New DETC Discussion

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by obecve, Feb 9, 2010.

  1. obecve

    obecve New Member

    Ok OK OK, we have had the very long discussion on the value of DETC docs. For the most part they have limited utility (but in some cases can lead to licensure in California or to the Bar in California). Many believe they may increase skills and knowledge base. I think we have kicked this dead horse enough. I would like to change the conversation.

    What events would need to occur for the DETC docs to gain greater credibility and utility? What would it take for them to be accepted in academia or at least in all of DL academia? From a positive perspective what action could DETC itself or DETC insititutions take to affect the whole credibility issue (short of becoming RA)?
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This isn't accurate. As far as the Cal Bar is concerned, DETC-accredited law schools have the same status as unaccredited schools. Being accredited by DETC doesn't add to a school's student body's ability to sit for the Bar.
    I'm pretty sure a good education can be had at any DETC-accredited school.
    I think one way to look at this is in terms of outcomes. Degrees from DETC-accredited schools will have greater utility when DETC accreditation is considered comparable to RA by all the stakeholders involved. This must, of course, include the RAs themselves. But how to get there?

    To answer that, one must point either to (a) a oligopical trust that keeps out anyone but the regionals, or (b) deficiencies in DETC's processes and its accredited schools that must be remedied.

    I suspect it is a lot of both, but that's just an opinion based on dealing with this issue for more than 30 years.

    Forty years ago, Alexander Mood said accreditation was passe and on its way out. Not exactly.

    While I think DETC, it's accredited schools, and their graduates have been successful in chipping away at this issue as it regards to employers and, to a lesser extent, RA schools, there's a long way to go.

    I don't think it will happen completely for a very important reason: DETC brings nothing new or unique to accreditation. It covers no unique turf that isn't covered by the RAs, it has no demonstrably different processes, and it doesn't accredit schools that are different from RA schools. If DETC disappeared tomorrow, what would be the loss? Its member schools who are capable of it would take become RA and the others, if any, would go away. Is there some really cool school that is so unique that (a) we'd be at a loss without it and (b) is so cutting edge that, despite its outstanding quality, it cannot be accredited by an RA? Which school would fill that void?

    Until DETC finds a unique niche or value added, it will always be perceived as a poor alternative to the RAs. That doesn't make its schools poor, it makes them mostly irrelevant. But if they found ways to make themselves relevant and unique--and if DETC would lead that charge--then DETC's accreditation might someday be perceived as having value above and beyond RA. Wouldn't that be cool?
  3. Hello,

    I think the Distance Education board is getting crowded with threads that might be more suitable to other boards. For example, this one, I believe, should be in the accreditation discussion.

    Could the Mods move it over there?
  4. emmzee

    emmzee New Member

    Maybe a new board, "Accreditation Debates"
  5. Caulyne Barron

    Caulyne Barron New Member

    DETC is a good fit for smaller organizations that are simply not robust enough to meet regional expectations or who serve a small niche, or who are looking for a transitional step before buying into the regionals. Regional accreditation is a very lengthy and very expensive process.

    DETC is an outcomes-oriented, fairly prescriptive accrediting body that has been a big influence in how regional accreditors look at distance programs. I think the distance education market is a big cash cow for the traditional, regional schools that are now getting involved, but that doesn't mean that they know how to create effective programs, nor that they know how to measure the outcomes of these programs.

    Organizations I've been involved with chose DETC because the barriers to entry in the regionals are HUGE and because they were first and foremost distance programs. Our students are outcome oriented and we occupy a niche market. We've investigated regional at my current organization, but we're not sure that it would be the right fit for us.
  6. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Here's a few suggestions:

    1. Try to attract stronger applicants. A roster overweighted with small vocational degree-sales proprietorships and schools with long-and-undistinguished unaccredited histories doesn't do an accreditor's reputation very much good. My examples in that regard have come from the NY Regents, which in the last few months have accredited new doctoral programs at the American Museum of Natural History and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute. These programs are extremely strong (world class) right out of the gate, because they were leading international research institutions before they ever thought of starting a doctoral program. Neither is in any way dependent on New York's very obscure and little known accreditation for its reputation. But the presence of several schools like these does do wonders for an accreditors top-tier end and for its credibility overall. (The ivy league and similar schools cast a glow over all of RA.)

    2. Expanding on that point, DETC should tighten up the requirements that must be met by any school that wants to have its doctoral program recognized. Schools should have some critical mass in the subject to be taught before the doctoral program ever commences. Schools shouldn't be allowed to just start awarding the most advanced degree titles from out of nowhere, just because they want to, with scholarly and professional substance maybe (hopefully) following along later. So DETC needs to be encouraging schools with doctoral aspirations to start pumping up their professional and intellectual lives in preparation -- competing for grants, creating research units, collaborating with other universities in projects, publishing work with the school's institutional affiliation on it, and so on. Some mix of this kind of stuff needs to be an accreditation standard for most doctoral programs.

    3. And it shouldn't just be a requirement for initial accreditation. DETC needs to rewrite its accreditation standards so as to create a modest publish-or-perish dynamic. If doctoral programs don't remain at least minimally productive, they should face loss of their doctoral accreditation. There should be clear requirements that graduate students be included and actively involved in all of these activities and in the intellectual life of their departments. (If these requirements make it difficult to operate a school with a faculty of temp-adjuncts, then so be it.)

