Distance Education Policy

Approved by the President/Provost on 11/25/2019
Revised by the President/Provost on 12/18/2019
Review again 12/18/2024

Policy Contact

Policy Statement

The SUNY Oneonta Distance Education Policy provides the framework for the institution's distance education courses and programs, and by extension student learning in this modality.


The regulatory and educational standards for distance education have evolved and this policy is necessary to ensure that SUNY Oneonta practices meet these standards.

Applicability of the Policy

This policy applies to any SUNY Oneonta faculty member who teaches a distance education course.

Policy Elaboration

Each distance education course or program must be offered in a manner that is consistent with the standards established by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) as well as SUNY, state, and federal requirements, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The policies and procedures outlined here will apply regardless of the distance education mode.


  • Course Shell: A semester specific instance of a course section connected to SUNY Oneonta's student information system, to which the template shell can be copied.
  • Distance Education: Instruction between an instructor and students when they are separated by physical distance, and communication is accomplished by one or more technological media. Interaction between the instructor and students is regular and substantive, unlike in correspondence courses which the Federal Government views as “home study courses” subject to different financial aid rules than courses delivered in other modalities.
  • Face-to-Face Course: utilizes online modality in less than 30% of its instruction and class activities.
  • Fully Online Course (hereafter “Online”): An individual course in which all instruction and class activities are conducted online.
  • Hybrid Course: An individual course that utilizes both face-to-face and online modalities. Specifically, SUNY Oneonta defines “hybrid” as a course in which at least 30% but less than 100% of the contact hours are online.
  • Instructional Designer: one who provides technical and course design assistance to faculty in the process of course development.
  • Instructor presence: The ability of the instructor to create a sense of community among learners. Presence includes but is not limited to providing connections between course content, activities, and assignments, facilitating in-depth thinking through online discussions, providing detailed specific feedback, reaching out to struggling students and making connections to real world applications and providing clarification.
  • Instructor: one who delivers the course and can serve as, but is not necessarily, the SME.
  • Learning Management System (LMS): A software application used for the development and delivery of educational courses and programs.
  • Subject Matter Expert (SME): one who provides content for courses and is not necessarily the instructor.
  • Template Shell: A continuous environment within the LMS used to design and develop a course that is not connected to SUNY Oneonta’s student information system.

Copyright and Faculty Ownership of Intellectual Property

Faculty members are cautioned to comply with all copyright regulations in developing materials to be used in distance education courses.

SUNY Oneonta adheres to SUNY’s Copyright and Intellectual Property Policy specifying that faculty own the copyright for materials developed for distance education. However, SUNY institutions and faculty may enter into written agreements about such instructional materials in which both parties agree to vest copyright in either the institution or the faculty, and to provide related licenses.

Program Approval and Accreditation

All academic degree and credential programs must comply with the guidelines of SUNY and the New York State Education Department (SED) pertaining to program registration. For example, any program that enables students to complete 50% or more of the program via distance education, must secure approval to do so from SUNY and the State Education Department. Similarly, the institution must meet MSCHE’s standards for programs delivered using “alternative delivery methods.” Accredited programs that use distance education courses must also satisfy the specific standards of their accrediting bodies. The processes for seeking approval for new online programs and program revisions are built into the curriculum management system (e.g., Curriculog).

Distance Education Course Development and Approval

Instructors seeking to propose a new hybrid or online course, or convert a face-to-face course to hybrid or online delivery, should consult one of SUNY Oneonta’s instructional designers (ID) to evaluate the scope of the work and develop an action plan. The instructor must submit either a new course or course change proposal through the curriculum management system (e.g., Curriculog). The respective subcommittee—New Course or Existing Course Review—will consult with a SUNY Oneonta ID to determine appropriateness of the distance learning designation. Once the course has received the necessary campus approvals, the ID then gives the instructor access to a template course shell for preparing the course materials for online delivery. The instructor works further with the ID on the action plan for developing or converting the course based on the intended delivery date.

Online Readiness Review

Before delivery of a new or converted course, a review must be performed by the ID with the instructor or SME, using the Open SUNY Course Quality Rubric (OSCQR). Only after the ID and instructor or SME agree that the course is ready for online or hybrid delivery will the template shell be copied into a course shell for delivery to students.

Online Course Review Cycle

The review cycle for a distance education course is three years. This process will be guided by an ID and provides an opportunity for the instructor to use available data to revise and improve the course and explore new instructional techniques.

