Online distance learning has gained rapid popularity with the advent of the internet, which has proven to offer great supporting facilities and convenience for online education. However, just like everything else with pros and cons, the internet has also opened doors for the widespread sale of bogus online degrees. According a report by USA Today, there were already 400 diploma mills in the year 2003 and the numbers are rising. In fact, many of these unscrupulous operations are run by organizations in an industry that is worth $500 million a year.
However, amidst the negative hype about online education, there are actually many distance learning colleges offering valid degrees and diplomas. These institutions do not sell bogus certificates, but actually aim to provide quality education as alternatives for on-campus higher education. Valid online courses with online video lectures as well as online library facilities and test examinations conducted are often deployed to ensure that students truly qualify in their areas of study and graduate legitimately. Sadly though, many employers only see the negative side of things, and easily brush off online education degrees as equivalent to bogus degrees.
In view of the confusion, the National Education Board of the U.S. government has authorized 6 accreditation agencies to provide institutional accreditation to education institutions, as a measure to differentiate legitimate universities from the crooks. This means that students choosing their universities will be assured that these universities would have met minimum criteria set forth by these agencies for learning institutions. Additionally, there is also The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) which provides accreditation specifically for distance learning institutions. The DETC is an accreditation agency that is recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Furthermore, there is also specialized accreditation for specific programs of different areas of specialization. These programs which are found to have attained excellence will be awarded accreditation by various professional accrediting agencies depending on the area of specialization. For instance, the International Association for Management Education (AACSB) gives accreditation to accounting related programs while health programs are accredited by the American Health Information Management Association. It is also important to know that only accreditation agencies recognized by the Department of Education or CHEA are considered accreditation agencies which are acknowledged.
What does accreditation mean to a student? An institutional accreditation agency evaluates the various aspects of universities or colleges against minimum standard criteria to determine if the particular institution meets their list of basic requirements. College accreditation is necessary to ensure that the education, facilities and support provided by a college or university adheres to basic levels. On the other hand, specialized accreditation evaluates excellence in individual program regardless of which institution the program is being delivered within. In this type of accreditation, course content and program curricula is evaluated against pre-set standards of the institution.
All accreditation does is to assure employers, students and parents that the graduates who are awarded degrees from accredited colleges have undergone adequate training in their respective areas of specialization. This also means that colleges that are not accredited by the proper accreditation body would not have met the standards imposed by the agencies. However, courses taken by prospective employees that are accredited by the respective agencies would have met standards imposed on the respective specialized areas.
It is totally up to the judgment and decision of the employers on evaluating the validity of an online or on-campus degree. With the recent hike in bogus degrees, employers can’t help but be stringent in their applicant screenings and consider those with degrees that have been accredited. This may prove tedious and sometimes employers may get confused. Therefore, if your accreditation is provided by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education, then you will need to explain to prospective employers on the background of the accrediting bodies. This way, you can avoid employers from sidelining your application based on something that they may be unclear about and increase your chances of being short listed for a job interview.