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The rapid emergence of Internet technology, and of interactive teaching and testing in particular, has encouraged many leading universities to experiment with distance education programming. The pace at which these new programs are finding acceptance is accelerating as accreditation services seek new ways to reinterpret their traditional academic standards. Nevertheless, application of this new technology has been hindered by concerns over transferability. Transnational evaluation criteria need to be formulated that define domestic and foreign education in mutually acceptable terms.

Current efforts focus on determining the operational variables. The European Committee for Home and Online Education (ECHOE) has as its goal the determination of just such analytical tools for verification of work experience and life skills in terms of academic standards at its affiliated institutions.

Members of the committee are presently auditing programmes at representative schools to establish the standards for an internationally recognized qualification system. Through ongoing interpretation of the findings, ECHOE is devising a set of principles and guidelines, based on the American model of granting accreditation to programmes rather than institutions. The latter system has tended to limit or even deny a priori the validity of online programming. Reliable evaluation can only be achieved through the integration of educational and academic standards into a unified paradigm of recognized departmental qualifications and achievement.

The Council’s current and future activities include designing criteria for evaluating an individual’s intellectual achievements in various academic fields. These criteria will be used to design a wide range of Computerized Adaptive Tests, or CATs, reflecting national and international standards of accomplishment. With these tests, each student’s ability level will be estimated during the testing process and test items will be dynamically tailored to this estimate of ability. Significantly less time will be needed to administer CATs than a fixed-item test since fewer items are needed to achieve acceptable accuracy and reliability.

ECHOE has been invited by several European institutions to apply these criteria on an experimental basis. To assure the stability and integrity of this process, schools have been asked to provide full disclosure of their overall admissions criteria, course requirements, required texts, and teaching methodologies. For further information about institutions currently approved by the Council, please contact (Revised 29-10-01)

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