Application of the Federal Definition of Distance Education to Both Fully Online and Hybrid Courses by Regional Accreditors

Spring
2015
Resolution Number: 
07.03
Contact: 
Category: 
Consultation with the Chancellor's Office
Status: 
Assigned

Whereas, The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, and Education §602.3 (34 CFR §602.3) includes the following definition of distance education:

Distance education means education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (4) of this definition to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. The technologies may include—

(1) The internet;

(2) One-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices;

(3) Audio conferencing; or

(4) Video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if the cassettes, DVDs, or CD-ROMs are used in a course in conjunction with any of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this definition.

Whereas, The definition of distance education in Title 5 §55204 states that “any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and students;”

Whereas, At the peer evaluation team training provided by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) on February 10, 2015, it was stated by representatives of the Commission that the United States Department of Education (USDE) definition of distance education as stated in Title 34 CFR §602.3 applies only to courses for which all instructional hours are delivered online, not blended or hybrid courses for which a portion of instructional hours are offered in person and another portion are offered online; and

Whereas, The Accrediting Committee for Community and Junior Colleges interpretation of the applicability of the USDE definition of distance education only to those courses for which all instructional hours are delivered in the distance education modality but not to blended or hybrid courses creates the potential for fraud by institutions not covered by the Title 5 §55204 definition of distance education, such as offering hybrid courses in which there is no instructor initiated regular and substantive interaction for the online portion of the courses;

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges work with the Chancellor’s Office to seek clarification from  the United States Department of Education  on whether or not 34 CFR §602.3 applies to all courses for which any portion of instructional hours are scheduled online.

MSC