The AQC process represents DEAC's commitment to experimenting with new ways of extending the educational reach of distance education, with the ultimate goal of supporting students through innovations that extend access and quality assurance. The launch of AQC as an Innovation Lab is an important step toward implementing student-centered approaches to learning that are transforming higher education. In this interview, the AQC team answers some frequently asked questions about AQC.
New models of curriculum and course delivery are emerging almost continually. The providers of these models are not accredited institutions but rather providers of distance education curriculum or courses that are tailored to the specific needs of an industry (information technology) or designed for inclusion in a broader program of study (general education). The use of distance education curriculum offered by non-institutional providers such as StraighterLine and Sophia is gaining acceptance in mainstream higher education. AQC is our response to this growing phenomenon. Our goal is to provide the best possible alignment of peer review and quality improvement with an assessment process for these distance education courses.
DEAC launched AQC as a pilot study in August 2014. We issued a call for proposals that invited providers to submit courses for review under the same assessment framework that DEAC implements for distance education courses and programs offered by its accredited institutions. An AQC Pilot Study committee reviewed the responses to the call for proposals and selected StraighterLine and Sophia. External peer reviewers with experience in the curriculum content and distance education delivery reviewed the courses using the AQC evaluation form. StraighterLine and Sophia had the opportunity to respond to questions and suggestions raised during the evaluation process. The AQC Committee on Academic Review evaluated all documents associated with the process including the courses submitted by the two providers. At the January 2015 DEAC Board of Director's meeting, the Board reviewed the results of the pilot, the assessment instruments, the courses, and the process as a whole. The Board voted to approve AQC and formally launch the process by April 2015.
The experts who review courses submitted for AQC are current distance education faculty members or administrators with extensive experience in core academic functions at accredited institutions. The list of reviewers who participated in our pilot include:
Larry Davis, PhDProfessor of Economics & ManagementTexas A&M University – Texarkana
Brandon Hunt, PhDAssociate Professor of Counselor EducationGeorgia Southern University
Josette P. Katz, EdDProfessor, Hospitality ManagementDepartment of BusinessAtlantic Cape Community College
Tim Mott, EdDDirector, Off-Campus ProgramsCincinnati State Technical and Community College
Heidi Hansel, PhDProfessor of AccountingDistance Learning DepartmentKirkwood Community College
Robert F. Roggio, PhDProfessorCollege of Computing, Engineering & ConstructionUniversity of North Florida
Jalae Ulicki, JDProfessor of LawArizona Summit Law School
Jack Nill, PhDProvostGlobal University
The AQC's principles of quality assurance and quality improvement include the expectation that providers will give timely notice of any changes they intend to implement for the AQC-approved courses. AQC staff will contact providers at least annually to confirm whether providers are considering changes to approved courses. Over time, as we fully implement AQC, we expect to learn more about how to engage with providers on any changes made to curriculum that we designate for AQC status.
DEAC-accredited institutions that want to incorporate AQC-approved courses may do so without requesting prior approval from DEAC. Right now, if a DEAC-accredited institution seeks to contract with a non-accredited entity to deliver a portion of a distance education program, we have a lengthy process of review to assure the quality of that provider. Because we've already reviewed the AQC-approved curriculum, DEAC's Board of Directors will accept AQC status in place of requiring an accredited institution to apply for prior approval.
AQC gives distance education providers unique access to an assessment process that utilizes the hallmarks of accreditation: peer review and continuous improvement. It offers external validation of the quality of the education and distance education delivery method by curriculum reviewers with expertise in distance education delivery models.
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