Distance education or distance learning, commonly known as online learning, is a field of education that focuses on pedagogy, technology, and instructional system designs that aim to deliver education to students who are not physically "on site." SACSCOC defines distance education in alignment with the Department of Education, and also comments on the required comparability of distance education to non-distance education.

Definition of Distance Education (SACSCOC Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement 2018): For the purposes of the Commission on College’s 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, DVD’s, and CD-ROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program.

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

In other words, distance learning is the process of creating an educational experience of equal qualitative value for the learner to best suit their needs outside the classroom. SACSCOC requires approval for an institution to offer more than 50% of a program online. To match that policy, any course that is more than 50% online is deemed an online course and must match the student learning outcomes of a non-online course, if such a course exists.

Provided below is the policy which is to guide all distance education courses offered by Catawba College. It is understood that "distance education" means any academic course in which technologically enhanced learning facets are used to supplant rather than supplement traditional instructional contact. Therefore, the words “distance education” and “online” are synonymous in our policy unless otherwise noted.

Faculty Responsibilities

1. Faculty wishing to teach online courses must complete a training course on teaching including online pedagogy and the use of our current learning management system. Faculty are required to stay current with updates to the learning management system.

2. All online courses must be approved by the Curriculum Committee to determine the appropriateness of the course for an online format. Proposals for online course offerings will follow the same procedures as proposals for other courses with the added requirements necessary to ensure the integrity and equality to any same non-online course. The Curriculum Committee will pay particular attention to the principles that the proposed online course:

a. must require approximately the same number of instructional hours as are normally required in a traditional course carrying the same number of credit hours as the online course;

b. must provide for regular and substantive interaction between students and instructor – such interactivity should be at the heart of the course; and

c. that the online course syllabus includes all required components as stated in the Handbook. In addition, the syllabus must include the following:

i. the technical requirements of the course,

ii. student responsibilities in participating in the course,

iii. late submission policy,

iv. alternative means of submitting course work if the College internet connection fails or the consequences if a student’s access to the internet is interrupted due to no issue on the College’s part,

v. faculty response to emails.

3. The syllabus for an online course must establish a timeline of work that sets regular deadlines requiring students to submit work each week of the course (discussion, quiz, homework, etc.).

4. All syllabi will be submitted to the Provost’s Office as is required of all non-online courses, and a copy also submitted to Catawba Online. Faculty will use a common online course syllabus format if one is developed by the College in collaboration with the instructional designer and faculty to enhance student success.

5. Faculty teaching online courses must require students to acknowledge receipt and understanding of specific policies and requirements of the course itself.

6. Adjunct faculty teaching online courses must sign the online instructor responsibilities form which establishes minimum requirements for faculty teaching online, including course ready dates and engagement in the online classroom.

College Responsibilities

1. All online courses will be designated as such by means of standard indicators (i.e., in the "descriptions/restrictions" information always provided in all course schedules such as the “Location” in Banner).

2. The College will ensure the student who registers is the same student who participates in and completes the course. This will be done by a secure login and passcode and will be reviewed periodically as new technologies and practices are introduced to verify student identification.

3. The College will ensure that student privacy is protected. This is done in the same manner as student privacy is protected for non-distance courses as stated in the Catalog.

4. The College will ensure that students acknowledge receipt and understanding of all College policies related to online courses.

5. The College will offer online training courses at intervals sufficient to support faculty teaching online courses.

6. Regarding faculty teaching load:

a. No faculty will be required to teach an online course unless it is part of their contractual agreement with the College.

b. Enrollment will not exceed 20 per online course unless approved by the Provost.

c. Online courses will count the same as classroom courses for faculty teaching load.

7. The College will determine the duration of online courses in collaboration with the instructional designer and faculty.

8. The College will ensure that online instructors meet minimum requirements as set by the College and use best practices. In addition, the Instructional Support Committee will provide guidance in the best practices for online learning.

9. The College will provide an online learning orientation course which students must successfully complete prior to taking their first online course.

10. The College will ensure that online students have support from IT, the Library, and student services similar to that available to non-online students.

11. The College will facilitate the evaluation of online courses via: a. a course evaluation instrument targeted to online teaching. All students enrolled in online courses will have the opportunity to complete course evaluations. b. an online course experience survey targeted to the online learning environment. All students enrolled in online courses will have the opportunity to complete the online course experience survey.

12. The College will maintain appropriate grievance resolution processes as required under the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement.

13. A committee of faculty and staff, including IT personnel, will meet regularly to evaluate the College’s plan regarding the security of online testing, proof of student identity, and how to address alternative means of testing should the College internet connection fail. The College will update the plan at least every three years to reflect any new technologies and current practices in online education.

Student Responsibilities

1. Students must successfully complete an online learning orientation course prior to taking their first online course.

2. Students must accept an online contract in which they acknowledge the specific policies and requirements of an online course.

3. Students are responsible for ascertaining that the instructor has received their work in a timely fashion in online courses.

4. Students must participate and submit work at least weekly during an online course.

5. Students are responsible for ensuring they meet the technical requirements for participation in an online course (e.g., reliable internet, hardware, software, etc.).

6. Students must use their Catawba College email account for course communication.

7. Students are responsible to acquire all required course materials by the start date of the online course (e.g., textbooks, ancillary materials, required software, etc.).

8. Students should expect to work 40-50 hours per credit hour in an online course (e.g., readings and other assigned media, homework, quizzes and testing, discussions, etc.).

9. Students must comply with College policies on security and verification of identity for online courses.

Traditional Program Students

Catawba College is a teaching institution grounded in the philosophy that the engaged student-focused experience is a critical success factor for the institution. Thus, in accordance with the mission of the College, traditional program students’ needs are different than those of students in the Catawba Online program. With this understanding, during the normal academic year, which includes the fall and spring semesters, traditional program students may take one course (up to 4 credit hours) online per semester, including Catawba Online and Acadeum courses. Online courses offered through Catawba Online – which includes Acadeum courses – still require that traditional students petition ACPOL for permission to take these courses as a traditional student. If a traditional student wishes to take more than the one online course during a fall or spring semester, he/she must petition ACPOL.