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Distance Education

This page includes information on distance education in Texas. 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." This page includes information on Texas distance education rules and policy (including required approval forms), off-campus units, Higher Education Regional Councils, study abroad courses, and the Distance Education Advisory Committee (DEAC). For a list of common questions and answers regarding Texas distance education, please click here.

Critical Issues

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.

Coordinating Board Rules, Policy, and Related Forms

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rules governing the offering of distance education by Texas public colleges and universities can be found in Chapter 4, Subchapters P and Q of Coordinating Board Rules.

A discussion of these rules, including Coordinating Board distance education policy, can be found in Approval of Distance Education and Off-Campus Courses and Programs. You may also wish to refer to the following documents to determine the approval process for distance education programs and courses, funding for those courses and programs, and the notification lists for off-campus courses and programs.

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

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.

Higher Education Regional Councils

map of HIGHER EDUCATION REGIONAL COUNCILSRegional Councils in each of theten Uniform State Service Regions (established under Texas Education Code, §51.662) advise the Commissioner and resolve disputes regarding plans for lower-division courses and programs proposed by public institutions. Each Higher Education Regional Council (HERC) shall make recommendations to the Commissioner regarding off-campus courses and programs proposed for delivery in accordance with the consensus views of Council members. An exception is courses and programs proposed to be offered by public community colleges in their designated service areas and courses and programs governed by the provisions of RULE §4.278 (e), (i), and (j).

Universities, health-related institutions, public technical colleges and Lamar state colleges shall submit all off-campus lower-division courses proposed for delivery to sites in the area for relevant Regional Council's review. Public community colleges shall submit all off-campus lower-division courses proposed for delivery to sites outside their service areas for review. In the event of a dispute arising from off-campus or electronic delivery of lower-division courses, institutions may appeal first to the Regional Council, and then to the Commissioner and the Board.

Texas public institutions of higher education are required to file an annual off-campus lower-division course delivery plan with the HERC of which the institution is a member. Private institutions of higher education are also HERC members, but filing off-campus lower-division course delivery plans with the HERC is optional.

HERCs Resources:


Off-Campus (Public and Private) Educational Units

Some institutions may wish to create off-campus educational units. The Coordinating Board recognizes four broad categories of off-campus educational units:

  • Higher education teaching sites
  • Recognized higher education teaching sites
  • Higher education centers
  • Branch/special purpose campuses.

Information on these educational units and their approval can be found here. Information about creating a public community college district, annexation to an existing community college district, creation of a branch campus in an existing community college district, and conducting a branch campus maintenance tax election can be found here.
Information on rules and policies governing private Texas colleges and out-of-state colleges and universities may be found here.


Study Abroad and Study-in-America Courses

The Coordinating Board defines study abroad courses as "off-campus, academic credit instruction which is delivered outside the United States primarily to regular on-campus students." Study-in-America courses are defined as "off-campus, academic credit instruction which is delivered outside Texas but in the United States primarily to regular on-campus students." Institutions are required to certify that all courses meet the Coordinating Board's Standards for Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Courses. Institutions certify compliance with those standards through an online reporting system. Links to the standards and the reporting system are below. Please contact Dr. Van L. Davis (van.davis@thecb.state.tx.us) for all questions regarding study abroad and study-in-America.


Additional Information


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