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alt.education.distance FAQ (part 2 of 4)

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 )
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Archive-name: education/distance-ed-faq/part2
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 1999/10/25
Version: 8.0
URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part2

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
*** The alt.education.distance FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) ***

Part 2 of 4 parts

FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd, penhill@emirates.net.ae, Al Lepine 
lepine1@banet.net, Editor/Originator: Rita Laws, rlaws@homes4kids.org, 

URL: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/education/distance-ed-faq/part2


3. What do the different forms of accreditation mean and how can I choose 
an appropriate educational quality assurance measure ?

The quality measures differ between each country and approach to legalizing 
universities. The most widely-found approach is that universities are 
granted the right to issue degrees, and that procedures are put in place 
for quality measures acceptable to the body that issues the degree-granting 
right in the first place.

These can vary from universities being self-accrediting through to agencies 
such as the British Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education 
(www.qaa.ac.uk) publishing assessment results for comparative purposes. In 
Canada, each of the provinces takes its own approach, with one having a 
Private Colleges Accreditation Board consisting of a chair, four academic 
staff members from universities, four academic staff members of private 
colleges affiliated with universities or given approval to offer degree 
programs, and four members of the public.

The American approach to higher educational quality assurance causes some 
confusion in the DL world and is explained briefly here, since 
"accreditation" has a particular meaning. You are encouraged to follow some 
of the resources links later in the FAQs to further understand the meaning 
of accreditation in the USA, and also the other approaches that are used 
around the world.

As mentioned above, American universities are authorized at state level, 
however universities holding what is known as "Regional Accreditation" are 
given exemption from meeting the requirements of each state that they 
operate in. The US federal government Department of Education (DoEd) also 
recognizes those universities holding Regional Accreditation as being 
eligible for federal student financial assistance, as also are courses that 
meet listed professional accrediting bodies and those holding accreditation 
of the Distance Education Training Council (DETC).

Institutes that do not have such accreditation can exist legally by meeting 
the state requirements, and are known as "state licensed" or "state 
approved" universities. States also exempt institutes with a religious 
charter and offering theological degree programs as a constitutional right.

American universities holding Regional Accreditation (RA) will normally 
only accept students or faculty from similarly accredited universities, or 
holding qualifications from US DoEd-recognized accrediting bodies. DETC-
accredited qualifications can also be acceptable to RA universities, but 
you are advised to check program by program. Many, if not most, 
professional bodies and states will only allow licenses to practice a 
profession for those holding qualifications from such recognized 
accrediting bodies.

This is due to the existence of un-recognized (by the US DoEd) accrediting 
bodies, which can in some cases give rise to misleading statements or even 
fraudulent activities - hence the "Buyer Beware" statement at the beginning 
of these FAQs.

In the American environment, your choice could then be between (i) an 
institute or course with accreditation recognized by the US DoEd; (ii) a 
state-licensed or state-approved (as in California) university meeting 
state requirements but not holding recognized accreditation; or (iii) a 
university with a religious exemption from state licensing.

Selection of an American program must be made carefully by the prospective 
DL student, depending on the use to which the earned qualification will be 
put. In general terms, a degree from a university or course with recognized 
accreditation will be the wisest choice in terms of acceptability and 
transferability.

As an alternative, many DL students find that state-licensed/approved 
programs can meet their objectives since costs are low in comparison, 
programs are highly accessible (usually with no residency requirements) and 
courses tend to be vocationally-biased towards "degree completion" for 
adults including credits for work experience. Indeed, the web site of a US 
commission on higher education shows that the chairman holds a postgraduate 
qualification from one of that state's licensed universities.

A diploma mill (or degree mill) is often defined as an illegal institution 
that grants bogus degrees in exchange for money, and without requiring the 
student to show proof of course mastery, or to do any substantive 
coursework or testing.

Diploma mills should be reported to the appropriate authorities (such as a 
local government education agency or the FBI in the USA), and shut down 
promptly whenever they arise. They not only do great harm to the 
"graduates" and to society in general, but also give legitimate alternative 
and non-traditional education a bad name. With the advent of the Internet, 
diploma mills have been appearing more frequently and you are advised to 
post questions to the Newsgroup, or to otherwise check the validity of 
courses that are being offered in this way.

