Online Course Request Guidelines

Updated February 2023

In accordance with the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) and Graduate Council (GC) Policy on UC Santa Cruz Undergraduate and Graduate Online and Hybrid Courses, CCI  can permanently approve online course requests. In addition, CCI may provisionally approve course requests in situations where a permanent approval is not currently warranted but evidence suggests it may be granted after modifications to the course are made and/or more evidence is captured of the requested modality’s efficacy.

This page contains:

  • A brief discussion of CCI’s remit when assessing course requests.
  • When to apply to CCI for online modalities versus when to apply to the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) or Graduate Council for special measures such as emergency remote instruction.
  • How to choose an online modality.
  • Materials to be submitted with online course requests.
  • The rubric CCI uses to assess pedagogical justifications for online modalities.
  • Answers to  frequently asked questions (FAQ).

CCI’s remit

In assessing course requests for any modality, online or in person, CCI are only concerned with primary instruction, the three hours and ten minutes a week (for a five credit class) when students and instructors have traditionally been face-to-face in the classroom. No assessment of secondary instruction is undertaken other than to confirm it matches the requested modality.

Applications for online modalities should be based solely on pedagogical merit: applicants should explain how the course is designed in the chosen online modality in order to effectively meet its learning goals. 

Where to apply

Requests can be submitted directly in CAT (Curriculum and Tracking) system. If you need to request access, or have other issues entering the system, email Applications for online modalities made purely on non-pedagogical grounds including, but not limited to, the availability of Santa Cruz-based instructors, enrollments larger than available teaching spaces, and strategic growth of enrollments for a Course Sponsoring Agency’s (CSA’s) curricular goals, should be directed to CEP for exceptional approval. 

When CSAs have both pedagogical and non-pedagogical rationales for applying for online modes of instruction, they are encouraged to apply to CCI first on the basis of their pedagogical rationales. CCI may then direct them to CEP if necessary. 

Choosing an online modality 

Instructors are encouraged to consult Online Education as early in the process of their course development as possible, especially for help in identifying the online modality that the instructor will find most effective for their course’s needs. 

CCI encourages instructors to begin by considering the learning goals of their course and the programs that their course serves. Based on the nature of the material that is covered and any specific challenges that this material presents to students, instructors should identify the activities and assessments that they find most effective for teaching this material, and then propose an online modality that the instructor judges will most effectively support those activities and assessments.

Materials to be submitted with online course requests 

All online course requests submitted via the CAT System must include the following documents:

  • A syllabus for the in person version of the course.
  • A syllabus for each online modality requested.
  • Pedagogical justification for the requested online modality or modalities (optional)
    • Provides additional and/or consolidated material from the requested modality’s supplemental questions.

Rubric for Online and Hybrid Course proposals 

Below are the criteria on which CCI will evaluate course proposals for online and hybrid courses. These criteria should be discussed within the instructor's Pedagogical justification document or in responses to the supplemental questions for the modality they are proposing. 

Note all syllabi must also meet all CCI non-modality specific CCI Course Syllabus requirements.

More detailed explanations and examples follow these tables.

Basic Criteria:


Address in…

Lists learning outcomes for the course

Syllabus and Supplemental Online Question 1

Demonstrates that learning outcomes are identical for offerings of the course in different modalities 

One syllabus for each modality (e.g., in person, online synchronous) and Supplemental Online Question 1

Demonstrates differences in teaching strategies for offerings of the course in different modalities

One syllabus for each modality (e.g., in person, online synchronous) and Supplemental Online Question 1

Uses identical final assessments across all modalities 

One syllabus for each modality, and Supplemental Online Question pertaining to final exams (6 or 7)

Note the Basic Criteria are assessed solely on a reading of the supplied syllabi.

All applications will receive feedback on the above Basic Criteria. Only applications that satisfy the Basic Criteria are guaranteed to be assessed against the following Detailed Criteria. 

Satisfying the Basic Criteria may be sufficient to warrant provisional approval but this is not guaranteed.

Detailed Criteria:


Address in…

Connects learning outcomes for the course to PLOs

Supplemental Online Question 2

Includes a clear rationale for course design decisions in selecting the online format. (May list factors driving course design or course components that students need particular emphasis on.)

Multiple possible answers - in some or all of Supplemental Online Questions 1, 2, 4, or 5

Includes an explanation of how the modality will be leveraged to support the activities, assignments, and assessments in the course

Supplement Online Questions 3 or 4

Includes discipline-appropriate methods to safeguard academic integrity

Supplemental Online Question pertaining to final exams (6 or 7)

Major-required courses only: Course is required and offered in person also during AY or an exception is justified.

