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More than 50 people in person and 40-plus institutions streaming online were treated to valuable information from various experts about accreditation and its impact on distance learning last Friday.

NUTN and WCET collaborated on the event, which North Lake College hosted.

The first panel of the day, “Insight From Accreditors,” featured WCET’s Russ Poulin moderating, Dr. Kevin Sightler from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Vice President of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Dr. Ellie Fogarty, Executive Director for Distance Education Accrediting Commission Dr. Leah Matthews and Vice President and COO of WASC Senior College & University Commission Dr. Christopher Oberg.

The panelists took questions from people in attendance and from online viewers.

“Accreditation, as you know, is the major way in which students, families, the public and government officials know that an institution provides education properly,” Matthews said. “The reason why institutions have accreditation are multi-faceted and varied.”

One of those reasons being students with federal funding (loan, grant, etc.) have to attend an accredited institution.

During lunch, president of TCC Connect Dr. Carlos Morales spoke about the process in setting up a fully functioning online campus.

The TCC Connect Campus, which was established in 2014, offers eLearning, Weekend College and Dual Credit opportunities.

Before breaking off into smaller groups to discuss some of the day’s topics, the final panel of the day, moderated by Texas Tech Associate Vice Provost Justin Louder, came from an institution viewpoint with panelists Dr. Kate Kazin from College for America at Southern New Hampshire University, Director of Mizzou Online Dr. Kim Siegenthaler and Interim President of Capella University Dr. Dick Senese.

Among other things, the panel discussed the difficulty of authentication of online students and how each of their institutions handled it.

“We really focus on fully integrating, mainstreaming [and] normalizing distance education within the overall work of institution rather than make it separate or different,” Siegenthaler said. “So all our online courses and programs are subject to the same governance and oversight as our other courses are.”

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Angela Auzenne