University of Wisconsin–Madison

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 for more information.

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.

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.