(W)resting on Accreditation Pillars

I’m beginning to understand the accreditation process as an exercise in
abstraction.  We take our best, most descriptive account of the
institution’s functions and mold them rhetorically until they match the
accreditation pillars.  It’s not a process to be taken lightly. 
Abstracting is complicated.  Often it involves collaborative writing
efforts, slippery language and raptures of statistical data.  When the
bean-counts start whirring around, I’m out. Abstracting to verbiage is one
thing; matching imaginative institutional narratives to numbers and bar charts
is much less appealing.  And it’s never merely a project of abstracting
until the accreditation criteria match; it’s followed by an adaptive unraveling,
a denouement, maybe, through which the institution is reinvented into an
improved replica of its pre-accreditation body. This part takes years, and it’s
a road afflicted by hills, curves, chasms.

I was asked twice in recent weeks to serve on various accreditation
committees: one for the division of online learning (DOL) and one for the
something else I can’t describe exactly (partly because I haven’t heard about it
in a few days and it was a passing conversation).  The division of online
learning is abstracting itself toward "accreditation pillars," but I’m
having trouble discerning what, exactly, accreditation pillars are. And
this explains why I really should be picked last for accreditation teams. 
I find the abstraction and return to be wrenching–incredibly
mind-bending.  Pillars: I venture that they’re evaluative criteria; they’re
the abstract terms we aspire toward.  Explain how we meet them and we
effectively prove the structure of the Acropolis that is our

The division of online learning is handling much of their interchange in the
*new* CMS platform–eCollege.  It’s too early for me to have a critical
relationship to the interface.  I find George
Williams’ adaptation
(via Palimpsest)
of Liz
Lawley’s MT courseware
much more attractive.  The MT design is
friendlier than anything I’ve seen in VCampus or, in these few days, eCollege. 
I look forward to trying it out, perhaps in the fall since it won’t be used
where I’m teaching now any time soon.  One of our holdups on the DOL
committee has been the lack of an explicit institutional stance on IP.  I
keep pointing toward Creative Commons as the smart, responsible solution–for
University-wide content, including the stuff coming out of DOL.  That it’s
an incredibly hard sell affirms the power of corporatization and privatization to reduce such ideas to granules.

So, in fairness, I need to peel the sign off my back that reads, "Will
gladly serve on your accreditation committee."  It’s not that I’m
ungrateful, rather that I really struggle with the wiggles toward abstracting
the institution.  Something to work on: *learn to say ‘no’ politely.*


  1. If you want an another affirmation, check out David Noble’s work on DE. It’s been a while since I was as closely involved with distance initiatives as you are, but Noble’s work was a real eye-opening exploration of the stake that unis have in *not* going the CC route…


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