Proposing a Distance Learning Course

If you are interested in developing a distance learning course, contact the Center for Professional Education (CPE) Course Management and Registration Coordinator by calling 800-482-3848 or 206-281-2374, or by emailing If approved by the CPE Director, you will be asked to develop a draft of the proposed course using the Distance Learning Course Proposal form, which will be emailed to you by the Course Management and Registration Coordinator. 

If you are not a current CPE Instructor, you will also need to apply to become an instructor

Approved Distance Learning Courses 

Once a distance learning course is approved, the instructor completes production of all course materials and submits them to the Course Management and Registration Coordinator for final approval, modification, and editing for quality, content, and clarity. 

Because it can take several months to fully develop a distance learning course, it is important for instructors to allow sufficient time from first proposing the course to the date the course will first be available to students. Students are not able to start the course until it has been finalized and made ready for registration by SPU.

The titles/publishers of books and other learning materials that students will purchase as resources for your course should be submitted to Course Management and Registration Coordinator two months prior to the first day of course registration. 

Course Calendar 

Distance learning courses are offered in a yearlong academic term. Distance learning courses work on an open-enrollment basis, so students may register for these courses at any time during the term. 

Students typically have 365 days from their start date to complete their course; however, there is flexibility in course duration (e.g., some courses run 15 weeks, 6 months, etc.).  The date the grade is posted to a transcript will determine which academic year a student’s course will appear on their transcript. 

Academic Standards for 5000-level Distance Learning Credit Courses

You may use any or all of the following Instructional Delivery Methods: 

  • Reading/Research 
  • Writing 
  • Asynchronous audio or video 
  • Synchronous audio or video 
  • Internet discussion board 
  • Email correspondence  
  • Phone calls, individual or teleconference 
  • Practicum/experiential activities 

Your students are expected to spend approximately 20–25 hours per credit in learning activities. Estimate the number of hours for each delivery method. Total the instructional hours and divide by 20 to determine the number of credits you will be offering for the course. 

Students may not earn more than 3 credits in one week. If your course is more than 3 credits, you must structure the course to ensure that students cannot complete it in less than one week. 

All credit courses must include student products that you can evaluate. These products must reflect students' learning and be of substantive nature for the amount of credit earned. The student products must provide an opportunity for individualized and unique synthesis and/or application of the ideas and information learned in the course. 

Cheating cannot be tolerated. In a distance learning course, it is not generally possible to observe whether or not students are completing their own work. Thus, safeguards against cheating, such as preventing the copying of other students' work or somehow "short-circuiting" course requirements, must be implemented when constructing a course. 

Opportunity for interaction between you and your student must be provided. For most yearlong distance learning courses, which are self-paced and have little or no opportunity for face-to-face or limited opportunity for online interaction, you should implement the following two methods: 

  • Make yourself available for phone calls or email messages from students. In your study guide, include your phone number(s), email address, and the times you are available for contact. 
  • If students request feedback on assignments, let them know that they must supply you with a stamped, self-addressed envelope. You can also return comments by email. This feedback serves as a critical link between you and your students. A recommended number of feedback/evaluation opportunities is one per credit. 

The letter-grade-only system is preferred and highly recommended for distance learning courses. This helps maintain the academic credibility of these courses. If a pass/no credit grading option is provided, then all policies related to academic grading must be met. 

Permissions to Use Course Content

In some situations, the instructor will opt to hold the course's copyright, and SPU will pay no development fees for the course. Expectations for use of the course and its materials will be delineated in the Distance Learning Course Development and Instruction Agreement. 

Duties of a Yearlong Distance Learning Course Instructor

As an instructor, your duties shall include the following: 

  • Evaluate all student coursework thoroughly and fairly and within three weeks of receipt. 
  • Handle administrative aspects of the course, including but not exclusive of, completing the grade report for all enrolled students once coursework is turned in, and work with CPE in responding to requests for extensions. 
  • Respond to inquiries by students regarding the course (content, assignments, etc.). 
  • Maintain records on students' work, completion, and evaluation. At the University's discretion, these records are to be made available for review by appropriate SPU personnel. 
  • Support and adhere to the course requirements and activities as outlined in the course study guide/syllabus and approved by SPU. You shall use professional judgment to work with individual students, modifying particular assignments to meet students' unique situations.  However, the amount, breadth, and depth of coursework, as designated in the course study guide/syllabus must still be maintained. 
  • Inform the CPE Course Management and Registration Coordinator in the event that you, the instructor, will be absent from your permanent mailing address for a period greater than 20 days and, thus, unable to perform the duties of this agreement in a timely manner. 
  • Provide SPU with documentation of permission to use previously copyrighted materials prior to the duplication of the syllabus or course materials, citing in the course materials all borrowed works. 

Extension Policy for Yearlong Distance Learning Courses

Extensions are available to students unable to complete distance learning coursework within the allotted time because of illness or other emergency beyond the control of the student. Extensions are granted for an additional 90 days. Students must send a request for an extension in writing to before their final course deadline.  The Course Management and Registration Coordinator will then partner with you, the instructor, to determine if the request should be approved or denied. 

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