Accredited Online Education

Accredited online education is a lot like a trip to the grocery store to pick out some fruit. Over here are these bagged oranges and they look good, but over here are these individual ones from Florida and they look better. And if a person chooses to take home both kinds, the more expensive may turn out to be really sour while the bagged oranges are just as tasty as one could ever want. In other words, with fruit what you see isn't necessarily what you get, and the same is absolutely true for accredited online education opportunities. The term accredited can be as misleading as the shiny and waxed cover of an orange, and the term is absolutely subjective until close scrutiny is applied. "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord and depart from evil." (Proverbs 3:7)

Fifteen years ago getting any kind of education online was just being discussed and now it has become a huge revenue producing business for both traditional and non-traditional schools. From those seeking home inspection training to masters degrees in psychology, a wide range of academic and vocational interests can be met by using sanctioned online education providers. But accreditation is a fundamental issue that everyone deciding to pursue education through the use of online facilities must consider. In fact, it can mean the difference between wasting many thousands of dollars, many man hours plus not being considered for key jobs and promotions and being very happy with the choice of educational provider and having no regrets. Accreditation is in fact, a huge consideration.

Being accredited by the right sanctioning agencies is the most important achievement of any educational institute. For decades, the brick and mortar colleges and universities of America have taken pride in achieving the approval of certain accrediting bodies and that accreditation has enabled students from eastern schools to transfer their credits to a western school without fear of having to begin again. Standards that are fairly uniform when it comes to core curriculum, faculty standards and academic excellence enable graduates from one college to seek postgraduate degrees at other school with ease. But then came the arrival of long distance schools and the term accredited online education has come to mean something other than the traditional understanding of accreditation.

Almost no long distance provider of education would ever advertise not being accredited. The word is the gold standard. But the question is, "Accredited by whose standards?" Keep in mind that the federal government does not make a distinction between accreditation agencies. In fact, accreditation is actually a voluntary quality assurance management system under which schools put themselves. There are six regional accrediting agencies which sanction all public schools and private and public colleges and universities. These include the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the New England Association of Colleges and Schools, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Association of Accredited Schools, the Western Association of Colleges and Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

But there are also fifty two national accrediting agencies which are more likely, but not always, to grant accreditation to long distance education providers. In a great many cases, technical, trade and many distance undergraduate and postgraduate providers of accredited online education are sanctioned by one of these fifty two national agencies. In many cases, the national accreditation process is not nearly as stringent as the regional process, and therein lays the great disparity in the sanctioning issue. Routinely schools that are accredited by national sanctioning bodies are rejected by requests for regional consideration because the faculty standards may not be high enough, the requirements for degrees may not be stringent enough, or perhaps the core requirements are suspect. So the whole issue comes down to what a person wants to do in life with their education.

One of the more positive aspects of this whole discussion about wasting time and effort on a degree that may not pass muster is that the majority of those considering accredited online educational opportunities are adult learners who really have been able to think through life issues. For example, a woman who is thirty has had enough of waiting on tables and decides she wants to teach school. She looks for an accredited online education provider to give her an undergraduate degree in elementary education. But she has also had enough contact with friends in the teaching profession to know that she will also have to have a masters degree and she dreams of getting that degree at the state school where her father attended. Will the online degree be accepted at the brick and mortar school later? For her situation, the answer is no, and so she will have to continue to look for a provider of an accredited online education for teachers that will be accepted at the graduate school of her dreams. Not everyone seeking an online degree has enough foresight to look down the road at all the implications of educational choices made earlier.

On the other hand, many employers are only looking at a degree, without being concerned about the pedigree. For instance, a young father is getting his undergraduate business degree from a nationally accredited online education provider. His BA in business management will thrill the man's supervisor and will provide the stepping stone to becoming the district sales manager within a couple of years. The name of the school on the diploma is not important, and the man has gained a valuable education that will have forever changed his life. Knowing where a person wants to go is a real important factor in choosing the right long distance educational opportunity.

Accredited Distance Education

Accredited distance education is the perfect way for a student to work at a job and attend school or perhaps avoid the cost of room and board yet attend an educational institute where one has always dreamt of studying. In either case, the advent of the computer has opened a whole new educational panorama for students young or old. It is possible to attend the finest schools in the world and yet avoid the many on campus hassles that are so often prevalent. Distance education is almost always the choice of the adult learner looking to begin a course of study, or pursue a secondary degree. But the problem is in the details of this great option. Does the school offer the highest accredited distance education?

After all no one wants to go to a dentist who got his diploma from K-Mart. Neither does a law school want to admit a student who has had her Bachelor's training at an unaccredited school. Accredited distance education means that certain standards have been met by the school of choice. It means a graduate has acquired the knowledge and skills for his major and can meet the expected standard anywhere the accreditation is accepted. Accreditation is the gold standard, so to speak of education. An unaccredited school means that the graduates may have a difficult time finding work if the diploma bears weight in the hiring process. An unaccredited center of learning means that faculty standards may be low, that curricula may be substandard and that grade expectations may have been lowered.

Unaccredited centers of learning have not met the standards of the six regional accrediting agencies across the nation. These six agencies have been the judge and jury on educational standards not only here in America, but across Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific islands. The traditional brick and mortar schools that have enjoyed the blessing of these agencies now share this approval with many accredited distance education providers. The ability to receive a complete college degree online was not possible fifteen years ago, and the first few years of online education did not produce many accredited programs. But as the standards were raised for Internet education, so also have been the judgments of those agencies that accredit the online courses. Many online courses now have the same endorsement as the ones taken right on campus. But caution must be exercised because not all accreditations are the same.

The most sought after accreditations are the ones issued by the six regional agencies. These are Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Northwest Commissions on Colleges and Universities, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. For Bachelor's degree work and above, these are the agencies that give credence to any accredited distance education program. For some degrees and some jobs, this may not keep someone from being considered or hired for a position. But for a professional career, it is imperative that a degree be recognized by one of the agencies. The tricky part about accreditation is the other accrediting bodies that also sanction online education.

There are thousands of online educational programs that have the accreditation of some agency or governing body. Christian schools or certain business schools may fall under one of the big six accrediting bodies or may be sanctioned by another agency. While that other accrediting agency may have just as strict an academic standard as the big six possess, that accreditation does not have the same weight. This could prove a problem when trying to be admitted to another school for Masters or PhD work. Educational providers can be very particular and even elitist regarding the pedigree of one's accredited distance education work.

The word accredited is thrown around quite handily by many suppliers of online educational opportunities. Sadly a number of so called accredited distance education providers, in order to circumvent the accreditation issue, have created their own accrediting bodies in order to give credence to their online education offerings. This less than dubious practice is often followed in order to gain more students or cover up a lower than acceptable standard curriculum, faculty or other subpar aspect of its educational program. In other words, the word accredited cannot always be taken at face value. Neither can the word Christian. Jesus said, "Not everyone that saith unto me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Deciding to do online college work or pursue an associate's degree with a distance education trade school is a big step. It will require the discipline of a soldier to sit down day after day and work on assignments and long papers without the supervision of someone looking over one's shoulders. But it is not only a disciplined decision, but it is also a financially costly decision. Once a degree program is completed, there may be a number of years involved in paying off the cost of that accredited distance education. It would be not only a costly monetary mistake but an extremely disappointing and perhaps highly discouraging mistake to discover later that one's hard work in achieving a college degree online was not valued by employers or other schools. Make sure all the right questions are asked before agreeing to an online course of study and consider all the ramifications of that decision before plunging ahead.

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