The “Myths” About Online Education


I received an email from a student asking me what he could do when people state that American Military University (AMU) or American Public University (APU) are “diploma mills” or unaccredited.  I thought I would post my response.

The “myths” that AMU or APU are diploma mills or unaccredited are invalid.  In most cases, the myths are more than likely disseminated by individuals who do not care for online colleges and universities.  Faculty and staff members of accredited institutions that operate partially online or totally online have heard the negative perceptions about online education for years and have worked hard to demonstrate the evidence that supports learning in online programs.

A May 2009 meta study published by the U.S. Department of Education titled Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning:  A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies reported that on average, students learn better in online learning conditions than through face-to-face instruction.  The researchers examined over 1,000 research papers published between 1996 and 2008 involving online and face-to-face learners.

The 1,000 plus papers were screened to identify those that “(1) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (2) measured student learning outcomes, (3) used a rigorous research design, and (4) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size.” The screening identified 51 independent effects that were able to be subjected to meta-analysis.

The study’s original purpose was to conduct the research specifically related to K-12 education. However, the sparsity of rigorous research papers related to online K-12 education and the identification of rigorous papers related to online learning of adult students allowed the researchers to form a quantitative meta-analysis of those findings.

Most of the articles containing the 51 effects in the meta-analysis were published in 2004 or later. The studies were nearly evenly split between those contrasting purely online learning versus face-to-face instruction with those contrasting blended online/face-to-face conditions against face-to-face instruction. Among the 51 effects, 11 were significantly positive, favoring the online or blended instruction. Two contrasts were identified that found a statistically significant effect favoring the traditional face-to-face instruction.

APUS has been an active member of the Online Learning Consortium (formerly the Sloan-C Consortium) for more than two decades. The OLC is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators dedicated to advancing quality and leadership in digital education, In 2009, APUS was awarded the OLC’s Gomory Award for the most outstanding institution offering online degree programs. From 2010 through 2016, APUS was awarded five OLC Effective Practice Awards.

The FACTS about AMU’s existence and accreditation are irrefutable.  AMU is one of two universities that form the American Public University System (APUS).  APUS is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (HLC), one of eight regional accrediting bodies in the United States and the largest regional accrediting body in terms of the number of colleges that it accredits.

You can find APUS’s name, accreditation status, and other pertinent information listed on the HLC website.  Among the 1,000 plus colleges and universities accredited by HLC are the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, and Northwestern University. APUS received its initial accreditation from the HLC in 2006. Its most recent reaccreditation was received in 2021.

The accreditation process is lengthy and complex and includes many visits by very well-educated academics.  A diploma mill would not survive such a review process.  The American Public University System was also accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council from 1995-2010.  APUS is licensed in West Virginia where we have offices with our administrative and academics leadership and staff.

Over the years, APUS has received approval from several specialty accreditors. Specialty accreditation is a process undertaken by an academic institution to demonstrate the rigor and compliance of specific degree programs with academic agencies established to verify the quality of those specific programs. APUS has received accreditation from six specialty accreditors.

The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accredits business, accounting, and business-related programs at the associates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels. ASBSP has accredited 15 business, accounting, or business-related programs at APUS. A list can be found here.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredits bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and residency programs in nursing. APUS’s bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in nursing are accredited by CCNE.

The Commission on Sport Management in Education (COSMA) accredits sports management education worldwide at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree levels. COSMA accredits APUS’s Bachelor of Science in Sports Management degree and its Master of Science in Sports Management degree.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits schools of public health and public health programs offered in settings other than schools of public health. APUS’s Master’s of Public Health degree is accredited by CEPH. The accreditation has been granted through 12/31/2029.

The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) accredits fire and emergency-related degree programs at post-secondary institutions. IFSAC has accredited five programs at APUS. These are: Fire Science (AS, BS), Emergency and Disaster Management (BA, MA), and Dual MA Emergency and Disaster Management & Homeland Security.

The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Information (CAHIIM) accredits health information management and health informatics degree programs. The bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management at APUS is accredited by CAHIIM.

APUS has several other degree programs that are recognized by professional associations. These include its Center for Cyber Defense which has been designated as a Center for Academic Excellence – Cybersecurity (CAE-C) by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

APUS has more than 90,000 students and over 110,000 alumni.  Two-thirds of our students are active duty military personnel.  The Department of Defense requires all colleges and universities that participate in its tuition assistance program to be accredited and licensed by a recognized accrediting body.

Additionally, APUS has over 1,200 faculty members whose names and credentials are listed on our website.  These professionals would not stake their reputation by working for a diploma mill or unaccredited institution.  Our faculty and staff present at many conferences each year and proudly list their affiliation.  Most, if not all, of these conferences would not accept presenters from unaccredited institutions.

Lastly, whenever anyone has a concern about a statement that is made about our accreditation, please do not hesitate to contact our Office of Institutional Advancement at  They will be glad to help you set the record straight.

Subjects of Interest


Higher Education

Independent Schools


Student Persistence