UMMC Policy and Procedure Manual E-AA-GEN-GEN-PO-00034
Subject: Distance Education
Revised Date: 4/1/2021 Effective Date: 2/19/2016
Prepared By:
Dorothy R. Singleton
Approved By:
Ralph H. Didlake

Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

DOCUMENT TYPE: Policy

REVIEW PERIOD: 2 years

POLICY NAME: Distance Education (DE)

PURPOSE: To provide guidance for administration, faculty, and students who are involved with distance education courses and programs at UMMC.

POLICY: The University of Mississippi Medical Center offers educational programs via traditional and non-traditional instructional methods. One non-traditional instructional method is distance education. 

Guiding principles for this policy include:

• The faculty has a collective responsibility to ensure the academic quality and integrity of courses and degree programs.

• DE courses and programs will be consistent with the academic mission of the University.

• All courses will include the opportunity for adequate interactions between faculty and students and should usually include the opportunity for interactions among students.

• Educational outcomes will be equivalent for courses offered via various modes. Students should have adequate access to learning resources and student support services.

• UMMC will provide appropriate training and support services for faculty who teach distance education courses.

• All DE offerings must adhere to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) distance learning criteria, the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) (2011) Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education, and, where applicable, to the appropriate accreditation association guidelines for the individual learning criteria, and, where applicable, to the disciplines.

Distance Education (DE)

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, DVD’s, and CD-ROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program. A course is defined as asynchronous if a majority of the information is delivered by the instructor and used by the student at a different time. In an asynchronous course, some instruction may be delivered synchronously such as specific lectures by the instructor or presentations by the students.

·   Definition of distance education program: The majority of the courses required to complete the program are considered distance education courses.  Distance education programs are labeled blended (51-99%) or fully online (100%) depending on the percentage of courses designated as distance education.

·   Definition of distance education course: The majority of instruction (interaction between students   and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place.

Courses that are offered on-campus and that involve technology-based instruction are generally not considered to be DE courses, if such courses also involve a majority traditional classroom component. In this case the student and instructor are not located at different sites and it is presumed that the student has full access to the pertinent campus-based technology. However, the criterion of mutual location is not absolute. An internet-based asynchronous course, delivered by a faculty member, may be taken by students who are located either on-campus or off-campus and considered a DE course. 

Goals of Distance Education Programs Offered at the University of Mississippi Medical Center

DE programs are intended to provide increased access to higher education for individuals who are not able to access traditional campus-based study. DE programs minimize or alter the barriers of time, distance, physical disability, and personal and professional responsibilities that may otherwise hinder students’ access to traditional study. 

In agreement with IHL Policy, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), our governing board, it is the goal of UMMC that there be no difference in the academic quality and student learning standards and outcomes between courses and programs delivered through DE technologies and those taught in a traditional manner. To this end, academic standards and outcomes for DE courses and programs shall be comparable to those in the same course delivered on campus. In collaboration with each school, distance education delivery and policies are coordinated by the Office of eCampus. Each school is administratively responsible for their distance education programs.

Evaluation and assessment issues:

To ensure the achievement of comparable learning outcomes, academic programs that are delivered online or via technology-based modes must be subjected to the same type of assessment procedures as traditional programs. As such, all distance education courses and instructors shall participate in the student-teacher evaluation process to assess student satisfaction with the learning experience. In addition, each online program is responsible for Institutional Effectiveness reporting on an annual basis. Those programs offering dual modes of content delivery will provide evidence in the program’s annual IEP (Institutional Effectiveness Plan) that comparable learning outcomes are achieved. Narrative descriptions and qualitative data will be provided for each mode of instruction. Programs will illustrate how the course/program framework meets program objectives for on-line and face-to-face learners. Educational and administrative support units will also assess the effective provision of resources and support services for distance learners during the annual IEP reporting process.

Calendar issues, dropping and withdrawing from a course, and final exam schedule:

All online courses at UMMC will follow the same academic calendar as the traditional programs. Deadlines such as the add/drop dates and program withdrawals are the same as the traditional programs. Each course is required to provide a course syllabus that includes exam schedules and other course deadlines.

Academic integrity of DE courses:

Maintaining the academic integrity of DE courses is a major concern. To demonstrate that the student who registers for a course is the same student who participates in and completes the course/program, access to all course materials and testing for each student is controlled through the student’s secure institutional login and password. For courses that involve graded tests as a major component in determining a student’s grade the educational program may require examinations to be taken in a proctored setting. Additionally, some programs may offer testing through testing software that requires a unique password for access to the examination.

All UMMC policies regarding academic integrity fully apply to DE courses. The privacy of all distance education students is protected following FERPA guidelines.

