Madison — As more students, particularly working adult students, turn to distance education courses and programs to continue learning and improve skills, the University of Wisconsin System is setting standards to assure these programs and student support services are of high quality.
The Board of Regents Thursday will take action on a policy document which will set standards on academic and student support services in distance education credit courses, degree and certificate programs.
“The goal of the Regents policy is to assure that electronic based distance education programs, including internet-based and video based learning, adhere to the same high quality standards that traditional UW System courses and programs meet,” said David J. Ward, UW System senior vice president for academic affairs.
The standards fall into five main categories:
Curriculum and Instruction: The quality of the instruction and curriculum must meet the same standards as the traditional curriculum. The institutions are expected to provide appropriate training and support services for faculty who teach in distance education programs. The programs also must provide for timely interaction between students and faculty and among students, clarify who owns the course materials and copyrights, and address the needs of individuals with disabilities.
Evaluation and Assessment: The institution is to ensure the integrity of student work and the credibility of the degrees and credits it awards. Programs may undergo review comparable to review of traditional programs. Students’ work will be monitored through a system of evaluation and assessment, which may also include evaluation of such characteristics as attitude, motivation, and time management skills.
Library and Learning Resources: Through interlibrary loan, document delivery service, access to electronic resources in the campus libraries’ collections and an 800 number for library assistance, students are to be assured of access to library resources. The institution must also provide laboratories, facilities and equipment appropriate to the course or program.
Student Services: As with traditional programming, the institution is to provide adequate access to a range of student services including admissions, financial aid, academic advising, delivery of course materials and placement and counseling. “Help desk” services to provide timely assistance for technical problems, academic and billing questions and library research are also expected to exist.
Facilities and Finances: UW institutions are expected to make a long term commitment to providing the appropriate equipment, facilities, technical expertise and financial planning to make distance education programs sustainable over a long period of time.
Several full degree programs are available via distance education through UW institutions. Among these are a Bachelor of Science in Nursing completion program for nurses with two-year degrees, an on-line associates degree program from the UW Colleges, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, engineering degrees, a BA and MBA in business administration, BS in Industrial Technology, and a number of other degree and certificate programs.
Distance education program offerings are expected to grow considerably over the next few years, as education becomes available “any time, any place.”
Sharyn Wisniewski, UW System