Frequently asked questions

Why has UC revised the online course policy?

Based on the University’s desire to ensure students have access to a broad range of high-quality and comprehensive online courses that meet the faculty’s standards of rigor, the online policy was revised to offer improved guidance and a more efficient process for schools, districts and programs interested in offering online courses, and students using online courses, to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements.

What is an online course?

UC defines an online course as one in which more than 50% of the course's primary instruction is conducted through Internet-based methods with time and/or distance separating teacher and student. Courses that meet this criteria must comply with the University's policy for online courses.

Why are online courses approved for three years at a time?

The University wants to ensure that all online courses maintain their quality and continue to meet UC’s expectations for online learning. Every three years, an online course must be resubmitted for “a-g” review. Before an online course is resubmitted to UC, it must also be resubmitted to CLRN for certification, or the institution must re-conduct a self-assessment of the online course against the iNACOL course standards. Institutions will be notified via the Online Update website when a course’s “a-g” approval will expire.

High schools and districts that purchase or license UC-approved online courses will not be required to re-add these courses to their “a-g” courses lists every three years.

Does UC approve online courses in the laboratory science (“d”) or visual and performing arts (“f”) subject areas?

UC will not accept high school-level online courses in the visual and performing arts area. An online laboratory science course may be UC-approved if the online course includes a supervised, on-site, wet lab component that accounts for at least 20 percent of class time and is either CLRN-certified or the institution has conducted a self-assessment of the course against the iNACOL course standards.

Online course publishers offering online laboratory science courses without a standardized, on-site, wet lab component can submit their courses for "a-g" review and UC will provisionally approve the online laboratory science courses. Final "a-g" approval will be awarded per institution based on the on-site, wet laboratory activities the individual high school, district or program developed to supplement the online curriculum purchased or licensed from the publisher. Institutions will be prompted to include descriptions of the required labs when submitting their previously approved course submission to add the publisher's laboratory science course to their "a-g" course list.

Given that online publishers have to resubmit their courses for ”a-g” review every three years, does my high school need to re-add those online courses every three years?

No. It is the responsibility of the online course publisher to resubmit their courses to the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN), or conduct self-assessment of their courses against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses, and to resubmit the course to UC every three years. Purchased or licensed UC-approved online courses will remain on an “a-g” course list so long as the online courses continue to meet the requirements of the online course policy and/or until the high school or district manually removes an online course from its course list.

All high schools, districts and programs offering purchased or licensed online courses will be required every year to verify their institution meets the University’s expectations for online learning.

Do teacher-created, non-commercial online courses offered only at the local high school or district need to undergo the new online course review process?

Yes. Beginning with the 2014-15 course submission cycle opening on February 1, 2014, non-online institutions that develop their own home-grown online courses will be required to adhere to the new online course review policy and procedures. The non-online institution must conduct a self-assessment of the online course against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses before the online course is submitted to UC for “a-g” review. Certification by the California Learning Resource Network will not be required unless the home-grown online courses are open to students outside the local high school or district.

Online courses are approved for a three-year term and a re-assessment of the course against the iNACOL course standards is required every three years before the course is resubmitted to UC for "a-g" review. Institutions will be notified via the Online Update website when a course’s “a-g” approval will expire.

The local high school or district will also need to adhere to UC's institutional expectations for online learning.

Students outside our local high school or district will be enrolling in our home-grown online courses. Will the “a-g” review process be different for these types of courses?

Public online and non-online institutions that allow students from outside their local high school or district to enroll in all or some of their teacher-created, home-grown online courses will be required to complete the CLRN certification process.

How many of the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses must our online course satisfy?

All online courses must fulfill all 15 of the UC-identified “power standards” from the iNACOL course standards and satisfy at least 27 of the remaining standards in order for a course to be considered for “a-g” approval.

We are preparing to submit a new online course for “a-g” approval. How do we notify UC that the course received CLRN certification or a self-assessment was conducted?

Prior to submitting a new online course to UC, an institution must assess their course against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses. This will include the course either obtaining certification by the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) or the institution conducting a self-assessment of their online course against iNACOL’s course standards. As part of the new course submission to UC for “a-g” review, the institution will either indicate that the course has received CLRN certification or be prompted to complete the self-assessment form for the online course.

High schools, districts or programs that purchased or licensed online courses will not be required to provide information pertaining to a course’s assessment against the iNACOL course standards. Doing so is the responsibility of the online course publisher. However, the high school will need to verify their institution meets UC’s institutional expectations for online learning each year an online course is offered.

