USDLA Launches New Distance Learning Accreditation Board . . . DLAB
Flores, John, Distance Learning
For many years, those of us in the distance learning industry struggled for respect among our more traditionally-based colleagues. During that time, we were compelled to offer numbers and statistics to illustrate that technology-driven distance learning was a sound alternative to the physical classroom. I'm not sure how many converts we won, but the figures at least kept the critics at bay and prevented us from being relegated to the backwaters of academia.
All of that has changed now. No longer are numbers or justifications required. Distance learning has come from the fringe to the forefront of education. Indeed, distance learning has become almost as common among colleges as are email accounts among our friends. Rarely do you have to ask . . . it's just there! As a result, vast and untapped new constituencies are now accessible to the knowledge industry.
Certainly the early pioneers welcome this growth-vindication is so sweet! At the same time, though, these visionaries recognize that real growth not only consists of getting bigger, but also of becoming better, more focused . . . more effective. We know that change is inevitable and that is especially true when one is bound to a technical platform-the shifts in technology drive a certain level of change. At any rate, some changes are good and some merely mask endemic flaws in our programs; hence, the need for a systematic approach to improvement.
Probably the strongest impetus for improvement comes when there is a system of accountability. In this context, I'm obviously not alluding to surface questions recited from a clipboard. Rather, I speak of an insightful process designed by an international group of experts in the field of distance learning. The critical element is having an understanding of both technology and learning processes-and knowing how the two can best combine to effect student achievement. There is not a simple formula for doing this. It varies with the subject and varies with the students. Yet, with all of the differences, our experience shows that certain broad principles apply.
The United States Distance Learning Association, founded in 1987, was the first nonprofit distance learning association in the United States to support research, development, and praxis across the entire spectrum of education and training. Our consistent focus has been on quality approaches and professional growth. We have served as a focal point and clearinghouse for some of the great innovations in our field. It is fitting, then, that the Association should now engage its segment of the education industry in the quality improvement process.
The globalization of learning is an inescapable trend that underscores the need for standards of quality at the international level. Just as we saw in the US that distance learning allowed schools a natural expansion across state lines, we now see a similar dynamic with programs extending across national borders. …