ACEN Accreditation Manual – Policy 15


ACEN Accreditation Manual – Section II Policies

Distance Education

While the definitions provided in Policy #15 may differ from those used by the governing organization of a nursing program, nursing programs seeking initial or continuing accreditation with the ACEN by the ACEN must use the following definitions for ACEN-related matters.



Please see the ACEN Glossary for the definition of the following terms:

See ACEN Policy #14 Reporting Substantive Changes and Policy #34 Candidacy for a Governing Organization/Nursing Program Seeking Initial Accreditation for requirements related to reporting the implementation of distance education.



  1. Congruence with the mission of the governing organization.
  2. Instructional design and delivery method of the course(s).
  3. Preparation and competence of the faculty members teaching each course.
  4. Quality and accessibility of the support services for students enrolled in each course.
  5. Quality and accessibility of the support services for the faculty members teaching each course.
  6. Accessibility, currency, and relevancy of learning resources available for the students enrolled in each course.
  7. Currency and appropriateness of each course relative to the method of delivery.
  8. Provision for regular and substantive faculty/student and student/student interaction in each course.
  9. Ongoing evaluation of student learning in each course.
  10. Provision for verification of student identity in each course.



Nursing programs offering any course via distance education must demonstrate that the governing organization:

  1. Has processes in place to establish that the student who registers in each distance education course is the same student who academically engages in the course or program. The governing organization may verify student identify through methods such as but not limited to:
    1. assignment of a secure login and pass code,
    2. proctored examinations, and/or
    3. utilization of new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identity
  2. Uses processes that protect the privacy of the students enrolled in a distance education course; and
  3. Notifies students of any projected additional fees associated with verification of student identity at the time of registration for or enrollment in a distance education course.

The following guidelines contain elements of the Standards and Criteria that nursing program faculty and leaders must consider in evaluating the use of distance education within each nursing course, nursing program option, or a nursing program.

The students enrolled in each nursing course, a nursing program option, or a nursing program must have:

  1. Access to the range of appropriate student services to support their learning and academic success, such as but not limited to admissions, financial aid, academic advising, delivery of course materials, placement, and counseling comparable to those support services available to the students enrolled in non-distance education courses/programs;
  2. Knowledge and equipment necessary to use the technology employed and assistance when experiencing difficulty using the required technology;
  3. A means for resolving complaints;
  4. Information related to advertising, recruiting, and admissions that adequately and accurately represents the course(s)/program(s), admission and completion requirements, and services available;
  5. Access to learning resources and guidance in effectively using the learning resources;
  6. Their use of learning resources monitored; and
  7. Access to laboratory facilities, equipment, and other types of technology as appropriate to the courses or program(s).

Each nursing course, nursing program option, or nursing program provides:

  1. Direct instruction by faculty that meet the qualifications per the ACEN Standards and Criteria.
  2. Faculty responsibility for oversight, ensuring both the rigor and the quality of instruction.
  3. Technology that is appropriate to the end-of-program student learning outcomes, role-specific graduate competencies, program outcomes, and course objectives.
  4. Currency and rigor of materials.
  5. Clear policies concerning the ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the utilization of revenue derived from the creation of intellectual property;
  6. Faculty support services specifically related to distance education.
  7. Faculty development for faculty who teach in distance education modes of delivery.
  8. Regular and substantive interaction between students and faculty and among the students. A governing organization ensures regular interaction between students and faculty members prior to the student’s completion of a nursing course by:
    1. Providing the opportunity for substantive interactions with the students on a predictable and regular basis commensurate with the length of time and the amount of content in the course; and
    2. Monitoring the students’ academic engagement and success and ensuring that faculty members are responsible for promptly and proactively engaging in substantive interaction with students when needed, on the basis of such monitoring, or upon request by a student.

Fiscal and physical provisions are made for long-range planning, budgeting, and policy development processes that reflect the facilities, staffing, equipment, and other resources essential to the viability and effectiveness of each nursing course, nursing program option, or nursing program.

Ongoing systematic evaluation is conducted to assess:

  1. Student capability to succeed in each nursing course, a nursing program option, or a nursing program, and used in the review and revision of policies and procedures;
  2. Achievement of end-of-program student learning outcomes, role-specific professional competencies, and program outcomes, with a comparison made to programs using traditional education; and
  3. The integrity of student work and credibility of the degree and credits awarded.


Policy #15 History
Revised November 2015
Edited August 2016
Edited March 2019
Revised July 2020

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