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Good practice principles for online degree programs

Online degrees require sound quality standards. These Principles have been developed by a group representing the US Western states' higher education regulating agencies, higher education institutions, and the regional accrediting community. If you're planning to join an online degree program, it would be wise for you to see how the institutions you're considering conform to these Principles.

Recognizing that the context for learning in our society is undergoing profound changes, those charged with developing the Principles have tried not to tie them to or compare them to traditional campus structures. The Principles are also designed to be sufficiently flexible that institutions offering a range of programs (from graduate online degrees to certificates) will find them useful.

Several assumptions form the basis for these Principles:

   The electronically offered program (online degree) is provided by or through an institution that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body.

   The institution's programs holding specialized accreditation meet the same requirements when offered electronically.

   The "institution" may be a traditional higher education institution, a consortium of such institutions, or another type of organization or entity.

   These Principles address online degree programs rather than individual courses.

   It is the institution's responsibility to review educational programs it provides via technology in terms of its own internally applied definitions of these Principles.

The Principles:

Curriculum and Instruction

   Each online degree program of study results in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded.

   An electronically offered degree or certificate (online degree program) is coherent and complete.

   The online degree program provides for appropriate real-time or delayed interaction between faculty and students and among students.

   Qualified faculty provide appropriate oversight of the program electronically offered.

Institutional context and commitment

   Role and Mission

   The online degree program is consistent with the institution's role and mission.

   Review and approval processes ensure the appropriateness of the technology being used to meet the program's objectives.

   Faculty Support

   The online degree program provides faculty support services specifically related to teaching via an electronic system.

   The online degree program provides training for faculty who teach via the use of technology.

   Resources for Learning

   The online degree program ensures that appropriate learning resources are available to students.

   Students and Student Services

   The online degree program provides students with clear, complete, and timely information on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, assumptions about technological competence and skills, technical equipment requirements, availability of academic support services and financial aid resources, and costs and payment policies.

   Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services appropriate to support their online degree learning.

   Accepted students have the background, knowledge, and technical skills needed to undertake the online degree program.

   Advertising, recruiting, and admissions materials clearly and accurately represent the online degree program and the services available.

   Commitment to Support

   Policies for faculty evaluation include appropriate consideration of teaching and scholarly activities related to electronically offered (online degree) programs.

   The institution demonstrates a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to continuation of the online degree program for a period sufficient to enable students to complete a degree/certificate.

Evaluation and Assessment

   The institution evaluates the online degree program's educational effectiveness, including assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction. Students have access to such program evaluation data.

   The institution provides for assessment and documentation of student achievement in each online degree course and at completion of the program.



AFT Online degree standards

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