Certification to Teach Distance Education Courses

Faculty must be certified to teach distance education courses, including hybrid courses, before they can deliver them. In order to be certified, faculty must register for and successfully complete SUNY Oneonta's Online Learning Instruction Certification Program in advance of delivering courses according to established deadlines.

Significant changes to SUNY Oneonta’s Online Learning Instruction Certification Program will be reviewed by the institution's shared governance process. Significant changes may require re-certification of online instructors.

Scheduling and Enrollment

When submitting schedules for review by the Dean, departments must clearly indicate which courses will be delivered in online and hybrid modalities. Departments must also abide by the Academic Calendar.

Departments offering distance education courses must follow existing prerequisite restrictions and procedures for pre-enrollment and enrollment. Because online media vary in delivery and technical sophistication, and because students enrolled in distance education courses must often assume much greater independent responsibility, special restrictions such as technical skills, equipment, cohort requirements, and other expectations may be required as conditions of enrollment in a course or programs. These and all other course and program requirements, notably expectations for face-to-face or other onsite work (e.g., internships or other forms of experiential learning), must be kept current and must be clearly communicated to students.

Use of the Learning Management System

All faculty teaching distance education courses must use SUNY Oneonta’s LMS, and technical support will be provided for all distance education course developers and instructors.

Pending an Information Technology review of plausibility, third party tools that require, embed, collect or store private student data must be integrated into the LMS to protect student privacy rights. Third party tools that cannot be integrated into SUNY Oneonta’s LMS must not interface with student data in any capacity.

Credit Hours, Instruction and Engagement

Both online and hybrid courses must adhere to the U.S. Department of Education’s definition of a credit hour:

“an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than—

  1. One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
  2. An equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.

At Oneonta, one credit of coursework is equivalent to 750 minutes of class time and 1500 minutes of out of class student work.

Faculty Presence in Courses and Office Hours

Faculty presence is an integral component of quality instruction and a leading indicator of student satisfaction. Faculty must make clear to students in distance education courses the days and times that students can expect the instructor to be active or present in the course, as well as the method of holding those office hours. Faculty must also specify their expected response time to student queries in their syllabi.

Faculty teaching distance education courses must also publish in their syllabi the days and times of their online office hours, and meet the institution’s required number of office hours.

Technical Support

SUNY Oneonta is responsible for the technological delivery of distance education courses. This support is considered part of the usual and customary equipment and resources available to support all faculty in delivering their courses from the instructor’s assigned workspace.

Verification of Student Identity

Ensuring that a student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in, completes and receives academic credit for a course or program is a requirement of the United States Federal Higher Education Opportunity Act, Public Law 110-315. Faculty must follow the established procedures for verifying student identity in online and hybrid courses. Student privacy must be protected in the process, and students must receive information at registration about any additional costs associated with the verification procedures.

Student Services

Support for students taking distance education courses includes, but is not limited to, the following areas: academic advisement, accessibility resources, bookstore, career development, enrollment, registration, financial aid, library, technical help, and tutoring. Faculty are required to apprise students of available services. It is expected that personnel responsible for these services will make appropriate and reasonable efforts, within the limits of available staff and resources, to accommodate distance education students as is done for students in face-to-face courses.

Student Course Evaluations

Online and hybrid courses will be evaluated by students according to the same rules governing student evaluation of face-to-face courses, and the evaluations will be retained as specified in SUNY’s Records, Retention and Disposition of Official Records Policy


The effectiveness of SUNY Oneonta’s distance education courses and programs, including students’ achievement of defined learning outcomes, must be evaluated according to SUNY Oneonta’s assessment processes, and the results used to enhance attainment of institutional goals for student learning. Distance education courses are expected to produce the same learning outcomes as comparable face-to-face courses. These learning outcomes must be clearly specified in course syllabi and program literature.

Course Archives and Record-Keeping

Materials and records for distance education courses—including graded student assignments and exams, and final grades—are subject to SUNY’s Records, Retention and Disposition Policy for state-operated campuses. Distance education courses will be archived in electronic format for at least one year following their completion. Faculty can request access to these archived formats (for courses for which the faculty member is the instructor of record) at any time through the Information Technology Help Desk.

Policy Review

A comprehensive review of the Distance Education Policy will be conducted on a three-year cycle by Academic Affairs administration with key stakeholders in governance and across campus. An important component of the review process will be consideration of anticipated needs of students and faculty, including academic support services.

Effective Dates

  • Approved by the President/Provost on 11/25/2019
  • Revised by the President/Provost on 12/18/2019
  • Review again 12/18/2024
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