Laws Pertaining to Distance Education and Accreditation

California Community College Curriculum - Title 5 (Approved 9/17/18)

§ 55200. Definition and Application

Distance education means instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by time and/or distance and interact through the assistance of technology. All distance education is subject to the general requirements of this chapter as well as the specific requirements of this article. In addition, instruction provided as distance education is subject to the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12100 et seq.) and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. § 794d).

§ 55202. Course Quality Standards

The same standards of course quality shall be applied to any portion of a class conducted through distance education as are applied to in-person classes, in regard to the course quality judgment made pursuant to the requirements of section 55002, and in regard to any local course quality determination or review process. Determinations and judgments about the quality of distance education under the course quality standards shall be made with the full involvement of faculty in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 2 (commencing with section 53200) of chapter 2.

§ 55204. Instructor Contact

In addition to the requirements of section 55002 and any locally established requirements applicable to all courses, district governing boards shall ensure that:

(a) Any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and students, and among students, either synchronously or asynchronously, through group or individual meetings, orientation and review sessions, supplemental seminar or study sessions, field trips, library workshops, telephone contact, voice mail, e-mail, or other activities. Regular effective contact is an academic and professional matter pursuant to sections 53200 et seq.

(b) Any portion of a course provided through distance education is conducted consistent with guidelines issued by the Chancellor pursuant to section 409 of the Procedures and Standing Orders of the Board of Governors.

§ 55206. Separate Course Approval

If any portion of the instruction in a new or existing course or course section is designed to be provided through distance education, an addendum to the official course outline of record shall be required. In addition to addressing how course outcomes will be achieved in a distance education mode, the addendum shall at a minimum specify how the portion of instruction delivered via distance education meets:

(a) Regular and effective contact between instructors and students and among students as referenced in title 5, section 55204(a), and

(b) Requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. § 12100 et seq.) and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, (29 U.S.C. § 749d)

The addendum shall be separately reviewed and approved according to the district's adopted curriculum approval procedures.

§ 55208. Faculty Selection and Workload

(a) Instructors of course sections delivered via distance education technology shall be selected by the same procedures used to determine all instructional assignments. Instructors shall possess the minimum qualifications for the discipline into which the course's subject matter most appropriately falls, in accordance with article 2 (commencing with section 53410) of subchapter 4 of chapter 4, and with the list of discipline definitions and requirements adopted by the Board of Governors to implement that article, as such list may be amended from time to time.

(b) Instructors of distance education shall be prepared to teach in a distance education delivery method consistent with local district policies and negotiated agreements.

(bc) The number of students assigned to any one course section offered by distance education shall be determined by and be consistent with other district procedures related to faculty assignment. Procedures for determining the number of students assigned to a course section offered in whole or in part by distance education may include a review by the curriculum committee established pursuant to section 55002(a)(1).

(cd) Nothing in this section shall be construed to impinge upon or detract from any negotiations or negotiated agreements between exclusive representatives and district governing boards.
Note: Authority cited: Sections 66700 and 70901, Education Code. Reference: Sections 70901 and 70902, Education Code. 

§ 55210. Ongoing Responsibility of Districts

If a district offers one or more courses or course sections in which instruction is provided through distance education for at least 51 percent of the hours of instruction in the course or course section, the district shall:

(a) maintain records and report data through the Chancellor's Office Management Information System on the number of students and faculty participating in new courses or sections of established courses offered through distance education;

(b) provide to the local governing board, no later than August 31st of each year, a report on all distance education activity;

(c) provide other information consistent with reporting guidelines developed by the Chancellor pursuant to Section 409 of the Procedures and Standing Orders of the Board of Governors.

Federal Regulation Code 34 (CFR) §602.3

Distance education means education that uses one or more of the technologies listed in paragraphs (1) through (4) 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) Audioconferencing; 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).

Correspondence education means: (1) Education provided through one or more courses by an institution under which the institution provides instructional materials, by mail or electronic transmission, including examinations on the materials, to students who are separated from the instructor. (2) Interaction between the instructor and the student is limited, is not regular and substantive, and is primarily initiated by the student. (3) Correspondence courses are typically self-paced. (4) Correspondence education is not distance education.

The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC)                                                 

Distance education is defined, for the purpose of accreditation review as a formal interaction which uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and which supports regular and substantive interaction between the students and instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. Distance education often incorporates technologies such as 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, DVDs, and CDROMs, in conjunction with any of the other technologies (ACCJC, 2017).                                                                                     

ACCJC Accreditation Requirements

The Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) determines the accredited status of an institution. Part of the evaluation process includes an evaluation of a college’s distance education program and courses. More than a third of the ACCJC’s Guide to Evaluating and Improving Institutions (May 2017) accreditation standards include requirements for distance education (Accreditation Reference Handbook, July 2016).

ACCJC Requirements for Online/Hybrid Instructors

Many of the distance education requirements are the responsibility of the institution and are beyond the responsibility of an individual instructor, but there are requirements that are instructor-specific:

  • Online/hybrid instructors are to maintain regular and effective contact in online/hybrid courses;
  • All instructors assess SLOs and discuss the results with colleagues to identify improvements to courses;
  • All classes follow the Course Outline of Record (COR). The means of instruction varies between online and face-to-face, but the Methods of Instruction, Outside Class Assignments and Methods of Evaluation are the same;
  • Federal ADA/508 Law requires that we serve all students. An instructor can help make students aware of the many services available to them online;
  • Distance education instructors are expected to follow good teaching practices, including those identified by our accrediting commission.

DE Class Size Caps – According to AFT         

Article 40 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Contract states, “[Distance Learning] DL class size shall be consistent with Article 12. DL class size shall not exceed 40. Class size limits shall only be raised with the prior approval of the assigned faculty member in consultation with the department/division chair and the appropriate vice president or designee. Beginning at the point a class reaches its enrollment limits, students may only be added with the permission of the course’s assigned faculty member.”

For any concerns about course enrollment, please contact your division or department chair.

American Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 508 Compliance

The Department of Justice (DOJ) published the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design in September 2010. These standards state that all electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities.

The ADA differs from Section 508 regulations, which are an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and apply to all information technology, including computer hardware, software and documentation.

The ADA standards apply to commercial and public entities that have “places of public accommodation” which includes the Internet Interactive Accessibility: