I'm a gigantic advocate for E-Learning, though I am disheartened by how many people in my field see them as "lesser degrees" with a bit too much harshness. Perception is changing, though.
In connection with the continued recognized integrity of E-Learning degrees. I learned earlier this year that Walden University's Early Childhood Master of Arts Teaching (MAT) degree program was one of the five programs to be nationally recognized by NCATE. This is a FIRST step, though, for the main goal is for the entire School of Education to be recognized as NCATE-accredited.
NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education) is the top standard professional-wise for a School of Education to achieve. Like most accrediting agency, you have to have faith in the process allowing "my colleagues" in education to evaluate how well "me and my colleagues at my school" are preparing teachers for "our field." Few better authorities can best assess quality than those people who are also practicing in the field doing the same thing you do...if you have faith that their system of evaluation is solid. For the record, I am putting forth that NCATE has a solid peer-evaluation process.
With that being said, Walden U's School of Education has been successful in partially putting their "Education Unit" (as NCATE calls it) on equal ground with places like the University of Wisconsin-Maidson, University of South Carolina, and thousands of other "brick and mortar" schools of education. That first step is getting one's degree programs nationally recognized by the recognized specialized professional association (SPA).
Just about every specific sub-field of education is known as having a nationally recognized organization of associated professionals in that field. Early childhood education, of course, has this in the form of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (Naeyc). NCATE works with Naeyc as it does with other SPAs in allowing them to first review a School of Education's Early Childhood Degree Programs (BA/BS or MAT's that prepare teachers for initial certification and M.Eds/Ed.S/Ph.D./Ed.D that prepare teachers for advanced early childhood education competencies...but not certification). NAEYC has established a set of standards that (if met) qualifies an early childhood degree program as sufficiently preparing an early childhood teacher for the field. If NAEYC (through its own chosen early childhood expert volunteer reviewers and comparable processes) recognizes a degree program as upholding its standards, then NCATE most likely will recognizes it, too. This gives the degree program the designation of being "nationally recognized."
In NCATE accreditation's highest level of quality, a School of Education itself can be "NCATE accredited" (through a more general process) or the school itself can be "NCATE accredited" with all of its degree programs being "nationally recognized." For many Schools of Education, either one or both approaches can be made if the State's Department of Education designates so. Many states only require the School of Education to be "NCATE accredited" with no rock-solid requirement for haivng it to have nationally recognized programs. On the other hand, states like SC require all of its Education Unit's degree programs to be nationally recognized before it will be allowed to recognize "NCATE accreditation" as a satisfactory standard for ensuring that these schools can prepare teachers to be state licensed teachers. This is a bit higher on the scale of quality than for a school to just get by being generally "NCATE accredited." There is some wiggle room in between done on the state level, but we will stay focused on NCATE accreditation.
Since Walden U's early childhood program is nationally recognized, it actually is on the standard of quality as any other brick and mortar early childhood program according to NCATE. Here's the rub: why attend a brick and mortar school when you can just attend places like Walden U from the comfort of your own home and community elementary/primary school that are supposed to now be recognized as having the highest quality early childhood prep program that the field can endorse?
Well...E-Learning and NCATE accreditation (nationally recognized programs or not) are not quite on the same level of respect as "brick and mortar" and NCATE accrediation (even those without nationally recognized programs). Is there some hypocrisy here? Is there some academic prejudice here?
Interesting discussion over a nice steak dinner:)