Supplemental Online Question 2

Rubric Explanations and Examples 

The following sections provide explanations and examples for the criterion in the rubric above. 

Lists learning outcomes for the course

Learning outcomes should describe what your students will be able to do at the end of the course that they couldn’t do at the beginning. Learning outcomes tell students what they will gain from taking the course and what they will be assessed on. They also serve as a guide to the instructor in course design: All activities, assignments, and assessments should connect to learning outcomes. 

Because they are the basis for assessment, learning outcomes should specify observable skills, knowledge, and attitudinal orientations you expect students to develop. Because they are focused on student performance, they should specify what students will do. These are examples of appropriate learning outcomes:

  • Students will be able to select and apply appropriate statistical tests to compare samples.
  • Students will be able to explain the potential effects environmental policies will have on economic growth.
  • Students will be able to compose a literature review using the conventions of sociology research.

Connects learning outcomes for the course to learning outcomes for the CSA

In answers to the Supplemental Questions, an articulation of the learning goals of the course and their relationship to the Program Learning Outcomes’s (PLO’s) broader goals should include explanations as to: 

  • Which skills this course develops; 
  • Which knowledge and perspectives this course conveys;
  • Where in the degree program this course sits;
  • Which courses it assumes as prerequisites; and/or, 
  • Which courses it serves as a prerequisite for.

Includes a clear rationale for course design decisions in selecting the online format. (May list factors driving course design or course components for which students need particular emphasis.)

Examples of a clear rationale for course design decisions (including which factors drove course design or need greater emphasis) in answer to the Supplemental Questions may include examples such as the following: 

  • A course may have a heavy memorization load of novel terms or concepts, which students must learn as their basic foundations, in preparation to apply those terms/concepts in reasoning or problem solving. Instructors may need to repeatedly reinforce basic novel terms and concepts, while also engaging students in real-time problem solving exercises with these ideas. This combination of heavy memorization and real-time problem solving might prompt the selection of either a hybrid (of asynchronous and synchronous online) or a "flipped classroom" with synchronous online meetings, because the need to refine problem solving requires in vivo discussion, but the need for memorization requires solitary engagement.
  • A course may require students to repeatedly write or create and refine in response to feedback or discussions, in addition to providing feedback to other students or engaging with other students’ work products. Instructors may need to teach students how to communicate effectively for these purposes, while also engaging students about the content of their work. This need to write/create and refine effective communication on an ongoing basis might prompt the selection of a synchronous meeting, so that instructors can model effective communication and make adjustments to course discussions in real time.

Demonstrates that learning outcomes are equivalent for offerings of the course in other modalities (if the course is offered in more than one modality)

Equivalent learning outcomes are not necessarily the result of equivalent activities or assessments throughout the course, although courses are required to have the same final assessment method across all modalities. This concern is applicable only for courses that will be offered in multiple modalities.

This equivalency is intended to ensure that students who take a course in one modality will be just as able to acquire the skills and knowledge from that course, and just as able to continue in any subsequent courses that build on that course, as students who take the course of the same catalog number and name in another modality. That is, learning outcomes cannot differ based on modality, but assessments and activities should vary as appropriate. Addressing this part of the application should take place in both the Supplemental Questions and the submitted syllabus, as follows:

  1. In responses to the Supplemental Questions, CCI encourages instructors to write comparatively, explaining how offering the course with different modalities will result in identical outcomes, although interim assessments or activities may be different. 
  2. CCI requires the submission of two syllabi (one for online, one for in person), which have different activities and assessments, but serve the same learning goals, so that the equivalency can be illustrated by comparison between the two modes.

Includes an explanation as to how the modality will be leveraged to support the activities, assignments, and assessments in the course

For example, a course might use a synchronous online modality with a “flipped classroom” design, because the novel terms and concepts are easier learned if students learn initially via reading and comparing with their own intuitions. In such a course, the homework material used by students for their independent learning would be designed to both reinforce the novel terms and concepts with which students need to be familiar, and guide them through their first attempts at new problem solving. The synchronous meeting portion of the course would still allow the instructor to explain different approaches that were taken to solving homework problems, lead the class in practice real-time problem solving, and/or assign groups of students to breakout sessions for more heavily discussion-based collaborative reasoning. The explanation in the application would include specific mention of planned activities and assignments that serve the learning outcomes, and explain how those are addressed effectively with the selected modality.

Includes discipline-appropriate methods to safeguard academic integrity

CCI recognizes that the appropriateness of a final assessment, both as an evaluation of student progress and as a successful safeguard of academic integrity, will depend on various factors, such as the material of the course, the discipline-specific conventions of communication and work evaluation recognized by CSAs, and the evolving challenges of mitigating new strategies or technologies. CCI welcomes discussion of the factors that lead to the selection of a particular final assessment, including but not limited to how it addresses academic integrity concerns, how it compares to other courses taught by the same CSA, and how it compares to the practices that are currently standard in a given field.

