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The emergence of a growing and disjointed landscape of alternative providers of postsecondary learning requires a new system of quality assurance, and a group of organizations with an interest in alternative learning suggests several possible structures to accomplish that, according to a report released Wednesday. The report, released by the Collaborative for Quality in Alternative Learning, which is led by the Presidents' Forum at Excelsior College and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, suggests that the collection of organizations (accreditors, institutional consortiums and others) could band together to play one of several possible roles:

  • a "better business bureau" model for recognizing new quality-assurance agencies;
  • an association of quality assurers representing their interests with federal agencies, universities and employers; or
  • or a clearinghouse providing information about alternative providers and the entities that might review their quality.

"Much like accreditation emerged from institutions voluntarily establishing a mechanism that welcomed peer review and self-assessment, it is time to adopt a similar mechanism to serve the alternative education sector, to assist institutions and employers wishing to recognize and implement innovative pathways, and to protect students," the report states.

The collaborative is seeking comments on the report by April 15.