Friday, December 15, 2006

Warning: Diploma Mills!

When it comes to vocational training, especially online, awareness is the key to successs! If an online post-secondary training program, non-traditional university, or so-called virtual college attended is not legit students may be in for an unpleasant surprise.

Warning: Diploma Mills!!!

People in this day and age are always busy! The daily bump and grind, the hustle and bustle of modern life keeps them on the go and there is never enough time for anything, it seems, even family.

Of course, everybody who has goals in life knows that they need education and training to achieve them. However, busy people with full-time jobs, at-home moms, and those living in remote areas don't always have the time, or the resources to go back to school to begin their new career path. Instead, they seek out web-based courses that are held entirely online to supplement or continue their education, or complete vocational training.

Understandably, single parents, or those with limited transportation, or budgets are also very interested in learning from the convenience of their own home. Because of the tremendous growth in the healthcare industry many wouldn't think twice about taking a medical assisting, medical laboratory technology, and surgical technology programs held completely online.

When It Comes to Vocational Training!

However, when it comes to vocational training, especially in the healthcare industry where theory combined with hands on clinical skills are a must one must be reminded to think twice. If a website promises vocational training completely online to earn a diploma, or degree in just 6-8 weeks, or become a healthcare professional ready to hit the workforce without additional training, or an internship -- then consumer beware! Caution and awareness is always good poliyc to make the right choices when it comes to online education. Just because a program offers a certificate, diploma, or degree for a fee to join doesn't automatically mean it is the right program, or legit. And any job placement assistance that might have been promised may consist of nothing but a copy of doctors listed in the local area's Yellow Pages (if that much!)

This Is Not to Discourage Anybody!

Indeed, there are many excellent distance education programs offered online, including for healthcare professionals. Plenty of people have taken them and achieved great success. However, in their quest for higher education, or specialized vocational training an unaware consumer might encounter “diploma mills” — dubious providers of education that ends in certificates and degrees that are bogus, and "accreditation-mills" that are considered worthless.

Council of Higher Education Accreditation Warns about Diploma and Accreditation Mills!

Certificates from diploma mills aren't worth the effort, time, money, or the paper they are printed on. Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)specifically warns about diploma- and accreditation mills! See:

CHEA also published a monograph that describes the scope and impact of distance learning on higher education. It identifies the primary challenges that distance learning poses for accreditation and describes the thoughtful and comprehensive response to date of the accrediting community to assure quality in distance learning. See:

One important aspect to consider when selecting an online learning program is the school's reputation. The school must be honest and credible in their dealings with the public, have a clean record and should be accredited and approved by the right organization!

The U.S. Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a institutional and specialized accreditor for healthcare education and training says the same: Accreditation by ABHES signifies that the institution or program has met the eligibility criteria and evaluation standards of ABHES and complies with the policies and procedures for maintenance of accreditation as established by ABHES. See:

Awareness is the Key!

Although proper accreditation is one of a number of important considerations when selecting an education or training program, there also are legitimate institutions that offer vocational education programs that are NOT (yet) accredited; but they are at least licensed by their local Department of Education. These institutions go through a rigorous review process by a commission of state elected officials who verify that the school meets a set standard and criteria. Online courses are not accredited or approved by the board of education unless they truly meet or exceed established national standards. The application process for reviews and approval is tedious and lengthy! Only the best programs achieve accreditation. Institutions that went through the process and are approved will always have their program's accreditation status visibly posted on their Web site and online course catalogs.

It is the presence of a number of certain features taken together that should signal that this might be a “mill.” Web page advertisements that contain text, images, seals and any profound sounding designations to proclaim that a school and their programs are accredited may contain words such as approved, accredited, accreditation pending, authorized, chartered, licensed, empowered, sponsored, recognized and registered.

Web sites that feature such ads should be critically examined to determine whether these claims are merely common catch phrases, or the assertions are legit.

Those whose goal is proper vocational training to receive a much desired promotion, or to achieve educational goals that will allow them advance into a new position or career must graduate from courses that are licensed and recognized not just by any, but by the RIGHT organizations.

What are Things to Look for?

Use common sense!!! It is always a good idea, before joining an online program, to get in touch with the provider of the courses to ask questions. One should also contact the accrediting organization to find out whether a program is truly legitimately accredited by them. It's also a way to confirm the quality of the online training program. ABHES has put together a great resource of helpful links titled Allied Health & Career Education Resources for Post-Secondary Institutions on their website.

In Closing Some Final Advice!

Remember this: that online post-secondary training providers, non-traditional universities, and so called virtual colleges that offer distance learning programs have different licensing and accreditation standards than the traditional brick-and-mortar universities, colleges and vocational training institutions. They may be great courses for many but always make sure they meet your specific goals.

Another great article is at Wired News titled: Down by the Diploma Mills Stream.

© 2006 Danni R./Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC.

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