Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5055-8.ch001
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Online pedagogy is among the most important and timely developments within higher education. Administrators and regional accrediting agencies set forth standards of education, many of which predate the advent of online education. Therefore, additional standards have been developed to compensate for the technological innovations utilized in and in lieu of traditional classrooms. This chapter serves as an overview and introduction into online pedagogy and exploration of its role in the regional accreditation standards. In particular, this chapter lays the groundwork for the detailed standards and accreditation information to be discussed in chapters 2 and 3.
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Universities are embracing distance education, yet most are not making the changes necessary to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of online learning. Historically, universities have designed and built pedagogies, reward systems, organizational structures, procedures, and policies to facilitate face-to-face modes of education. University staff and faculty cling to deep-rooted paradigms, which may have worked well with traditional forms of education, but to not work well for technologically enhanced distance education…By clinging to traditional pedagogies, universities often diminish the potential educational advantages brought by the technologies used for distance education- C. Howard, K. Schenk, and R. Discenza (2004).

Online courses and institutions have been growing dramatically in recent years. Even without looking at the statistics regarding online education, educators, administrators, and students recognize an increase in the utilization of technology in the classroom and the advertisement of distance education courses at their traditional face-to-face (F2F) institutions. Likewise, instructors throughout institutions of higher education across the country have been asked to rethink the way that they offer their courses and to consider transitioning into hybrid or distance education. In short, the development and presentation of education are changing; students, instructors, requirements, technologies, capabilities are all transitioning into a new way of thinking and teaching.

According to a PEW Internet Report on The Digital Revolution and Higher Education, 46% of college graduates of the past ten years have taken an online learning course as part of their degree (Parker, Lenhart, & Moore, 2011, p. 1). This may even seem like a low statistic given that an average of 77% of college presidents report that their institution offers online courses as part of their programs:

Online learning is more common in some sectors of higher education than in others. Among the presidents of four-year public colleges and universities, 89% report that their institution offers classes online. Just six-in-ten presidents of private four-year colleges report the same (p. 3).

There are a variety of online offerings at our institutions of higher education. Some institutions and administrators dove headfirst into the opportunity to offer online classes, being pressured by state and national leadership and giving into the misconception that online classes are cheaper and easier to teach than F2F courses. Other institutions have been more cautious and are still in the initial steps of implementing distance learning courses into their departments.

The vast majority of two-year colleges offer online courses (91%), and their leaders are among the most likely to believe that online learning is comparable to learning in a classroom. Two-thirds of the presidents of two-year colleges say an online course provides an equal educational value when compared with a course taken in person. Among the leaders of for-profit colleges and universities, 71% report that their institutions offer classes online and more than half (54%) say these classes offer the same value as classes taken in person (Parker, Lenhart, & Moore, 2011 p. 4).

Bearing in mind that the number of students attending and participating in degree programs is also increasing, there will likely continue to be an increase in distance education options for students of higher education. More of our students will become accustomed to distance learning and, in the not so distant future, online education will become a staple and, most likely, a requirement of degree programs across the institution.

It is not just the number of online classes within our traditional F2F universities that are growing. There has also been development in completely online institutions, some of which unfortunately have poor reputations for being “easy” places for students to earn credits and degrees. Such institutions have earned the term “diploma mills,” as being places where students just virtually attend class with little to no effort in order to earn a certificate or degree. However, there have also been a number of credible and high quality institutions that offer a variety of levels and types of degrees including doctoral degrees. Overall, the number of schools and options for educational institutions are also increasing because of the advances in technology and distance education:

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