in 1997, the Association for Online Academic Excellence (AOAEX)
is a professional accrediting association established to uphold
and maintain high standards for all levels of online postsecondary
Though distance learning is thought by some to be significantly
changing higher education, it is not a new phenomenon. Its predecessors
correspondence courses that have spanned this century, providing
education for those learners who could not pursue a traditional
education. Yesterday's correspondence courses depended on written
materials transmitted between teacher and learner by mail; today's
education courses depend on the multitude of constantly changing
communication technologies that can transmit instruction and relay
materials between learner and teacher.
These technologies have taken shape at a very rapid pace, erasing
traditional barriers of time, space and place and represent the
capacity to fundamentally change the standard for transmitting knowledge
and skills from master to learner. For reasons of access, economy,
effectiveness and convenience, online learning is sweeping higher
education and, in the view of some, changing the role of traditional
learning to a marketplace that some institutions would prefer not
to enter. Whether one is for or against distance learning, one cannot
escape its impact.
Nearly half of the college students in this country are of the age
group once thought of as non-traditional. They are adults, 80% of
whom work full-time and they are primarily coming to college for
many reasons, including economic advancement, accomplishment of
educational degree goals and personal enrichment. Many of these
students are attracted by the convenience and flexibility of online
education programs -- a perfect fit for their busy lives. They are
not alone, however; evidence indicates that many students of a more
"traditional" age find distance learning attractive and that the
population seeking postsecondary education is growing faster than
the current institutions ability to meet the demand.
Since the accrediting process serves to validate an institution's
commitment to quality assurance and continuous improvement, the
purpose of the AOAEX is to provide a level of acceptability of college
degrees which will undergo much of the same scrutiny as the evaluation
of conventional campus-based programs.
Accreditation by the AOAEX provides assurance to the public, in
particular to prospective students, that an institution has been
found to meet the association's requirements and criteria and that
there are reasonable grounds for believing that it will continue
to meet them.
Accreditation provides certification of acceptable institutional
quality as well as an opportunity and incentive for self-improvement
in the accredited institutions. The AOAEX reaches the conclusion
that an institution meets its requirements and criteria only after
the institution opens itself to examination. Moreover, for the accredited
institution, the process of accreditation provides an opportunity
for critical self-analysis leading to improvement in quality.
The colleges and universities that gain accreditation by the AOAEX
are committed to provide qualified degreed students that meet or
exceed the qualifications of traditionally accredited universities.
To be accredited by the AOAEX, an institution must provide full
degree programs by online learning. Whether or not the institution
offers traditional campus-based learning is not relevant.
The integrity, reliability and opportunities for student career
advancement are of primary concern when evaluating a school for