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Distance Education - Frequently Asked Questions

For all Institutions:

How does Texas define distance education?

Chapter 4, §4.103(9) of Coordinating Board Rules defines a distance education course as a "…course in which the majority of the instruction occurs when the students and the instructor are not in the same physical setting. A course is considered to be offered by distance education if students receive more than one-half of the instruction at a different location than the instructor. A distance education course can be delivered synchronously or asynchronously to any single or multiple location(s) through electronic, correspondence, or other means. The course may be formula-funded or offered through extension, and it may be delivered to on-campus students and those who do not take courses on the main campus." A distance education degree or certificate program is defined as "…a program in which a student may complete more than one-half of the semester credit hours required for the program through any combination of electronic and off-campus delivery methods."

When does an institution have to report a new distance education course?

 

Community colleges must report to the Coordinating Board all new courses that are being delivered electronically to groups of students who are outside of Texas and not enrolled on the institution's campus. Notification to the Coordinating Board is made through email. Additionally, community colleges must include all new courses taught off-campus face-to-face in Texas and in-state electronically to groups in their Off-Campus Instruction Plans, which must be submitted annually to the institution's Higher Education Regional Council. No approval is required for courses in programs approved for delivery to specific locations such as high schools, Multi-Institution Teaching Centers, or university centers. Universities and health-related institutions must report to the Coordinating Board all new courses that are delivered electronically to groups of students who are outside of Texas and not enrolled on the institution's campus (including lower and upper division courses as well as graduate level courses).

Universities and health related institutions must also inform the Coordinating Board when four or more courses that support a doctoral program are being offered through distance education and/or off-campus. The notification should include whether or not the institution intends to eventually offer the program via distance education and/or off-campus. Additionally, universities and health-related institutions must also notify area institutions of any upper-division or master's level extension courses taught either off-campus face-to-face in Texas or on-campus face-to-face. Allow two to three months for notification. No approval is required for courses in programs approved for delivery to specific locations such as high schools, Multi-Institution Teaching Centers, or university centers. Notification to area institutions should be made via email with copies sent to the Coordinating Board.

When and how does an institution have to report a new distance education certificate or degree program?

As soon as over half of a program can be taken via distance education, an institution must notify the Coordinating Board via email. Institutions must also submit to the Coordinating Board a certification form affirming that the program will be offered in accordance with the Principles of Good Practice. Download the Certification Form for Electronically Delivered and Off-Campus Education Programs.  Community colleges, technical colleges, and Lamar two-year institutions must report to the Coordinating Board all new degree and certificate programs delivered off-campus, face-to-face to groups in Texas, electronically to groups of students who are outside of Texas and not enrolled on the institution's campus, or those degree and certificate programs offered electronically to individuals. Universities and health-related institutions must report to the Coordinating Board all new degree and certificate programs delivered electronically to groups (in and out of state groups) as well as electronically to individuals. Additionally, universities and health related institutions must also notify all area institutions and higher education centers of plans to offer new distance education programs at least three months prior to offering the program(s).

How does an institution object to another institution's distance education course or program offered off-campus or electronically to groups?

After receiving notification of new distance education course and/or program offerings, area institutions have one month to raise objections. Institutions should first work with each other in an attempt to reach a mutually acceptable resolution within one month of the objection. It is the responsibility of the proposing institution to inform the Coordinating Board that an objection has been raised and that discussions are under way. If no resolution is achieved, the proposing institution may appeal to the Commissioner of Higher Education for a final decision. Written notification of the Commissioner's decision will be sent to all parties within one month of receipt of the appeal.

How does an institution gain approval for a distance education or off-campus degree program?

Associate's, bachelor's and master's programs must already be offered at the institution. If the program is already being offered at the institution, the institution should notify the Coordinating Board via email. Institutions must also notify the appropriate institutions as outlined above. If a program is not already being offered at the institution, the program must also go through the standard program approval process. Doctoral programs must already be offered at the institution. (If not, a preliminary authority and/or degree program proposal must be submitted and a site visit will be required.) The proposed program should be in good standing with all appropriate review and accreditation organizations, have sufficient numbers of students in any on-campus program to permit its successful continuation, and must have the approval of the appropriate institutional and system administrative channels. If the proposal meets the above criteria, an institution should submit a Distance Doctoral Degree Program Request which will then be reviewed by the Distance Education Advisory Committee. (The format for the Distance Doctoral Degree Program Request can be found at DoctoralProposals.pdf) Programs that have not previously received approval for delivery through distance education or off-campus instruction will be considered by the Coordinating Board at one of its quarterly meetings. Doctoral and special professional degree programs that have received prior Coordinating Board approval for delivery through off-campus instruction may be offered to additional sites following approval by the Distance Education Advisory Committee and the Commissioner of Higher Education.

