Post-16 education has been steadily changing over the past few years. The age range of potential students has shifted from recent school-leavers to include young professionals and adults looking to change career. Learning has become more flexible in order to allow these students to fit studying around their working lives.
This means that there has been growth in short courses, particularly for professionals wishing to move forward in their existing careers, and in online, distance and blended learning. More and more, people socialise online, shop online and learning online has been a natural extension of this trend. This year, the Open University came top for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey and the number of online courses on offer is growing exponentially. A new wave of universities in the UK and overseas, including prominent Ivy League institutions, are offering a mix of free and paid-for online courses.
There are also thousands of independent distance learning providers reaching out to students, including several BAC-accredited providers such as the Gemological Institute of America, QA Business School and the Maryvale Institute. However, there is potential for excellent providers to become lost in a mass of clamouring voices. Without a comprehensive mark of quality assurance, students do not know who to trust. They may bypass legitimate providers to invest their valuable time and funds on unsatisfying courses that fail to deliver, as the BBC has reported in the past.
With over a quarter of a century’s experience in evaluating further and higher education, the British Accreditation Council is more than ready to help high quality institutions to be recognised, and to help students to find them. We have used the high standards we expect from traditional independent colleges to create a brand new online, distance and blended learning accreditation scheme.
If you are a high-quality distance or blended learning provider that wishes to stand out from the crowd, please read through our accreditation handbook, take a look at the online, distance and blended learning scheme document and then get in touch.
Dr Gina Hobson