The Academy Responds to Questions        

Where can I find out about whether or not my online college and my degree will be worth anything?

     Ask your employer first. If you are self-employed, ask yourself. If in doubt, ask The Academy.

Will my online degree be considered less than if I acquired the degree through classroom attendance at a college?

     No. Nothing on your degree should have “Online” on it or attached to it, including your transcript. However, check with the institution you wish to attend to make sure your degree is indistinguishable from that of someone who attends class on campus. If the school scores your degree as “Online” no matter how well known or respected an institution is, there are those who will consider it less than credible. Why? We still have too many traditionalists that are in denial and have no idea what it takes to acquire an online degree.

The Law School I want to attend is online and offers the opportunity to take the Bar exam. It is not accredited by the ABA. Will I be able to practice law if I pass the state bar exam? 

     Yes, you will but you will be limited in practice to that state that will recognize your degree. Law students usually want to practice in a specific jurisdiction. It is that jurisdiction that determines if you can use a law degree from a non-accredited law school.

I am attending a med school offshore from the USA and the school is non-accredited by a regional accrediting agency approved by the US Department of Education. Will I be able to practice in the USA?

     You can practice medicine in the USA if you pass the MCAT exam and hop over a few low hurdles from the state  and hospital you wish to affiliate. There are several offshore medical schools that are excellent. St. George’s in Granada comes to mind, as does Ross University in Dominica. They don’t need to buy into the US “accreditation” mystique because they are each accredited by the nations in which they are domiciled. They are licensed in their host countries. Some of the best doctors in the land acquired their degrees from non-US accredited schools. These schools attract students from all over the world providing a student with a network of potential collegues around the world. 

The School I am interested in attending is listed on the State of Oregon’s "do not come here" list but I am not a resident of Oregon. Can I attend even if Oregon doesn’t say it’s a Diploma Mill but has it on its unapproved list? What should I do?

     Fortunately for you, Oregon’s opinion is only their opinion. Oregon's regulators have overspilled their space and have attempted to muscle other states to fall in behind them. However, outside of Oregon’s borders, their will has no force or effect other than to besmirch the reputation of credible schools, many of whom have sued and prevailed against the state's regulators. However, you want to make sure your school is, at the minimum licensed in whatever jurisdiction it is operating including Oregon’s if that is where you live. Then, you want to assure that the faculty measures up to your expectations and have the credentials to teach the subject.

Does “accreditation” guarantee the degree I receive?

     No. What you acquire is a degree from an institution that has met the minimal requirements of the private agency assessing it and/or licensing it, nothing more. The BEST WORST ONLINE DEGREE PROVIDERS, the annual rating and ranking of online providers of college level curriculum has identified at least 80 'accredited' institutions that are marginal at best.

What organizations promote negative and prejudiced information about non-accredited institutions? Can these institutions and their reps be trusted to give a fair and impartial evaluation?

     The bulk of negative commentary about online institutions comes from so-called online forums that purport to provide information about colleges. The controversial and misleading opinions about accredited and non US accredited institutions often picked up by Blogs don't do their due diligence to fairly represent or justify their "shot from the hip" opinions. But, this is understandable in forums which are little more than gossip columns. However when it comes to state officials and university professors who claim to know something espousing negative rhetoric without substance it brings into question the credibility of the organizations they represent. Three of the most prominent of the sponsors of the false phrophets include the University of Illinois, Urbana, the State of Oregon Office of Degree Authorization and Inside Higher Education, an erstwhile blog that caters to its sponsors and advertisers whose saving grace is its listing of jobs for faculty. Others exist including a couple of dozen blogs that possess no experts to speak of but feed off of pundits notorious for feeding off of institutions and individuals who represent both different and legitimate approaches to higher education. The traditional bias among them is insisting on 100% American accreditation through US Department of Education approved private agencies. Considering there are only 2500 American schools versus over 14,000 institutions of higher learning outside of the USA, this prejudice is a bit hard to swallow. At that, there is even some considerable bias as to those they consider are the best of the "accrediteds". The best way to approach these so-called pros is analyze their conclusions if it affects you and go on to determine the trustworthiness of the reporting.

Is online higher education as good as on ground education?

 
   
According to students who have experienced both, the overwhelming majority, almost 70% consider online education best. Add on the 20% who think they are equal and you have an overwhelming 90% who consider online education as good as or better than traditional. Those who do not agree are those who have never experienced it and that is the group the detractors to the idea of online education having any merit gravitate towards. It is however, inevitable that unless colleges and universities take on online education with the same enthusiasm as their traditional campuses they will, in a generation, disappear according to the late Peter Drucker, known as the father of modern management. 

What is the best Course Management System (CMS)?

