FAQ General

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 via mail at 1101 17th Street NW, Suite 808, Washington, DC 20036; via phone at (202) 234-5100; or via email at |info@deac.org.

What is Distance Education?

Distance education, also known as online education, correspondence education, or Internet-based learning, is designed for learners who live at a distance from residential educational providers and/or institutions. Distance education has evolved in recent years to include an increasing number of adult learners who may be within reasonable proximity to a residential campus, but because of work and personal responsibilities, are unable to regularly attend a physical campus. Additionally, these adult learners consider themselves to be self-starters and more independent students who thrive in an environment that provides a balance between flexibility and structure.

Distance education has a rich history dating back to the early 18th century when its predominant medium of instruction was printed materials that were mailed to individual students and allowed for little to no interaction with faculty members. Distance education today has taken advantage of technological innovations and has become a multi-faceted avenue for providing instruction through various mediums to meet the learning needs of a diverse, growing student population. Educational institutions can reach across borders and extend globally to build strong learner communities through the use of technological tools such as social media outlets, podcasts, various forms of asynchronous and synchronous communication, and videoconferencing. Advancements within the field of distance education have provided an increasing population of students the opportunity to earn degrees and gain knowledge and skills in various subject areas.

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.

How does accreditation function in the United States?

Accreditation communicates quality to students, institutions, the public, government, and other industry professionals. Accreditation provides assurances that a program has met established standards necessary to produce graduates who have achieved stated learning outcomes and are ready to enter the global marketplace. Students who graduate from accredited institutions have greater opportunities for employment, continued education, and mobility.

Generally, accreditation in other countries is controlled by the government and is often required. By contrast, accreditation in the United States is a voluntary, peer review process and is carried out by nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations. The peer review process allows institutions to be evaluated by other education professionals working in the industry who understand the needs and demands from a shared perspective. Additionally, the peer-review process provides checks and balances from within the industry to allow institutions to have an opportunity to meet students’ educational goals by using a variety of resources while ensuring quality programs. 

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.