Why International Quality Assurance in Distance Education? What is "quality assurance ? Why "international"ÃÂ ? Why Distance Education ? What is "quality"ÃÂ ? Ask many in the academic world what "quality in education"ÃÂ means and the answer is "being accredited"ÃÂ.
But the word "accredited"ÃÂ can have a different meaning and/or status in different countries, even where English is the mother tongue. Of course, there are also other terms for the same sort of process - chartered, state licensing, state approval, professional licensing, professional accreditation, recognised accreditation, independent accreditation and so on.
And why for Distance Education (DE) in particular ? The defining factor of DE is that it crosses boundaries and borders instantly - something that few educational approval procedures for fixed-facility institutes were ever intended to do. Also, DE puts the focus squarely on the student (or user or client or customer), thanks to the prime emphasis on delivery and feedback methods.
Significantly, the prospective DE student is also able to select from a much larger range of providers and then across national and international boundaries. Equally, those providers could vary from large all-embracing institutes to niche-subject specialists, but all existing (we hope) with the objective of providing a "quality education"ÃÂ to the student.
There is already evidence of international quality assurance standards being applied to education, including DE. This aspect is considered here in more detail, in particular how ISO.9000 Quality Assurance certification could be, and is being, used in education around the world.
What is ISO.9000 Certified Quality Assurance ? Space does not permit a more complete explanation, but suffice it to say that 1994 saw the second version of this world-wide Quality Assurance standard issued by the Geneva-based International Standards organisation (www.iso.ch), with the third version to be issued towards the end of 2000.