A Partnership for Quality
ACCET was founded in 1974 for the purpose of improving continuing education and training and has been officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Education since 1978 as a “reliable authority” as to the quality of education and training provided by the institutions we accredit. Accreditation serves the interests of companies, agencies, and the public through the establishment of standards, policies, and procedures in conjunction with an objective third-party professional evaluation designed to identify and inspire sound education and training practices. When such a process is matched by an institution’s commitment to high standards and accountability, a partnership for quality becomes reality.
These are extraordinary times, not ordinary times for ACCET and its member institutions, as COVID-19 poses a formidable threat to the health of individuals, organizations, and the economy at the macro and micro level. That said, ACCET is working diligently to assist its member institutions, and there is much that is positive to report.
ACCET Virtual 2020 Annual Conference: Due to COVID-19, ACCET’s first Virtual Annual Conference was held on August 13-14, 2020, and it exceeded all expectations. In total, 748 participants attended, which is a 225% increase in attendance compared to any previous ACCET Conference. The participation was broad-based and represented almost 2/3rds of ACCET’s members institutions:
Some lessons learned from a review of conference survey results and conference participation include:
ACCET Membership: Currently, ACCET has 204 main campuses that operate 631 locations. The total number of ACCET institutions remains relatively constant due to a steady stream of initial applicants. However, the number of campuses and sites continues to decline, with an increasing number of site closures.
ACCET’s membership is comprised of approximately: (a) 1/3 career colleges and schools, (b) 1/3 language schools teaching English to international students (IEP), and (c) 1/3 avocational institutions offering continuing education and professional development. ACCET accredits institutions operating overseas, including in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordon.
What makes ACCET unique and exemplary are: (1) ACCET’s partnership for quality®, (2) the focus on student outcomes, (3) fair but high standards, and (4) ACCET’s diverse membership. We learn and benefit from each other. Although the content of our instruction may vary widely, we can share best practices for instructional delivery and operational effectiveness.
Temporary Flexibilities During the COVID-10 Emergency: ACCET is regularly communicating with member institutions as they face the uncertainties of the COVID-19 emergency and providing updated guidance, including temporary flexibilities available to:
Since March 2020, the ACCET Commission met six times to approve temporary flexibilities for institutions consistent with the guidance of the U.S. Department of Education and the Student Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) to enable institutions to: (1) continue to serve students during COVID-19 and (2) help students complete their training. Temporary flexibilities approved by the ACCET Commission include:
The ACCET Commission also approved:
The ACCET Commission also approved:
Further, the Commission approved:
Distance Education: During the COVID-19 emergency, ACCET also conducted a series of 10 free 90-minute Webinars on Interactive Distance Learning (IDL) beginning with two introductory “Back-to-Basics” webinars held in March 2020 for institutions offering temporary distance education during COVID-19. Subsequent IDL webinars were conducted on: (a) IDL best practices and (b) the IDL program approval process for member institutions. These webinars addressed IDL technologies, student IDL orientations, interaction and student engagement, learning management systems, and online assessments.
These IDL webinars promoted: (a) IDL program quality and (b) student success as measured by student retention, student engagement, and student achievement.
Member institutions are notifying ACCET of the temporary measures they are taking in response to COVID-19. As of July 13th, institutions reported that:
Among all of today’s challenges, there is much that is positive. What are our institutions reporting? In the “chats” during our 10 IDL webinars, institutions shared their experiences with distance education:
Many institutions offering temporary distance education, have applied for program approval to offer interactive distance education after the COVID-19 emergency. ACCET institutions have submitted 25 applications for program approval to deliver distance education after COVID-19. 40% of these IDL applications have been reviewed and granted interim approval. The number of IDL applications may double, as the AMS dashboard indicates a significant number of applications awaiting submission. As a reminder, the deadline for submitting IDL program applications under the streamlined process was August 31, 2020.
ACCET Support and Collaboration: ACCET is providing guidance and support to member institutions as they face the uncertainties of the COVID-19 threat. On July 8th, ACCET convened a Zoom meeting with EnglishUSA, CEA, and NAFSA to work collaboratively following SEVP’s July 6th notice prohibiting F-1 international students from continuing online education as of the fall 2020 semester. Following our meeting, EnglishUSA organized a news event on July 13th to protest the July 6th SEVP directives. In attendance were five (5) higher ed news organizations (including The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed, Study Travel, Pie News), four agencies including ACCET, and ACCET and CEA members. Thanks to the ground-swell of opposition to the online restrictions and lawsuits filed by Harvard, MIT, and others, the July 6th directive was rescinded on July 14, 2020.
ACCET Virtual Visits: ACCET staff is working diligently to re-invent accreditation in a virtual environment with virtual workshops, virtual Commission meetings, virtual annual conference, and 81 virtual visits in the December 2020 cycle.
Staff are diligently working to prepare for virtual accreditation visits. This involves selecting and acquiring the technologies necessary to communicate, coordinate, and exchange documents during virtual visits, using DropBox, Zoom, Teams, and WhatsAp. Staff also revised the Visit Preparation Checklist to provide easy-to-follow instructions for uploading documents in DropBox.
In preparation for virtual visits, staff are conducting numerous virtual visit orientations and training sessions for: (1) Commission Representatives, (2) institutions, and (3) volunteers. On July 24th, 230 ACCET members participated in a two-hour Virtual Visit Orientation presented by ACCET staff. During the session, there was excellent participation and interaction among those scheduled for visits in fall 2020. Institutions learned about what to expect of ACCET virtual accreditation visits and how to prepare. There was an orientation for team volunteers on August 27, 2020 (link to video recording). Additionally, Commission Representatives will conduct separate structured orientations for each visit team and for each institution to be visited.
Other ACCET Initiatives: Meanwhile, ACCET staff continues to: (1) expand ACCET membership, (2) raise the visibility of ACCET, (3) provide additional services to members and (4) offer opportunities to member institutions and their students in the following ways:
I am happy to report that ACCET operated in the black in the first six months of 2020. However, going forward, ACCET shares the concerns of all organizations regarding the prospect of decreased and disrupted revenue due to COVID-19. The award of a payment of over $282,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program provided welcomed COVID-19 emergency relief and averted what otherwise would have been a significant disruption in cash flow for ACCET.
Closing Thoughts: ACCET institutions are being transformed – it’s more revolutionary than evolutionary, as survival is about adapting. We are impressed by the ability of ACCET institutions to continue to support and train their students as they transition to and from distance education due to COVID-19. Institutions are being innovative, adaptive, and agile in response to the ever-changing COVID-19 emergency and working diligently to train and retain their students. ACCET has not experienced an uptick in student complaints against member institutions even in these most challenging times.
Going forward, the ACCET Commission will continue to closely monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 and provide member institutions with guidance as it becomes available to ensure the well-being of member institutions and the well-being of the agency. Public health and public safety are foremost during these uncertain and ever-changing times. ACCET welcomes your continued involvement and support.