Are there standards to which all distance education courses and programs must adhere?

 

Yes, there are. These standards can be found in the Certification Form for Electronically Delivered and Off-Campus Education Programs

Institutions must certify compliance with each of the following:

  • Each program or course results in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded.
  • A degree or certificate program or course offered electronically or off-campus is coherent and complete.
  • The program or course provides for appropriate interaction between faculty and students and among students.
  • Qualified faculty provide appropriate oversight to the program or course.
  • Programs or courses offered electronically or off-campus are offered on the campus of the institution where the programs or courses originate.
  • Academic standards for all programs or courses offered electronically or off-campus are the same as those for programs or courses delivered by other means at the institution.
  • Student learning in programs and courses delivered electronically or off-campus is comparable to student learning in programs offered on campus.
  • The program or course is consistent with the institution's role and mission.
  • The institution has reviewed and approved the program or course to ensure the appropriateness of the technology being used to meet its objectives.
  • Program or course announcement and electronic catalog entries provide appropriate information for students.
  • The program or course provides students with clear, complete, and timely information on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, assumptions about technological competence and skills, technical equipment requirements, availability of academic support services and financial aid resources, and cost and payment policies.
  • Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services and student rights appropriate to support their learning.
  • The institution has admission/acceptance criteria in place to assess the extent to which a student has the background, knowledge, and technical skills required to undertake the program or course.
  • Advertising, recruiting, and admissions materials clearly and accurately represent the program or course and the services available.
  • The program or course provides faculty support services specifically related to teaching via an electronic system.
  • The institution assures appropriate training for faculty who teach via the use of technology.
  • The institution provides adequate equipment, software, and communications access to faculty to support interaction with students, institutions, and other faculty.
  • The institution evaluates the adequacy of, and the cost to students for, access to learning resources and documents the use of electronic resources.
  • Policies for faculty evaluation include appropriate recognition of teaching and scholarly activities related to programs or courses offered electronically.
  • The institution demonstrates a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to continuation of the program or course for a period of time reasonable and sufficient for students to complete the course or program.
  • The institution evaluates the program's or course's educational effectiveness, including assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction.
  • At the completion of the program or course, the institution provides for assessment and documentation of student achievement in each course.
  • Are there any other standards and/or requirements that my institution should be aware of when creating new distance education or off-campus programs?

    Institutions planning to offer new distance education or off-campus degree or certificate programs should be aware of any special standards and/or regulations associated with their accrediting bodies. The addition of distance education degree programs may require accrediting body review and a change in accreditation level.

    Does Texas have any Principles of Good Practice for online education?

    Yes, all institutions offering online and other electronically-based courses must adhere to the Principles of Good Practice for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs developed by the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications, a program of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. The Principles, as well as the Guide for Incorporating the Principles of Good Practice into Electronically-Based Courses, can be found at Distance Education. Although institutions are not required to use the course assessment form found in the Guide, many institutions have found that the form is a useful tool in their planning and evaluation process and have used the Guide during accreditation review.

    What is the Off-Campus Instructional Plan and how does my institution submit it?

    Institutions must submit an annual Off-Campus Instruction Plan for consideration at the annual Higher Education Regional Council. This plan should cover the institution's proposed distance education course and program offerings for the next academic year. Previously, institutions were required to submit to the Coordinating Board an Institutional Report on Distance and Off-Campus Instruction every five years. This report is now optional.

    How does an institution report its distance education enrollment numbers?

    Distance education enrollment numbers (including off-campus face-to-face, electronically to groups, and electronically to individuals) are reported via the CBM 004. For more information on reporting distance education enrollment numbers, contact the Coordinating Board's Planning and Accountability Division.

    Are distance education courses and/or programs eligible for formula funding?

    Distance education courses taken by non-Texas residents residing outside of Texas cannot be submitted for formula funding without specific Coordinating Board approval. Distance education courses taken by Texas residents, whether at off-campus locations or by electronic delivery, can be submitted for formula funding. For those courses that are not eligible for formula funding, institutions must charge fees that are equal to or greater than Texas resident tuition and fees and are sufficient to cover the total cost of course or program (including cost of instruction, administrative costs, benefits, facilities, and materials).

    What is the Distance Education Advisory Committee and what does it do?

    The Distance Education Advisory Committee (DEAC) meets quarterly to research, discuss, and recommend to the Commissioner changes in Texas' distance education policies. The DEAC also provides the Commissioner with research and analysis on the status of distance education in Texas and the nation as well as reviewing all distance education doctoral proposals.

