Understanding Accreditation for Distance Learning Schools
The ease with which a student can go online and find an abundance of college courses can lead many to think that all courses are legitimate. Distance learning schools have the same opportunity for accreditation as college campuses. Although distance learning schools are under no obligation to apply for accreditation, any school worth its' grain in salt will want to be accredited. Accreditation says to other schools and employers that the academic instruction has been developed well and provides a rigorous education.
When applying to a university or college most students never worry about accreditation status because the college or university is well known and reputable. However, with the popularity of distance learning increasing, many unaccredited colleges are cropping up in distance learning search directories.
Accreditation is a process that reputable schools go through for their course offerings to be accepted by other accredited institutions. It is very important that you consider the accreditation status of any distance learning courses you take. Unaccredited schools offer courses that appear similar to other courses from accredited institutions, but any credits you earn may not transfer to another school.
When researching distance learning courses in the U.S. make sure the school is regionally accredited. If you are applying to a state university or college then most likely they have been accredited for years. But if the school is private or recently founded then you need to contact them to inquire about their accreditation status. Do not apply if they are unaccredited or in the process of accreditation. Taking courses before accreditation happens may make them hard to transfer.
Some distance learning courses are offered at schools that are accredited by the DETC or Distance Education Training Council. This is a recognized form of accreditation for distance learning schools, but there is no guarantee your credits will transfer to a different accredited university. If you are just going for a certificate or bachelor degree and are not planning on future transfer, then you should be fine with a degree from a DETC accredited school. On the other hand if you plan to get your masters, you may want to call any schools you would apply to for graduate programs and ask if they accept credits from schools accredited only by DETC.
Any school that is in a foreign country runs the risk of not being accredited to the standards acceptable to where you live. Some distance learning course directories list whether or not a foreign school is accredited but others do not. If you have any concerns about the accreditation status of an online school or distance learning course, call the school and ask who accredits them. Keep looking around if the school is not accredited and has no plans on going through the process.
If you are completing your high school education through a distance learning school, accreditation is still important. Some high school distance education schools will earn private school certification. At times, this certification is not as rigorous as accreditation, but it should still give you a diploma and transferable high school credits. Whether attending distance learning schools for college or high school, accreditation is an important factor to consider before enrolling in courses.