mentioned earlier, besides accrediting bodies, some commissions have developed quality standards and benchmarks for evaluation of distance education off erings. Among these, one of the most prominent commissions, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), has conducted a research titled Quality on the Line: Benchmarks for Success in Internet-based Distance Education in order to determine the benchmarks in Internetbased distance learning (IHEP, 2000).

The study revealed 24 quality benchmarks divided into seven categories. This study is one of the most cited studies in the field of quality of distance education off erings. In addition to the study conducted by IHEP, the Sloan Consortium provides A Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Education Programs which contains 70 quality indicators and is divided into nine categories. These quality indicators are intended to identify the weaknesses and demonstrate the overall quality of online education programs as well as assist accrediting bodies in determining the elements of quality within the program. Quality in distance education is a growing concern in educational institutions that aim to provide quality distance education off erings as well as in accrediting and government bodies that aim to protect public from fraud and abuse. In order for these organizations to accomplish their missions, the quality indicators of distance education off erings have to be expanded and developed considering the unique nature of distance education.

Keywords : distance education, accreditation, standards, benchmarks
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