Administrative Rules

Subject: Distance Learning Best Practices AR# 4.01.001
Based on Board Policy: D-1, Statement of Instructional Philosophy
Approved by Council/President: Academic and Campus Affairs Council
Date Approved/Amended: 11/21/2008; amended 06/04/10, 11/19/10

Value Statement  

Austin Community College District recognizes that distance education provides or enhances access to higher education.  In addition, the College acknowledges that evolving technology has provided and will continue to provide opportunities for learning outside the traditional classroom.  To ensure a high quality of instruction, student learning, student satisfaction, student access, and student success, the Austin Community College District is committed to providing college resources and support for Distance Education courses. 

Administrative Rule 

Distance and Correspondence Education - Policy Statement  

Definition of Distance Education

For the purposes of the Commissionís accreditation review, distance education is a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place.  Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous.  A distance education course may use the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVDís, and CD-ROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program.  

Definition of Correspondence Education  

Correspondence education is a formal educational process under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor.  Interaction between the instructor and the student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student; courses are typically self-paced.  

Policy Statements  

1.       At the time of review by the Commission, the institution must demonstrate that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as (1) a secure login and pass code, (2) proctored examinations, and (3) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification.  

2.      An institution that offers distance or correspondence education must ensure that it reports accurate headcount enrollment on its annual Institutional Profile submitted to the Commission. 

3.      Institutions must ensure that their distance and correspondence education courses and programs comply with the Principles of Accreditation.  This applies to all educational programs and services, wherever located or however delivered.   

Austin Community College District is committed to the standards and principles established in the Southern Association of Colleges and Schoolsí (SACS) Distance and Correspondence Education Ė Policy Statement and Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate programs, and adopts the following SACS policies as minimum standards for distance learning courses and programs at ACC.  

Guidelines in the Application of the Principles of Accreditation

To Distance and Correspondence Education 

With the underlying concept that the Principles of Accreditation apply to all programs of the institution, regardless of mode of delivery, institutions should consider the following guideline statements in implementing and reporting on distance and correspondence education programs.  


If an institution offers significant distance and correspondence education, it should be reflected in the institutionís mission. 

Curriculum and Instruction  

      The faculty assumes responsibility for and exercises oversight of distance education and correspondence education, ensuring both the rigor of programs and the quality of instruction.

      The technology used is appropriate to the nature and objectives of the programs and courses and expectations concerning the use of such technology are clearly communicated to students.

      Distance education and correspondence education policies are clear concerning ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the use of revenue derived from the creation and production of software, telecourses, or other media products.

      Academic support services are appropriate and specifically related to distance education and correspondence education.

      Program length is appropriate for each of the institutionís educational programs, including those offered through distance education and correspondence education.

      For all degree programs offered through distance or correspondence education, the programs embody a coherent course of study that is compatible with the institutionís mission and is based upon fields of study appropriate to higher education. 

      For all courses offered through distance or correspondence education, the institution employs sound and acceptable practices for determining the amount and level of credit awarded and justifies the use of a unit other than semester credit hours by explaining it equivalency. 

      An institution entering into consortial arrangements or contractual agreements for the delivery of courses/programs or services offered by distance or correspondence education is an active participant in ensuring the effectiveness and quality of the courses/programs offered by all of the participants.   


      An institution offering distance or correspondence learning courses/programs ensures that there is a sufficient number of faculty qualified to develop, design, and teach the courses/programs.

      The institution has clear criteria for the evaluation of faculty teaching distance education courses and programs.

      Faculty who teach in distance and correspondence education programs and courses receive appropriate training.   

Institutional Effectiveness   

      Comparability of distance and correspondence education programs to campus-based programs and courses is ensured by the evaluation of educational effectiveness, including assessments of student learning outcomes, student retention, and student satisfaction. 

      The institution regularly assesses the effectiveness of its provision of library/learning resources and student support services for distance or correspondence education students.  

Library and Learning Resources  

      Students have access to and can effectively use appropriate library resources.

      Access is provided to laboratories, facilities, and equipment appropriate to the courses or programs. 

Student Services  

      Students have adequate access to the range of services appropriate to support the programs offered through distance and correspondence education.

      Students in distance and correspondence programs have an adequate procedure for resolving their complaints and the institution follows its policies and procedures.

      Advertising, recruiting, and admissions information adequately and accurately represent the programs, requirements, and services available to students.  Documented procedures assure that security of personal information is protected in the conduct of assessments and evaluations and in the dissemination of results.

      Students enrolled in distance education courses are able to use the technology employed, have the equipment necessary to succeed, and are provided assistance in using the technology employed.

Facilities and Finances  

      Appropriate equipment and technical expertise required for distance education and correspondence education are available.

      The institution, in making distance and correspondence education courses/programs a part of its mission, provides adequate funding for faculty, staff, services, and technological infrastructure to support the methodology.  


*Adopted: Commission on Colleges, June 1997

 Updated in accord with the revised Principles, December 2006

 Endorsed:  Executive Council, SACS Commission on Colleges, June 2009

 Adopted:  SACSCOC Board of Trustees:  June 2010 


Departments will collaboratively establish guidelines for Distance Education courses which meet the minimum standards established in SACS Distance Education and Correspondence Education - Policy Statement while respecting the academic freedom of individual faculty members.  Departments may also develop and implement additional Departmental Best Practices for Distance Learning Courses. 

Departmental guidelines for distance education courses apply to both courses being developed for delivery via Distance Learning and already existing DL courses.   

      Departments will review courses being developed for offering via Distance Learning to ensure courses are developed and delivered in accordance with departmental guidelines. 

      Existing DL courses will be reviewed as part of the normal Program Review and Faculty Evaluation processes to ensure they are delivered in accordance with departmental guidelines.   

College will provide appropriate Faculty Professional Development as well as appropriate support to both faculty and students to allow effective implementation of departmental guidelines.   College DL support services will adhere to the minimum expectations for DL established by SACSí Distance Education and Correspondence Education - Policy Statement.  

The DL Committee is responsible for researching, establishing, maintaining and publishing recommended DL Best Practices.  Departments may adopt these recommended best practices, or establish program specific guidelines.  In the implementation process, academic freedom will be fully protected.

President/CEO:   Stephen B. Kinslow Date:   04/19/11