Since we started Compass Education 15 years ago the provision of distance learning education has changed beyond recognition. There are so many more people and groups involved and accreditation has developed from non-existent to a reasonably common feature. Unfortunately the increase in provision has brought about its own problems and students are still left wondering who is worth signing up with and spending their hard earned money on. The problem is not made any easier by courses that have appropriate accreditation yet still offer poor value for money in terms of the quality of what is taught. I have written before about the potential pitfalls that students face in choosing a course provider because I am angered that despite all the safeguards that seem to be in place, students frequently end up at Compass following a poor experience elsewhere. Comments such as ‘the tutoring was terrible’ or ‘what I received was a waste of money’ or even ‘they claimed to be experts but clearly did not know what they were talking about’ are all too common even when supported by suitable accreditation.. Politicians quite rightly receive heavy criticism for massaging the truth and dodging questions in order to appear whiter than white and sadly the same bad habit has crept into the descriptions that some course providers use about themselves. Some of the tricks that are employed are: 1. The use of a fake address, apparently impressive addresses can be rented for very little money when the ‘national college’ is actually being run from a back room in someone’s house. 2. Tutors and course writers being described as experts yet they have little or no proper credentials to support the claim. 3. Appearing to have a wide selection of courses when they are actually just agents selling on other people’s courses. 4. Using recorded messages such as ‘All our staff are busy answering calls at present please leave your name and number….’. When actually there is nobody there at all. 5. Inflating study levels, I was actually told once that if we advertised a level 2 course as a level 3 it would sell better! 6. Making unsubstantiated claims, for instance making statements that are not, in themselves untrue but when the full context is known a very different interpretation emerges. An example might be a claim to be influencing government in the formulation of animal related policy when the truth is that suggestions were made in a public consultation that was open to everybody. I could go on and on but you can probably understand where I am coming from. One important point is that even though proper accreditation is of value, it only covers the academic process, not the content. There is so much more in the way of bad practice that is not controlled by this measure alone. It can be very difficult to work out who is genuinely providing a quality education in all respects and who is more motivated by profit at any cost. Be careful. David Montgomery
There seem to be so many courses available these days that it can be tricky choosing the right one for you and there are a few things that people should take into consideration before parting with their hard earned money to avoid a bad buy. Fifteen years ago when Compass Education was started there were few courses to choose from and there was not the public interest there is today but coming from a teaching background we knew it was important to have some form of independent approval to reassure our students. We were the first to achieve such approval from an academic awarding body in the form of OCN, we even introduced our main competitor to them. Since those early days we have been accredited by no less than four such bodies and approved by a number of government sponsored organisations and professional associations (see http://www.compass-education.co.uk/Articles.asp?ID=252) which makes us the most widely approved private provider of animal related courses in the UK.
What people do not generally understand is what such accreditation actually means. We are constantly asked the question ‘is it a recognised qualification?’ but that question itself is full of difficulties to explain. As there are currently no regulations governing the subject there is no such thing as a course that qualifies practitioners. This is actually in the process of changing as the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (www.abtcouncil.org.uk) are about to publish standards and will accept courses that are submitted for approval from 2012. I predict that very few of the accredited courses that are currently available will reach the required standard. If they do it will be the most important measure of relevance and quality that has ever been available. Needless to say Compass will be doing everything possible to achieve this important level of accreditation.
When learning providers advertise their courses as accredited by an awarding body all it means is that it will be delivered to a good standard, it does not mean that the contents have been checked against any national requirement because there isn’t one (at the moment). They are simply teaching you what they think you need to know.
Many will indicate that they are registered as learning providers on the UK Register of Learning Providers which might make you think that some kind of checks have been carried out as to their legitimacy. Nothing could be further from the truth, a registered number is obtained by simply completing a registration form. This gives the student no protection whatsoever and says very little about the organisation.
You should be sure that the people who write the courses and the people that teach them are qualified to do so. It should not be enough for them to say that they are practicing behaviourists for instance. Just because someone has been doing a job for a while is no measure of their ability or authority to pass on anything other than their personal opinions on the subject. At least check to see that course authors have studied the subject themselves and that tutors have some form of teaching qualification otherwise you could be walking into a poor investment.
Of course if you are studying for the fun of it rather than to improve your employability or professional knowledge much of what I have said reduces in importance but most people want value for money these days. Just remember that if it is cheap there is a reason for that!
Following the recent launch of the new website for Compass Education analysis of visitor details has shown a massive increase in both new visitors and return visitors. Already, after only three weeks numbers have trebled with visitors from around the world. We expected an increase from the UK and Europe but the reaction worldwide has been staggering with visits from 122 countries so far including unexpected hits from countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and Taiwan in the East, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Iran in central Asia, Morocco, Uganda and Tanzania in Africa, Guatamala, Costa Rico, Colombia and Venezuala in Central and South America.
The tally of countries outside the UK that has students taught by Compass has now also risen to 45, making the college a truly global phenomenon and we are very proud to bring together a worldwide audience of people with a common interest in animal welfare.