An inferior school operating just inside the law can also be a poor choice 
for a DL student since although the institute may not be a diploma mill 
according to the above definition, the degree awarded may not be held in 
high regard.

American universities that are authorized to award degrees can also be 
found listed by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for 
Education Statistics, Directory of Post Secondary Institutions, Degree-
granting Institutions.


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 ?

A simple self-assessment is a good place to start. Ask yourself about your 
personal, career, and academic needs, what you want to do, and how you 
learn best.

There are many ways to study in DL, and to learn. Choose your method or 
methods and act accordingly. For example, don't rush to buy a high speed 
modem if your classes are going to be mainly through written 
correspondence. Don't sign up for classes on cassette tape if you don't 
enjoy audio-learning. If you hated lab classes when you were younger, make 
sure you don't feel that way now before signing up for DL lab classes. 
(Yes, there is such a thing as DL lab classes within several disciplines.)

Some people consult professional guidance and career counselors, and others 
use an educational consulting service where a fee is paid to a DL expert 
who then compiles a list of possible schools custom-tailored to the 
client's needs and learning style.

DL do-it-yourselfers often start with a good book or two. The DISTANCE 
LEARNING BOOKLIST, a free Internet reference, is designed for people who 
are "Getting Started" in DL, and is updated once per month. It can be found 
at several online services, at the web page 
http://personalpages.tds.net/~rlaws/ 

A recent version included information about these titles:-

- Bears' Guide To Earning Degrees Non-Traditionally
- Brochures From The Distance Education & Training Council
- Campus-Free College Degrees
- Careers Without College Series (Peterson)
- College Admissions
- College Degrees You Can Earn From Home
- Colleges With Programs For Students With Learning Disabilities
- Distance Degrees
- Distance Education, A Systems View
- Distance Learning Funding Sourcebook
- Earn An Accredited College Degree In 4 Separate Months
- Earn College Credit For What You Know
- Education On The Internet
- Finding Money For College
- Oryx Guide To Distance Learning
- Paying Less For College
- The Electronic University
- The Foundations Of American Distance Education
- The Independent Study Catalog
- The Internet University- College Courses By Computer
- The Satellite Scholar
- United States Distance Learning Association (USDLA) Magazine
- USA Today Financial Aid For College

The Usenet Newsgroup called alt.education.distance is a good place to start 
learning about DL programs and resources. Be sure to search the archive 
using www.deja.com or scan Discussion Groups via search engines such as 
www.altavista.com

Web sites, including university home pages on several continents, 
scholarship sites, research and support pages, and DL innovation pages 
number in the hundreds. Some examples are listed later in these FAQs, but 
you are encouraged to search for more. Using standard search engines, type 
in key or search words such as: DISTANCE LEARNING, DISTANCE EDUCATION, 
UNIVERSITIES, and NONTRADITIONAL EDUCATION. 

You can then print out or save the list of sites presented to you and 
browse them at your leisure, or save the sites themselves using your 
browser "Save As" feature. There are currently several excellent web sites 
that act as clearing houses and link to dozens of other DL-related web 
pages. Such clearing houses are useful additions to a web browser favorites 
or bookmark list.

Online services or portals such as AOL, Altavista, CompuServe, MSN, 
Prodigy, Yahoo and others provide areas like forums, chat rooms, virtual 
classrooms and file libraries which will help you to find DL resources.

Since the AED FAQs started, there has been growth in "on-line" resources. 
While universities that conduct all classes and business online may or may 
not exist in significant numbers in the future, they are few in number 
today. Many traditional and DL schools have a home page on the Web and e-
mail capabilities, but this does not make them "online schools". Rather, 
online classes are one option among various means of learning offered by 
the institution.

People searching for exclusively online degrees may miss the many excellent 
offerings of degree programs that are partially online, but that also 
conduct learning through other means, i.e. correspondence courses, taped 
courses, etc.

You should investigate all DL options, including hybrid DL programs that 
combine different means of learning, and then choose the one best for your 
needs. And remember, more schools are offering DL options - every day. If 
there is a certain university you are interested in attending, ask about DL 
programs that are currently under consideration or that are being 
developed.

Several sources for on-line educational programs are given later in this 
FAQ.

