In U.S. colleges and universities, the program, not the course, is what is typically assessed by external agencies. As more and more institutions have gone from offering single distributed learning courses to offering full programs available in a distributed learning format, it became necessary to develop some consistent criteria that both institutions and their accrediting bodies could use to assess quality. In 2000, the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (which consists of the chief executive officer and the chair of the board for each of the regional accrediting associations in the United States) asked the staff of the WCET (an international organization headquartered with the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) to develop a set of evaluation criteria that all the commissions could use. ...

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