Accreditation of eLearning
Accreditation of eLearning Degree
Accreditation of eLearning Degree

Prof.Dr. Srisakdi Charmonman and Dr. Natanicha Chorpothong

College of Internet Distance Education
Assumption University of Thailand
Emails: charm@ksc.au.edu and natanicha@ksc.au.edu

Abstract

For classroom-based education, a degree
Table 1. Searching Google.com for
program accredited in a country is accepted
eLearning and eLearning in Various
in another country. For example, an
Countries.
eLearning degree program accredited in
either the US, Canada, UK, Australia, or
Search for
Results
New Zealand is accepted by all the countries
eLearning
3,970,000
in that group of five countries. However, in
eLearning USA
301,000
ASEAN, an eLearning degree program eLearning UK
947,000
accredited in a country may or may not be
eLearning Brunei
25,000
accepted in another country. For example, a
eLearning Cambodia
23,500
degree from UNITAR, the first eLearning
eLearning Indonesia
66,900
university in Malaysia, is not accepted in
Thailand. A Thai who earned a degree from
eLearning Laos
16,400
UNITAR cannot use that degree for eLearning Malaysia
74,700
employment in any Thai government agency.
eLearning Myanmar
19,100
The problem of eLearning cross-
eLearning Philippines
47,300
accreditation among ASEAN countries needs
eLearning Singapore
114,.000
to be solved for the benefits of all concerned.
eLearning Thailand
59,100
This paper presents the concept of university
eLearning Vietnam
46,900
accreditation with examples from the United
eLearning China
157,000
States, and proposals for ASEAN to solve
eLearning Japan
157,000
the eLearning cross-accreditation problem.
eLearning Korea
88,800

eLearning India
142,000
INTRODUCTION
It has been stated that “eLearning will be
eventually the mainstream and the
In order to ensure compatible standards,
classroom-based learning the supporting the concept of “accreditation” is needed.
part.” Whether or not that statement is true, "Educational accreditation" is giving "credit"
only time will tell. However, eLearning is or certification or recognition to an
new growing every year. For example, in the educational institution that has been
United States, the number of eLearning reviewed, evaluated, and met all the
students is increasing at the rate of over 30% specified measures of quality.
per term. It can be said that eLearning is here
For many countries like the United States,
to stay, see Table 1.
accreditation of educational institution is
Most educational institutions prefer that carried out by independent accreditation
their faculty members graduated from agencies. For some other countries like
different universities in many countries. No Thailand and Malaysia, accreditation of
one would like to have too many cases of
“in-breeding”, i.e. faculty members in a degree-granting institutions is done by the
university graduated from that university.
Government Ministry of Education.
International Journal of The Computer, the Internet and Management Vol. 12 No.2 (May-August, 2004) pp 235 -241

235


Srisakdi Charmonman and Natanicha Chorpothong
For classroom-based degree programs, it
has been generally agreed that a person who
earns a degree accredited by a country is
recognized to have the same rights and
privileges as if he has earned an accredited
degree in his own country.
Unfortunately, for eLearning, the
accreditation concept has not been
universally accepted. For example, an
eLearning degree from accredited university
in the US or the UK is not recognized in
Thailand. There was news that the Malaysian
government refused to recognize eLearning
Figure 1. Searching Google.com for
Ph.D. from a certain university in the US.
“Accreditation” yields 4,010,000
However, at a closer look, it turned out that
entries.
the university has not been accredited.
and accreditation is the school’s mark of
The accreditation of eLearning degrees in
legitimacy.”
ASEAN seems to be a big problem. For 3) From www.worldwidelearn.com/elearn
example, a degree from UNITAR, the first
ing/elearning-glossary.htm, [19], “accre-
virtual university in Malaysia, is not
ditation is the recognition or certification
recognized in Thailand, even though the
of an institution that has been reviewed
degree is recognized in the US.
and meets specific measures of quality.”
This paper presents the concept of 4) From the Middle States Association of
accreditation of educational institutions,
Colleges and Schools, the Commission
examples from the US which is probably the
on Higher Education, and Institutional
most advanced and experienced in terms of
Accreditation, [24], “accreditation is the
eLearning, and offers a proposal for ASEAN
means of self-regulation and peer review
to solve the accreditation problem.
adopted by the educational community.