Transcripts and notation for DE courses:

Courses taken online in an asynchronous or synchronous manner have no special notation on transcripts.

Tuition and Fees:

The Office of eCampus, in collaboration with the appropriate dean, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, recommend tuition and fee rates, which may need approval by the IHL Board. Tuition for distance education programs is equal to in-state tuition; however, online students are assessed a distance education fee each semester. While no fee exists for proctored testing at UMMC, students in some distance education programs may be asked to pay a fee if using an alternate testing site. All tuition and fees are posted on the UMMC student accounting and financial aid websites.

Full Time Equivalency (FTE) credits:

According to IHL Policy, all FTE student credits for DE courses shall reside with the institution where students are enrolled and credit hours generated in DE courses/programs may be included in the institution’s instruction budget base.

Accreditation:

Reporting any changes in DE course/program offerings to SACSCOC and the IHL is the duty of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. Each school is responsible for reporting program changes related to distance learning to the Office of the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The faculty assumes primary responsibility for ensuring rigor and quality of the instruction.

Faculty training in the development of DE delivery technologies:

The Office of eCampus in collaboration with each school will provide all training for course software provided by the institution. Before a faculty member can offer an online course he or she must complete any instructional training required by the school in which the course is provided.

Ownership of educational materials:

When faculty create technology-based instructional materials, the medical center’s copyright policy applies. 

Infrastructure, Learning Resources and Support Services for Students and Faculty:

The Office of eCampus and Division of Information Systems will be responsible for providing adequate internet access support for all students.

The Office of eCampus will support the Learning Management System (LMS) and other course management programs. All training sessions for instructional faculty will be administered through the Office of eCampus in collaboration with each school.

Rowland Medical Library provides library resources and services to all faculty, staff, and students. The library website provides links to online databases, textbooks, and electronic journals. Forms and tutorials are available on the website to aid in instruction. In addition, the library supports a real-time chat system and monitored email to assist both on-line and resident students.

Online students have access to all of the same student services as our traditional students, such as; academic advising, online complaint process, financial aid services, admissions, and registration assistance.

A 24/7 help service for LMS and network issues is provided to all faculty and students.

Admissions, Registration, and State Authorization:

Before a non-resident online student may be admitted into any online program the program director/dean must contact the Office of eCampus to assure that UMMC has state authorization to provide instruction in the state of residence of the student. The Office of eCampus is responsible for maintaining all documentation and correspondence with each state authorization regulator. Additionally, all programs/eCampus are required to notify in writing all non-resident students in an online course or program that customarily leads to professional licensure, or which a student could reasonably believe leads to such licensure, whether or not the course or program meets requirements for licensure in the state where the student resides. If a determination cannot be made through contact with relevant licensing entities whether the course or program meets licensure requirements in the student’s state of residence, the student will be informed in writing and provided the contact information for the appropriate state licensing board(s).

SCOPE: All UMMC distance education programs.

PROCEDURES:

Course and program approval process:

Before any new course or program that involves a DE delivery mode is offered by UMMC, a request for such a new course/program must originate and be approved by an academic department, any appropriate school committees, and dean of the school. A new module creation must be submitted to the Potential Academic Change (PAC) Committee and an approval form must be submitted to the Student Information System team and indicate the mode of delivery for all courses. 

The evaluation criteria considered by PAC include:

• an assessment of student need for the program,

• a description of the means to be used to assess the effectiveness of the program, a description of the means to ensure adequate interactions between the faculty and students,

• a description of the delivery system to be used for technology–based instruction (e.g., compressed video, internet, public broadcasting, etc.), including any arrangements the institution must make with other academic institutions to deliver the instruction, and

• a description of the arrangements made to provide learning resources and services (e.g., library and computer resources, data bases, etc.) of an appropriate breadth and quality to students enrolled in off-campus and technology-based instruction, including any arrangements the institution must make with other institutions to deliver and provide adequate learning resources/support.

Final approval of a new online program is provided by the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs before submission to IHL.

REFERENCES:

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges. Resource Manual for the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement. Current edition. Section 1. The Principle of Integrity.

Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. Academic Guidelines. Current edition
http://www.mississippi.edu/oasa/downloads/academic_and_administrative_guidelines.pdf

Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. Policies and Bylaws. Current edition. Section 500: Academic Affairs. http://www.mississippi.edu/board/downloads/policiesandbylaws.pdf

University of Mississippi Medical Center Rowland Medical Library Copyright Portal http://umc.libguides.com/c.php?g=555224

The University of Mississippi Medical Center Faculty and Staff Handbook. Jackson (MS): Current edition. https://umc.edu/common/files/institutional%20files/facultystaffhandbook.pdf