Is CLRN certification or a self-assessment required for UC-approved program courses, such as AP, IB and ROP courses, offered in an online setting?

Yes. Publishers, online schools and non-online institutions offering UC-approved program courses must either receive CLRN course certification or conduct a self-assessment against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses for each program course. These online program courses may still be added to an "a-g" course list as previously approved program courses and complete course content descriptions will not be required for these types of submissions.

Institutions that purchase or license UC-approved program courses, such as AP or IB courses, from an online publisher will not be required to obtain CLRN certification or conduct a self-assessment. It is the responsibility of the online course publisher to complete this additional step. All courses from an online publisher, including program courses, will be added to an "a-g" course list as previously approved online publisher courses.

Do institutions need to resubmit existing, UC-approved online courses to UC for ”a-g” review?

For non-online institutions: If your home-grown online courses receive certification by the California Learning Resource Network (CLRN) or a self-assessment is conducted by your institution against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses prior to or on May 31, 2014, then those online courses that are already “a-g” approved do not need to be resubmitted to UC. In the case where a home-grown, existing, UC-approved online course obtains CLRN certification or a self-assessment is conducted after May 31, 2014, then the course will need to be resubmitted to UC as a new course during the 2014-15 course list update cycle for “a-g” approval for the 2014-15 year and beyond.

What is the process for notifying UC about online courses that were “a-g” approved under the former policy and are now CLRN certified?

Online course publishers serving public institutions and teacher-created online courses from public institutions open to students outside the local district that were UC-approved under the former online course policy need to be CLRN-certified to remain on the institution's “a-g” course list. Once an online course becomes CLRN-certified, online publishers and public institutions can submit a course revision using the “Revise Course” section on the Online Update website and indicate in the submission that the course has been certified by CLRN. UC will not need to re-review the content of these courses for “a-g” purposes until the three-year term of approval expires.

How can I notify UC that my institution conducted self-assessments for our existing, approved online courses against the iNACOL course standards?

Online courses from private institutions, online course publishers serving only private institutions, and home-grown online courses from public institutions open only to students within the local district that were “a-g” approved under the former online course policy must be self-assessed against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses to remain on the institution’s “a-g” course list. The self-assessment form will be completed using the "Revise Course" section on the Online Update website. A re-review of the content of the course will not be required by UC until the end of the three-year approval term.

My educational program is both an online school and an online course publisher that sells our curriculum. What process do we need to undergo to receive “a-g” approval for our courses?

Online educational programs that function as both a diploma-granting online school and distributor of their own curriculum will adhere to the institutional requirements and course review process for online schools.

Some online course publishers have only a few or no courses on their “a-g” course lists. What does this mean?

When online course publishers are ready to submit the first of their CLRN-certified or self-assessed online courses to UC for “a-g” review, a course list is set up for them on the “a-g” Course List website. The publisher then begins submitting their individual courses for “a-g” approval. It can take several weeks or months for the entirety of a publisher’s “a-g” curriculum to be approved and posted on their “a-g” course list. Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, only those courses listed on an online publisher's “a-g” course list can be used to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements.

Is it true that beginning with the 2013-14 school year, principal certification can no longer be used for online courses to satisfy the “a-g” subject requirements?

Yes. Beginning with the 2013-14 academic year, principals can no longer certify non-UC-approved online courses to fulfill the “a-g” subject requirements, and students can only use UC-approved online courses for admissions purposes. Non-UC-approved online courses, with the exception of those in the areas of the laboratory sciences and visual and performing arts, can still be certified by the home high school principal through the end of the 2012-13 school year. 

For students that took courses through an online school, will UC request a transcript from the online school in addition to the student's home high school transcript?

The UC campus for which a student intends to enroll will request transcripts from all institutions the student attended including schools where the student may have only completed one or two courses. In other words, if a student took one of two courses through an online school, they will be required to submit an official transcript from the online school as well as submit an official transcript from their graduating home high school.

In the case where the student's graduating home high school agrees to place the credits and grades earned from the online school's courses on their own transcript, an official transcript from the online school will not be required.

Some online schools will issue a certification of completion for coursework in lieu of, or in addition to, an official transcript. Please note that UC will not accept certificates of completion in place of an official transcript.        

Will UC accept online college courses to satisfy the "a-g" subject requirements?

Yes. The University of California will accept online college courses to satisfy all of the "a-g" subject requirements. The online course policy and requirements approved by the Board Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) only extends to high school-level online courses.