According to Dirr, establishing standard policies is an issue that is still very much in the evolution stage, although much has been accomplished in this respect.
In this regard, Dirr notes that the Council of Regional Accreditation has developed new guidelines for distance education. These are by no means either established or fully accepted into the policies of all tertiary institutions. Indeed, they are still very much in the research stage. Furthermore, far from stabilizing the issue, Cook anticipates a new pedagogy as a result of the nature of distance education. Such a paradigm would entail a pedagogy that "shifts toward the learner and away from the teacher." Such a shift would also hold important implications for the future of research into the issue.
While clear policies are not currently in place, it therefore appears that both researchers and tertiary institutions themselves are aware of the importance of distance and online education in terms of the pedagogical environment. It is also understood that quality is of vital importance if the workforce and knowledge base of the future are to be optimized.
Are procedures for monitoring quality in place?
Like the policies surrounding the issue, procedures for monitoring quality are still very much in the research stage. Indeed, Dirr notes that $3.3 million has been allocated to develop an evaluation measure of the quality of the learning experience in the online environment. This research was done my means of a survey containing 40 questions, distributed to more than 63,000 undergraduate students. Issues addressed by the questionnaire include academic challenge, active collaborative learning, student/instructor interaction, access to study material and programs, and campus support.
Is responsibility for monitoring quality clearly identified?
Currently, the responsibility of monitoring quality mainly lies with research agencies, although this is not very clearly defined. Tertiary institutions have also taken considerable responsibility in monitoring the quality of their specific respective programs.
According to Dirr, the Jones International University is the first fully online university that was accredited in the United States. The quality monitoring at this University as well as that of other online programs is often handled by non-profit organizations, at least in their initial phases.
Although much progress has been made, problems are still very much a problem of the online education environment. In the Jones case, for example, critics have charged the global alliance with conflicts of interest as a result of the involvement of businesses from both the academic and corporate world. Standardization can however be accomplished with further research and the combined effort of academic institutions…