Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

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April 24, 2000
(Revised April 10, 2000)


Senate Committee on Educational Policy
(Final - Action)

EP.00.23 Guidelines for Approving Online Degree Programs

Brief Description
The purpose of this proposal is to establish guidelines by which units who offer degree programs online, or by nontraditional delivery methods, can receive Senate approval. In many cases these degree programs already exist for on-campus students, but the program is being extended to include using computerized instruction, video and the Internet for delivery to students off campus. In other cases, the program is new, which requires the usual Senate approval.

With the advent of computer-assisted instruction, and use of the Internet, this university, from several administrative levels, is pushing toward the implementation of this technology for teaching courses and offering degree programs. There is an official 'University of Illinois Online' described as "a university-wide initiative providing leadership, coordination, and financial support in the areas of Internet-based education and public service. The primary goal of this initiative is to offer new online learning opportunities, especially complete degree and certificate programs….". Also, in December 1999 a large task force of faculty and administrators from all three campuses issued a long report of "Teaching at an Internet Distance Seminar" detailing the pros and cons of this new pedagogy. Campus committees also exist analyzing this potential extension in program delivery.

Currently, approximately 10 Master's programs are being offered online along with several certificate programs. Examples of Master degree programs include: Library and Information Sciences, Human Resource Education, Computer Science and several from the College of Engineering. Each of these underwent extensive review through a well-established procedure by the Graduate College before being approved. There was no procedure for review by the Senate because in each case the degree program already existed. No Ph.D. program from this campus is offered online. To date, no undergraduate degree programs from the Urbana-Champaign campus are offered online. However, about 300 individual courses are offered in this manner, but the Senate does not typically involve itself with reviewing individual courses.

The guidelines in this proposal mirror those currently being implemented by the Graduate College for graduate programs offered online. This proposal provides guidelines for a department seeking Senate approval for online programs, either graduate or undergraduate. In either case, Senate review and approval is expected.


1. All undergraduate and graduate degree programs being offered online, or by nontraditional delivery, must receive Senate approval in order to be officially recognized as a UIUC program through which a student can earn a UIUC degree.1

2. A degree program is considered as online when more than 25 percent of the total course-instructional unit or hour requirements can be earned online regardless of resident location.2

3. Individual courses that make up a degree program must go through the normal campus approval process.

4. Units offering a degree online must follow the guidelines of the 'Off-Campus Graduate Degree Program Proposal Form' available from the Graduate College and Office of Continuing Education. (No similar campus documentation exists at this time for undergraduate degrees, but the principles remain.) This form calls for: program identification, program objectives, program clientele, program characteristics, courses and anticipated instructors, resources, relationship to existing degree programs, and procedure for program evaluation. This proposal form is supplemented by 'Guidelines for the Development of Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs' from the Graduate College, dated November, 1994, which describes expectations in terms of program needs, use of faculty, quality of students, design of curriculum, advising procedures, academic facilities, and program administration.

5. Units proposing to offer a degree online must first get approval from their respective college and, in the case of graduate programs, the Graduate College.

6. In the case of a new degree program, the department must follow its college and the traditional Senate guidelines already in place for the creation of a new curriculum and degree. A new degree is one that has not previously received Senate and IBHE approval. These will be forwarded beyond the Senate to the Board of Trustees and IBHE as with any other new degree program.

7. Any student admitted to a degree program offered online must also be admissible using the same standards as if applying to the same program or unit on campus.

8. Units must expect periodic review, no less that once every 5 years, by the Educational Policy Committee, evaluating and examining program quality and educational impact.


1 This proposal applied to new degree program proposals as well as to all currently existing degree programs. However, the above mentioned Master's programs already approved by the Graduate College would not need approval again under these guidelines.

2 An exact definition of what constitutes online is impossible and will change as technology changes. The intent of this proposal is to include all courses and programs that are offered in nontraditional delivery methods, such as via the Internet, CD-Rom, videotape or other electronic means, where traditional classroom attendance and participation is not required nor expected, excluding possible on-campus orientation programs. The word "online" is used to encompass this broad range of alternatives. This proposal is not intended to cover courses delivered off-campus in traditional classroom settings. Also, insufficient information exists to make judgment on Guided Individual Study (GIS) courses. ______________________________


1. The proposing unit must identify the program, its characteristics and objectives, expected clientele, and demonstrate how this program relates to existing degree programs.

2. The unit needs to specify which courses will be offered online and indicate the faculty who will be anticipated as responsible for the teaching of these courses, or for providing close supervision of those who do teach. It is expected that most faculty teaching in the proposed program will be members of the UIUC faculty, or have appointments in the degree-granting department (unit).

3. Units must design a system for advising students in off-campus programs, which will likely take more care than for on campus students.

4. The process for student-faculty interaction needs to be documented. Also, units need to indicate the nature of the course material and potential sources for resource materials needed by the students.

5. The unit needs to describe the resources and facilities needed, and budget impacts.

6. Units must design mechanisms for obtaining evaluation and feedback from participating students on program quality.

7. The unit must indicate how the program will be administered.


Prepared by an ad hoc subcommittee:
Steve Aragon
Alfred Hubler
Lawrence Tabone
Eve Harwood
David Kamper
Raymond Leuthold, Chair

Raymond Leuthold, Chair
Colleen Gorton
Jerome Packard
Steve Aragon
Eve Harwood
Sarah Pfeifer
Bruce Branham
Edwin Herricks, Vice Chair
Stephen Portnoy
Karen Carney, observer*
David Kamper
Lawrence Tabone
Renee T. Clift, ex officio*
James Kobeske
Ruth A. Vedvik, ex officio*
Timothy Garrow
Susan Lamb
H. F. Williamson, ex officio*
Susan Gonzo, ex officio*
*denotes non-voting status