The accrediting process is intended to
DEFINITIONS OF ACCREDITATION
strengthen and sustain the quality and
Searching for “Accreditation” in
integrity of higher education, making it
“www.google.com“ yields 4,010,000 entries
worthy of public confidence and
as shown in Figure 1.
minimizing the scope of external control.
Some examples of the definitions are
The extent to which each educational
given below.
institution accepts and fulfills the
1) From www.thefreedictionary.com/accre-
responsibilities inherent in the process is
ditation, [15], “accreditation is the act of
a measure of its concern for freedom and
granting credit or recognition, especially
quality in higher education and its
with respect to educational institution
commitment to striving for and achieving
that maintain suitable standards”.
excellence in its endeavors. Middle
2) From www.worldstudent.com/uk/mag/
States accreditation is an expression of
features/accreditation.shtml, [32], “accre-
confidence in an institution's mission and
ditation is the evaluation tool used to
goals, its performance, and its resources.
ensure a high level of quality in higher
Based upon the results of an institutional
education. Accreditation is the process
self-study and an evaluation by a team of
that gives public recognition to
peers and colleagues assigned by the
institutions that meet certain standards,

236

Accreditation of eLearning Degree
Commission, accreditation attests the
accreditation process. The only role that
judgment of the Commission on Higher
the government plays is to evaluate these
Education that an institution has met the
accrediting agencies using well
following criteria:
developed criteria in order to identify
• that it is guided by well-defined
those considered to be "reliable
and appropriate goals;
authorities" on the quality of institutions
• that it has established conditions
of higher education.”
and procedures under which its 6) From www.time.org/glossary.html, [15],
goals can be realized;
“accreditation is a self-regulatory process
• that it is accomplishing it goals
by which governmental, non-
substantially;
governmental, voluntary associations or
• that it is so organized, staffed, and
other statutory bodies grant formal
supported that it can be expected
recognition to educational programs or
to continue to accomplish its
institutions that meet stated criteria of
goals; and
educational quality. Educational
• that it meets the standards of the
programs or institutions are measured
Middle States Association's against certain standards by a review of
Commission on Higher written information, self-studies, site
Education.”
visits to the educational program, and
5) From
www.elearners.com/resources/
thoughtful consideration of the findings
accreditation.asp, [23], “accreditation is
by a review committee.”
simply a validation process by which 7) From www.arts-accredit.org/nasm/def.
institutions of higher education are
htm, [13], “accreditation is a process by
evaluated against established standards to
which an institution or disciplinary unit
ensure a high level of educational
within an institution periodically
quality. It is typically accomplished
evaluates its work and seeks an
through a peer-review process in which
independent judgment by peers that it
faculty from accredited institutions help
achieves substantially its own
to conduct evaluations of either new non-
educational objectives and meets the
accredited institutions or accredited
established standards of the body from
institutions seeking renewal. The
which it seeks accreditation. Typically,
standards used to conduct these
the accreditation process includes 1) a
evaluations vary but in general they
self-evaluative description (self-study) of
assess: the institution's mission, goals
the institution or unit, 2) an on-site
and objectives, resources and resource
review by a team of evaluators, and 3)
allocation, student admission judgment by an accreditation decision-
requirements, student support services
making body, normally called a
and the quality of the faculty and
Commission. Accreditation reviews
educational offerings. Unlike the
focus on educational quality, institutional
practices of most other countries, in the
integrity, and educational
United States accreditation of institutions
improvements.”
of higher education is not conducted by 8) From www.unm.edu/~univsec/draftfhb/
the government. Instead, it is a voluntary
glossary.html, [31], “accreditation is the
process that is implemented by private
type of recognition held by an
nongovernmental accrediting agencies.
educational institution. There are a
At present, there are both regional as
number of nationally recognized
well as national agencies involved in the
accrediting agencies and associations
International Journal of The Computer, the Internet and Management Vol. 12 No.2 (May-August, 2004) pp 235 -241

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Srisakdi Charmonman and Natanicha Chorpothong
which are reliable authorities on the
approved” which was given only to the
quality of training offered by educational
school-lunch program.
institutions. By voluntarily conforming to 2) Authorized. This word may or may not
the standards of excellence set by an
mean very much. For example, a school
agency or association, an institution
used “Authorized to grant degree” to
becomes eligible for inclusion in its
mean that the owner authorized his wife
accredited or approved list. Regional
to give degrees to students.
accrediting associations such as the 3) Chartered. This word may means that in
North Central Association of Colleges
the charter of the registration of
and Secondary Schools accredit the
company, it is said that the company
institution as a whole; professional
business is to grant degree. In practice
agencies such as the Engineering Council
the degree may not be worth much if the
of Professional Development are
company does not run an accredited
concerned in particular with the
school.
standards of the professional schools or 4) Licensed. This may only means that the
programs in their respective fields.”
company gets a business license from the
9) From www.academyhealth.org/publica-
city the school is located.
tions/glossary-healthcare.htm, [2],
5) Recognized. This may or may not means
“accreditation is a process whereby a
much. A school may be recognized by an
program of study or an institution is
educational organization or some other
recognized by an external body as
organizations, not related to education.
meeting certain predetermined standards. 6) Registered. A school may be registered
For facilities, accreditation standards are
to do business of providing education but
usually defined in terms of physical
the degree may or may not be accredited.
plant, governing body, administration, 7) Pursuing Accreditation. A school may
and medical and other staff. state that it is pursuing accreditation but
Accreditation is often carried out by
it may or may not be accredited later.
organizations created for the purpose of
assuring the public of the quality of the US ACCREDITATING AGENCIES.
accredited institution or program. The
From distancelearn.about.com/cs/check
State or Federal governments can ingoutschool/a/aa082503.html [1], The
recognize accreditation in lieu of, or as Bear's Guide to eLearning Degree by
the basis for licensure or other mandatory Distance Learning, 15th edition, 2003,
approvals.”
described 327 accredited online schools, 864

