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Distance Education Policies, Procedures, and Forms

Coordinating Board rules define distance education as "The formal educational process that occurs when students and instructors are not in the same physical setting for the majority (more than 50 percent) of instruction." Distance education can include courses and programs offered online, off-campus face-to-face, and electronic-to-groups. Coordinating Board rules recognize two categories of distance education courses: fully distance education courses and hybrid/blended courses. A fully distance education course is defined as "A course which may have mandatory face-to-face sessions totaling no more than 15 percent of the instructional time. Examples of face-to-face sessions include orientation, laboratory, exam review, or an in-person test." A hybrid/blended course is defined as "A course in which a majority (more than 50 percent but less than 85 percent), of the planned instruction occurs when the students and instructor(s) are not in the same place."


Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rules governing the offering of distance, off-campus, and self-sustaining education:

  • Chapter 4, Subchapter P (rules governing online, hybrid/blended, electronic-to-groups)
  • Chapter 4, Subchapter Q (rules governing off-campus face-to-face, out-of-country, out-of-state)
  • Chapter 7 (rules governing degree granting colleges and universities other than Texas public institutions)

Approval Processes 

You may also wish to refer to the following documents to determine the approval process, notification requirements, and funding for distance education programs and courses.

Program Approval Process Flowcharts

Course Approval Process Flowcharts

Doctoral and Special Professional Degree Programs and Courses Flowchart


There are a number of forms that are associated with approval to offer distance education programs.

Principles of Good Practice

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board commends and encourages the development of online courses and programs that enhance access to higher education throughout the state of Texas. The Coordinating Board works closely with Texas colleges and universities as well as with ICUT (Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas) to ensure the high quality of distance education. To that end, all public institutions are required to certify that their distance education programs are in compliance with the Principles of Good Practice.

U.S. Department of Education Regulations

In October 2010, the United States Department of education released new "program integrity" regulations regarding the need for institutions to require authorization from any state in which it "operates," regardless of whether or not the program or course is offered face-to-face in the state or online to students in the state. Although originally institutions were to be in compliance with these rules by July 1, 2011, the Department of Education issued a memorandum on April 20, 2011 that provided further clarification. This memo states, "With regard to State authorization provisions at 34 C.F.R. Section 600.9(c), the Department will not initiate any action to establish repayment liabilities or limit student eligibility for distance education activities undertaken before July 1, 2014, so long as the institution is making good faith efforts to identify and obtain necessary State authorizations before that date." Failure to be in compliance with these regulations could affect an institution's eligibility to participate in Federal programs, including federal financial aid programs. Below are several sites that institutions may find useful as they begin to respond to these rules.

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