Distance Education

Online/Distance Education at UW-Madison

UW-Madison uses definitions for online/distance-delivered programs as set by the Higher Learning Commission:

  • Distance-delivered programs are those certificate or degree programs in which 50% or more of the required courses may be taken as distance-delivered courses.
  • Distance-delivered courses are those 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. (Note: UW-Madison is not authorized for instruction through correspondence mechanisms.)

Online/distance-delivered programs: UW-Madison offers a number of online/distance academic programs.

State Authorization

Every US state has different laws governing what post-secondary education can be delivered in that state by institutions located in other states. Universities are limited to offering academic programs and courses in such a way that it does not violate “physical presence” in other states. Physical presence is defined differently for each state. The status of UW-Madison’s State Authorizations for Distance Education is shown to the right and is also available as a pdf list of UW-Madison’s State Authorizations for Distance Education.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement:In August 2016, Wisconsin joined the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) through the Midwestern Higher Education Compact following enabling legislation passed by the Wisconsin Legislature in Spring 2016. The University of Wisconsin‐Madison began operating under SARA in September 2016. SARA provides uniform definitions and policies for state authorization of distance education. Participation in SARA allows UW-Madison distance education programs to advertise, recruit, and enroll students from all other member states. See www.nc-sara.org for more information.

Verification of Student Identity and Protection of Privacy in Online/Distance Courses: The University of Wisconsin-Madison verifies student identity through a system of secure logins and passwords first established for a student at the time of admission. A studentID and a NetID are assigned to all students; students establish a password. The NetID and password are required for students to login to university computing and networking services. The same standards are used for secure login to the learning management system (Canvas) for online/distance education courses as is required for login services required for face-to-face instruction, and for students to access payment and financial records. Course rosters include pictures of students taken for their student ID card. Many online classes use video-conferencing. Thus, instructors have an opportunity to match faces and names.

Academic integrity is defined in state statute (UWS 14) and these requirements extend even to the online environment (https://students.wisc.edu/student-conduct/academic-integrity/). Academic integrity includes the expectation that students submit their own work and don’t claim credit for the work of others (https://students.wisc.edu/student-conduct/misconduct/academic-integrity/).

Tuition and Fee Policies: UW System institutions are responsible for complying with federal regulations governing participation in the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. The Tuition and Fee Policies for Refund/Withdrawals/Drops are available on the UW System website in section C.4.

There are no additional costs charged directly to the student because of an online learning modality. There are very rare instances where additional fees are incurred for e-proctoring, but those fees are absorbed by the academic department or the School/College/Division and not passed on to the student, unless approved as a course fee. Such course fees are specified in the schedule of classes.

Consumer Protection, Complaints and State-Specific Information: Some states require that universities that offer distance education programs provide notice of the process for students to file complaints related to program delivery: see information about consumer protection and filing complaints.