Approved by: President
Issued              -- May 6, 2015
Revised             -- April 7, 2020
Last Reviewed -- April 7, 2020
Related Policies: Copyright Policy; Disability Accommodations for Students Policy; Information Security and Assurance Policy; Sexual Offenses Policy; Student Academic Dishonesty Policy; Student Conduct Policies; Student Records Policy
Additional References: Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS); Instructional Learning website; Methods in Distance Education certification course; Office of Disability Support Services; Office of Technology Services; University Statement on Unanticipated Closures
Responsible Official Provost, tel. (202) 319-5244


I. Introduction


The University recognizes the value of Distance Education as a means of furthering its educational mission and reaching a diverse population of learners with a wide range of needs. 

To maintain the highest quality of Distance Education consistent with that mission and with institutional and accreditation standards, all Distance Education programs and classes offered by the University must be reviewed and approved by the Office of the Provost, and must meet the requirements set forth in this policy. All programs must comply with any relevant accreditation standards specific to their academic disciplines regarding Distance Education. In the event of a conflict, such accreditation policies supersede this policy. Additional information about Distance Education is set forth on the University's Instructional Learning website.

II. Definitions


A. Distance Education means education that uses one or more of the technologies enumerated below to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. The technologies may include:

  1. The internet;
  2. One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;
  3. Audio conferencing; or
  4. Video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassettes, DVDs, or CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs 1 through 3 of this definition.

B. State Authorization means adherence to state requirements to offer Distance Education in a specific state. If an institution of higher education offers postsecondary education through Distance Education to students in a state in which it is not physically located or in which it is otherwise subject to state jurisdiction as determined by that state, then the institution must meet any state requirements for it to legally offer Distance Education in that state. Generally, state Distance Education regulations apply only to degree programs that are fully online. However, some states regulate non-credit courses and certificate programs. There are two types of state authorization which may have to be obtained: 1) "institutional authorization" for all educational activities undertaken by the institution in state; and 2) "licensure authorization" for any professional programs that need approval from a state licensing board. 

III. Distance Education Requirements

A. Mission and Policy Compliance


All Distance Education must be consistent with the University's mission and is subject to the University's policies.

B. Academic Quality


All Distance Education programs or classes must provide academic rigor, quality, and assessment of student learning objectives consistent with face-to-face programs or classes offered by the University. Accordingly, instructors must hold Distance Education students to academic standards consistent with those to which students participating in face-to-face instruction are held, and provide syllabi containing rubrics for evaluating student learning expectations.

To maintain consistent academic quality across the institution, course syllabi, scheduled learning outcomes and evaluations of course effectiveness for Distance Education classes will be evaluated by the University according to standards consistent with face-to-face classes.

C. Requirements for Instructors


1.  Permission and Certification


All Distance Education instructors must have permission from their academic units to teach an online class. Once permission is granted, instructors must achieve certification in methods of distance learning. This requirement can be achieved either through the University's Methods in Distance Education certification course , through an organization or entity approved in advance by the Provost's office, or upon determination by the instructor's dean that previous teaching experience is sufficient to ensure instructional quality. If the instructor achieves certification from an outside organization or entity or on the basis of previous experience, the instructor may be required to demonstrate to the Office of the Provost that core competencies have been achieved. 

2. Hiring Instructors


University schools, departments or units proposing to hire instructors to teach Distance Education courses who are not current University employees must seek advance approval from the Office of the Provost. No offer to hire an instructor may be extended until such approval is obtained. In addition, instructors who reside outside the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area may not be hired without prior review by the Office of Human Resources, who will determine whether payroll tax withholding and business registration requirements have been met. 

D. Method of Delivery


Distance Education programs or classes may not be offered in states where the University has not obtained State Authorization (defined above) to provide such programs or classes.

All Distance Education programs or classes other than those offered through a University-approved, contracted vendor who provides identity verification and disability support must use the University's online Learning Management System to deliver content. Other external websites and tools may be employed for a given class at the instructor's discretion, but the foundation of the class must be accessible (or linked) through the University's online Learning Management system. Regardless of the modality used, a reasonable effort must be made to assure that all class content be accessible to persons with disabilities. Contact the Office of Disability Support Services (tel. 202-319-5211) for technological accessibility questions.

All Distance Education instructors must comply with federal law and the University's Copyright Policy in the preparation and delivery of Distance Education course material.

Instructors and staff must take the same care with Distance Education students' education records as they do with students in face-to-face settings. See the Student Records Policy for guidance. 

E. Student Identity Verification


The University must authenticate the identity of all online students. At a minimum, all Distance Education students must be required to use a unique user name and password, obtained through the University, in order to access Distance Education class materials. User names and passwords are obtained through the normal course of the registration process. Sharing user names and passwords is a violation of this policy and the Information Security and Assurance Policy, and also may constitute a violation of the Student Academic Dishonesty Policy.

Instructors must verify the identity of all students prior to beginning any on-campus examination(s) or participating in any face-to-face class activities, and may require that students present formal identification such as a photo ID issued by federal, state or local government. 

IV. Institutional Support


To promote consistency in academic and learning objectives and support, Distance Education students are eligible for University resources appropriate to the type of delivery, including but not limited to services provided by the following offices:

  • Advising: Students may visit campus to receive face-to-face advising. Students who cannot come to campus can receive advising over the telephone, via e-mail, or via other electronic means. In such instances students should contact their specific University school or, in the case of undergraduate students, the Center for Academic and Career Success to obtain their advisor's contact information.
  • Center for Academic Success: Students may receive support from the Center for Academic and Career Success in person, by email, or by phone (tel. 202-319-5655). For more information, please visit the Center for Academic and Career Success Website.
  • Disability Accommodations: Students who need accommodations for disabilities must be registered with the Office of Disability Support Services (tel. 202-319-5211).
  • Library Resources: The University Library has a wide array of support systems, including an online chat with the librarian, subject matter librarians, and online tutorials. For further information visit theMullen Library.
  • Technology Assistance: For technological assistance other than a disability accommodation, contact the Office of Technology Services

V. Student Requirements


Distance Education students will be held to the same academic standards as students participating in face-to-face instruction, and are subject to the Student Academic Dishonesty Policy and other Student Conduct Policies.

Distance Education students also must be aware of other relevant policies and academic regulations, including those pertaining to admission, registration, enrollment, refund of student charges and transfer of credit. See the University Policy Website for details. 

Note that individual schools may limit the extent to which students enrolled in face-to-face instruction at the University are permitted to take Distance Education classes in furtherance of their degree. 

VI. Middle States Policies and Guidelines


Further information on policies and best practices can be found here:

Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Verification of Compliance with Accreditation-Relevant Federal Regulations

Middle States Commission on Higher Education Distance Education Programs: Interregional Guidelines for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs