Institute for Higher Education Policy Quality Benchmarks Help Guide Growth and Success

August 4, 2000

Los Angeles, CA –, the

nation’s largest provider of online professional development courses for educators,

announced today that it now meets twenty-four key industry quality distance education

benchmark criteria. The list of twenty-four quality measures is the centerpiece

of “Quality On the Line” — an Institute for Higher Education Policy study commissioned

by the NEA and Blackboard Inc., a leading Internet infrastructure provider for

e-Learning. “We applaud The Institute, NEA and Blackboard for pushing the industry

to higher accountability and thereby generating more consumer confidence in the

quality of online education,” said John Kobara, President and CEO of

“What is especially exciting is the

importance the report has placed in these benchmarks on the three aspects of

distance learning that have been the foundation of’s success:

student support services, instructor training, and quality content,” added Kobara. is committed to helping this growing industry create an environment

of high quality and credibility during these formative years.”

Matthew Pittinsky, Chairman and co-Founder

of Blackboard Inc., said “We hoped the benchmarks would be invaluable to colleges

and universities around the world for years to come as they keep their focus

on quality for Internet-based teaching and learning environments.

is one of the industry’s leaders and their endorsement of the benchmarks will

reinforce their usefulness and impact.”

As an example of OnlineLearning.nets

commitment to quality, one of The Institutes benchmarks requires that “questions

directed to student service personnel are answered accurately and quickly, with

a structured system in place to address student complaints.”

has established its “online concierge service” as one of the keys to its high

student satisfaction record. The “Course Management Team”

answers student questions and provides timely solutions to the myriad situations

that can arise during an academic quarter. The accuracy and speed of responses

to inquiries of all kinds is unique in the distance learning industry, explained


Another of the benchmarks states that

“faculty members are assisted in the transition from classroom teaching to online

instruction and are assessed during the process.” Through the

“instructor development program” instructors are expected to master the basics

of the Blackboard software platform and are required to read about and discuss

online course pedagogy. It is a mandatory six-week online program developed

by Dr. Susan Ko, Director of Online Curriculum and Instructor Development at Additionally, Instructors are mentored through their entire

teaching experience, and are encouraged to ask for advice and assistance throughout

the academic quarter. A separate criteria states that “feedback to student assignments

and questions is constructive and provided in a timely manner,” something Dr.

Ko says she stresses this in the instructor development program.

As expected, an important place on the

list is reserved for course content. has partnered with content

providers like UCLA Extension, The University of San Diego, and Houghton Mifflin

publishing company, among others, and is the preferred online course provider

for the California Teachers Association. “We work together with these fine institutions,

and add incredible value to the course content with our host of services,” said

Kobara. In addition, courses are powered by the Blackboard

software platform.’s investors and strategic

partners include: Houghton Mifflin Company (NYSE:HTN), a leading publisher of

textbooks, instructional technology, assessments, and other educational materials

for the elementary and secondary school and college markets; Sylvan Learning

Systems (NasdaqNM:SLVN), Inc., the nation’s leading provider of educational

services to families, schools and industry; the Times Mirror Company, owners

of the largest training company in the world; and St. Paul Venture Capital,

one of the nation’s premiere venture capital firms.

The complete list of 24 Measures of

Quality in Internet-Based Distance Learning can be found on The

Institute for Higher Education Policy

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Contact Information:

Jim Jepsen, (213) 689-4656, ext. 221