unaccredited schools and 160 unrecognized
MISLEADING WORDS WHICH DO accrediting agencies. For example, Jones
NOT MEAN “ACCREDITED”.
International University is the first eLearning
Some unaccredited educational
university in the US to be fully accredited.
institutions use one of the seven common
For information on recognized accrediting
phrases in their catalogs or advertising that agencies in the US, there are many lists. For
do not mean “accredited”:
example, from www.degree.net/guides/gaap_
1) Approved. For example, “approved by listings.html [21], the two main agencies in
the US government” may means that the the US that accredit the accreditors are:
Internal Revenue Service has approved
1) The US Department of Education,
their nonprofit status for tax purposes.
Division of Eligibility and Agency
Some UK schools used “Government
Evaluation, Bureau of Postsecondary
Education.

238

Accreditation of eLearning Degree
2) The Council for Higher Education
9) American Psychological Association,
Accreditation (CHEA).
[www.apa.org/ed/accred.html].
Accreditation in the US is carried out by
10) Council on Social Work Education,
six regional associations and about 80
[www.cswe.org].
professional associations. The six regional
11) American Speech-Language-Hearing
accrediting associations provide
Association, [www.asha.org].
accreditation for entire university. For the
12) Foundation for Interior Design
professional associations, each accredit any
Education Research,
specific department or program offering
[www.fider.org].
degree in the field of that professional
13) Accrediting Council on Education,
association.
[www.ukans.edu/~acejmc]
The six regional accrediting agencies in
14)
American Library Association,
the US are:
[www.ala.org].
1)
Middle States Association of
Colleges and Schools, [www.css-
There are some misinformation about
msa.org].
accreditation. Some examples are given
2) New England Association of Schools below:
and Colleges, [www.neasc.org].
1) Harvard is not accredited. The fact is
3)
North Central Association of
that Harvard University is accredited
Colleges and Schools, by the US regional accrediting
[www.ncacihe.org].
agency but some of its departments
4) Northwest Association of Schools
are not accredited by the relevant
and Colleges, [www2.boisestate.edu/
professional associations. However,
nasc].
accreditation by regional association
5) Southern Association of Colleges and
covers the whole university.
Schools, [www.sacs.org].
2) Oxford and Cambridge Universities
6) Western Association of Schools and
are not accredited. The fact is that the
Colleges, [wasc.mills.edu].
two universities have no Royal
Sample professional accrediting agencies
Charter of their own, but their
are:
colleges do. In the UK, the
1) American Society of Landscape
universities are accredited through
Architects, [www.asla.org/asla].
the granting of a Royal Charter or by
2) Accrediting Council for Continuing
a special act of Parliament. In that
Education and Training,
sense, Oxford and Cambridge may
[www.accet.org].
each be considered as a collection of
3) Distance Education and Training
colleges which are accredited.
Council, [www.detc.org].

4) National Council for Accreditation of WHAT ARE EVALUATED IN
Teacher Education, [www.ncate.org]. ACCREDITATION.
5)
American Dietetic Association,
In May 1994, the US Department of
[www.eatright.com].
Education [3] issued guidelines for
6)
American Medical Association, accrediting agencies to evaluate 12 matters:
[www.ama-assn.org].
1) Curricula
7) Association of American Medical
2) Faculty
Colleges, [www.aamc.org]
3) Facilities, equipment, and supplies
8) American Assoc. for Marriage and
4) Fiscal and administrative capacity
Family Therapy, [www.aamft.org].
5) Student support services
International Journal of The Computer, the Internet and Management Vol. 12 No.2 (May-August, 2004) pp 235 -241

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Srisakdi Charmonman and Natanicha Chorpothong
6) Program length, tuition, and fees in
The steps for accreditation may be:
relation to academic objectives
1) A university in ASEAN offering
7) Program length, tuition, and fees in
eLearning programs may apply to
relation to credit received
eACA.
8) Student achievement (job placement,
2) EACA makes preliminary inves-
state licensing exams, etc.)
tigation, taking a few months. If
9) Student loan repayments
satisfied that the university is
10) Student complaints received by or
operating legally and legitimately,
available to the accreditor
eACA may grant it “correspondent
11) Compliance with student aid rules
status” meaning that the application
and regulations
is accepted for further processing.
12) Everything else, including recruiting,
3) A team is set up by eACA,
admissions practices, calendars,
composing of faculty of already
catalogues and other publications,
accredited universities and visit the
grading practices, advertising and
university to investigate.
publicity, and so on.
• Legal and academic structure

