When we talk about education, we often hear the term accreditation, but what does that actually mean?
Accreditation refers to an assessment of the quality of an education or training programme that an educational institution offers.
Accrediting organisations are usually private or non-profit organisations responsible for looking at the quality of courses. They may also be government agencies.
In the 21st century, we have seen a boom in the amount of education providers in Australia and worldwide. This has also led to an increase in the number of accrediting organisations around.
Changes In Accreditation
Originally, accreditation was meant to be a way to ensure that courses were of high quality and suitable for the purpose. However, in recent years, accreditation has become something more.
Access to Funding
It has become a way to access government funding. For example, government agencies may only offer funding for courses if particular types of accreditation are used.
When this funding is removed or changed, many providers then stop offering the courses or begin to charge higher fees for them.
This does not mean that the course no longer has value or is no longer a good quality course, it simply means that the education provider will not get funding for that course anymore, so decides not to offer it!
Why do governments change the courses they fund over time?
Education has fashions and trends the same as other industries.
Governments may push certain courses when they recognise that there is a shortfall in students. For example, worldwide there is currently a shortage of skilled and trained staff in digital skills, horticulture and agriculture.
When an education provider stops offering a course for these reasons, it comes at the expense of both the individual student and the industry as a whole.
Employers can be under the misapprehension that they want employees who study accredited courses. They will look for people who have met the standards suggested by these accredited courses, without looking at the skills and knowledge that they actually require from a student.
In the current market, the issue is not the fact of accreditation itself, but whether it is currently serving its intended purpose as a protective measure for the public.
Some organisations can be self-accrediting. For example, many Australian universities are self-accredited. This causes confusion for students. They think their courses are overseen and accredited, when in fact this process is undertaken by the university itself.
Is accreditation the only way to judge value?
Many students and employers will look for accredited courses as this is what they have come to expect. They may ignore courses that are not accredited, or are accredited by organisations that are not well known.
But this is not the only way to judge the value of a course or training programme.
When we begin to move away from accreditation as the only source of judgement for an educational program or institution, it becomes easier to see that the value of a study program can be judged on an:
- accreditation basis
- results basis.
An accreditation-based judgement is simply seeing if the offered program is accredited. This generally refers only to government accreditation and funding.
A results-based judgement looks at a variety of other metrics, most notably:
- how many students the provider has had
- how long the provider has been established (see our extensive history HERE )
- number of students who have dropped out (attrition rate)
- number of students who have completed the course (graduation rate)
- number of students who are working in the field.
- testimonials from real life students working in their field of choice
A results-based program can offer more useful information.
A Toyota Corolla and a BMW 540i must meet the same government standards, but they are very different ways. Accreditation works in the same way. It checks that courses meet the same requirements, but does not look at their content, development, interaction with tutors and most importantly, the quality of the course, or the
- skill of the academic staff developing course work
- skill of the academic support staff
- level of industry experience
- student support team
- provider responsiveness.
A results-based judgement on a course helps us to see the real value of a course.
- Is it useful in the real world?
- Will it meet the requirements of potential employers?
That is the crux of it really.
- If a student takes a course, any course, will they get the skills and knowledge they need to do a job well?
A piece of paper saying that a course is accredited does not necessarily say that they have these skills and knowledge, just that they have studied a course that meets the government’s requirements for funding.
Some examples -
Lisa wanted to study songwriting at home. She could not find an accredited course, so chose to study a range of songwriting courses with an organisation that had good reviews. Her tutor was excellent, helpful and informative. The course was enjoyable and useful. Lisa came out of the course having developed and improved her songwriting skills, without a piece of paper saying it was accredited. She did the course she needed to gain the skills she wanted.
Marnie wanted to write a novel. She took a non-accredited course, again with a great tutor, who help her develop her craft and improve her writing.
Accredited courses are not always necessary to get a person the skills and knowledge that they want.
Accreditation and ACS
Here at ACS, we have had experience of offering accredited and non-accredited courses. Accredited courses have their place, but there can be difficulties as we have already mentioned.
We now offer mainly non-accredited courses and here is why –
Staying Up to Date
We are living in a fast-moving world. Things change frequently and regularly. Who could have predicted the changes in technology, social media, global pandemics? Not many people. We realise that our courses need to change alongside these changes. This is why we update our courses regularly to ensure that they remain relevant and up to date. It is no good studying a course that gives you information that is ten years out of date.
All of our course writers and developers are industry experts. They stay up to date and knowledgeable about their industry. They use that knowledge to feed into our courses, making sure that they stay up to date!
As well as making sure the courses are up to date, we can make sure they are up to date quickly.
Something happens, something significant and a course needs to be changed to take account of this new knowledge.
With an accredited course, someone becomes aware of this new Information. They book a meeting with their manager, who then books a committee meeting. They tell the accreditation body that there has been this change. The accreditation body reviews It and decides that this change Is needed. They then spend time reviewing and evaluating the change, before finally telling the education providers about the change.
The education providers then need to change their courses and teaching to take account of the new Information.
This can take a lot of time, even years!
Now let's look at a non-accredited course provider - ACS
Someone becomes aware of the new Information. They go onto the course repository, upload the most recent edition, make the change, then let the course editor know.
Our students are notified Immediately through our online student room.
This can happen In, literally, hours!
Look at the difference then.
Do you want
- an accredited course that Is a couple of years out of date?
- Or a non-accredited one that Is totally up to date and up to date quickly?
As we said earlier, the subject matter of accredited courses Is often prescribed by governments or educational organisations. They may be people who are not at the forefront of an Industry. They may not be practitioners themselves. They may not be doing the job daily and know what students and employers want.
This means that the course does not necessarily train the student In the way that they need In the modern world.
ACS tutors are all practitioners. They are all writers and tutors with ACS, but also work In their Industry as well. This means that they are at the forefront of changes and use that Information to pass on to their students and Improve our courses.
As well as Improving existing courses, education providers will also recognise a need for new courses.
An accredited course provider will need to jump through quite a few hoops to get a new course accredited, this can take time, again years even.
For a non-accredited training provider, like ACS, they may have an Idea for a new course, discuss Its value and get It written and produced effectively and efficiently.
Don't confuse speed with poor quality though.
Producing courses and updating courses quickly means that they are ready for when students need them AND they take account of changes In an Industry.
Slow and steady does not always win the race. Students and employers need up to date knowledge and they need It now, not In a couple of years time.
What Does This Mean for the Student or The Employer?
As an employer, you might choose to only employ students with an accredited course.
As a student, you might want to study only accredited courses.
That is entirely up to you of course, but when choosing whether to study an accredited or non-accredited course, consider –
- How often is this course updated? (Accreditation processes can actually slow things down, meaning that accredited courses are not updated as often as non-accredited courses).
- Is the course written and taught by industry experts?
- Do they experience of developing and designing effective courses?
- What do other students think of the course?
And most importantly –
- Will the course give YOU the skills and qualities you need to get the job you want, the promotion you want, to change your career?
At ACS, we offer over 700 courses. They are all -
- Updated regularly
- Written by Industry experts
- Written by writers who are experienced In writing distance learning materials
- Tutored by Industry experts who want to help their students to Improve and develop their knowledge
And new courses are coming all of the time.
Do you want -
- A course that includes up to date skills and knowledge?
- A course writer who Is knowledgeable, experienced and up to date In their subject?
- A course tutor who Is also knowledgeable, experienced and wants to share that knowledge with you?
Then have a look at our courses.
Get started on the road to updating and Improving your skills and knowledge!
Contact us for more Information or with any questions.