Who wants a small challenge?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Kizmet, Nov 5, 2011.

  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    The United States Distance Learning Association. Is this thing legit? I know that I'm the suspicious type but I'm wondering, who are these people, why hasn't this name come up before, is this just another paper accreditor? Who wants to dig for the facts?

    USDLA - United States Distance Learning Association: Home
  2. BrandeX

    BrandeX New Member

    I have seen them before. They aren't CHEA recognized iir, however they aren't "accreditors" exactly either as far as I could tell. You can pay them different fee amounts to revue your program and they award something similar to a certificate of excellence if you pass their points.
  3. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I found a less expensive way to accomplish the same thing: http://www.amazon.com/Gold-Foil-Star-Stickers-order/dp/tech-data/B004FK8RDS
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    IIRC, the USDLA is an association of DL schools that does not offer accreditation; something like the Chamber of Commerce, where any business can join, but there is no assurance of quality as their is with recognized accreditation.
  5. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Well, their site still has a few pages about accreditation, like this one, but you have to search for them, so it could be they no long offer it but weren't fastidious enough to get all references to it off their site?
  6. BrandeX

    BrandeX New Member

  7. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    The USDLA is a large and perfectly legit non-profit organization. However, it primarily serves the technical and administrative professionals who provide DL services. It is not oriented (as degreeinfo is) towards the students who use DL services.

    For example, Anthony Piña, a university administrator who posts on this forum regularly, was on the Program Committee for the 2011 USDLA National Conference. He could probably tell you all about it.

    The USDLA offers certification for distance learning programs (sometimes they call it "accreditation"), and issues annual awards to recognize top DL programs. But my sense is that USLDA recognition primarily addresses "delivery", as opposed to "content", and so it is not intended to be equivalent to traditional academic accreditation.

    In other words, USDLA certification is supposed to demonstrate that a given program employs good distance learning practices. However, it doesn't address the academic value of the material delivered via those practices -- which would be the primary concern of traditional accreditation agencies.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2011
  8. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    (1) We just have too darn many threads on some topics and end up falling all over ourselves.

    (2) USDLA had "certified" a total of ONE school last time I looked -Clayton College of Natural Health -- now closed!

    (3) There are GOOD schools and BAD schools among its MEMBERS. Membership has nothing to do with accreditation. It is NOT a CHEA/USDoE recognized accreditor and that's that.

    (4) Best DI remark on USDLA I've read here was by Bill Dayson:

    "It's hard for me to take an accreditor seriously when it has only accredited one school. It doesn't help when that one school is Clayton College of Natural Health."

    Here's the thread: http://www.degreeinfo.com/general-distance-learning-discussions/31744-what-do-you-guys-think-about-usdla.html

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2011
  9. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Runner-up for "best DI remark on USDLA" - same thread as above, by poster Robbie:

    It is an excellent point that the USDLA does allow mills to become members and look the other way.

  10. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I have not spent much time on their site but I did not find a list of their members and so I couldn't confirm Robbie's assertion.
    I suspect that he's right though and that's why I made the original posting. Can someone find a smoking gun?
  11. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    You aren't going to find a smoking gun -- because USDLA is a legit organization.

    I admit that there doesn't seem to be much interest in their certification program. However, there is a lot of interest in their annual awards. Schools that get honored by USDLA are proud to announce the fact on their websites -- including DL schools like WGU, and prestigious B&M schools like Boston University, UMass, and Stanford.

    By the way, UMass also issued a press release when their President was inducted into the USDLA Hall of Fame. The University of Massachusetts described USDLA as follows:

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2011
  12. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Forgot to include the link to the UMass press release. It is here.

    It certainly does not appear that the University of Massachusetts system, or its President specifically, share this forum's concerns about USDLA.
  13. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I don't know that this forum has concerns.

    Isn't it always OK to ask a question?

    We still don't have a members list.
  14. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    If the questions are "Is this thing legit?" or "Can someone find a smoking gun?", then suspicion and concern are clearly implied.

    As with many private associations, the full USDLA member list is not public. However, you can easily check out the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, and the Advisory Board.

    For example, the first two members of the USDLA Board of Directors are a Senior Associate Dean of the Stanford Engineering School, and the Executive Director of the Missouri School Boards' Association. Feel free to check out the rest.

    And USDLA has never claimed that it does. On the contrary, USDLA explicitly states that:

    It should be obvious that traditional academic accreditation does not necessarily apply to many of these categories. For example, USDLA recently presented its "Silver Award for Distance Learning Teaching" to NASA's Digital Learning Network (as proudly announced on the NASA website). Now, it's certainly true that NASA is completely unaccredited. But so what ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2011
  15. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, I am suspicious (this forum is not necessarily suspicious) and it seems that there is good reason. We've been told that this organization has degree mills in it's membership. This might be true or maybe not. There is no list so neither you not I know for sure. We'll see.
  16. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    USDLA probably does have degree mills, or individuals representing degree mills, within in its membership. They have an open admissions policy -- any individual or organization with an interest in DL can join.

    Why don't they limit membership to accredited universities? For the simple reason that accredited universities don't have a monopoly on DL. Lots of non-academic organizations now have DL programs, including corporate training departments, the military, other government agencies, non-profit organizations, churches, etc. USDLA is open to them all.

    Does this openness mean that USDLA is not legitimate? No. It just means that USDLA membership, certification, or awards don't necessarily have anything to do with conventional academic accreditation. But USDLA has never claimed that they do.

    Over the past few years, USDLA has issued awards to corporations like Polycom (a company that makes videoconferencing software), Rosetta Stone (a company that makes language learning tools), non-profits like the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and government agencies like NASA. All of these organizations offer DL services of various sorts, but it should be obvious to anyone that they aren't accredited universities.
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2011
  17. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    OK, fair enough. The main point is that people should not make the assumption that USDLA membership = accreditation or even legitimacy.
  18. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    That's true. But the same is true for other perfectly legitimate organizations, like ACBSP.

    For example, consider UGSM-Monarch, a Swiss business school that has been discussed at degreeinfo before. Their home page indicates that UGSM-Monarch is a "Proud Member of ACBSP", and features the ACBSP logo as well.

    UGSM-Monarch is in fact a member of ACBSP. But "ACBSP membership" is not the same thing as "ACBSP accreditation".

    Does UGSM-Monarch have ACBSP accreditation ? No.
    Is there potential for confusion here ? Yes.
    Could such confusion potentially work to the advantage of an unaccredited school ? Yes.
    Does this mean that we should have suspicions and concerns about the legitimacy of ACBSP ? I don't think so.
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  19. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I am the suspicious type note to self - add CalDog to THE LIST:kidding:
  20. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Four smoking guns! See how they stun!

    Then you'd be doing yourself no favour, Kizmet. I can tell you from old discussions, CalDog is very knowledgeable, thinks for himself and "keeps it real." USDLA has legit purposes and many good schools are members - but USDLA does, as "Robbie" said, allow mills to be members.

    Want some "smoking guns?" Jeepers, does nobody else here like homework? For a bunch of DL types, I'm surprised! Here are four gloriously, notoriously sub-wonderful "smoking guns" with no recognized accreditation - ALL USDLA MEMBERS -- or were.

    Camden University - www.camden-edu.com
    The International University for Fundamental Studies - International University of Fundamental Studies - The University of World Nations
    Midwest Missouri University - Welcome to MMU! (Canada, Malaysia and Bangladesh)
    The International University - TIU - The International University, Missouri, USA (Official Website)

    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2011

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