Challenges of accrediting distance education allied health programs with clinical components

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Hutchins, Auburne
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Larry H. Ebbers
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This qualitative study examined the challenges of assessing allied health education programs with clinical components offered in a distance education (DE) format from the perspective of the educational accreditor. As technology continues to expand our virtual horizons of educational opportunity, so does the ability to offer programs of higher education in ways that before may have never been imagined possible. The mark of a high quality education in healthcare is that the student graduates from an accredited program. It is the responsibility of the accrediting body to ensure that these programs meet all of the necessary standards, regardless of the mode of delivery of the curriculum.

This study used three forms of data to determine the primary needs of evaluators reviewing DE programs for accreditation: focus groups of accreditation professionals at a national Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) meeting, surveys of evaluators who had just completed the review of a DE program, and the review of recent site visitor reports from CAAHEP accredited DE programs. Common themes emerged that indicated specific needs of the evaluators to be best prepared to review DE programs: (a) accreditation standards as they relate to DE; (b) professional development of faculty, students, clinical preceptors and accreditation evaluators; and (c) quality of the program, resources and assessments. The data were compared with the findings of best practices in DE from the review of the literature. It was suggested that professionaldevelopment be created by a CAAHEP task force for DE to train accreditation evaluators to review DE programs.

Although there is an abundance of information available on the validity and essential components of a high quality DE program, there is a paucity of information available on the accreditation evaluation of DE programs with clinical curriculum components. This study could be used by accreditors or academic program directors regarding development and evaluation of a DE program with or without clinical components. Future research might include an evaluation of the satisfaction and effectiveness of the CAAHEP evaluator professional development for DE accreditation as well as the experiences of these individuals when conducting the evaluations.

Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2016