Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Monitoring Quality of Distance Learning: How Will Accrediting Agencies and Universities Cope?

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

Monitoring Quality of Distance Learning: How Will Accrediting Agencies and Universities Cope?

Article excerpt

Distance learning is becoming an increasingly important component of educational programs throughout the world. In light of this flourishing method of education, how will accrediting agencies, including AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (formerly AA CSB-the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business) and the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council cope? What are the accrediting agencies doing to help universities create quality distance learning programs and to help peer reviewers, who must evaluate these programs? This research provides some answers and guidelines.

... as time goes on, the most important thing about a country's scientific and technological base may not be what information is in it at any given moment, but the speed with which it is continually renewed and the richness of communication carrying specialized know-how to those who need it...

-Alvin Toffler, Powershift, 1990

Distance learning, if managed property, can be one of the best uses of this speed of information flow mentioned by Toffler.

Distance learning is not a new phenomenon. In reality distance learning has existed for more than a century with European correspondence courses being the earliest form of distance learning (Sherry, 1995). What is new is the advancement in technologies that enables people all over the world to share information and learn from each other. With the advent of these technologies, distance education programs are expanding at an everincreasing rate (Weinstein, 1997).

As technology evolves, the content delivery mechanisms in higher education are undergoing dramatic change. Computer-mediated learning may change what we now understand to be teaching. As such, the scholarship of teaching may need to be reevaluated. The classroom of distance learning is quite different from the traditional classroom (Kemelgor, Johnson, & Srinivasan, November 2000). A major concern about a Web-based curriculum is accreditation. Obviously, the quality of education is an important issue. What is not clear is what standards should be used for online programs (McCallister & Matthews, 2001).

Accrediting Agencies and Distance Learning

AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (formerly AACSB-the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business) and the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (formerly the National Home Study Council) are actively involved in providing guidelines for distance learning.

AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business

Because it recognized the growing importance of distance learning in education, the Board of Directors of AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business established the Distance Learning Task Force. The Board directed the Task Force to provide guidance to assist (a) schools developing distance learning programs and (b) peer reviewers evaluating distance learning programs. The Distance Learning Task Force wrote a report entitled "Quality Issues in Distance Learning" that was published by AACSB International-The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business in July 1999. To order this report, see www.academyonline.com/aacsb.

The report includes recommendations for distance learning programs and information about quality issues in distance learning. The quality issues are related to mission, students, faculty, curriculum and learning issues, instructional resources, intellectual contributions, and business and institutional relationships (AACSB's Distance Learning Task Force, July 1999).

As stated in the report,

While this report has one of its aims to assist peer reviewers evaluating distance learning programs, it does NOT create new accreditation standards for distance education. Accreditation standards for management education exist in other documents and have sufficient flexibility to be used to evaluate quality in distance learning. …

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