5. What about financial aid and how can I stay motivated to complete my 
degree ?

Many Australian programs are "free" to citizens, although a program called 
HECS calls for students to pay for their education following graduation, 
but only if they earn more than $25,000 per year. Some programs are fee-
based, such as MBAs, and call for payments. Foreign students will always 
pay a fee, which can be as high as $12,000 per year.

In Britain, local authority grants are available for higher education, but 
you will need to check the rules and intended courses since most are aimed 
at full-time campus-based programs. Part of the grant may be in the form of 
a loan, to be re-paid within a certain period after graduation.

In the US, most non-loan financial aid is targeted at young adults in 
traditional, regionally accredited, residential programs with a set 
calendar of class dates. DL students, most of whom are mature adults in 
non-traditional programs with no set start-up dates, can have a difficult 
time finding scholarships. It helps to search  for web sites and books that 
cater for DL students seeking money for school.

DL experts John and Mariah Bear, for example, have written a book about 
Financial Aid with a special emphasis on assisting DL students. Called 
"Finding Money for College", it is updated annually. Also, try using a 
search engine to find financial aid web pages.

One sure way to save money (especially at post-graduate level) is to 
consider an American state-licensed/approved (but without US DoEd 
recognized accreditation) university. If such a school can meet your 
personal, academic and career goals, you will probably save a great deal of 
money on the total cost of your degree. Some of the state-licensed/approved 
schools offer interest-free monthly payments after an initial down payment.

However, bearing in mind earlier comments on this subject, similar cost-
range DL bachelor degrees with recognized accreditation can be earned from 
several institutes, and would be a wiser choice for future acceptability 
and transferability at this level of qualification especially in the USA. 
The AED Newsgroup can advise you on the ever-changing bachelor-level 
programs available.

Then, having made your choice and financial arrangements, the next step is 
to begin the program. You understand what DL is all about, you know your 
own needs, you've been admitted, the books have arrived, you've got your 
log-on ID and it's now time to get started.

Do you feel like procrastinating ?  Well, you are not alone ! Happily, 
mature adults are the most self-directed of all students. They are highly 
motivated- usually by the need to get a job, keep a job, or earn a 
promotion or raise. However, even highly self-disciplined adults can find 
it difficult to stay motivated, especially in the Summer when warm weather 
activities beckon, and most "everyone else" is out of school.

This is where the need to find and keep a support system comes in. A little 
encouragement, understanding and socializing is just the medicine most 
people need to keep on track for their degrees. People with computers and 
modems are fortunate because the same newsgroups, forums, and web sites 
that helped them learn about DL, their needs, and the available schools, 
are often the same places they can turn to for support. These electronic 
gatherings are also the place to pass on what you have learned - to the 
"newbies" just coming along asking "So how do I get started ?"

If you are returning to your studies after a long hiatus, remember that you 
are not alone. More than half of all people who begin a dissertation, for 
example, never finish it. Try your local library for books written to help 
the ABD (All But Dissertation) student, and for people finishing all types 
of degrees.

One trick that some people find to be useful is to commit to achieving one 
DL goal per day, every day, rain or shine. The goal may be as quick and 
simple as ordering the next text book, downloading the newest posts from a 
DL newsgroup, or writing one paragraph on a term paper, or as involved as a 
marathon study, research, or writing session. Others set aside certain 
times or days to devote exclusively to their studies. Just as one might 
invest a set sum of money each month to build a financial future, so does 
investing a set amount of time each month create a brighter future with a 
completed degree in it.

The key is to get into a daily habit. Little by little, the DL degree moves 
closer to completion.


** Legalities:

FAQ Maintainers: Neil Hynd penhill@emirates.net.ae, Al Lepine 
lepine1@banet.net Editor/Originator: Dr. Rita Laws rlaws@homes4kids.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: rlaws@homes4kids.org

Copyright (c) 1999, 2000 by Rita Laws.





Joint Maintainer of the alt.education.distance FAQs
http://personalpages.tds.net/~rlaws/dlfaq.html 
Webmaster, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education
http://www.bfranklin.edu
For Distance Education information, Al Lepine's Web Site is highly
recommended:-
http://members.tripod.com/~lepine

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