UC defines an online course as one in which more than half of the course's primary instruction is conducted through Internet-based methods with time and/or distance separating the teacher and student. Courses that meet these criteria must comply with the University's policy for online courses.
New online course approval
In addition to meeting requirements for new course submissions and A-G subject criteria, institutions submitting online courses they created themselves must:
- Conduct a iNACOL course standards self-assessment
You will be prompted to complete an "Online Course Self-Assessment" on the course submission form to assess the course using the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses.
Online courses must meet the 15 “power-standards” and at least 27 of the remaining standards.
- Renew online courses every three years
Online courses are approved for a three-year term to ensure their quality and required components are maintained. Every three years, online courses must complete the two-step approval process.
Online courses in performing arts F
As of the 2017-18 submission period, UC will accept an online visual and performing arts courses with no restrictions tied to the proportion of online delivery vs. face-to-face interaction between student and teacher.
UC online learning guidelines and policy
Any institution that offers an online course must certify in the A-G CMP that their institution is in compliance with UC's online learning guidelines and policy.
This certification is part of the course submission process when an online course is added to an A-G course list for the first time and must be completed in subsequent years as part of the demographic information submission required for each annual A-G course submission period. It is important that an appropriate representative from the school, district or program complete this certification.
The University's requirements for institutions offering online courses are as follows:
- The school, district or program has read and understood the Requirements for Online Courses and Program to Receive "a-g" Approval [PDF].
- All students in the school, district or program have equal access to all courses for which they are qualified, regardless of socioeconomic status, disabilities or other factors.
- The school, district or program provides qualified teachers who are content experts and are capable of supporting students’ learning throughout the online courses.
- Teachers of online courses from the school, district or program receive adequate professional development to effectively support students in their online learning.
- Teachers of online courses from the school, district or program are assigned a number of students that allows for the interaction necessary for positive learning outcomes.
- The technology infrastructure at the school, district or program is adequate for effective learning, and students have access to both the necessary hardware and software required to be successful in an online course.
- Students in the school, district or program who enroll in an online course can expect to receive appropriate advising to ensure that they have the necessary background and technology to succeed.
- Students in the school, district or program have local access to qualified professionals (teachers, mentors, counselors, etc.) or paraprofessionals who can support their online course participation.
- The school, district or program has processes in place to ensure that the person submitting material for assessment is actually the student enrolled in the online course.
- The school, district or program is willing to provide UC with performance data on the students in all online courses.
- Online courses must provide opportunities for substantial interactions between students and the teacher, and between students and other students. Learning is not merely the acquisition of facts. It is a dynamic, social activity that requires inquiry, dialogue, exploration, and engagement with other learners and feedback from teachers.
In addition, the University recommends that schools, districts and programs offering online courses implement practices and policies found in the California Department of Education (AB 294) guidelines and the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Programs.
Adopting online courses
Schools offering an online course created by a program or online course publisher that maintains an A-G reference list must add the course to their school' A-G course list using the "Adopt a program course" or "Adopt an online publisher course" feature on the A-G Course Management Portal.
Program and online publisher reference lists can be found on the A-G Course List website.
Online courses in science D
An online laboratory science course may earn A-G approval if at least 20 percent of class time will include teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities that are directly related to, and support, the other class work, and that involve inquiry, observation, analysis, and write-up of investigations consistent with the practices of the scientific field. Teacher supervision may be synchronous or asynchronous, depending on whether the learning environment is classroom-based, fully online, or a hybrid.
Online course publishers offering online laboratory science courses without a required, teacher-supervised, hands-on lab component can submit their courses for A-G review and UC will provisionally approve the online laboratory science courses. Final A-G approval will be awarded per institution based on the teacher-supervised, hands-on laboratory activities the individual high school, district or program developed to supplement the online curriculum purchased or licensed from the publisher. Institutions will be prompted to include descriptions of the required labs when submitting their new course submission to adopt the online course publisher's laboratory science course onto their A-G course list.
iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has established quality standards for online courses, teaching and programs. Specifically within the area of online curriculum, iNACOL has developed 52 quality standards for content, instructional design, student assessment, technology, and course evaluation and support, known collectively as the National Standards for Quality Online Courses.
Institutions must self-assess online courses against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses when submitting the course for A-G review.
Standards highlighted in bold below are the 15 “power standards” that UC faculty have identified as essential parts of online learning. All online courses must satisfy the 15 “power standards” and fulfill at least 27 of the remaining standards. Online courses will be re-reviewed every three years to verify their compliance with these standards.
The course provides online learners with multiple ways of engaging with learning experiences that promote their mastery of content and are aligned with state or national content standards.
- The goals and objectives clearly state what the participants will know or be able to do at the end of the course. The goals and objectives are measurable in multiple ways.
- The course content and assignments are aligned with the state’s content standards, common core curriculum or other accepted content standards set for Advanced Placement courses, technology, computer science or other courses whose content is not included in the state standards.
- The course content and assignments are of sufficient rigor, depth and breadth to teach the standards being addressed.
