WASC Distance Education Policy Revised For 2011

Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for SchoolsThe accrediting commission responsible for accrediting schools that offer degrees in the western United States recently revised its policy regarding distance education and correspondence. The policy revision reflects changes to federal regulatory requirements and the policy document includes best practice strategies for academic integrity in online education.

The Accrediting Commission For Community and Junior Colleges, working under its corporate entity the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, serves as the accreditation body for the western U.S., including all of California's community colleges. Its Policy on Distance Education and on Correspondence Education sets the bar for accreditation for online education. The policy was adopted in June of 2001and it has been revised a couple of times, including the latest revision in June of this year.

The policy document states:

Recognizing that most accredited institutions are making use of the growing range of modalities for delivery of instructional and educational programs and services, including various electronic means, the Commission has adopted a policy based on principles of good practice to help ensure that distance learning is characterized by the same expectations for quality, integrity, and effectiveness that apply to more traditional modes of instruction.

Integral to the policy is that distance education must meet the same strictures as in-class education. To wit:

Commission policy specifies that all learning opportunities provided by accredited institutions must have equivalent quality, accountability, and focus on student outcomes, regardless of mode of delivery.

The policy document also includes Best Practice Strategies to Promote Academic Integrity in Online Education, Version 2.0, June 2009. The best practice strategies were originally developed by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) and the current document also includes contributions by the UT TeleCampus of the University of Texas and the Instructional Technology Council.

UT TeleCampus, WCET, and ITC logos.Categories within the best practice strategies document include the following:

  • Institutional Context and Commitment
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Faculty Support
  • Student Support
  • Assessment and Evaluation

The policy and best practices document should be of interest to all distance education practitioners that fall under the accreditation auspices of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. <>

Relevant links:

Sandoval Chagoya is the TechEDge Managing Editor and a Project Manager for the
California Community Colleges Technology Center and the California Virtual Campus.


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