     This is also referred to as Learner Management System (LMS). There are multiple choices for colleges to pick from and several are open source - in other words free. Many of thebest are inhouse private systems and not even located in the USA or used by American schools. The best CMS platforms in the world however finds among them a free system. Many professors, in fact the overwhelming majority who have experienced several systems prefer one over all others as do the students who have had the same experience. The best of these is an open source program provider that can be customized to fit comfortably into any institution with the financial resources and ability to make it their own. It is called MOODLE and was designed by one of the founders and creators of WEBct, the CMS bought out by Blackboard who considered WEBct their biggest competitor in the 'pay for it' field.  Claiming to be the largest provider of CMS in the USA, they claimed to have invented the process. That contention was dismissed by the courts. The Best of the Best is an Open Source provider known as MOODLE. It is the largest private provider in the world, has at least 150,000 adherents including colleges and universities all over the world. It is at least two years ahead of Blackboard in internal developments primarily becausedevelopers provide the information free to MOODLE who in turn Beta tests it with subscribers and eventually it works its way into the mainstream. The reason Blackboard has moved its way into so many schools n American including some of the largest secondary schools virtual worlds is because those making the decisions don't know any better, have little or no idea how CMS works or what it can do and accept the sales pitch that this or that school is a user. The name game is the keeper sales point. These supposedly made intellegent decisions cost a school a minimum $150,000 to start, plus a fee for every student signed into the system whether they use it or not, a dollar amount that can be staggering if a school has several thousand students. The age old question is why would you pay for something you can get for free and in addition get a product that can not be surpassed by any private system? Makes no sense does it? Welcome to technology in the world of higher education.

Can an on-ground professor teach online classes?

     Yes and no. Many traditional professors are reluctant to teach online because they believe it is inferior to the lecture hall. Students as previously noted have a different fix. Those professors that embrace online education find that students do as well, if not better, in the environment. Studies have shown online classes provide more one on one with the students and overcome barriers often experienced in the classroom. A good online instructor produces motivated and dedicated students. It is the same formula that works in the classroom.

Why does it cost as much or more to attend an online version of an on ground class?
    
     One would think logically that since you do not take up space in a building on a campus that an online education from a 'trendy' university would cost less. Unfortunately some schools, not all, treat the delivery of their courses online as a 'cash cow'. They realize that the value is in the education and take advantage of the fact the online student may never show up on campus, never need to use the facilities, and therefore provide a cost savings and windfall in tuition under the banner of the name and reputation of the provider school. Economically it is a rip-off of the students. In actuality, students should pay less but if an online division of a school did that, the classroom bound student would desert the facilities and the on-ground experience in a heartbeat, so the argument goes, then what?

Are college professors certified like public school classroom teachers?

     No. Their degree is their certification according to them. It is ironic that college professors teach future teachers who must become certified to teach in a K-12 classroom.

Are online professors tenured?

     Rarely. For the most part if they are, it is because they are already tenured in their on-ground position. Virtually all other full time online professors are not. Most are part time working for several online universities at the same time and referred to as Adjunct Professors.

Are online professors as good as on-ground professors?

     Depends. More and more institutions, in their rush to add online courses are adding online faculty who have no experience in the classroom. Many view this as a 2nd string effort and a ploy to stuff programs in order to increase the University’s cash flow. Ideally, a professor who has had considerable on-ground experience, preferably as a full time faculty member, and who also is capable and competent in teaching online is the Cadillac of online educators. Most institutions don’t care and this adds fuel to the fire for tenured faculty who absolutely do not want to teach online and consider all things online bogus. The best bet is to ask. “Does the instructor have classroom experience and if so, how much?” Doesn’t hurt to ask, now does it?

Do online professors have as much freedom as on ground professors in course design and selection of textbooks?

     No. It is increasingly becoming more rare. Colleges are so intimidated by their regional accrediting agencies and the spin that somehow online education just doesn’t seem to be good enough, they set down a series of stifling academic milestones every professor that works in online for them must follow. Rarely does the professor get what an on ground professor gets, including selection of text, design of the syllabus and course content unless it is the on-ground professor teaching a similar course online. Academic freedom seems to have taken a holiday when it comes to online teaching.

What is the quality of an online professor?

     They are equally good and bad. A professor with both experiences is a great plus, as previously noted, but not a guarantee.

If I graduate from a non-accredited university and it becomes accredited by one of America’s regional or national agencies approved by the US Department of Education, will my status change?

     Yes. You can now state truthfully the college your obtained your degree from is accredited.

There are those who suggest that if my degree was granted before a non-accredited college became accredited, it is not equal to, or equivalent to, the degree obtained by a graduate of the university now that it is accredited?

     Tell that to all the Harvard grads prior to the 1960’s. There is stupid and then there is stupid.

Why would I want to acquire a degree from a non-accredited university?

     Only you can answer that question. You will receive no government guaranteed financial aid; there are those who will criticize you and the institution without mercy even referring to your degree as bogus; you will not be able to get a teaching job, at least not at an accredited school; and you will never be able to join the faculty or administration of an accredited college. However, if the non-accredited college offers you a superior education and it promotes your career, then all those other things don’t mean anything because there are opportunities aplenty that await you.

Can anybody succeed at online education - I hear that many have open enrollment particularly the non-accredited schools?

     No, not everybody can succeed at online education. You have to be motivated, self directed, and disciplined. It makes no difference if it is open or competitive enrollment.

