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Accreditation: Who Needs It?

Author: Abernathy, Donna J.
Source: Training & Development Magazine, January 2001, 55(1)
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Accreditation used to be a word uttered only in hallowed halls. But as e-learning proliferates and more colleges partner with commercial enterprises to deliver workplace learning at the speed of click, the content quality clouds appear. And separating the good from the bad can become rather ugly.

According to Charlotte Thomas, career and education editor of educational power-publisher Peterson's, "Accreditation is the number 1 verification of the quality of a higher-education distance education provider." As a wise consumer, though, you must be aware that not all accreditors are equal or recognized, says Peter Ewell, senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management in Boulder, Colorado.

There are hundreds of accrediting agencies, according to Thomas, and "the list grows longer as unscrupulous institutions create their own accreditors to get past consumers who look no further than an institution's Website."

Thomas recommends that you check the legitimacy of accreditors through well-known institutions. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a list of verified accreditors, as does the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Distance Education Training Council can also help verify accreditors. "Check to see whether the institution is properly licensed and approved where it's located," urges Lambert.