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More Insider Information from the Distance Education Training Council (DETC)

Interview with Michael Lambert, Chief Executive Officer of the DETC


An overwhelming 73% of students from DETC accredited schools rate "personal satisfaction" as their top reason for enrolling in a degree program. Do you feel that DETC accredited schools are a better choice for people seeking personal satisfaction rather than job promotions or increased income?

This is a fascinating statistic. I think that because our traditional market has been adult learners who have been to a college and are older—our average student’s age is 37—DETC institutions tend to attract mature adults who seek personal satisfaction as their top reason. They have been around life long enough to say, “Now, I want to study that I want to study, not something I have been force to study. This degree or this course is for me this time!”

However, I think DETC institutions are doing a great job in helping adult learners get job promotions and more income. This is still a “bread and butter” market for DETC schools, as it has been for 116 years and 140 million DETC students later. So I would not discount DETC schools from the ranks of top providers of educators who offer job promotions and increased income. There are hundreds of thousands of DETC students who fall into this group, and most of them are getting their employer to assist them with the tuition payments, too.

Please briefly explain the DETC's accreditation process.

DETC’s process begins with a voluntary application for accreditation from a distance education institution that meets the basic eligibility requirements for DETC accreditation.

It includes the submission by the applicant of a comprehensive, analytical Self Evaluation Report, undergoing a Readiness For Accreditation visit, submitting a list of random student names for survey by DETC, submitting all curricula materials (including passwords for virtual programs) for evaluation by subject matter experts, and then undergoing a multi-day on-site review by a committee of peer group evaluators. The evaluators prepare a comprehensive Chair’s Report. The applicant is asked to respond to the Report and the independent 9-member accrediting commission of DETC makes the final judgment to accredit, defer accreditation, deny accreditation or withdraw accreditation. The process is repeated de novo each five years.

The DETC process is the result of over a half century of being perfected, it is collegial, voluntary and exhaustive. Dozens of highly qualified experts, professors, administrators retained by DETC are involved in the process to look at a single application. In a typical review of a larger institution, it is not unusual to have over 40 people involved, and this includes the onsite evaluations, each of whom donates about 10 workdays to DETC to serve on accrediting teams without compensation, other than expense reimbursement.

According to a 2006 study, more than 9 out of 10 students who enroll with a DETC accredited institution reported that they achieved their learning goals and are satisfied with their studies. What do you attribute to this high level of satisfaction?

The average percent of students saying that they reached their learning goals climbs every year, and we expect it to reach an average of 97% when we get the figures in next February.

I attribute this incredibly high level of student satisfaction to these factors:

First, the increasing rigor of the DETC accrediting program and its track record in accrediting only high quality institutions. Also, DETC curricula review process has screened out any substandard programs, allowing only effective programs to be offered to students.

Second, the emphasis on student service and personalization that is the hallmark of a good distance school. This has become one way that DETC schools compete in a highly competitive market today: by out-performing other schools in the market in terms of service.

Third, at DETC’s direction and leadership, the institutions have implemented very sophisticated “outcomes assessment programs” over the past four years, and the results have been paying off in terms of happy graduates. These programs include continuous quality improvement models and continuous enhancement of course products, examinations, student services and alumni services. Good outcomes assessment leads to happier graduates.

Is there anything else you think About.com readers should know?

My final comment to your readers is this: do not let anyone tell you that you cannot pursue your dreams of a better education. Distance learning is not for everyone. It is for the mature, self-starting, goal-driven and disciplined person who knows what he or she wants in life.

If you are that person, then go for it!
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