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The alt.education.distance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Part 1 of 4 parts FAQ Maintainers: Rita Laws, firstname.lastname@example.org and Neil Hynd, email@example.com, Al Lepine firstname.lastname@example.org URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part1 *** The alt.education.distance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) *** Part 1 of 4 parts FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd, email@example.com, Al Lepine firstname.lastname@example.org, Editor/Originator: Rita Laws, email@example.com, URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part1 The end of this FAQ contains a list of people who have provided input and encouragement. If your name is not here and should be, please e-mail the maintainers. If your name is here, check the spelling. Thanks again to everyone who has sent supportive email and ideas. Please keep them coming. Useful FAQs are always in the process of being revised. Respectfully submitted, Rita Laws, Neil Hynd, Al Lepine. ** Version 8.0 News ** Version 8 has been re-written to condense some of the background Distance Education information, and to try to present a variety of reference sources. Special contributions have also been prepared on new subjects such as the growth of online/self taught certifications and online education. The 4-part structure has been retained to simplify loading and updating, and the web-based version continues to be maintained at:- http://personalpages.tds.net/~rlaws/dlfaq.html ** Caveat Emptor - Let the Buyer Beware - Diploma Mill Warning ** Beware of bogus college or so-called university degree programs that offer degrees requiring only money and no significant amount of coursework, testing, transfer credits, and when appropriate, life or work experience credits. Legitimate degrees are always earned, never bought. Diploma mills offer frivolous qualifications for money and little or no work. ** New Moderated DL Newsgroup ** Be sure to check out the new moderated DL Newsgroup which is regularly visited by some of the best-informed people in the Distance Education world. Your questions will be seriously answered by people who care about the issues. You can find it at: www.degreeinfo.com The alt.education.distance newsgroup FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) Contents:- 1. What is distance education or distance learning and who needs it ? 2. What is the history of DL and how do I judge the quality of a school ? 3. What do the different forms of accreditation mean and how can I choose an appropriate educational quality assurance measure ? 4. How do I find the DL program that's best for me and where can I find "online universities" and DL resources on the Net ? 5. What about financial aid and how can I stay motivated to complete my degree ? 6. After I've graduated, what next ? 7. What are Research Degrees ? 8. What can you tell me about Certifications that can be earned by Distance Learning ? 9. What are the implications of On-Line Education in Distance Learning ? 10. What's happening at the AED Newsgroup ? 11. What information and reference sources can I use ? 12. Acknowledgments, Thanks and Legalities ** AED Version 8.0 FAQ ** 1. What is distance education or distance learning and who needs it ? Distance Education (DE), also known as Distance Learning (DL), is simply learning from a distance, usually from home, or from a conveniently located off-campus site. DL allows adults to earn college credits, even entire degrees, without ever leaving home. DL makes use of the Internet, software, modems, TV stations, 2-way television using fiber optics, microwave, digital phone lines, satellites, radio, ham radio, video cassette and audio tape, and normal mail to deliver instruction. DL also refers to on-campus classes where the professor is not physically present, but communicating with students at several sites simultaneously via television, modem, or some other electronic means. DL is part of all degree types, from the A.A. to the Ph.D., and is an option in most majors, and at hundreds of universities worldwide. A broader definition of DL includes non-credit courses, workshops, seminars, and career credits like CEUs (continuing education credits). DL is for people who want to learn a new skill, or just pick up a few new ideas for the fun of learning. Additionally, DL is an exciting and growing part of public and private schools from elementary level through high school in many areas such as math, science, and languages. Shared courses offered via satellite, fiber optic cable and videocassette connect schools in the same town, or great distances apart. Courses can be one-way or two-way. Finally, pre-university distance education, commonly known as home-schooling, is a type of DL. Typically, a home-schooled child is taught by his or her parents, however, sometimes, the child is tutored at home in part or completely via modem or TV course. The definitions of terms like college credit and degree vary around the world. In the US, college credits are proportional to semester hours, and how quickly they are earned is usually determined by the number of hours spent in class, i.e., three hours spent in a course each week for one semester equals 3 college credits. Some courses will be worth 1 credit hour, and some, 6, 9, or even 12 credit hours. Three credit hours per course is most common. Even though DL degrees do not follow a traditional course of study in classrooms, they are awarded based on the DL equivalent of college credits earned. There are four degree levels in the USA and in some other parts of the World. * The Associate of Arts (AA) degree is a two year degree, traditionally, requiring 60 semester hours of undergraduate study. * The Bachelor of Arts (BA), or Science (BS) degree is traditionally a 4 year degree of 120 semester hours of credit. * The Master of Arts (MA), or Science (MS) degree is the first level of graduate study beyond a bachelor degree. It requires 30 semester hours of credit beyond the bachelors. It is more focused in a subject area than the bachelors and may require original research in the form of a thesis. * The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is a post-graduate degree encompassing 90 semester hours beyond the bachelors program. The doctorate goes by other names, too, such as Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA). The Ph.D. and its equivalents are the highest academic degree that