The Online and Hybrid Program Playbook

Mike Daniel, Director of Operations and Policy


Ricky LaFosse, Compliance and Policy Lead


Ever wonder whether an international online student can attend graduation on campus? Or if an online instructor can meet some of her distance education students in person while vacationing in Aruba? Can online students, who will never come to campus, still get MCards? There are lots of questions like these that can come up when administering an online degree program, particularly when doing so for the first time.

The Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation’s Online and Hybrid Program (OHP) Playbook is the ultimate how-to guide for launching and managing new OHPs from the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus (U-M). Truly comprehensive in scope, it covers everything from design and approval processes, marketing considerations, compliance requirements and challenges, and available resources for online students and faculty. All academic units can benefit from reviewing the OHP Playbook regardless of whether they are formally partnering with the Center for Academic Innovation (“Academic Innovation”) or not on matters related to a specific program. 

How was the OHP Playbook developed and who is it for? 

After years of building experience in the open online learning marketplace, Academic Innovation began working with academic units to launch new online degree programs as well. What became immediately clear when transitioning into this expanded role was that the online, for-credit space introduced a variety of new administrative, design, and compliance challenges for which no one single administrative office on campus would have all of the solutions. Academic Innovation saw a need to develop a comprehensive and collaborative resource that could bring in the collective expertise across the U-M community in this area, summarize key considerations for each topic area, and direct academic units to the appropriate offices for additional support. Academic Innovation set out to create such a resource, spending the next several months discussing the ins-and-outs of OHPs with key stakeholders around the U-M Ann Arbor campus including the Registrar’s Office, the Office of Financial Aid, Office of Research, Information and Technology Services (ITS), the U-M Library, Office of the General Counsel, and the International Center. 

The OHP Playbook was the result — a living document that reflects a considerable amount of the collective OHP expertise on campus in an easily navigable and digestible format for program administrators within academic units as well as colleagues in other central administrative units. The process of piecing this guide together has also inspired various improvements to existing procedures and resources to cover perceived gaps, improve efficiency, and establish content-area networks and workflows.  

Can you tell me more about what’s in the OHP Playbook and how to use it? 

The OHP Playbook is arranged in sections around areas such as U-M and external approval processes, accreditation, distance education compliance, operations and student accounts, and considerations for student services, resources, and conduct. Under these main sections, there are numerous subsection topics (e.g., credit hours for online courses and library database access for online students) represented with designated offices to seek additional support from as well as summaries of the key considerations that should be on program administrators’ radars. 

While the OHP Playbook is more encyclopedia than novel, the authors nevertheless recommend that administrators who are new to OHPs scan through the guide in its entirety early on in the OHP development process. Proceeding without comprehensive knowledge of existing U-M resources and relationships with external vendors could result in substantial time and money wasted. Moreover, proceeding without a sufficient awareness of major compliance areas that relate to distance education offerings can subject the university to considerable legal and reputational risk. 

Finally, the authors intend for the OHP Playbook to also serve as a directory and quick reference guide that administrators can quickly search through for support with any number of day-to-day challenges that come up with OHP design and management. Where challenges are not addressable through the OHP Playbook in its current form, the authors would like to hear from that information seeker directly and provide necessary updates. 

Ultimately, the OHP Playbook is always a work-in-progress that is reflective of the collective knowledge of OHP experts and stakeholders at U-M. Please contact with any feedback or for more information about the OHP Playbook.

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