Maintaining Parity

The parity of WSU’s equivalent courses taught across a variety of platforms and locations is a critical quality issue that must be addressed by all faculty and departments.

Wichita State University is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).  The HLC provides extensive guidelines about university programs.

For the purposes of distance education delivery such as online, hybrid, and telecourses, there are two things to keep in mind.

First, we have Criterion 3.A.3, which reads, “The institution’s program quality and learning goals are consistent across all modes of delivery and all locations (on the main campus, at additional locations, by distance delivery, as dual credit, through contractual or consortial arrangements, or any other modality).”

Criterion 3.A.3 specifically lists “quality” and “learning goals” separately, and both must be addressed in all courses.  Although an online (or other distance ed) course does not have to have the same methods as its face-to-face equivalents, the overall content and delivery of the course must have the same quality.

The second thing to keep in mind is the distinction that HLC draws between “distance” courses and “correspondence” courses.

Correspondence courses, which tend to be largely or entirely self-paced courses with a high degree of student-content interaction but little student-professor or student-student interaction, are built on a very old model.  Distance education courses, in contrast, are a newer delivery model and have “regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor.”  Wichita State is not accredited to offer correspondence courses and is accredited to provide distance education courses.

Putting these two things together allows us to build a definition of “parity” or “equivalency.”  Wichita State online, hybrid, and other distance education courses must meet the same quality standards and learning goals as face-to-face courses and must have regular and substantive student/professor interaction in addition to student/content interaction.  Where possible, the Office of Online Learning also urges professors to create courses with substantive student/student interaction.