In this document the Task Force on Distance Higher Education specifically addresses the fastest growing segment of US higher education, distance education or distance learning. In part because of the rapid changes in the technological platforms and because institutions are launching new programs without substantial experience base, there remain wide variations in the quality of distance education programs. In response to this concern, the Task Force has established principles and standards of good practice that can be used to evaluate an institution's capability to design and deliver quality distance programs mediated through technology.
At the same time, the Task Force recognizes that the increased use of technologies in site-based courses and the growing interest in alternate approaches to distance learning have created a convergence of distance and on-site learning that some refer to as distributed learning. Increasingly we see distributed learning environments in which students on site and students at a distance have much the same learning experience. As this convergence continues, the new forms of education that emerge are likely to resemble distance education in their flexibility, interactivity, and use of innovative pedagogical approaches.
These principles and criteria address only the distance education aspects of programs, not their content or the academic preparation of their faculty. The standards of academic quality remain the same for all programs regardless of the delivery system used.