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Office of General Counsel Policies & Guidelines

Distance Education : 2:05:00:00

Policy/Guideline Area

Academic Policies

Applicable Divisions

TCATs, Community Colleges, System Office


Distance education is an established and effective method for extending educational opportunities. To provide the citizens of Tennessee with greater access to postsecondary education, the Board of Regents affirms the effectiveness of distance education, recommends the use and development of distance education technologies, and encourages institutions to take advantage of such opportunities in carrying out their individual missions.


  • Distance education occurs when there is a physical separation of the teacher and learner and when communication and instruction take place through, or are supported by, any technological means such as telephone, radio, television, computers, satellite delivery, interactive video, or any combination of present and future telecommunication technologies.


  1. Requirements and Standards
    1. Distance education offered by institutions governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents will meet the academic requirements and quality standards of the institution delivering the course.
  2. Applicability of Board Policies
    1. Unless otherwise provided, all Board, accrediting agency, and institutional policies, standards, and guidelines for on-campus instruction apply to distance education instruction.
    2. Applicable Board policies include, but are not limited to:
      1. Policy 2:01:01:00 Academic Program Approval
      2. Policy 2:03:00:00 Admissions
      3. Policy 2:03:01:01 Undergraduate Academic Retention Standards
      4. Policy 3:05:01:00 Regulations for Classifying Students In-State and Out-of-State for the Purposes of Paying College Fees and Tuition for Admission Purposes
      5. Policy 5:02:02:10 Faculty Rank and Promotion at Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology
      6. Policy 5:02:02:30 Guidelines for Faculty Promotion Recommendations at Tennessee Board of Regents Community Colleges
      7. Policy 4:01:03:00 Payment of Student Fees and Enrollment of Students
      8. Guideline A-020 Inter-institutional Relationships and Off-Campus Offerings
  3. Funding of Distance Education
    1. For the purpose of reporting and appropriations, no distinction shall be made between student credit hours generated through distance education and those generated through on-campus instruction.
    2. Each institution engaging in distance education should budget for the acquisition and maintenance of distance education hardware and courseware and shall maintain careful records of all operating costs.
  4. Administration of Distance Education
    1. Institutions should develop specialized policies and procedures relating to issues of distance education delivery and administration specified by this policy, Guideline A-070, accreditation criteria, and other institutional policies. TBR Guideline A-070 is intended to facilitate the implementation of this policy and covers issues to be considered during the planning and delivery of distance education programs.
    2. Institutions shall ensure compliance with all applicable copyright laws concerning the reproduction of printed materials and the use and transmission of films, filmstrips, videotapes, recordings, performances, or other protected works.


The following procedures supplement this policy. They cover Academic Standards as well as Program Planning and Implementation.

  1. Academic Standards
    1. In establishing policies and procedures, the following stipulations shall apply:
      1. Each distance education course offered by an institution must be consistent with the level, nature, and mission of that institution.
      2. When a course is offered through distance education, it will carry the same code, title, and credit as other sections of that course.
      3. Each distance education course must provide for interaction and timely feedback between students and faculty member(s) teaching the course.
      4. As appropriate, these interactions may be individual, group, or mixed.
      5. They may take place electronically, e.g., by telephone, by computer, or by interactive video.
      6. Each distance education course must include an assessment of that delivery mode in its procedures for monitoring and assessing student performance.
      7. Each student enrolled in a distance education course shall have access to all the academic support services, instructional equipment, and campus events and other non- academic activities, which the institution provides for other students.
      8. Support services may include but are not limited to academic advising, counseling, library and other learning resources, tutoring services, and financial aid.
  2. Program Planning and Implementation 
    1. Institutional policies and procedures must contain a written statement of the purpose and goals of the distance education program and describe the assessment methods used to evaluate the success of the program in carrying out those goals and objectives. The following issues must be addressed as institutions plan and implement the distance education program:
      1. Faculty, administrators, and other support personnel involved in the development and implementation of distance education must have clearly defined roles, responsibilities, and duties.
      2. Faculty involved in distance education must receive specialized training in the use of the medium.
      3. Institutions will determine teaching load equivalents and faculty compensation for distance education.
      4. The institution must make academic and administrative information available to distance education students.
      5. This information may include but is not limited to: exams, grading, student-faculty interaction, proctoring, the provision of support services, and registration and fee-payment procedures.
      6. Censorial arrangements among two or more institutions for the development, production, or transmittal of distance education courseware and materials should always be considered.

Whenever possible and to effect the greatest savings, the acquisition of courseware should be made through the Tennessee Board of Regents' Media Consortium.



T.C.A. § 49-8-203


TBR Meeting, September 30, 1983; TBR Meeting, September 21, 1990; TBR Meeting, September 17, 1993. Academic Guideline A-070 was combined with this policy on Sept 4, 2018 as part of changes required by the FOCUS Act.

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