Information Regarding U.S. Department of Education Guidance Related to Distance Education [14 Jun 2021]

14 June 2021

New and evolving guidance and regulations related to distance education from the U.S. Department of Education support ACAOM’s understanding of the lasting effects on education brought on by COVID-19. While it would be premature for ACAOM to issue an extensive policy change right now because the regulatory environment remains somewhat uncertain, there are several recent changes that will affect all ACAOM-accredited programs and institutions in the future.

Notably, when the Department of Education rescinded DCL GEN-06-17 it announced that any institution providing even one course through distance education must receive accreditor approval. This reversed earlier, pre-pandemic guidance that only required accreditor approval if more than 50% of a curriculum was provided through distance learning.

This change will require ACAOM to update its distance education application process, and all ACAOM-accredited programs and institutions planning to offer distance learning in the future will be required to apply for and obtain approval even if they were previously approved under the old standard. Additional information about how and when to apply will be forthcoming.

Several other new regulations pertaining to distance education will go into effect on 1 July 2021, and ACAOM is currently determining how they will impact its Distance Education Policy. Likely changes include how ACAOM defines and monitors academic engagement, student-instructor interactions, clock hour calculations and approved technologies, among other things. All ACAOM-accredited institutions and programs must comply with any policy revisions necessitated by the Department of Education’s new regulations.

Please note, however, that programs and institutions currently offering distance education opportunities under the emergency waivers may continue to do so for up to six months after the end of the pandemic is officially declared.

ACAOM expects additional guidance from the Department of Education. We will communicate regularly on these topics as we become aware of information that could cause additional changes to the ACAOM’s Distance Education Policy.