Online courses

What is an online course?

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

Online courses are approved in two steps

Institutions developing their own online courses will follow the two-step "a-g" online course approval processOnline courses are approved for a three-year term to ensure their quality and required components are maintained. Every three years, online courses must complete the two-step approval process.

1.  Assessment against iNACOL course standards.

Online courses must be assessed against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses before submission to UC for "a-g" review.


2.  Review by UC for “a-g” approval.

During the annual "a-g" course submission period, self-assessed online courses may be submitted to UC for “a-g” review using the A-G Course Management Portal (A-G CMP). Online courses are evaluated using the same criteria and guidelines as classroom-based courses.


Satisfying the “a-g” subject requirements

Students can use online courses to fulfill their “a-g” subject requirements in the following ways:

High school purchases approved online courses

High schools that offer "a-g" approved online courses purchased or licensed from an online course publisher will add these courses to their “a-g” course list using the A-G CMP. Individual schools are not responsible for going through the two-step "a-g" online course review process - this responsibility lies with the publisher. However, schools are responsible for verifying the courses appear on the publisher’s “a-g” course list and certifying their school is in compliance with the University's online learning expectations before the online courses are added to the school’s “a-g” course list.

UC awards a three-year approval term to courses from online publishers. Every three years, the publisher will be required to reassess their courses against the iNACOL Quality Standards for Online Courses and to resubmit their courses to UC for "a-g" review. However, no additional action will be required every three years of schools that purchase or license these courses.

Institution locally develops online courses

Home-grown online courses created by online or non-online institutions will undergo the two-step online course review process to receive "a-g" approval. The online course must first be self-assessed against the iNACOL Standards for Quality Online Courses and then submitted for “a-g” review by UC. In addition, non-online institutions will also need to adhere to the University’s institutional expectations for online learning.

All online courses are approved for a three-year term. Every three years, the home-grown online courses will need to be re-assessed by the institution against the iNACOL course standards and then resubmitted to UC for "a-g" review. The A-G CMP will notify the institution when a course’s “a-g” approval will expire.

Student independently enrolls in UC-approved online courses

A student can enroll independently in an "a-g" approved online course. Check the online school’s “a-g” course list to verify which courses have been approved for “a-g” purposes. On the UC application, students will list separately each online school from which they completed “a-g” courses. Official transcripts from the online school must be either sent to the student’s home high school to be added to the student’s transcript, or sent to the student’s matriculated UC campus in July.

Online courses in the laboratory sciences and visual and performing arts

UC faculty consider the experimentation process a critical component of any laboratory science course because it brings the scientific process to life. Therefore, online laboratory science (“d”) courses will be approved by UC if they include a teacher-supervised, hands-on lab component that accounts for at least 20 percent of class time. Computer-simulated labs and lab kits are currently not an acceptable alternative to the required wet labs. 

An online publisher can receive provisional "a-g" approval for their online laboratory science courses that do not contain an appropriate required laboratory component. When adding a publisher's provisionally-approved online laboratory science course to an "a-g" course list, online and non-online institutions will be required to include in their course submission a description of the teacher-supervised, hands-on labs they have developed to supplement the online curriculum.

UC faculty recently approved the use of online visual and performing arts (“f”) courses, beginning with the 2017-18 submission period. This policy revision brings the VPA subject area in line with how reviews of online courses are conducted for the other “a-g” subject areas. The fundamental review criteria for online VPA courses are exactly the same as those for classroom-based VPA courses, as outlined on the A-G Guide website. UC aims to ensure students have clear access to a broad range of high-quality courses meeting UC faculty’s standards of rigor for the purposes of UC admissions. By fully including online VPA courses among students’ options, our goal is to support your efforts to leverage technology and create rich and engaging online learning opportunities.