L&S Policy on Offering Online / Distance-Delivered Undergraduate Courses

This page provides information about the L&S policy on offering online courses and the required review process for offering undergraduate courses online during the academic year

Courses covered by the policy

L&S courses covered by this policy are ones that meet all three of the following criteria:
  • are distanced-delivered courses, as defined by the UW-Madison and the Higher Learning Commission as “Courses in which all or the vast majority (typically 75% or more) of the instruction and interaction occurs via electronic communication, correspondence or equivalent mechanisms, with the faculty and students physically separated from each other.” AND
  • will be offered in a fall or spring semesters; AND
  • are designed for undergraduates
The College of Letters and Science is the largest undergraduate college at UW-Madison and teaches over 80% of freshman and sophomore credits across the university. Given our strong teaching mission and the number of students we serve, L&S must actively support and protect the reputation of UW-Madison as a primarily residential and high-quality experience for undergraduates. This includes making sure:
  • our undergraduates have access to in-person course options to meet their program and degree requirements during fall/spring semesters.
  • our first and second-year students enroll in courses with substantial face-to-face components
  • the vast majority of the undergraduate courses we teach in the fall and spring have substantive and significant regular face-to-face meeting times
  • entirely online courses offered in the fall and spring semesters are created for specific pedagogical reasons, such as to utilize instructional capacities or support student learning in a way not possible through a face-to-face or blended model. 
Online activities, materials and experiences are common in L&S courses as part of the many methods our instructors use to engage and teach students. However, given Madison’s identity as a residential experience, we must be strategic about offerings of online or mostly online courses.

Approval to Teach Undergraduate Online Courses

L&S departments must request approval to offer undergraduate courses online in fall or spring semesters, starting with courses scheduled for Fall 2020.  Online courses only offered in the summer are exempt from this review; there are no summer residential expectations and summer term enrollment is optional for most undergraduates.

Courses scheduled for fall/spring semesters will be reviewed to ensure they support the principles above.  In addition, they will be reviewed to ensure:
  • the instructional design of the course is aligned with current practices in online education
  • the offering department has a process to assign instructors that are qualified to teach online courses.
Proposals to offer a course in a distance-delivered format will be administratively reviewed and reviewed by the L&S Curriculum Committee. As part of the review process, the L&S Curriculum Committee will consult L&S Learning Support Services (LSS) about whether the design of the course aligns with current practices in online education.

Generally speaking, an approval to offer a course online rolls forward automatically each semester. However, if a course’s content, design, enrollment or audience changes substantially, or if an issue is identified through regular L&S Admin monitoring, the L&S Curriculum Committee may require another review.

Note: Unless the college has asked the department to create an online course, all costs to develop one will be borne by the department. Departments may use other campus funding sources or work with LSS on a fee-for-use basis subject to LSS capacity. Request a consultation with LSS to explore opportunities for effective online learning design, audio/video production, and technology consultation.

Please see Request to offer an online undergraduate course during the academic year for more information about about the request form and process.

Provisional approval for courses converted to online and offered prior to Fall 2020

Eventually all courses must have approval to be offered online (by Fall 2023). However, courses that were recently offered online in a fall/spring semester (Fall 2017 or after, and before to Fall 2020 in a fall/spring semester) were automatically given provisional approval to continued to be offered until Fall 2023.

To see whether a course in your department has provisional or permanent approval, see  if your department, see L&S undergraduate courses approved to be offered online in Fall or Spring semesters

Additional Information




Keywords:undergraduate, online, teaching, teach, fall, spring, academic year, distance, course proposal, course proposals, offer, schedule   Doc ID:95003
Owner:Kimbrin C.Group:L&S Administrative Gateway
Created:2019-10-15 14:29 CSTUpdated:2019-10-31 09:54 CST
Sites:L&S Administrative Gateway
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