With the technological expansion of the Internet, distance learning degrees have become increasingly popular. With great support facilities and the convenience of online degree programs, parents and workers can still have a family and a job while receiving an education. Unfortunately, the Internet has also provided an avenue for individuals making money by selling bogus degrees over the Internet. In a 2003 report by USA Today, 400 diploma mills are already in operation, with the shameful industry already worth $500 million per year, and the numbers are still rising.
However, despite all the unpleasant information going around about distance learning degrees, the fact is there are plenty of legitimate universities and colleges offering online degree programs. These colleges are legitimate and not involved in any way in offering dubious and fake diplomas. Instead, these colleges are going the extra mile to provide quality education online by taking advantage of all available instructional resources such as quality instructional design coupled with video lectures, online digital libraries and proctored exams to ensure their students get quality education and a valid, qualified diploma. Unfortunately, numerous employers have not yet been sold into this alternative way of acquiring education, thus they still regard such degrees as invalid or dubious.
In an effort to change the negative perception, the U.S. National Education Board has established 6 accreditation agencies to evaluate and provide accreditation to the higher learning institutions meeting the minimum criteria for a quality education, thus differentiating between the bogus degree programs. For example, the Distance education and training council provides accreditation for those institutes solely dedicated to online degree programs. The agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Other distinguished specialized accreditation agencies exists that are designed to accredit specific course programs. Programs that meet the set standards of excellence are given accreditation by these specialized accredit ting agencies based on area of specialization. A good example of such an accrediting agency is International Association for Management Education (AACSB) which accredits accounting related programs. Also American Health Information Management Association is tasked with accrediting health programs in different colleges. It is worthy to note that all these accreditation agencies have to be recognized by CHEA for them to be considered as legit agencies.
So, to verify the educational quality of any institution, students, parents, and potential employers should be concerned about accreditation status. If any college or university has that coveted seal of approval, it means distance learning degrees have met the same basic standards of excellence with the support and facilities necessary to adequately offer online degree programs. Conversely, specialized accreditation concentrates on evaluating the course curriculum based upon the established standards of the university or college.
Accreditation assures employers, parents and students that a respective college awarding degrees has undergone and passed a stringent test of excellence in offering quality education in the respective areas of training. On the other hand, diploma mills and fake colleges don’t meet the same standards of education imposed by the agencies since they don’t possess any legitimate accreditation. Thus courses taken by prospective employees that are accredited by the respective agencies would have met standards imposed on the respective specialized areas.
Nevertheless, in the end, it all comes down to the discretion of the employer. He or she must decide whether potential employees have satisfactorily completed an online degree program. Hopefully, with accreditation through a well recognized agency, the confusion can be eliminated, and a valid resume will make it to the short list of excellent candidates with their distance learning degrees as an impressive symbol of fortitude and dedication to personal achievement.