National Standards for Quality Online Programs

The final set of national standards established by iNACOL were the National Standards for Quality Online Program which were published in 2009. As was the case with the other iNACOL standards, the process of establishing standards began with a complete literature review, including existing accreditation standards. However, unlike the previous standards, there were no existing standards from other publications that were appropriate for adoption, so instead iNACOL wrote its own set of standards, utilizing the sources from the literature review as input.

The existing iNACOL quality standards for online courses and online teaching already address most aspects related to online teaching and instruction. The online program standards assume that a quality program already is utilizing these standards to make sure their online content and instruction are of high quality. The teaching and learning standards included in the online program standards (described below) are intended to be used in conjunction with the online course and online teaching quality standards.

The comprehensive online program standards are broken into four categories, with individual standards in each category. In each area, the online learning program…

1. Institutional Standards

  1. has a clear mission statement indicating the program’s purpose and serves as a guide both for day-to-day operations and future strategic plans
  2. has a clearly defined governance structure that works cooperatively with the program’s leadership
  3. has program leadership that sets operational and strategic goals and is accountable to the governance structure
  4. incorporates both short-term and long-term planning into their ongoing operations.
  5. has appropriate staffing levels with individual staff members receiving the necessary training
  6. shows an organizational commitment to realizing the program’s mission
  7. has adequate financial and material resources
  8. has the policies in place to provide equity and access for all students the program serves
  9. has integrity by operating in a transparent manner

2. Teaching and Learning Standards

  1. has a well thought out approach to its curriculum and course design
  2. ensures quality online instruction that includes a commitment to a continuous improvement process
  3. utilizes multiple methods for assessment of student performance that align with learning objectives

3. Support Standards

  1. provides support for its faculty through professional development and mentoring
  2. has adequate and appropriate support services for its students
  3. ensures that necessary guidance services are provided for students and parents
  4. has the organizational support for the technology used to deliver the online program
  5. recognizes the importance of the role of the students’ parents/guardians

4. Evaluation Standards

  1. values both internal and external program evaluation
  2. establishes a culture of continual program improvement

Download a complete copy of the National Standards for Quality Online Programs.