Programs, Curricula & Courses (PCC) Manual
Table of Contents
Approval Routes and Times
Centers and Institutes
The Design of Academic Programs
Combined Bachelor's /
Dual Master's /
Master and Graduate Certificate of Professional Studies
Planning and Programs Calendar
Design of Academic Programs
Section III: Off-Campus and
Distance Education Programs
Definitions of "Off-Campus" and "Telecommunications"
The Code of Maryland (COMAR) provides specific definitions of "off-campus" and "telecommunications" programs. (We also refer to the latter as "distance education" programs.) The two definitions together include traditional instruction in an off-campus location, instruction through telecommunication with direct "real time" interaction between students and instructors, and asynchronous instruction such as through the Internet or video conferencing. Note that the policy refers to programs, not individual courses, so it is not triggered by the incorporation of internships, student teaching, mostly online courses, or similar activities that constitute less than 1/3 of a full academic program.
COMAR 13B.02.02.03.B(19): "Off-campus program" means:
(a) More than 1/3 of the required course work in a major field of study leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree or graduate certificate offered by an approved or chartered institution at a location other than the principal location of the sponsoring institution during any 12-month period; or
(b) Course work offered at a location other than the principal location of an approved or chartered institution that is advertised as leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree or to a graduate certificate at that location, regardless of the portion of a program offered at that location.
- COMAR 13B.02.02.03.B(21): "Program offered by telecommunications instruction" means:
(a) More than 1/3 of the required course work in a major field of study leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree or graduate certificate is delivered by telecommunications instruction to sites other than the primary campus of the sponsoring institution; or
(b) Course work delivered by telecommunications instruction that is advertised as leading to an undergraduate or graduate degree or to a graduate certificate at a location other than the primary campus of the sponsoring institution.
- COMAR 13B.02.02.03.B(16): "Major field of study" means that portion of the course work of a program related directly to the academic discipline in which the student is specializing." Therefore for a Bachelor's degree, the one-third is based on the course requirements for the major (usually 30-40 credits), not on the 120 credits for the total degree requirement.
Approvals for Distance Education Programs
(Signed by the President on May 3, 2000)
A number of our departments are looking at the possibility of offering existing masters programs wholly or in part online through web-based courses. Furthermore, new programs are being considered that would be designed from the start to be delivered mostly or completely online. Delivering a program in this manner requires rethinking many long-standing assumptions and procedures. While this is a new departure for us, it is a step that has been taken already by many of our peer institutions. It reflects important priorities in our Mission Statement and Strategic Plan. We have strengthened the Office of Continuing and Extended Education [now the Office of Extended Studies] in order to do this effectively. The purpose of this document is to propose procedures for approving the offering of programs online, and standards on which approvals will be based.
Wholly New Programs and Modified Existing Programs
- Proposals for new programs will continue to undergo the approval process as at present, including review by APAC, by the Graduate Council for graduate programs, by the College Park Senate, and by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. The considerations laid out below will constitute a part of the institutional review for new programs to be delivered mostly or completely online.
Proposals for the offering of existing programs through technological means will be submitted by a Dean after College review, will be evaluated by the Office of Academic Affairs, and will be approved if they address the issues below in a satisfactory manner. The College Park Senate and its PCC Committee, and the Graduate Council and its PCC Committee for graduate programs, will be informed of this approval. No additional approval beyond the campus is required in this case.
Principles and Guidelines for Online Programs
- Our guiding principles in the development of these programs must be the maintenance of academic integrity and of program quality. The programs we offer must be consistent with our mission and must reflect our particular strengths, not simply be opportunities for profit. They must be developed by, be under the academic control of, and largely be taught by our regular faculty. Only fully qualified students should be admitted, and they should be offered programs that match in depth, breadth, and quality of instruction those offered to traditional on-campus students. The design of programs and their delivery mechanisms, as well as the provision of supporting services, should allow educational outcomes fully consistent with those for on-campus programs.
A number of educational associations (including the Middle States Association and the American Council on Education) have provided guidelines for distance learning programs, and the MHEC has now required that institutions offering distance education within Maryland comply with its Standards for Instruction Delivered by Distance Education. These guidelines and standards reach a consensus on what the critical issues are, and form the basis for the rules and procedures set out below.
Issues identified in the several sets of guidelines include appropriate choice of programs to be offered; faculty control of the curriculum and its presentation; the appropriate training and continuing support of faculty; student access to library and other learning resources; student access to technical support and bookstores, and to student services including advising, financial aid, bursar services, and career services; availability of appropriate facilities for course development; truth in advertising; and intellectual property rights. All proposals to offer a program in this manner must fully address all these issues, as described below. In some cases the Office of Continuing and Extended Education (OCEE) can offer services that will facilitate addressing the issues, but use of these services is never required.
- 1. Program Initiation and Choice: The proposal should initiate with an academic unit, and must have the approval of the appropriate Dean (or Deans). It must develop naturally from the institution's strengths and be consistent with its strategic goals. The proposal should have a clear and well-thought-out financial plan, providing net revenue to the institution over time, and should include a thorough analysis of the potential market.
- 2. Program Development, Control, and Implementation by Faculty: Although professional help may be used in adapting it to the online medium, the academic content of the curriculum must be developed by institutional faculty. The instructional strategy proposed must be appropriate for this content. UMCP faculty must have overall control of the program, and should provide the bulk of the instruction. Appropriate resources, including technical support personnel, must be made available for course development and also for faculty support during the offering of these courses. The business plan for the proposal must spell out the arrangements whereby this will be accomplished.
