Montana State University

Policy 2.6

2.6 Policy on Distance Delivery of Courses, Certificate, and Degree Programs

Introduction. This policy is intended to apply to the broadest possible definition of distance delivery of instruction, including telecommunications technologies -- audio, video, and computer-based technologies -- used for instruction in either live or stored modes. The degree program and credit courses may or may not be delivered exclusively via telecommunications; for example, the course may include a print component and a degree program may include an on-campus requirement.

These requirements are the product of a Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications project, Balancing Quality and Access: Reducing State Policy Barriers to Electronically Delivered Higher Education Programs. The three-year project, supported by the U. S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, was designed to foster an interstate environment that permits the electronic provision of quality higher education programs across state lines. The requirements were developed by a group representing the Western states' higher education regulating agencies, higher education institutions, and the regional accrediting community.

The existence of these requirements for instruction via telecommunications does not relieve an accredited institution of the obligation to meet the eligibility requirements, standards, and policies of the Commission on Colleges. The institution's programs with specialized accreditation meet the same requirements when offered through distance delivery. Applicable institutional accreditation standards and the Commission's substantive change policy apply regardless of when, where, or how instruction takes place, or by whom taught.

Application of Requirements. These requirements are to be addressed in the periodic review -- self-study and peer evaluation -- conducted for reaffirmation of accreditation by every accredited institution that engages in distance delivery through telecommunications. For the institution that proposes to initiate distance learning through telecommunications, these requirements will form the framework for a substantive change review by the Commission on Colleges.

Requirements

Approval and Purpose

a. The institution's distance delivery programs have a clearly defined purpose congruent with institutional mission and purposes.
b. Each program has been approved through established institutional program approval mechanisms.

Curriculum Courses and Programs

c. Each course provides timely instructional interaction between faculty and students, and whenever possible, among students.
d. Each course includes clearly-defined learning outcomes.
e. Each program of study results in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded.
f. Program integrity is maintained. An electronically delivered degree or certificate program is coherent and comprehensive.
g. Qualified faculty provide appropriate oversight for all distance delivery of education, ensuring both the rigor of those courses and programs and the quality of instruction.
h. The institution provides for assessment of individual student achievement in each course, and at completion of requirements, for a certificate or a degree.

Faculty Support

i. Training is provided for faculty who teach via electronic delivery.
j. The institution has faculty support services specifically related to teaching via electronic delivery.

Students and Student Services

k. Advertising, recruiting, and admissions materials clearly and accurately represent the program(s) and services available.
l. The institution admits to its distance delivery programs students who meet the institutional admission requirements and who also are prepared by background, knowledge, and technical skills to succeed in the distance delivery environment.
m. Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services appropriate to support their learning.

Learning Resources

n. Sufficient learning resources are made available to support student learning in distance delivery programs.

Commitment to Support

o. The institution offering the program demonstrates a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to continuation of the program for a period sufficient to enable enrolled students to complete the degree or certificate.

Evaluation and Assessment

p. The institution conducts assessment of the characteristics of student capability to succeed in the distance delivery environment. This information is applied to admission decisions.
q. The institution offering the program evaluates the program's educational effectiveness. The evaluation includes assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction. The demonstrated assessment of student learning outcomes will be comparable to outcomes of student learning in more traditional formats.
r. All distance learning courses and programs are incorporated into the institution's program documenting student academic achievement.

Adopted 1996