• Educational philosophy
PROPOSED SOLUTIONS TO ASEAN
• Curriculum
ELEARNING ACCREDITATION
• Financial statement
It is generally agreed that it would be
• Planning
beneficial to all concerned for ASEAN to
• Any other related matters
adapt some form of cross-accreditation for
4) If the university has been operating
eLearning.
for a period of time and meets the
The first option is very simple, i.e. for all
standards, eACA may grant it the
ASEAN governments to recognize
status of “Candidate for
eLearning degree programs accredited by
accreditation”.
any ASEAN government.
5) The candidate is observed for a
The second option is for ASEAN to set
period, say a few month to a few
up an eASEAN Commission for
years. If satisfactory, it is
Accreditation (eACA) of eLearning
“accredited” or “fully accredited”
programs. The commission may have 3
which are the same.
representatives from each government and
6) Once a university is accredited, it is
rotating chairmanship. The commission
visited by inspection teams from
should start by examining the US guidelines
eACA every 5 or 10 years to see if it
and best practices to come up with its own
is still worthy of accreditation.
standards.

The Generally Accepted Accrediting CONCLUDING REMARKS
Principles (GAAP) used in the US may be
Cross-accreditation of eLearning degree
adapted, and perhaps, called “ASEAN programs in ASEAN is a problem and should
GAAP”. Negotiation should be made with be solved for the benefits of all concerned.
the publications listing accredited schools to This paper presented the background of
include ASEAN GAAP accredited schools in accreditation, the examples from the US, and
these publications such as:
propose two methods to solve the problem.
1) International
Handbook
of The first method is by agreeing that any
Universities (UNESCO Publication).
eLearning program accredited by any
2) Commonwealth Universities Year ASEAN government is automatically
book
accredited by all other ASEAN governments.

240

Accreditation of eLearning Degree
The second method is to set up eASEAN 16) Distance Education and Training Council.
Commission for Accreditation (eACA) to
www.detc.org
serve as the accrediting agency. EACA may 17) Does Accreditation Matter To A Program
have 3 members from each ASEAN country
Offering Online Degrees? www.
and examine the US guideline to come up
virtualstudent.com/html/ accreditation.html
with its own standards for accreditation.
18) eLearning Glossary. www.worldwidelearn.

com/elearning/elearning-glossary.htm
REFERENCES
19) Financial Aid For Postsecondary Students
1) About Distance Learning. distancelearn.about.
Accreditation & Participation. www.ed.gov/
com/cs/check ingoutschool/a/aa082503.html
admins/finaid/accreditation_pg8.html
2) Academyhealth.
www.academyhealth.org/ 20) Foundation for Interior Design Education
publications/glossary-healthcare.htm
Research. www.fider.org
3) Accreditation Guide. www.degree.net/guides/ 21)
GAAP Listings. www.degree.net/guides/
accreditation_guide.html
gaap_listings.html
4) Accrediting Council for Continuing Education 22) Informational Article about Distance Learning
and Training. www.accet.org
Accreditation. www.elearners.com/resources/
5) American Assoc. for Marriage and Family
accreditation.asp
Therapy. www.aamft.org
23) Middle States Accreditation. oirap.rutgers.
6) American Dietetic Association. www.eatright
edu/reports/MSA/intro.html
.com
24) Middle States Association of Colleges and
7) American Library Association. www.ala.org
Schools. www.css-msa.org
8) American Medical Association. www.ama- 25) National Council for Accreditation of Teacher
assn.org
Education. www.ncate.org
9) American Psychological Association. www. 26) New England Association of Schools and
apa.org/ed/accred.html
Colleges. www.neasc.org
10) American Society of Landscape Architects. 27) North Central Association of Colleges and
www.asha.org
Schools. www.ncacihe.org
11) Association of American Medical Colleges. 28)
Northwest Association of Schools and
www.aamc.org
Colleges. www2.boisestate.edu/nasc
12)
Council on Social Work Education. 29)
Southern Association of Colleges and
www.cswe.org
Schools. www.sacs.org
13)
Definitions of Accreditation. www.arts- 30) The Definition from Google. www.unm.edu/
accredit.org/nasm/def. htm
~univsec/draftfhb/ glossary.html
14) Definitions of Accreditation. www.thefree 31) The Importance of Accreditation. www.
dictionary.com/accreditation
worldstudent.com/uk/mag/feature/
15) Definitions
of
Accreditation.
accreditation.shtml
www.time.org/glossary.html
32) Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
www.mills.edu



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Document Outline