ACAOM Issues Policy Revision to Section 2 of its Distance Education Policy [1 Jun 2021]
The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) has approved a change to its policy regarding distance education offered by the institutions and programs it accredits. Effective 1 June 2021, accredited programs offered in English, Korean and Mandarin will be eligible for distance education approval.
Educational programs specializing in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (AcCHM) have clinical and laboratory components which can present challenges for distance learning. In 2015, ACAOM recognized the important role emerging technology would have on the future of educational delivery. We established a policy for distance education and began accepting applications for review and approval.
Implementation of any new policy can be a challenge and ACAOM opted for a pragmatic approach to ensure a successful rollout. For this reason, accredited didactic programs taught in English were eligible to apply. ACAOM also required that no more than 49% of a program could be offered through distance learning, a threshold that was consistent with guidance from the Department of Education at the time. Our approach allowed schools the time they needed to deploy technology and develop expertise to ensure that distance learning opportunities would serve students as effectively as face-to-face instruction.
While ACAOM made three revisions to its policy prior to COVID-19, the policy remained limited to English-language programs because only 10 programs had sought distance learning approval in a five-year period and ACAOM received no inquiries or waiver requests from stakeholders regarding non-English programs participating in distance education.
The pandemic ushered in an unprecedented need for distance education and the Department of Education understandably extended temporary flexibilities which have allowed non-English ACAOM-accredited coursework to be conducted virtually. ACAOM envisions a post-pandemic world in which virtual learning will continue and expand and has approved this policy change to ensure that all programs it accredits may continue to provide distance education if they choose to do so.
This announcement coincides with new and evolving guidance and regulations related to distance education from the U.S. Department of Education. Additional changes to ACAOM policies will be required to ensure compliance with this new and evolving regulatory guidance.