Radical Thinking: Give Accreditation to Professors, not Colleges

Barry Lenson

“Seeing as how the institution itself isn’t doing a particularly good job, why can’t we be accredited as individual instructors? Have some sort of accreditation that says, yes, this person can teach these courses.” Lee Bessette writing in Inside Higher Ed. 

Professor Bethany Bird teaches History

Every now and then, an idea comes along that is so smart, all you can think is, “why didn’t anybody think of that before?”

One such idea was offered in “Accrediting Individuals, Not Institutions,” a post that Lee Bessette wrote for Inside Higher Ed. Bessette writes about colleges that are in danger of losing their accreditation and notes that . . .

  • When colleges are put on probation and are in danger of losing accreditation, the reasons for that are always financial or administrative, not academic. In other words, the college’s professors have not done anything wrong. Yet they are being penalized, and so are the students.
  • Why not accredit professors, not institutions? As an example of how this might work in the real world, Bessette points to StraighterLine’s Professors Direct program, and writes, “ . . . StraighterLine will begin to allow their instructors to set the price they charge for the (often accredited) courses they offer.”

How StraighterLine’s Professors Direct Program Works
StraighterLine is not currently doing exactly what Bessette is recommending; we are not accrediting professors. What StraighterLine is doing, however, is offering a direct connection between professors and students who take our courses online.

The program is called Professors Direct. To date, 15 college professors take part in the program. They have become StraighterLine professors. They teach a wide variety of StraighterLine courses in areas like English, mathematics, science. It is something entirely new in American higher education, a direct link between online students and caring, committed professors.

It could also be a step toward creating the kind of reforms in American higher education that Bessette writes about. What do you think?

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One thought on “Radical Thinking: Give Accreditation to Professors, not Colleges”

  • William m Wendt
    William m Wendt June 26, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    This is an interesting idea but can it gain any traction. I was an Asst Professor of economics for four years at The American University but went back into business in order to purchase a house. Since then I have taught as an Adjunct at Johns Hopkins, Loyola College Baltimore, Faieigh Dickinon University in New Jersey and since my retirement from business at two. Community college in North Carolina and for the past five years as an Adjunct at a state 4 year university. I have taught online, hybrid and traditional courses using Blackboard, Moodle, WebCT, and Educator.

    I believe in online education and find the MOOCs an interesting model. What has to happen is to get to the point where course credits can be transferable to all colleges and universities so that we can bring down the cost of a degree and make it available to many more students without incurring large student loan debt.

    So I think this is a better route to pursue rather than certifying individual professors. Doesn't a PhD certify one to teach today at a University and a Master's degree for a community college? Wwendt

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