Center for Academic Technology

Digital Learning

Definitions & Certs

Certification Methods Effective: September 28, 2023 (Memo Sent To Faculty)

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Definitions  

(Title 19, Part 1, Chapter 2, Subchapter J Rule 2.202 – (Effective December 1, 2023) 

Definition - (3) Distance Education Course --A course in which a majority (more than 50 percent) of the instruction occurs when the student(s) and instructor(s) are in separate physical locations. The definition of distance education course does not include courses with 50 percent or less instruction when the student(s) and instructor(s) are in separate physical locations. Two categories of distance education courses are defined: 

Term - (A) 100-Percent Online Course --A distance education course in which 100 percent of instructional activity takes place when the student(s) and instructor(s) are in separate physical locations. Requirements for on-campus or in-person orientation, testing, academic support services, internships/fieldwork, or other non-instructional activities do not exclude a course from this category.
NOTE: (Section 600 at TAMUK) 

Term (B) Hybrid Course--A distance education course in which more than 50 percent but less than 100 percent of instructional activity takes place when the student(s) and instructor(s) are in separate physical locations. 
NOTE: (Section 900 at TAMUK)  

The university's official Learning Management System is Blackboard (Anthology). The university's official web conference service is Zoom for Education. Faculty may be certified through the following three methods:  

  1. CAT - Distance Education Certification Program – The program trains faculty to successfully engage students online and create a quality course for future term delivery. The program allows faculty to test their understanding and apply what has is learned through hands-on activities utilizing an applied certification sandbox in Blackboard. The program is five weeks long with weekly meeting requirements offered in a Hybrid environment. The program is offered every academic semester, including summers. 
  2. Certification Verification from Another Institution – TAMUK Department Chairs can submit certifications/transcripts or other documents of faculty being hired for distance education to the CAT Director, Dr. Rolando R. Garza, at for review and approval. Certifications must be approved before assigning faculty to sections or submitting course modification changes to the academic schedule.   
  3. Quality Assurance Demonstration Checklist / Current Course Evaluation – CAT has an internal Quality Assurance Checklist for online courses with a grading rubric for course review. The checklist has been created using Quality Matters’ foundational principles for quality assurance and can be applied to an existing distance learning course shell in Blackboard. Faculty must utilize any feedback or recommendations for improvement to meet certification requirements. Faculty interested in this method should email both CAT Director Dr. Rolando R. Garza at and CAT Instructional Designer III – Dr. Mariya Pachman, at, to begin the conversation.

Details about CAT – Distance Education Certification Training  

 1. Course Design and Development 

1.1 Course Objectives: Each online course must have clear, measurable learning objectives aligning with the program's goals. 
1.2 Content Creation: Faculty should design engaging and interactive content, including multimedia, to support student learning. (e.g., AAC&U, ACUE High Impact Practices). 
1.3 Accessibility: All course materials must be accessible to all students, complying with accessibility standards (e.g., WCAG). 
1.4 Syllabus: A detailed course syllabus must be provided to students, outlining course policies, schedules, assessments, and contact information. 

2. Instructional Methods 

2.1 Engagement: Faculty should engage students with active learning strategies, discussion forums, and real-world applications. 
2.2 Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning: A balance between asynchronous and synchronous activities should be maintained to accommodate various learning preferences. 
2.3 Communication: Faculty must communicate regularly with students through announcements, emails, and discussion boards. 

 3. Assessment and Evaluation 

3.1 Assessment Alignment: Assessments should align with course objectives and be designed to measure student achievement effectively. 
3.2 Academic Integrity: Faculty should implement measures to prevent plagiarism and ensure academic integrity. 
3.3 Feedback: Timely and constructive feedback on assignments and assessments is essential for student growth. 

 4. Technology and Support 

4.1 LMS Usage: Faculty should be proficient in using the Learning Management System (LMS) and take advantage of available technology tools. 
4.2 Technical Support: Technical support should be readily available for faculty and students. 

5. Faculty Training and Development 

5.1 Professional Development: Faculty should participate in ongoing training and development related to online teaching methodologies and technologies. 
5.2 Mentoring: Mentoring programs should be available to support faculty in their online teaching efforts. 

6. Student Support 

6.1 Orientation: Students should receive an orientation to online learning, including using the LMS and accessing support services. 
6.2 Support Services: Academic advising, counseling, and tutoring services should be accessible to online students. 

7. Quality Assurance and Review 

7.1 Course Review: Periodic course reviews should be conducted to assess course quality and policy adherence. (e.g., Quality Matters).  
7.2 Feedback Collection: Collect feedback from students and faculty to make continuous improvements. 

8. Accessibility and Accommodations 

8.1 Accessibility Services: Accommodations should be provided to students with disabilities per institutional policies and applicable laws. 

9. Privacy and Security 

9.1 Data Protection: Ensure the privacy and security of student data and comply with all relevant data protection laws and the Texas A&M University System. 

10. Emergency Preparedness 

10.1 Emergency Plans: Develop plans for online course continuity during emergencies or disruptions (e.g., South Texas Weather). 

11. Policy Review and Revision 

11.1 Regular Review: This policy will be reviewed and updated regularly to adapt to changing technology and best practices.