Topics Map > Policies
Topics Map > Courses: Policies and Procedures
Courses - Mode of Instruction Course Section Descriptors
Definitions of course section descriptors, including details on mode of instruction and synchronicity
This is a summary of the policy related to the Mode of Instruction Course Section Descriptors. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.
UW-Madison strategically and systematically deployed four modes of instruction for spring 2021: in-person instruction, hybrid instruction, remote instruction, and online instruction. This document aims to describe these modes of instruction in the context of current university policy, effective with spring 2021 and continuing until modified. In addition, a course section will include a delivery type of synchronous or asynchronous that will be identifiable and searchable as a student enrolls.
- The mode of instruction indicates where course section meetings occur (i.e., in-person, online, a hybrid/mix).
- The synchronous/asynchronous delivery type indicates when course section meetings occur (i.e., whether there are section meetings at fixed days and times).
- Pedagogy includes decisions about how course material is delivered (i.e., blended, flipped, etc.) is not indicated in SIS.
Most broadly, at UW-Madison, instruction in any of the modes of instruction discussed here that 1) adheres to the standard that 1 credit reflects 45 hours of learning activities across the term, and 2) involves regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructor. Note that 1 “hour” here means 50 minutes (per the UW-Madison Policy on the Credit Hour). All modes of instruction discussed here can use a range of pedagogical formats (e.g., blended, active, flipped).
Mode of Instruction Values (where do course section meetings occur)
In-Person Instruction (SIS code: P; CDR code: N)
- Overview: For many instructors and students, this is the most familiar mode of instruction. Generally speaking, 1 credit for an in-person course section involves 50 minutes each week of in-person instruction accompanied by 2 hours each week of outside-of-class student work. For a three-credit course section, this means 150 minutes in the classroom each week in a normal semester; for a four-credit course section, this means 200 minutes in the classroom each week (often a combination of lecture and discussion/lab). Course sections that meet occasionally in an online format (i.e., less than 25% of course meetings) should still use the in-person mode of instruction.
- Current Official Definition: Course section is not a Distance Education course-section (SIS code: P; CDR code: N)
Hybrid Instruction (SIS code: WC; CDR code: N)
- Overview: Hybrid course sections involve a mix of in-person and online instructional meetings between instructors and students. The range of what is included is broad and flexible by design. A wide range of mixes of in-person/online meeting patterns is permitted for the hybrid mode of instruction. The hybrid mode of instruction is appropriate when there are more than occasional online meetings (i.e., at least 25% of meetings as a guideline). Otherwise online course sections that meet only for in-person exams are not permitted and are not considered hybrid mode of instruction. Such course sections should add additional in-person instructional activities to fall within the hybrid mode of instruction or go entirely online.
- Current Official Definition -- Online/Some Classroom: Course section is a partially Distance Education course-section. Seventy-five percent (75%) or more of the section is delivered via distance learning technology, but at least one class session (including exams) is on campus (SIS code: WC; CDR code: P)
- New Definition -- Online/Some Classroom: Section is intentionally designed to include a regular pattern of online and in-person meetings. More than twenty-five (25%) but no more than seventy-five percent (75%) of the section is delivered via distance learning technology, and the section meets in person at least several times each semester. In-person instructional meetings must include more than meeting only for exams. Meeting in person only for exams with all other instructional meetings online is not permitted. (SIS code: WC; CDR code: N)
Remote Instruction (SIS code: R CDR Code: T)
- Overview: Course sections that in normal circumstances would be offered in-person and that have been converted to remote delivery in response to the COVID19 pandemic. All course activities occur remotely/online (through Canvas, the university’s centrally supported learning management system) with no in-person meetings required or expected. Course activities may be synchronous or asynchronous, always keeping in mind the requirement for “regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructor.” No in-person meetings includes no in-person exams. All learning activities are delivered remotely/online.
- Note: In-person exams are not permitted for a remote section. Sections with in-person exams should have sufficient additional in-person activities to meet the standards for the hybrid mode of instruction.
- Current Official Definition: Course section that under normal conditions would be in-person is offered totally remote in response to COVID19. Section is totally (100%) delivered via distance learning technology (including exams), no campus visits are required (SIS code: R CDR Code: T)
Online Instruction (SIS code: WO; CDR code: T)
- Overview: Course sections that were specifically designed and predetermined to be offered online on an on-going basis. All course activities occur online (through Canvas, the university’s centrally supported learning management system) with no in-person meetings required or expected. Course activities may be synchronous or asynchronous, always keeping in mind the expectation of “regular and substantive interaction between students and the instructor.” No in-person meetings includes no in-person exams. All learning activities are online.
- Note: In-person exams are not permitted for an online section. Sections with in-person exams should have sufficient additional in-person activities to meet the standards for the hybrid mode of instruction.
- Current Official Definition -- Online only: Course section is totally Distance Education course-section. Section is totally (100%) delivered via distance learning technology (including exams), no campus visits are required (SIS code: WO; CDR code: T)
Synchronous/Asynchronous Section Delivery Types (when do course section meetings occur)
- A synchronous course section involves scheduled, time-specific meetings as part of an intentionally designed learning experience. The synchronous components must be scheduled in compliance with university policies on class scheduling (unless an exception is granted).
- A synchronous course section may or may not have synchronous exams.
- Synchronous learning happens whenever students are engaged in learning activities “live”.
- Allows students and instructors to meet at the same time and in the same space.
- The course section has clearly scheduled meeting times that constitute a commitment that cannot be rescheduled once student enrollment has occurred.
- As detailed in the Policy on the Credit Hour, synchronous course sections generally require students to complete asynchronous activities (e.g., course readings, research assignments, group projects).
- “Asynchronous” means that the learning activities for the section that are designed and led by the instructor are not scheduled at a specific time; this may allow for more flexibility for students enrolled across time zones and with a range of quality of internet access.
- An asynchronous course section will have asynchronous exams, which can be completed within a certain timeframe, or synchronous exams if accommodations are made for any student who is unable to attend synchronous exam times.
- Asynchronous activities may include video lectures, readings, assignments and group discussions or collaborative tasks.
- Students and instructors engage with each other, course content, activities, and instructional materials at various times, but there are no required section meetings at specific days and times.
- There are still due dates throughout the course and the instructor provides direction for the learning activities.
- In sections delivered in an asynchronous format it is especially important that instructors adhere to the expectations of the credit hour policy for regular and substantive interaction:
- Regular - at least weekly in a semester-long course.
- Substantive - meets at least two of the following conditions: provides direct (synchronous) instruction; assesses or provides feedback on a student’s course work; provides information or responds to questions about the content; facilitates a group discussion regarding the content of a course.