Online Education Policy - OUTDATED

Reference Number: F12-264
Senate Approval Date: Tuesday, October 02, 2012


SF State recognizes that most university classes use the Internet to some degree and some university courses (or classes) are conducted entirely online. This policy has been created to promote the continuation of a high quality educational experience for students, faculty members, and the SF State community through the use of online resources.

General Assumptions


  • The goal of online education is to expand educational opportunities for SF State students by offering courses with high quality and convenience and flexibility.  SF State is dedicated to providing all students with an accessible education.
  • The addition of online classes, content, and activities to SF State’s curriculum has been a positive contribution to SF State's academic environment and is consistent with its present mission and role as a public educational institution.
  • Regardless of mode of instruction, all courses shall abide by the same academic policies and laws.



  • In a Traditional Class, students attend all class sessions and faculty member office hours in an assigned face-to-face environment.
  • In a Technology Enhanced Class, students attend all class sessions in an assigned face-to-face environment. Online technology is primarily used to engage the students with the curriculum and learning process. 
  • In a Hybrid Class, students attend some of the class sessions in an assigned face-to-face environment, and some of the class sessions in an online environment, as determined by the faculty member. Online technology is primarily used to create a substitute for some classroom experiences, and may be used to communicate with the faculty member inside and outside of office hours.
  • In a Hybrid Flexible (HyFlex) Class, students can choose to attend class either in an assigned face-to-face environment or in an online environment, synchronously or asynchronously. Online technology is primarily used to provide students with flexibility in their choice of educational experience, and to communicate with the faculty member inside and outside of office hours.
  • In an Online Class, students attend all class sessions in an online environment. Online technology is used to create the entire course experience and to communicate with the faculty member inside and outside of office hours.

Quality and Educational Effectiveness


  • All online education programs and courses shall be consistent with the educational mission of the University.
  • Tenured / tenure-track faculty are essential to the integrity of any academic program.


  • Faculty members shall use teaching practices that are appropriate to the mode of instruction. The selection of course material is the purview of the faculty member teaching the course. Faculty are expected to seek the professional development and support necessary to ensure a successful educational experience for their students. Departments shall ensure that faculty assigned to teach online courses are appropriately prepared.
  • Courses with the same course prefix, number and title shall adhere to the same learning outcomes.

Communication & Support


  • Faculty members shall designate a primary method or methods of communication for use in each class.
  • Faculty members shall define a reasonable response time with respect to answering student communications through the designated method and provide adequate and appropriate opportunities for timely interaction between the faculty member and students.
  • Faculty members shall make clear the standards of conduct that are expected in all class and university environments, such as classroom or Internet etiquette. Students shall abide by the official Student Code of Conduct.
  • Faculty members shall define student expectations including, but not limited to, participation in online class activities, access to specialized hardware, software, or virtual environments, or technical skills required to succeed.
  • The course syllabus shall indicate the course’s technological requirements and sources and contact information for technological support.
  • Support details and user expectations shall be defined by the responsible university administrative unit(s) in service level agreements or similar public documents.
  • Opportunities should be provided for faculty to offer input on major changes in course technologies.

Student Assessment

  • Assessment strategies will be consistent with course goals and objectives and clearly stated for students. 
  • Students are expected to follow the academic integrity policy that SF State has in place at the time the work is created. This is a rapidly changing field; the University and faculty shall work together to provide and implement tools and processes to ensure academic integrity.

Course and Program Approval

  • Departments, in consultation with college councils, are responsible for deciding which courses (or sections) as well as which degree or certificate programs will be offered in an online format.
  • Faculty members teaching online courses have the same control and ownership of the substantive and intellectual content of their courses that faculty have with any other course.
  • Colleges are responsible for communicating to Academic Affairs the degree to which their courses are online so that the course may be properly described in the Class Schedule.
  • Any degree, certificate, or credential program, new or existing, in which 50% or more of the course delivery occurs through an online course format must consult with the Office of Academic Planning and Development (APD) to obtain WASC approval.
  • No individual, program, or department shall agree in a contract with any private or public entity to deliver courses or programs on behalf of SF State without prior university approval.


  • All classes are subject to the same principles of peer review and student evaluation for purposes of the Retention, Tenure, and Promotion processes.  All courses shall be equally recognized and rewarded when considering curriculum and professional development.


  • A degree, certificate, or credential program with online courses must indicate the technological requirements in the SF State Bulletin.
  • The official Class Schedule shall clearly indicate the mode of instruction, technological requirements and schedule for each class offered by SF State. Departments are responsible for reporting this information to Academic Resources in a timely fashion.
  • The SF State Bulletin and official Class Schedule shall provide guidelines for students considering taking online courses.  
  • It is the responsibility of the student to take into account the instructional mode, to review the guidelines on online courses, and to have access to required technological resources.


Refer to the CSU policy on credit units (Coded Memorandum AA-2011-14 CSU Definition of Credit Hour) for guidance on student workload. 


As is the case with face to face modality, class size and corresponding faculty workload will be determined by the department chair and faculty member, taking into account the level of interaction between faculty and students in the course environment, as well as the physical class sizes common on the campus.   


  • All classes shall comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, and with California Government Code 11135.
  • All students shall have access to the course evaluation process.

Intellectual Property and Copyright


  • Intellectual property created during the development of online courses shall follow the Intellectual Property Policy that SF State has in place at the time the materials are created.
  • In the event that a faculty member is not able to complete a course due to unforeseen causes, such as sickness or relocation, the university administration may grant another faculty member access to the class roster, class syllabus, and points or grades earned by students up to the time the original faculty member stopped teaching, and any other class materials available to the administration.  While the new instructor may use this material to complete the class for that semester, the new instructor must honor the intellectual property rights of the original instructor.

This policy should be reviewed every five years.