Is it possible to go from K-12 and on up through college to grad school and beyond with online education?

     Absolutely. With the advent of new K-12 online programs, a step between home schooling and public schools, it is possible. The rest is already in place.

Are there any sources out there that rate non-accredited schools?

     No longer. Everyone has gotten hung up on getting “accredited” degrees. This does not mean one cannot acquire a certification that the work accomplished by a student at a non-accredited school is equivalent to accredited institutions. It is widely available.

Are there other accreditations that colleges can have?

     Yes, but in many cases it is not the same as American accreditation that is based on peer review from private agencies. In the case of foreign accreditation, there is likely no review other than a university’s own assessment and approval by the Ministry of Education in the University’s home country. Depending on what nation it is will also determine whether some in the USA consider it “good enough”. Most schools accept transfer students from a UN member country’s school who have been previously approved by their government’s higher education authorities.

Are there accreditations agencies that are themselves bogus?

     Apart from the outright frauds, it depends on how you define “bogus”. If a group decides to band together and self accredit, is it bogus? The same goes for an association, or other organization that represents institutions of higher learning. Just because they are not approved to receive US government guaranteed student loan funds does not, as others would have the public believe make them “bogus”. It is the students’ perception of the legitimacy that is important. What others think is irrelevant.

There is an organization called The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) that claims to determine if various types of accreditation and accrediting agencies are legitimate. What is their purpose?

     Their purpose is to promote those schools and accrediting agencies they claim are legitimate. There are those who believe that in their zeal to allegedly protect the public, they have actually created a greater harm in thwarting the development and presentation of innovative education, a hallmark of American higher education for 200 years, and long before organizations of this type came on the scene. They have been described as the grass roots minimalists created to preserve the status quo.

They say anybody with the ability to create a website can start a university, is this true?

     Yes. And, anybody who wants to start an on-ground college can do so as well. One such fellow comes to mind. He was a dirt farmer with no formal education. He started Leland Stanford, Jr. University on his farm in honor of his son who had met with an untimely death at a young age. You know the rest of the story and the same will be true of more than one online university in the 21st century as well.

It seems that all the Blogs on e-education have climbed on the “accreditation” bandwagon and those of us with degrees from what they describe as “unaccredited” are treated with the scarlet letter “U”.  Why?

     They don’t know they don’t know. They think that because the institution has chosen not to play the accreditation game, at least not their way, they are less than credible. They conclude there is something wrong with them. They toss around the words 'diploma mill' like candy and take the easy way out. Some have referred to these Blogs as “gutless wonders” for their refusal to do adequate research. They seem only content to spew derogatory info often provided by others. This makes better press. Comments titillate the ‘gotcha’ button and like the tabloids, but not nearly as good, appear to be attempts to break the legs of any struggling online institution. The Blogs are, after all, free expressions of opinions, right or wrong.

What is the best Blog for online education news?

     There does not seem to be one. They are all seemingly biased but highly entertaining with their free-rolling expressions of righteous indignation and so-called insider scoops. It appears a few Blogs dominate with commenting personalities (the kindest way I can describe them) being the same responders over and over with different names and IP addresses (yes, the responders clone themselves) so they cannot be traced or look like they are padding the opinions. For those who know this, it discredits the education Blogosphere and anything they have to say that may have been of value to the reader.

How do I get respect for my online “unaccredited” degree?
     First, never, ever, refer to it as “unaccredited”. If anything it is “non-accredited” for US Department of Education guaranteed student loan purposes. It can certainly be accredited elsewhere or, if the institution chooses, not at all. The fact that your school chose not to be accredited by one of the Education Department's approved private review agencies was their choice not yours. Own up to the fact you did this willingly. Secondly, keep in touch with your former professors and those that analyzed and graded your work for you may need to call upon them to verify and yes, validate your study. Create a portfolio aside from your transcript emphasizing why you chose the school in the first place, illustrate and point out the benefits, quality, and convenience it possessed. You have to be willing to fight fire with fire. Your critics did not choose the school, you did. Now, stand up for it.

I hear it is easier to get a degree online than on-ground.  Is that true?

     First, nothing about college is normal. The varieties and experiences you may have will differ greatly depending on the school you attend. As far as online schooling is concerned more students drop out of online institutions than on-ground and never complete their education. An online effort requires discipline. Most online students are unprepared for the self-motivation required to complete online classes. As far as being easier, this is a myth propagated by ground-based faculty who think the only way to teach and learn is to play to a live audience. This is primarily indicative of an American mindset since European professors are used to not seeing their students in the classroom.

Would you recommend a student pursue an online education?
     Assuming they are motivated to learn – without hesitation.  





The questions represented here are from hundreds of inquiries directed to the Academy from students, faculty, and administrators from around the globe. The online education field is diverse and can be confusing and complicated to the unintiated. If you have a question that has not been answered regarding online education, contact us with your question.

These questions along with others are also published in the
Best & Worst Online Degree Programs published by Global Academy Online, Inc., that rates the quality online degree providers. This penetrating research is available FREE on request.