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The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the U.S.-based international management education accreditation body, has announced a significant overhaul of its criteria in a move that takes into account standards for remote learning for the first time.

However, unlike the European Foundation for Management Development, which aimed to raise the standard of online learning programs through its "Cel" (teChnology-Enhanced Learning) accreditation in 2004, the AACSB has decided to avoid being too prescriptive.

"We spent a lot of time talking about how to think about remote or online learning in the context of education," says Linda Livingstone, dean of the Graziadio School of Business and Management at Pepperdine University and member of the AACSB's Blue Ribbon Committee on Accreditation Quality.

"What we decided, partly because online learning was being done in so many ways, was that rather than have a single standard we decided that all our other standards should apply."

Prof. Livingstone explains that the committee had come to this conclusion after assigning a task force to consider the issue and after a considerable amount of discussion. Instead, new criteria have been introduced, such as one for teaching effectiveness, which will encompass all forms of learning.

"We didn't want to have two sets of standards," adds Prof. Livingstone. The AACSB, she says, has decided that the overall learning experience, including faculty engagement and student support, should be satisfactory to the student no matter what medium of learning was employed.

The AACSB's new standards also include a greater emphasis on the importance of social responsibility and ethics, Prof. Livingstone says.

"In the revised standards, we expanded how we talk about ethics and ethical behaviour," she says, explaining that schools must now show how they are committed to ethical behaviour as institutions, as well as how they are embedding this behaviour in the learning experience.

"Students, employers and society as a whole expect a great deal from business schools – especially when it comes to addressing the most challenging issues of the world," says Richard Sorensen, chair of the AACSB's Blue Ribbon Committee on Accreditation Quality and dean of the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.

The standards, approved by AACSB's members at their annual meeting on April 8, also streamline the previous criteria, reducing the number of standards from 21 to 15.