This information is intended to provide an overview of DEAC, distance education and the accreditation process. Additional information is available in the DEAC Accreditation Handbook or by contacting the DEAC office.

What is Distance Education?

Distance education is a process of instruction and learning that occurs when a student and instructor are not in the same location. Distance education utilizes technologies such as the internet, telecommunications, audio conferencing, and other forms of media such as  DVDs and streaming video to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously.

Another form of education that occurs when the student and instructor are not in the same location is called correspondence education. This is when education is provided through one or more courses by an institution under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor. Interaction between the instructor and the student is primarily initiated by the student. Correspondence courses are typically self-paced.

DEAC institutions offer accredited programs in both formats – distance education and correspondence education.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a private, voluntary, non-governmental peer-review process that reviews the educational quality of an institution or program. In the United States, accreditation is the primary means of assuring educational quality. Accreditation status confirms that an institution has voluntarily undergone a comprehensive self-study and peer examination that demonstrates the institution meets standards of accreditation. To receive accreditation, the institution must clearly demonstrate that it has established educational goals; offers formal, organized learning experiences and services that enable students to meet these stated goals; and that students and graduates have benefited from the learning experiences provided. Furthermore, accreditation assures that an institution operates on a sound financial basis, has approved programs of study, qualified instructors, adequate facilities and equipment, ethical recruitment and admission policies, engages in continual improvement through self-evaluation and planning, and promotes its programs truthfully.

DEAC accreditation is institutional. It covers all distance education and/or correspondence education programs offered by an institution.

What are accreditation standards?

Accreditation standards establish the educational quality and operational aspects that accreditors require. The DEAC has accreditation standards and business practice standards it uses to evaluate institutions that are organized into twelve topics: institution mission goals and objectives; educational program objectives, curricula and materials; educational services; student support services; student achievement and satisfaction; qualifications of administration and faculty; admissions; advertisement and recruitment; financial responsibility; tuition policies; facilities and equipment; and research and self-improvement.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation provides students, prospective students, and the general public with information about the quality of an institution or program. It is important to make sure that the institution will provide you the education program and preparation for the career you are choosing. Accreditation provides this assurance and information about an institution. It is very important to know the accreditation status of the institution and whether an individual program requires a special accreditation status within a specific profession. It is important to remember that institutional accreditation does not mean that an individual program is accredited (e.g., nursing, law, teaching, occupational therapy, veterinary medicine).

How can I make sure that the institution and program have the appropriate accreditation status?

To be certain that the institution you choose is accredited by a reliable accreditor and to determine whether accreditation of a program is required to enter the profession you choose, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized U.S. Accrediting Organizations. Or, visit the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Why is recognition of accreditation so important?

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the United States Department of Education (USDE) play an important role in accreditation. You want to be sure that the organization that accredits your institution or program is reliable. CHEA and USDE provide this assurance. In other words, they "accredit the accreditor" by thoroughly examining accreditors and giving accreditors a recognition status. Only accreditors that receive recognition are listed in the CHEA and USDE databases.

How can I be certain that a distance education program is legitimately accredited and not a diploma mill?

Diploma mills or degree mills are providers of a credential purely in exchange for payment and nothing else. These misleading and harmful entities may also involve an "accreditation mill" that provides accreditation without any proper basis. The CHEA website provides extensive information about the harm of diploma mills and accreditation mills.