I’m excited to be blogging this week on The Online Instructor. Today, I’d like to hopefully clear up some confusion regarding the designation of a degree program as distance education. I think that most faculty at TWU understand that a DE course is defined as one in which over 50% of the instruction is delivered electronically. Similarly, a DE degree program is one in which a majority of the courses are designated as distance education. However, before academic units can declare and begin to advertise all or part of their programs as DE, they must gain University—and possibly other—approvals, even if TWU already has degree authority to offer the program on campus. Please note the last part of that sentence. Just because the program is approved to be offered on campus doesn’t mean that the program can be offered electronically without approval.
This process is detailed in the TWU Policies and Procedures Manual at https://portal.twu.edu/policies/executive/distance_learning_policies_and_procedures.htm (login required). The requesting department must prepare a proposal and submit it to the Office of Lifelong Learning. This proposal will outline the need for the online program as well as describe student and faculty preparation and support services, the anticipated course rotation, and the requested budget. The proposal will be reviewed by the Office of Lifelong Learning, the Graduate Dean or the Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Studies as appropriate, a representative of the TWU Curriculum Committee, and the Distance Education Advisory Committee. Finally the proposal will be submitted to the Provost.
If a partial degree is being proposed, the Provost’s approval is the final step. If the proposal is to create a full bachelor’s or master’s degree program, the Provost must submit the proposal to the TWU Board of Regents for final approval. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) are then notified of their decision. DE doctoral programs, upon approval by the Regents, must actually be reviewed and approved by the THECB. Again, this process is required even if the University already has degree authority. The THECB has a nice chart on their website detailing the requirements of full programs. It can be accessed at http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/1053.PDF.
If you or your unit is considering the offering of a DE program, please feel free to contact me in the Office of Lifelong Learning at 940/898-3409. I’ll be glad to go over the process and to set up a timeline for gaining the approvals. Since the Regents and the THECB only meet on certain dates during the year, it is important to start as soon as possible before the anticipated start date of the program.