Defining Quality in Distance Education: Examining National and International Standards for Online Learning

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Conference Proceeding

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What factors determine the quality of distance-delivered instruction? Given the rapid proliferation of distance education (DE) across a variety of contexts, there has been much discussion regarding the importance of the effective design of DE courses. Consequently, many organizations have established a variety of criteria and standards that detail the essential qualities of effective distance learning experiences. Accreditation groups, professional associations, foundations, and even individual institutions have created sets of guidelines and requirements to serve as evaluation frameworks for DE. Due to the extensive growth of distance education in K-12, corporate, military, and higher education environments, an analysis is warranted as to how varying organizations define "effective" design of distance learning experiences. More broadly, information presented from this study can provide insights to the instructional design community, particularly with regard to increasing awareness of the importance of the ID process in the design of distance delivered programming. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to present findings of a qualitative analysis of standards related to distance course design, including commonalities and differences among organizations with regard to defining quality distance learning experiences.

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