    How are members chosen for the Distance Education Advisory Committee?

    Each summer requests for nominations are sent out to the chief instructional or academic officer of each public college and university. Based upon nominations submitted by these individuals, the Commissioner of Higher Education, in consultation with Coordinating Board staff, appoints members. Regular members of the DEAC represent the geographic and institutional diversity within the state and serve for a three-year term. Student members of the committee serve for a one-year term.

    What are the Higher Education Regional Councils and what do they do?

    The Higher Education Regional Councils (HERC) are a cooperative arrangement among representatives of all public, private or independent institutions of higher education within a Uniform State Service Region, as established under Texas Education Code, §51.662. There are ten HERCs that meet annually. All public higher education institutions (community colleges, technical colleges, universities, and health related institutions) are members of one of the Councils. While private higher education institutions are not required to participate, they are strongly encouraged to be a part of their Regional Council. Each Regional Council reviews and approves the off-campus lower-division course offerings of its member institutions and resolves disputes regarding plans for those offerings. Disputes not resolved by a Regional Council may be resolved by the Commissioner of Higher Education. Membership and other information regarding the Higher Regional Councils are located at Distance Education.

    What types of off-campus course offerings should be included in an institution's Off-Campus Instruction Plan and reviewed by the Higher Education Regional Council?

    Community colleges must submit for review: a) lower-division, formula-funded credit and non-credit courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas and outside of their service area; b) lower-division credit and non-credit courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered on campus as extension courses;* c) lower-division, formula-funded credit and non-credit courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered electronically to groups in Texas and outside of their service area; d) all lower-division, credit and workforce continuing education courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas and outside of their taxing district; e) all associate and certificate programs offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas but out of their service area; f) all associate and certificate programs offered on-campus as extension programs; g) all associate and certificate programs offered electronically to groups in Texas and out of their service area; h) all associate and degree programs offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas and outside of their taxing district. Institutional Off-Campus Instructional Plans must also be sent to any institution and Regional Council that might be impacted by an institution's off-campus courses and programs.

    Technical colleges and Lamar two-year institutions must submit for review: a) lower-division, formula-funded credit and non-credit courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas; b) lower-division credit and non-credit courses (including dual credit and clinicals) that are offered on campus as extension courses;* c) associate and certificate programs offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas; d) all associate and certificate programs offered on campus as extension programs. Institutional Off-Campus Instructional Plans must also be sent to any institution and Regional Council that might be impacted by an institution's off-campus courses and programs.

    Universities and health-related institutions must submit for review: a) lower-division, formula-funded credit courses (including for-credit extension courses, dual credit courses, and clinicals) that are offered off-campus, face-to-face in Texas; b) lower-division credit courses (including for-credit extension courses, dual credit courses, and clinicals) that are offered on campus as extension courses.* Institutional Off-Campus Instructional Plans must also be sent to any institution and Regional Council that might be impacted by an institution's off-campus courses and programs.

    What is TexasDistanceEducation.com and how can an institution's courses and programs be listed on this site?

    TexasDistanceEducation.com is the state's electronic "marketplace" of courses and programs that are available through technology from Texas institutions. Each institution listed is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and has pledged to follow the standards found in the state's Principles of Good Practice. Both public and independent colleges and universities are strongly urged to list their eligible courses and programs. Institutions wishing to list courses and/or programs should contact the Coordinating Board's Division of Academic Affairs and Research for more information.

    What is ElectronicCampus.org and how can an institution's courses and programs be listed on this site?

    ElectronicCampus.org is an electronic "marketplace" of online courses and programs offered by southern colleges and universities. It is maintained by the Southern Regional Education Board. Each institution listed is accredited and has pledged to follow SREB's Principle of Good Practice. Courses and programs listed on TexasDistanceEducation.com are automatically listed on ElectronicCampus.org. Institutions wishing to list courses and/or programs should contact the Coordinating Board's Division of Academic Affairs and Research for more information.

    Where can I find the rules pertaining to distance education?

    Coordinating Board rules on distance education can be found in Chapter 4, Subchapter E "Approval of Distance Education, Off-Campus, and Extension Courses and Programs for Public Institutions." These rules are located on the Coordinating Board website at www.thecb.state.tx.us/Rules/tac3.cfm?Chapter_ID=4&Subchapter=E.

    Who can I contact for more information about distance education in Texas?

    For more information on distance education programs and regulations as well as the Distance Education Advisory Committee and inclusion in the Electronic Campus, please contact the Coordinating Board's Division of Academic Affairs and Research.

    *Note: "Extension" courses are defined as non-formula-funded courses.


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