This policy applies to the implementation of distance education programs within the UW System.


The purpose of this policy is to establish guiding principles that adhere to federal and accreditation standards for distance education programs with the UW System.


A. Distance Education

Distance education uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. Examples of distance education technologies include the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audioconferencing; and other technologies for providing distance education programming.

Distance-delivered courses are courses in which at least 75 percent of the instruction and interaction occurs through electronic communication, correspondence or equivalent mechanisms, with the faculty and students physically separated from each other.

Distance-delivered programs are certificate or degree programs in which 50 percent or more of the required courses may be taken as distance-delivered courses.

B. Approval of Distance Education Programs

UW System distance education degree programs shall be approved by UW System Administration and the UW System Board of Regents consistent with and according to procedures identified in UW System Academic Planning and Program Review policy.

UW System or UW System Board of Regents approval is not required for distance education certificate programs, concentrations, sub-majors, and other academic programs as identified in the UW System Academic Planning and Program Review policy. However, institutions shall inform UW System of any plan to implement a distance education program using processes covered in UW System Academic Planning and Program Review.

C. Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education

UW System adopts the following guidelines developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) for distance education. The guidelines shall be used to assist UW System institutions in planning distance education courses and programs and to provide an assessment framework for existing distance education programs.

  1. All distance-education learning is appropriate to the institution’s mission and purposes.
  2. The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining and, if appropriate, expanding distance education learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes.
  3. Distance education learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight.
  4. Curricula for the institution’s distance-education learning offerings are coherent, cohesive, and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats.
  5. The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its distance-education learning offerings, including the extent to which the distance education learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.
  6. Faculty responsible for delivering the institution’s distance education learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the on-line learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.
  7. The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in distance education learning offerings. Academic and student support services for distance education courses should adhere to system-wide, federal, and regional accreditor standards to assure high quality distance education programming.
  8. The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its distance education learning offerings.
  9. The institution assures the integrity of its distance education learning offerings.


The UW System Office of Academic and Student Affairs and UW System Extended Campus shall provide guidance and assistance to UW institutions in identification of distance education strategies to meet the requirements of this policy. UW System shall establish system-wide policies related to the pricing, planning, and delivery of distance education programs.
Each UW institution is responsible for identifying, implementing, and documenting its distance education policies and programs in conformance with this policy and for providing access to those programs and courses to all UW System students as appropriate.


  • Regent Policy Document 4-5, “Accreditation and Assessment of Student Learning”
  • Regent Policy Document 4-12, “Academic Program Planning, Review and Approval in the University of Wisconsin System”
  • Section 36.27(3p)(a)(1m), Wis. Stats., ”Nonresident tuition”
  • Section 36.27(3n)(a)(1g), Wis. Stats., “Fee Remission for Spouse, Surviving Spouse, and Children of Certain Veterans”


History:  Res. 11513, adopted 10/08/2020, rescinded Regent Policy Document 15-1, “Distance Education Pricing Principles (formerly 99-4), Regent Policy Document 15-2, “Distance Education Standards” (formerly 00-4), and Regent Policy Document 15-3, “Vision, Mission Statement, Principles, and Action Plan for ‘The University of Wisconsin Online'” (formerly 01-2), and created Regent Policy Document 4-22, “Distance Education”.

See Also:

[UW System Administrative policies are included for reference and are separate from Regent Policy Documents adopted by the Board.]