L&S Policies Related to Holding Classes Off-Campus
In general, for-credit academic activities are held on campus. In some cases, however, instructors will seek permission to hold instructional activities, including classes or programs, off-campus. This document outlined considerations related to doing so within campus policy.
Guidelines and Policy
When the decision is made to move instructional activities off-campus, instructors must address several issues they don't usually need to think about. In considering these issues, they should be guided by the University Academic Planning Council Guidelines for Holding Classes and Related Educational Activities Off Campus, which was prepared in consultation with the Office of Risk Management. These documents are intended to ensure that instructors are aware of such topics as the site's accessibility to disabled students, the obligation to provide for student transportation to/from the site, UW's food and catering policies (including rules prohibiting serving alcohol to students), insurance for damage or injury to any participants, and worker's compensation protection for instructors if they are injured. Not all of these matters apply to all off-campus learning activities - but where they do apply, it is best to plan ahead.
What is "Off-Campus?"
The UW-Madison campus encompasses more than 933 acres of land on the Main Campus, and more than 10,600 acres when the Arboretum, Research Stations throughout the state, and various university-owned properties are included. In general, requests to offer courses/programs off-campus (not to include study-abroad or courses offered entirely via distance education) involve plans to convene the class regularly in locations that are not university-owned or leased. However, even when convening class "on-campus" at a site that is distant from Main Campus,some of the considerations below (e.g., accessibility, transportation) may apply.
Ad Hoc Off-Campus Learning Activities
Many different types of learning activities occur off campus, including (but not limited to) such activities as field trips, performances by ensemble groups, service learning, or data collection at a research site. Such activities are held off campus when there is clear educational benefit in doing so, and occasional excursions off campus do not require prior approval.
That said, if participation in a field trip or other off-campus activity is a required part of a course, that requirement must be clearly stated in the Schedule of Courses and on the course syllabus so students are fully informed of the additional demands on their time. As always, instructors should be mindful when scheduling such activities - religious holidays and observances, campus events, etc, may impinge on students' ability to participate in certain activities.
State statutes govern whether or not departments may levy additional course fees to cover some costs associated with for-credit off-campus learning activities (e.g., to cover travel, admission, personal costs of food or lodging). Information about such fees must also be presented to students at the time of enrollment. See L&S Policy Special Course Fees for more information about Special Course fees for procedures about obtaining approval to levy special course fees. Please note that Admin Policy 825 III.2 prohibits departments/instructors from directly billing and collecting such fees: "Institutions shall bill students for all approved special course fees through the university billing process. Institutions are prohibited from collecting special course fees in the classroom, and faculty or instructors may not collect fees from students."
Off-Campus Academic Activities: Course Locations and Program Sites
In some cases, the faculty may determine that there is a significant educational benefit to providing a substantial amount of instruction off-campus, to the extent that a whole course is located off-campus, or where more than half of the credit required for an academic program is delivered from an off-campus program site. (Please note that these considerations do not include "distance education" courses.)
- Course location: site at which UW-Madison for-credit courses are offered and taught by UW-Madison faculty or staff.
- Program site: site at which 50% or more of a UW-Madison degree program is offered at an off-campus location.
The University Academic Planning Council distinguishes between off-campus course locations and program sites and the learning opportunities discussed in the previous section. Prior approval for both course locations and program sites is required.
For approval of off-campus course locations, please contact Associate Dean for Academic Planning, Elaine Klein (Elaine.Klein <at> wisc.edu, or 265-8484). Requests must include a brief statement about the educational benefit to holding the course off-campus, and a summary of responses to the issues noted in the UAPC policy discussed above (which may include consultation with the Risk Management Office). All requests should include the department chair's recommendation concerning the request, which in most circumstances would be made in consultation with colleagues who are responsible for the department's curriculum, such as the curriculum committee. (Requests submitted in response to a reasonable accommodation of an instructor's disability may need to be addressed with more discretion.) In all cases, the department's Academic Associate Dean will also be consulted.
In cases where "off-campus" locations involve domestic "study-away" or international "study-abroad", departments will be required to consult with International Academic Programs. This office has the expertise and grasp of policy - well beyond UW-Madison and UW System policies - to help faculty and staff navigate laws and regulations surrounding arrangements for this type of study. Planning such programs is detailed and intensive, and will likely require 12-18 months of advance planning. Please consult your Academic Associate Dean and/or the Associate Dean for Academic Planning at the earliest opportunity.
Additional approvals are required for off-campus "program sites", and necessarily require a long timeline for approval. In these cases, the off campus nature of the program may require consultation with the Risk Management Office and Legal Services prior to consideration by campus governance bodies. These requests must be approved by the L&S Academic Planning Council and the University Academic Planning Council, and may also require approval by the Higher Learning Commission, which is responsible for UW-Madison's institutional accreditation. Such requests must be submitted and approved prior to the first off-campus course offering. Please refer to the UAPC policy information and consult Associate Dean Klein about the proposal and governance approval process.
Finally, as with other off-campus instructional activities, students must be notified at the time of registration that instruction will be held off-campus, so they may plan ahead. This is best done in the Schedule of Courses, well in advance of any off-campus class meetings.