- 3. Access to Academic Resources and Student Services: The proposal must indicate how students will have access to needed resources, such as library materials, other information sources, laboratory facilities, and others as appropriate. The arrangements in place for interaction with instructors, for advising, and for help with technical problems must be described. It must be shown how student services such as admissions, enrollment, financial aid, bursar services, career advisement, bookstore, and similar services available to on-campus students will be provided.
- 4. Intellectual Property Rights: The proposal must clearly delineate ownership and usage rights for materials that may be developed for courses in the program.
- 5. Full Disclosure, Standards, and Evaluation: All published materials describing the program must carefully lay out the instructional methods to be used, the skills and background required for success, and the arrangements in place for access to instructors, to technical help, to academic resources, and to student services. There should be a means available whereby potential students can evaluate their readiness for the special demands of the program. Academic admission standards must be clearly described, and must be consistent with those for the on-campus program. Outcome expectations must also be consistent. The proposal must set out a continuing process of evaluation that will determine if these requirements are being met.
MHEC Standards for Instruction Delivered by Distance Education
COMAR 13b.02.02.16.O(2): An institution delivering instruction in Maryland by distance education shall provide evidence to the Secretary of compliance with the standards of good practice in this section.
- Standards of good practice for distance education:
- A. Curriculum and Instruction.
- A program of study shall be developed by a team of faculty, administrators, and technologists.
- A program of study shall result in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree program offered.
- A degree program delivered by distance education shall be coherent and complete.
- A program shall provide for appropriate real-time or delayed interaction between faculty and students.
- Qualified faculty shall provide appropriate oversight of the program offered.
- Faculty members in appropriate disciplines shall participate in the design and planning of programs and courses to be delivered by distance learning.
- B. Role and Mission.
- The program shall be consistent with the institution's mission.
- Review and approval processes shall ensure the appropriateness of the technology being used to meet the program's objectives.
- C. Faculty Support.
- Principles of good practice for teaching in a distance learning format shall be developed and maintained by the faculty.
- The program shall provide faculty support services specifically related to teaching by distance education.
- The program shall provide training for faculty who use technology in instruction.
- D. Resources for Learning. The program shall ensure that appropriate learning resources are available to students.
- E. Students and Student Services.
- The program shall provide students with clear, complete, and timely information on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, assumptions about technology competence and skills, technical equipment requirements, availability of academic support services and financial aid resources, and costs and payment policies.
- Enrolled students shall have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services to support their learning.
- Accepted students shall have the background, knowledge, and technical skills needed to undertake the program.
- Advertising, recruiting, and admissions materials shall clearly and accurately represent the program and the services available.
- F. Commitment to Support.
- Policies for faculty evaluation shall include appropriate consideration of teaching and scholarly activities related to programs offered through distance learning.
- The institution shall demonstrate a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to a continuation of the program for a period sufficient to enable students to complete a degree/certificate.
- G. Evaluation and Assessment.
- The Institution shall evaluate the program's educational effectiveness, including assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, student and faculty satisfaction, and cost effectiveness.
- The Institution shall provide for assessment and documentation of student achievement in each course and at the completion of the program.
Approval Process for an Existing Program to be Taught in a New Off-campus Location
(Signed by the President on May 3, 2000)
Since the program and its curriculum are already approved the critical issues here are the assurance that program quality will be maintained and that adequate support services for students will be provided in the new location. For locations within Maryland, a brief proposal is required for MHEC approval that addresses these issues, as well as issues of mission, student demand, and financing. This proposal will be prepared by the unit concerned and submitted to the Provost's Office by the Dean with the approval of the College PCC committee. The Provost's Office will confirm that the academic and other requirements are in place, and will notify the Senate and the Senate PCC committee, and the Graduate Council and its PCC committee for a graduate program, that the new location for this program is being submitted to MHEC for final approval. Note that subsequent proposals for a site whose student support facilities have once been deemed appropriate may require less documentation in this respect. Requests to offer existing programs at an out-of-state location do not require MHEC approval. For such requests, the same approval process will apply, except for the MHEC notification step.
MHEC Approvals for Off-Campus Programs
Following are the official rules. In practice, MHEC will often approve such a program administratively based on an informal submission.
Traditional off-campus programs must be submitted for review and approval. Campuses offering programs off-campus must provide for adequate and appropriate library resources and for academic support services within reasonable distance of the instructional site. At least one-third of the classes offered in an off-campus program shall be taught by full-time faculty members of the parent institution.
- Off-campus program proposals may be submitted to MHEC at any time during the year. Staff review will proceed expeditiously (between 60 and 90 days). Campuses shall submit a proposal which contains the following information regarding need and demand for extending the program, the resource requirements necessary to offer the program, and the impact the program may have on similar programs which may exist in the region:
- The title of the program and the degree or certificate to be awarded.
- The resource requirements for the program and the source of funds to support the program for the first two years of program implementation.
- A description of how the program meets a critical and compelling regional or statewide need as identified in the Maryland state plan.
- The need and demand for this program by stating in terms of the specific local, State, and/or national needs for graduates; job opportunities that are available to persons who complete the program and evidence of market demand through supporting data including results of surveys which have recently been conducted.
- Any similar program(s) offered within the same geographical region of the State. Where a similar program exists, describe the similarities or differences in the degree to be awarded, the area(s) of specialization, and the specific academic content of the program or course of study.
- Describe the method of instructional delivery, including telecommunications instruction, on-site faculty, and the mix of full-time and adjunct instructors. Briefly describe the academic oversight, quality control, and student services which will be provided.