can be earned. Other structures found around the world encompass a 3-year bachelor degree program, with direct entry into a 3-year doctoral research program, sometimes by means of a Master of Philosophy research scheme that is later converted into a PhD. Where credits can be earned from prior learning or experience, the times can be proportionately shorter. Master's and doctoral degrees can also be earned by a combination of coursework, testing and dissertation. For most students, DL remains primarily a books and paper proposition, as well as an independent study effort, but is made more convenient with the delivery of information via the Internet, the web, online services, telephone, TV, satellite courses, VHS tapes, cassette tapes, records, radio, ham radio, and CD-ROM. Many DL programs are correspondence courses where books, materials, and coursework are exchanged through the mail. However, there are courses which are completely electronic, such as interactive multimedia courses, and group learning in virtual classrooms. These options are growing in number and scope. Some DL programs have residency requirements ranging from a single week-end to short campus periods. DL also involves finding alternative ways to earn college credits, such as through challenge examinations. Mature students are particularly adept at testing out of courses by demonstrating subject mastery through a single examination. Earning college credit for life and work experience through the creation of a student portfolio is another option common to DL programs. Many people complete long unfinished Bachelor's degrees through the use of portfolios. The people who need DL are usually adults, for whom the convenience and appeal of earning college credits on all degree levels with minimal domestic disturbance is a great attraction. Parents, caregivers, working adults, and all busy people find DL to be an excellent way to combine studies and living. Most DL students are mature adults over the age of 25. Some DL programs cater exclusively to people over age 30. Others have no age limits, and will admit otherwise qualified teens and gifted children. People who prefer to study solo can do so with DL, whilst those who enjoy group learning can find DL classes online. People who live in remote areas or where weather can be extreme, those who have disabilities that make commuting difficult and many others just for the fun of it turn to DL as the only practical way to earn college credits. There is scheduling flexibility in DL. Many courses start when the student is ready, not just in September and January. Students can learn at any time of the day or night and there is no waiting for when a certain course will be offered at the traditional school. DL students can take any course anytime, and, sometimes, even help design the course they want to take. 2. What is the history of DL and how do I judge the quality of a school ? The history of DL goes back more than 100 years in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The first London University External Degree programs for overseas students started in 1858. The innovative Open University, started in 1971 in the UK, and has been copied around the world. Today, the largest DL student body in the world is part of UNISA, the University of South Africa, with more than 200,000 people enrolled worldwide. In Australia, the University of Queensland offered an external degree in the 1890's due to sparse populations and large open expanses. Today, Australia's higher education system incorporates DL in many programs, and is considered a model for other nations. In the USA, some schools offered courses through DL in the late 19th century. Columbia University offered DL options in the 1920's, and other schools offered courses by radio in the 30's and courses via television in the 60's. However, DL remained a little-known means of earning a college degree throughout most of the 20th century. Universities that are exclusively DL began appearing in the US, on both coasts, at about the same time, in the early 1970's. Among the pioneers, the state of New York gave us the "Regents External Degree Program," now called Regents College, an accredited school. The state of California produced California Western University, now called California Coast University, a state-approved institution. Because DL is still not a well-understood concept with many people, there can be prejudice against these types of degrees with some believing that DL is an inferior education. DL degrees can be better accepted in some occupations than in others, and prejudice is lessening as the facts of DL become known, and as the number of people holding such degrees increases. DL acceptability raise issues of quality assurance and how potential students can judge between different DL offerings. Various approaches have been made to this subject, involving accreditation, consumer protection, licensing or other measures. British universities attained their ability to offer degrees from Papal Charter in earlier times, followed by Royal Charter after the Reformation in 1534. American universities exist by virtue of complying with individual state requirements since each state government is the competent education authority and not the federal government. In Canada, there is no federal degree granting authority. Degrees are granted by virtue of each province's legislature having empowered an institution with the authority to grant degrees. In Australia, although self accrediting, universities are authorized by a separate Act of Parliament in each case. Qualifications however are issued in accordance with a set framework that encompasses all education through to PhD. To determine the quality of a school and how its qualifications suit your purpose, you need to assess the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the degree against your own objectives. ** Legalities: FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd firstname.lastname@example.org, Al Lepine email@example.com Editor/Originator: Dr. Rita Laws firstname.lastname@example.org, This FAQ may be re-produced for non-profit uses, and as long as it is copied in its entirety and without modification. It may be duplicated at other education-related newsgroups. For any other use, including commercial, or the use of excerpts, permission must first be obtained in writing from the author, Rita Laws, Ph.D., at email: email@example.com Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 by Rita Laws.