As occasionally happens, I was asked a question on LinkedIn. In this case, it was about my thoughts on accreditation. Also, as occasionally happens, I thought that I’d share my thoughts in this forum, and look for feedback to improve my thinking. So here’re some thoughts on accreditation. I welcome yours!
First, let’s be clear, I am not an expert on accreditation. I haven’t accredited anything, for one ;). I did look into it, at one point many years ago. I’ve also served on independent board of directors or advisory boards for several entities. In the former case, we have a legal responsibility to provide guidance. In the latter case, we provide the best guidance, but of course the organization isn’t obliged to comply. The former, in particular, serves as a quality check, or a form of accreditation.
When I looked into accreditation for educational institutions, the requirement isn’t about the actual curriculum, but instead that there is a library and that there are processes for review and revision of course offerings. That is, it was about the support for learning and quality processes, not the actual offering. This creates a process support that should ensure quality, yet also the ability to apply this to institutions with a wide variety of offerings.
Institutions can also seek accreditation by organizations in particular areas of curriculum. Offerings in computer science, business, and others for instance, receive review and then can receive approval by bodies that represent the particular field. This depends on the quality of the organization doing the accreditation and their processes, of course.
There’s also accreditation on the quality of the educational process. You can also be reviewed and accredited on the basis of your pedagogy, for instance your online teaching approach. It depends, of course, on what they stipulate as quality, but that’s always going to be the case.
There are, of course, dubious accreditations. It’s not unknown for an organization or collection thereof to establish their own accrediting body that basically rubber stamps the organization(s). Caveat emptor.
In general, I think that having a scrutable external validation is a good check on quality. Whether that makes sense is probably an issue of scope. A small offering of a particular course might benefit from an independent advisory board, which provides some oversight. The larger the organization and the scope of activity, the greater the need for some external validity check.
From the other side, I think a certificate or credentials help the learner signify what they’ve accomplished. However, without accreditation or at least a scrutable process, how do you know the skill/knowledge is appropriate and accurate? I think accreditation has the potential to be a ‘reality check’ on any offering.