    4. Finally, anticipating the anguished outcry, it's clear that this isn't a DETC specific issue. It's just that DETC gets a lot of attention on the DL boards. But what I just wrote applies to ACICS as well. In fact, it also applies to the low-end RA doctoral programs, particularly the proprietorial DL ones that we hear about so often on this board. Sometimes those schools get kind of a free-ride on the academic reputations of stronger research universities with the same accreditation. (We're RA! We're RA!) I'd like to see the regional accreditors paying more attention to raising requirements for doctorate grantors at the low end.
  7. AviTerra

    AviTerra New Member

    This isn't accurate. As far as the Cal Bar is concerned, RA-accredited DL law schools have the same status as unaccredited schools. Being RA doesn't add to a school's student body's ability to sit for the Bar.
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 10, 2010
  8. Lerner

    Lerner Well-Known Member

    Try to work closely with Professional Accrediting associations.

    Try to comply and get professional accreditation of the programs that can be delivered by DL.
  9. AviTerra

    AviTerra New Member

    DETC will accredit schools that are too small to become RA. At some point, some of these schools grow to a size that qualifies them to become RA. Therefore, DETC enables new schools to be come into existence. In my opinion, this serves as a great benefit to students and society in general. More competition leads to better quality and lower costs.
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    What I said was accurate. So was yours, except the part about what I said.

    DETC accreditation has no impact on a student's ability to join the Bar.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I've suggested many times in the past that DETC should become a specialized accreditor for DL programs, not be an institutional accreditor. Lead the way.
  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    If true, it begs the question why there is such a difference--why RAs won't accredit smaller schools. Perhaps it's related to financial stability, which in turn is related to how well a school is prepared to deliver on its promises.
  13. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    I don't think that DETC will ever be considered equivalent from a reputation point of view to RA. For the reasons that Rich says but also because the vast majority of schools are RA. Many thousands of schools are RA. DETC accredits about 100 schools. DETC will always be less well known. DETC accredited schools are generally smaller and less prestigious. DETC accreditation will always remain less well known and less prestigious. As Rich mentions, much progress has been made but DETC will never have the same level of acceptance as RA.
  14. telefax

    telefax New Member

    To be credible in the world of graduate education, schools need to demonstrate educated graduates who can credibly claim that their alma mater had the best scholars to rigorously supervise their particular research. The external indicators of this are 1) MA grads placed into competitive PhD programs, 2) PhD grads placed on faculty at respected schools, 3) PhD grads producing awards/leading research in the field.

    Getting new schools to that point requires high standards throughout: from admissions to course rigor to faculty research. Schools can also consider the initial step of the “feeder school,” i.e. MA programs that routinely place their grads into top doctoral programs elsewhere. All this involves an investment of time and a sacrifice of profit that many schools discussed here seem overwhelmingly uninterested in. But the payoff is that a school that does these things will likely attain credibility regardless of the type of accreditation.
  15. telefax

    telefax New Member


    Your question distinguishing (perhaps unintentionally) between these two categories highlights what I see as a growing problem, and one broader than the RA/DETC debate. Are the educational standards of many (particularly proprietary/for-profit) DL schools contributing to a negative reputation for DL? Are many DL schools' advertisement/recruitment mantras of ease! - convenience! - speed! creating a perception of DL as credentialism as opposed to education? Are DL grads who desire to teach becoming more limited or less limited to adjuncting in a DL ghetto?
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 10, 2010
  16. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Could you enlighten me on how this would work? First, can DETC, on its own authority, simply say that it is now going to become a specialized accreditor of DL programs or do they need to go to the USDE for a change of scope of accreditation? Second, once such a change is instituted, how does DETC go about convincing RA schools that they need DETC accreditation for their DL programs?
  17. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure how they would have to go about it, but I think there's a need to improve how traditional schools formulate and deliver their DL programs. Just stuffing traditional content into a DL format, after stripping away whatever doesn't fit, no matter its value, doesn't cut it. But if DETC had a better idea, I suspect it could take a consultative approach to its (proposed) programmatic accreditation process. If the DETC "stamp of approval" didn't develop value under those circumstances, what does that say about the "shadow accreditation" it offers now?

    DL has just exploded--in terms of volume--with the advancement of internet technologies and speeds. Too bad quality has not kept up. I'm just suggesting someone should step in and move things along, and DETC would/could be a candidate for it, instead of offering second-rate and redundant accreditation. If not, perhaps someone else (USDLA, perhaps) will.
  18. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    A law degree isn't a doctorate, because there is no dissertation.
  19. ITJD

    ITJD Guest

    I agree with you in sentiment as has been documented elsewhere, but lets not take the absolutist's or elitist's viewpoint. A JD is a Juris Doctorate after all.

    You'd be hard pressed to say the same for a MD and I don't think there's a dissertation required there either. The first doctorate degrees were issued in theology, law and medicine. Everything after that could honestly be argued not to be a doctorate :)


    PS. So I don't start a thread war I agree that in terms of teaching a JD should not qualify someone to teach at the collegiate level.
  20. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    That makes a lot of sense to me, however I'm curious if you have an opinion as to whether the criteria would be the same for a more professsional (as opposed to academic- or research-focused) degree. I'm thinking, for example, of a typical PsyD program, which, as I understand it, is typically more focused on turning out qualified clinical psychologists working in a direct services profession (i.e., providing individual psychotherapy) rather than academics and/or researchers. Do you think the the credibility (or academic rigor, if it is a separate measure) of a school or program that is not focused on producing graduates who aspire to work in academia would still be evaluated in the same light?

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