Online course policy for 2013-14

In May 2012, the University’s Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) approved revisions to the policy that determines the criteria and process by which online courses may be used to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements. This policy has been developed to uphold the BOARS Statement on K-12 Online Learning [PDF].

Policy highlights

iNACOL Quality Standards for Online Courses

The new online course policy takes advantage of the growing consensus around the elements that are necessary for a high-quality online course and builds on the work done by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) in developing their National Standards for Quality Online Courses.

All "a-g" online courses must be assessed against iNACOL's Standards for Quality Online Courses. Prior to submitting a new online course to UC for “a-g” review, an institution must either obtain certification by the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) or conduct a self-assessment of their course against iNACOL’s course standards.

Principal certification of online courses

Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, only UC-approved online courses can be used to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements. In other words, the principal of a high school can no longer certify non-UC-approved online courses to fulfill a subject requirement. Online courses that were completed and certified by a principal prior to the 2013-14 year are acceptable to fulfill the “a-g” subject requirements.

Online courses approved for three-year term

To ensure their quality and required components are maintained, all online courses are approved for a three-year term. Every three years, an online course must be resubmitted to CLRN or a self-assessment re-conducted by the institution against the iNACOL course standards before the course is resubmitted to UC for “a-g” approval. Institutions will be notified via the Online Update website when a course’s “a-g” approval will expire. High schools, districts and programs that purchase or license UC-approved online courses will not be required to re-add those courses to their “a-g” courses lists every three years.

Expectations of institutions offering online courses

UC recognizes that online courses and programs offer students unique learning opportunities, and also present distinct challenges related to quality and access. All institutions developing or offering online courses, including high schools, districts and programs that purchase or license curriculum from online course publishers, are expected to meet specific expectations to ensure a high-quality learning experience for all students.

Online course publisher vs. online school

Under the revised online course policy, UC draws distinctions between online course publishers and online schools. However, the two-step online course approval process is the same for both types of online educational programs.

Online course publishers develop their own curriculum and sell or license their online courses for delivery by a teacher within the local high school or district.

An online school is a diploma-granting institution that offers courses through Internet-based methods, with time and/or distance separating the teacher and learner. To establish and maintain an “a-g” course list, this type of institution must be accredited (or a candidate for accreditation) and demonstrate it operates according to the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Programs.

An institution or program that acts as both an online school and a course publisher will adhere to the criteria and processes for online schools.

Next steps

High schools, districts and programs

Teacher-created, non-commercial online courses

Home-grown, non-commercial online courses will be required to undergo the two-step online course review process beginning with the 2014-15 course submission cycle, but may have chosen to begin this process as early as the 2013-14 course list update cycle. UC is allowing a one-year grace period during which high schools, districts and programs can assess the quality of their teacher-created online courses and make adjustments as necessary.

During the 2013-14 course submission cycle, as part of the demographic information submission, all high schools, districts and programs will be asked to identify their "a-g" approved teacher-created, non-commercial courses offered in an online setting. The identified home-grown online courses will retain their UC course approval status through the 2013-14 year . Maintaining "a-g" course approval beyond the 2013-14 year is dependent on the high school, district or program either submitting their non-commercial online courses to CLRN for certification or conducting a self-assessment of those home-grown online courses against iNACOL’s Standards for Quality Online Courses. The high school, district or program must notify UC by May 31, 2014 of the completed assessment process for any previously approved courses (i.e., courses approved before, or during, the 2013-14 submission cycle when the former policy was in place).

On June 1, 2014, UC will remove all non-CLRN-certified and non-self-assessed online courses from a high school’s, district’s or program’s 2014-15 “a-g” course list. Online courses that are CLRN-certified or self-assessed by the institution after June 1, 2014 must be resubmitted to UC as a new course during the 2014-15 course submission cycle for “a-g” approval for the 2014-15 school year and beyond.

Purchased online courses

UC-approved online courses licensed or purchased from an online course publisher may remain on a school's, district's or program's “a-g” course list through the 2013-14 academic year. The new online course policy requires that all “a-g” online courses from an online course publisher be assessed against the iNACOL course standards. This process entails the online course to either obtain certification from the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) or for the online institution to conduct a self-assessment of the course content against the iNACOL course standards. It will be the responsibility of the online course publisher to undergo the appropriate assessment process prior to January 31, 2014. 

If an online publisher’s course becomes CLRN-certified or undergoes the appropriate self-assessment prior to January 31, the course will remain on schools', districts' or programs' 2014-15 “a-g” course lists. If a publisher's course does not earn CLRN-certification or complete the self-assessment prior to January 31, the course will be removed from all 2014-15 "a-g" course lists. During the 2014-15 submission cycle, the publisher can still submit the course again for "a-g" approval for the 2014-15 year. If "a-g" approval is later re-earned, these online courses can be added again as previously approved courses to a high school's, district's or program's "a-g" course list.