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Office of the Provost, Division of Academic Affairs, University of Maryland

Leadership Areas

Off-Campus and Online Programs

General Policies for Off-Campus Programs

Approval Process for an Existing Program To Be Taught In A New Off-Campus Location

(Signed by the President on May 3, 2000)

Since the program and its curriculum are already approved, the critical issues here are the assurance that program quality will be maintained and that adequate support services for students will be provided in the new location. For locations within Maryland, a brief proposal is required for MHEC approval that addresses these issues, as well as issues of mission, student demand, and financing. This proposal will be prepared by the unit concerned and submitted to the Provost's Office by the Dean with the approval of the College PCC committee. The Provost's Office will confirm that the academic and other requirements are in place, and will notify the Senate and the Senate PCC committee, and the Graduate Council and its PCC committee for a graduate program, that the new location for this program is being submitted to MHEC for final approval. Note that subsequent proposals for a site whose student support facilities have once been deemed appropriate may require less documentation in this respect. Requests to offer existing programs at an out-of-state location do not require MHEC approval. For such requests, the same approval process will apply, except for the MHEC notification step.

MHEC Approvals for Off-Campus Programs

The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) has two definitions for an off-campus program:

A program in which more than 1/3 of the required course work leading to a bachelor's degree or a certificate beyond the bachelor's level is offered by an institution at a location other than the principal location of the institution during any 12-month period; or 

Course work offered at a location other than the principal location of an institution that is advertised as leading to a degree or a certificate beyond the bachelor's level at that location, regardless of the portion of a program offered at that location.

Campuses offering programs off-campus must provide for adequate and appropriate library resources and for academic support services within reasonable distance of the instructional site. At least one-third of the classes offered in an off-campus program shall be taught by full-time faculty members of the parent institution. 

Off-campus program proposals may be submitted to MHEC at any time during the year. Staff review will proceed expeditiously (between 60 and 90 days). Campuses shall submit a proposal which contains the following information regarding need and demand for extending the program, the resource requirements necessary to offer the program, and the impact the program may have on similar programs which may exist in the region:

  • The title of the program and the degree or certificate to be awarded.
  • The resource requirements for the program and the source of funds to support the program for the first two years of program implementation.
  • A description of how the program meets a specific local, state, or national need for graduates.
  • Job opportunities that are available to persons who complete the program and evidence of market demand through supporting data including results of surveys which have recently been conducted.
  • Any similar program(s) offered within the same geographical region of the State. Where a similar program exists, describe the similarities or differences in the degree to be awarded, the area(s) of specialization, and the specific academic content of the program or course of study.
  • A description of the method of instructional delivery, including telecommunications instruction, on-site faculty, and the mix of full-time and adjunct instructors.
  • A description of the academic oversight, quality control, and student services that will be provided.

Along with MHEC approval, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires approval for new "additional Locations," where at least 50 of an educational program will be offered.

Closed Sites

A "closed site" is an off-campus location in which a program is delivered solely to the employees of a sponsoring organization. The Maryland Higher Education Commission requires a letter of notification to the Secretary of Higher Education. The letter must describe the program and indicate that students will have access to library resources and faculty resources "consistent with the scope and nature of the offerings." The program may be offered face to face or through distance education. Under this policy, the general public may not be recruited or admitted to the program at the closed-site location. Opening the program to the general public at the closed-site location will require a proposal for an off-campus location.

Offering Individual Courses Off-Campus

Although PCC proposals are not required for offering individual courses off-campus, the university must notify the Middle States Commission on Higher Education of any new site as an "Other Instructional Site" where one or more courses will be offered for credit.

General Policies for Online Programs

PCC proposals are required in order to offer an existing program through an online format. Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) regulation 13B.02.03.02B(8) defines a "distance education program" (what we would call an online program) as "a program for which all the required coursework for program completion may be completed by distance education courses." Offering a new online version of an existing program requires MHEC and Middle States Commission on Higher Education notification and approval by the University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor.

On May 4, 2000, President Mote approved principles and guidelines for online programs. Since that time, MHEC and USM began to require review of online program proposals using a set of guidelines entitled, "Principles of Good Practice for Distance Education." In 2018, MHEC replaced these guidelines with guidelines established by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commission (C-RAC). These guidelines are also used by the university's accrediting organization, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). The guidelines address the following issues:

  • the online program's consistency with the university's mission
  • faculty involvement in the design, teaching, and oversight of the program
  • the financial and technical capability of the unit to offer the online program
  • training, support, and continuing professional development of faculty
  • consistency with the goals and quality of the on-campus program
  • availability of the same kinds of support services offered to on-campus students, such as library materials, advising, counseling, disability support, and financial aid, as well as specific services for online students, such as technical and accessibility support
  • clear communication of information, such as technical needs, admissions criteria, financial aid resources, complaint procedures, and cost and payment policies

The University of Maryland is an approved NC-SARA institution, which means that our online programs are authorized to operate in all other NC-SARA states.

Relevant Policies

Use CIM to Propose a New Off-Campus or Online Program