Online Education Compliance for Instructors and Designers
When it comes to delivering online and hybrid education, U-M’s compliance with various laws, regulations, and accreditor standards depends in large part on individual choices made by instructional faculty and instructional/learning experience designers. Of particular concern are ensuring that course material is accessible to all students (and promptly acting when this turns out not to be the case), avoiding copyright infringement, and, where applicable, meeting student financial aid eligibility requirements under Title IV of the Higher Education Act (“Title IV”).
The following resources provide an introduction to key, course-level compliance topics and suggested best practices for satisfying minimum requirements as well as going beyond those requirements to better serve students.
Title IV Requirements
Title IV regulations include definitions for “distance education” and articulate standards for how credit hours, attendance, and a “week of instructional time” must be determined in the context of Title IV eligible online courses and programs.
Key Title IV Terms
Title IV Definitions TableLearn More
Practice Guide for Attendance
Attendance and Credit HoursLearn More
Practice Guide for Regular and Substantive Interaction
Regular and Substantive InteractionLearn More
Additional Title IV Resources
Title IV Definitions and RequirementsLearn More
Quality Expectations from the HIgher Learning Commission (HLC)
U-M’s institutional accreditor, HLC, uses nine “hallmarks of quality” standards developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) when evaluating distance education activities during planned review periods or when separately triggered through substantial changes to the institution or its programs. U-M must provide evidence demonstrating how it is satisfying these nine “C-RAC Guidelines.” A non-exhaustive list of examples for demonstrating compliance are provided in the description for each hallmark.
U-M’s participation in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which is key to its ability to offer online education in other states, separately requires adherence to these C-RAC Guidelines and offers students an additional forum to bring complaints where they believe these guidelines are not being followed.
Student Conduct & Academic Integrity
U-M prohibited conduct and academic misconduct policies, including those articulated in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, apply regardless of the modality of instruction. Reporting obligations of Responsible Employees and Campus Security Authorities can also apply to the conduct regardless of the instructional modality, assuming all other conditions triggering these obligations are satisfied. However, academic misconduct and prohibited student misconduct can sometimes look different in the context of digital or remote learning environments (e.g., “Chegging” as a form of cheating and “cyberbullying” as a form or harassment). It is important to recognize how student misconduct policies apply outside of the physical classroom and make appropriate adjustments to language communicated to students regarding these policies and the continued availability of U-M resources to support those harmed when violations occur.
Practice Guide for Deterring Academic Misconduct
Academic MisconductLearn More
Academic Misconduct ResourcesLearn More
Practice Guide for Deterring Prohibited Student Conduct
Prohibited Student ConductLearn More
Prohibited Student Conduct ResourcesLearn More
Student Data Privacy
Protecting student data privacy is of great importance to the University. The University of Michigan complies with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, as well as all other state and federal regulations and policies that govern the protection of student data. With the increasing use of online learning via platforms such as BlueJeans, Zoom and GoogleMeet, the University is working in collaboration with ITS and individual department leadership in order to ensure that student data and privacy concerns are treated with the highest degree of protection. The University asks that instructors be aware that recording student participation does create an education record and that academic units and faculty members should review the resources provided to make sure they are in compliance with all FERPA requirements.
Third party data collection has increased through the use of educational applications, and the University would like to caution the use of any applications that have not been vetted by the ITS Teaching and Learning Group or subject to a U-M Data Protection Addendum. Student privacy concerns should be taken seriously, and it might be worth pursuing waivers or consent forms from students if non-vetted third-party applications are being used.
Accessibility & Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) define an individual with a disability as a person who (A) has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (B) has a record of such an impairment; or (C) is regarded as having such an impairment. The University of Michigan has both legal and ethical obligations to provide students with disabilities with individualized and reasonable accommodations to ensure they have equal access to learning experiences, both in-person and online. The University requires that course design teams work proactively to design courses and programs with the needs of students with disabilities in mind. Universal Design for Learning Guidelines offer a framework that can assist course design teams when creating these learning programs. The University also expects that modification or accommodations are made after the initial course development if the need arises (i.e., giving additional time to complete tests). Reasonable accommodations are expected to be made for students who have disclosed their disabilities.
It’s important to think about copyright when adapting or creating content for online learning. Our copyright page is full of helpful resources for navigating copyright issues and answering any questions you may have. For more information about copyright in general, the Library Copyright Office’s website has a set of research guides that go more in depth into the different areas of copyright law.