Report Calls for State-Led Accreditation Systems

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

According to a report from the National Center for Policy Analysis, traditional higher education is not meeting the needs of employers. Many companies are welcoming online students, but accreditation is often an issue for online schools, and the report outlines how this problem should be rectified.

A Society for Human Resources Management surveyed 378 randomly-selected human resources professionals and found that 79% had hired someone with an online degree in the previous year.

A survey by PayScale and Future Workplace found that 87% of graduates feel ready for the workforce, but only 50% of managers think that recent graduates are ready for a full-time job.

Many students choose online education because of the cost of attending traditional universities. According to the College Board, tuition at public four-year institutions has increased by 40% over the past decade. In the 2013-2014 school year, the cost to attend a public four-year college came to an average of $17,474 and a private not-for-profit college cost $35,074. Since 1997, the cost of textbooks has risen 1041%, and total student loan debt is now more than $1.1 trillion — the problems that online education is meant to address.

The report reviews three basic models of online learning: purely online education, hybrid schools, and corporate partnerships.

Purely online schools solve the problem of traditional university expenses. They are able to provide certificates and nano-degrees as well as traditional diplomas. They are also less expensive — a year’s tuition at online college Western Governors University is $5,780. Students also don’t have to pay fees for dorms, a student center, or sports facilities.

Many online schools also use free Open Education Resources (OER) for textbooks, lesson plans, and entire courses. However, purely online courses often suffer from a lack of student/teacher interaction. They are also seldom finished, as they don’t have the same resources to keep students focused as traditional universities do.

Hybrid schools are traditional schools that offer online courses or components of courses. These programs, often known as blended learning courses, offer the flexibility of online courses while increasing the motivation to succeed.

Thirdly, corporate partnerships are aimed towards better equipping workers for modern conditions than traditional schools may be able to. For example, Google and Instagram created online courses with Coursera. Google, AT&T, and Facebook have partnered up with Udemy to create programs to teach programming, data analysis, and web development.

However, online education often raises issues surrounding accreditation. Accreditation “serves to protect academic rigor and assure students (and potential employers) that a college is legitimate.” The report suggests a new model of accreditation where students earn credits for subject mastery. According to Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation, the value:

“…Would be determined through the system of independent accreditors in competition with one another to demonstrate that their “stamp of approval” is the most accurate in judging competencies valued by employers.”

The report likens the idea to an inspector’s seal of approval for a car.

In conclusion, the report recommends the passing of the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act (HERO) which would allow states to establish their own accreditation systems.

The report, entitled Higher Education and Accrediting Online Courses, was published in July of this year and written by Christian Yiu.