- Information literacy and communication skills are incorporated and taught as an integral part of the curriculum.
- Multiple learning resources and materials to increase student success are available to students before the course begins.
- A clear, complete course overview and syllabus are included in the course.
- Course requirements are consistent with course goals, are representative of the scope of the course and are clearly stated.
- Information is provided to students, parents and mentors on how to communicate with the online instructor and course provider.
- The course reflects multi-cultural education and the content is accurate, current and free of bias or advertising.
- Expectations for academic integrity, use of copyrighted materials, plagiarism and netiquette (Internet etiquette) regarding lesson activities, discussions and e-mail communications are clearly stated.
- Privacy policies are clearly stated.
- Online instructor resources and notes are included.
- Assessment and assignment answers and explanations are included.
The course uses learning activities that engage students in active learning; provides students with multiple learning paths to master; the content is based on student needs; and provides ample opportunities for interaction and communication — student to student, student to instructor and instructor to student.
- Course design reflects a clear understanding of all students’ needs and incorporates varied ways to learn and master the curriculum.
- The course is organized by units and lessons that fall into a logical sequence. Each unit and lesson includes an overview describing objectives, activities, assignments, assessments and resources to provide multiple learning opportunities for students to master the content.
- The course instruction includes activities that engage students in active learning.
- The course and course instructor provide students with multiple learning paths, based on student needs that engage students in a variety of ways.
- The course provides opportunities for students to engage in higher-order thinking, critical reasoning activities and thinking in increasingly complex ways.
- The course provides options for the instructor to adapt learning activities to accommodate students’ needs.
- Readability levels, written language assignments and mathematical requirements are appropriate for the course content and grade-level expectations.
- The course design provides opportunities for appropriate instructor-student interaction, including opportunities for timely and frequent feedback about student progress.
- The course design includes explicit communication/activities (both before and during the first week of the course) that confirm whether students are engaged and are progressing through the course. The instructor will follow program guidelines to address non-responsive students.
- The course provides opportunities for appropriate instructor-student and student-student interaction to foster mastery and application of the material.
- Students have access to resources that enrich the course content.
The course uses multiple strategies and activities to assess student readiness for and progress in course content and provides students with feedback on their progress.
- Student evaluation strategies are consistent with course goals and objectives are representative of the scope of the course and are clearly stated.
- The course structure includes adequate and appropriate methods and procedures to assess students’ mastery of content.
- Ongoing, varied, and frequent assessments are conducted throughout the course to inform instruction.
- Assessment strategies and tools make the student continuously aware of his/her progress in class and mastery of the content.
- Assessment materials provide the instructor with the flexibility to assess students in a variety of ways.
- Grading rubrics are provided to the instructor and may be shared with students.
- The grading policy and practices are easy to understand.
The course takes full advantage of a variety of technology tools, has a user-friendly interface and meets accessibility standards for interoperability and access for learners with special needs.
- The course architecture permits the online instructor to add content, activities and assessments to extend learning opportunities.
- The course accommodates multiple school calendars; e.g., block, 4X4 and traditional schedules.
- Clear and consistent navigation is present throughout the course.
- Rich media are provided in multiple formats for ease of use and access in order to address diverse student needs.
- All technology requirements (including hardware, browser, software, etc.) are specified.
- Prerequisite skills in the use of technology are identified.
- The course uses content-specific tools and software appropriately.
- The course is designed to meet internationally recognized interoperability standards.
- Copyright and licensing status, including permission to share where applicable, is clearly stated and easily found.
- Course materials and activities are designed to provide appropriate access to all students. The course, developed with universal design principles in mind, conforms to the U.S. Section 504 and Section 508 provisions for electronic and information technology as well as the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0).
- Student information remains confidential, as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Course evaluation and support
The course is evaluated regularly for effectiveness, using a variety of assessment strategies, and the findings are used as a basis for improvement. The course is kept up to date, both in content and in the application of new research on course design and technologies. Online instructors and their students are prepared to teach and learn in an online environment and are provided support during the course.
- The course provider uses multiple ways of assessing course effectiveness.
- The course is evaluated using a continuous improvement cycle for effectiveness and the findings used as a basis for improvement.
- The course is updated periodically and re-reviewed every three years to ensure that the content is current.
- Course instructors, whether face-to- face or virtual, are certificated and “highly qualified.” The online course teacher possesses a teaching credential from a state-licensing agency and is “highly qualified” as defined under ESEA.
- Professional development about the online course delivery system is offered by the provider to assure effective use of the courseware and various instructional media available.
- The course provider offers technical support and course management assistance to students, the course instructor and the school coordinator.
- Course instructors, whether face-to- face or virtual, have been provided professional development in the behavioral, social, and when necessary, emotional aspects of the learning environment.
- Course instructors, whether face-to- face or virtual, receive instructor professional development, which includes the support and use of a variety of communication modes to stimulate student engagement online.
- The provider assures that course instructors, whether face-to-face or virtual, are provided support, as needed, to ensure their effectiveness and success in meeting the needs of online students.
- Students are offered an orientation for taking an online course before starting the coursework.