Assuring academic integrity as part of online teaching is both a challenge and a frontier, with methods and tools changing and being added year by year. Proposals for online teaching should include a requirement that students taking online classes agree to follow the same academic integrity standards as students in in-person classes. In addition, instructors should be clear what parts of the course are intended for collaboration and direct sharing of ideas and information, and what parts (specific assignments, quizzes, tests) are intended to provide information on learning outcomes for individual students. In addition, the use of specific methods and tools for safeguard academic integrity should be listed. For example, online quizzes and tests can use systems that shuffle questions and answers. It may be appropriate to allow open-book quizzes or tests if the time for which they are available is limited (subject to modification is appropriate for an accommodation). CCI welcomes discussion of the factors that lead to the selection of a particular final assessment, including but not limited to how it addresses academic integrity concerns, how it compares to other courses taught by the same CSA, and how it compares to the practices that are currently standard in a given field.

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Q: Does an online version of a course have to be “better” than the in person version?
  1. No. Neither the in person or any online versions of a course should be demonstrably better, worse, easier, or harder than any of the others. Students who take a course in a particular modality should neither be penalized nor rewarded for doing so.
Q: If I simply move lectures from the classroom to Zoom will I be granted Synchronous Online modality?
  1. No. This is remote instruction which can not be granted by CCI.
Q: If I simply record lectures and have the students watch them at their own pace will I be granted Asynchronous Online  modality?
  1. No. Whilst inverting the class so students watch your recorded lectures ahead of primary instruction is perfectly acceptable in all modalities, the form the primary instruction takes must be well articulated in your proposal.
Q: I want to have online closed book examinations but am concerned about academic integrity, are ProctorU and or Zoom Proctoring recommended?
  1. CCI does not recommend the use of ProctorU or related remote proctoring. Instead of requiring online closed book examinations, CCI recommends examinations be re-worked so they are not susceptible to the potential for cheating inherent in online versions.
Q: Can I hold an in person, timed final for my Synchronous or Asynchronous Online course?
  1. No. In person examinations are only supported for in person and hybrid courses.
Q: Can I hold mandatory in person secondary instruction (discussion sections, labs, office hours)  for my online course?
  1. No. If you need in person secondary instruction, apply for hybrid modality.
Q: Can courses that are approved for online or hybrid instruction also be taught in person as needed? 
  1. Yes. All courses that are reviewed (or have already been approved) for online or hybrid instruction of any type are also approved to be taught in-person as needed. No additional course forms are required for the in-person offering.
Q: Do I need to submit a revision for each format? Can courses seek approval for multiple online formats in a single revision / proposal? 
  1. Courses approved for one format of online or hybrid instruction will not be assumed approved for the other formats. If your department is considering alternating online formats in the future, we recommend this to avoid possible future revisions. Multiple online modalities can be selected in the same course form; you’ll be required to answer the associated questions and attach a syllabus for each proposed format. 
Q: If the course has asynchronous lectures but mandatory synchronous sections, does that count as asynchronous or synchronous?
  1. This is still Asynchronous, and an approval form for Asynchronous instruction should be completed. CCI asks that the department clearly state in the class schedule (using the section for Class Notes) that the course has required synchronous sections.
Q: If the course has been denied, am I allowed to resubmit for a different quarter?
  1. Yes, please update the quarter if needed and revise response questions in CAT. 
Q: If I work with Online Education or CITL, am I guaranteed course approval?  
  1. This does not guarantee approval but provides excellent support. 
Q: Can I consult with Online Education or CITL on the design of my course prior to proposing it to CCI? 
  1. Yes. Online Education and CITL are available to work with you. 
Q: I occasionally use multimedia in my classroom to engage students (this might be through the playing of games, use of virtual or augmented reality, or viewing films). Is this a sufficient justification for an online or hybrid classification?
  1. If the sole pedagogical justification for using an online or hybrid format is the inclusion of multimedia, this is likely to be insufficient for CCI approval. The pedagogical explanation should focus on how the inclusion of multimedia in online or hybrid courses can lead to equivalent learning outcomes. 
Q: If an existing course is approved for an online or hybrid, does it mean that all subsequent offerings have to be taught in the online format? 
  1. No, Course Sponsoring Agencies can choose to offer the class in an in-person format after earning online or hybrid approval. 
Q: Can I see examples of applications that were granted online modality?
  1. Yes. Contact the CCI Analyst ( ) for details. 
Q: Can I see a list of courses with online approval?
  1. Yes. Contact the CCI Analyst ( ) for details.