This is a repost from my old business site: Excellence in e-Education (xlents.com). That site is being shut down and I am preserving those items that I don’t want to have disappear. Originally posted April 16, 2012.
Recently I saw a discussion thread suggesting that there should be national standards for the delivery of online programs, rather than each of the regional accrediting bodies dealing with the issue. On one hand this may make some sense since online learning doesn’t conform to arbitrary regional boundaries, such as those drawn around the six regions.
However, higher ed has a long history of regional accreditation agencies being the authoritative bodies for higher ed accreditation without a single national body (I’m sure you already knew that). There are national accrediting bodies, but they are not as highly respected as the regional bodies. In fact, any school that touts its national accreditation instead of regional accreditation is typically considered second-tier (not by themselves, just by others) because they haven’t been able to attain regional accreditation. Of course the national accrediting bodies will argue strenuously against that point of view. You can easily find those arguments on their websites.
I do find it interesting that online learning is one area where there has been a purposeful confluence of thinking by the regional bodies. Through C-RAC (Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions), they developed the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (Online Learning). The new Guidelines have been endorsed by all regional accrediting organizations in the U.S.
Here is that doc: Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education Programs (PDF)