Online Program Development Process

The Office of Online & Distance Education supports colleges, departments, programs, faculty and staff in the process to develop and deliver new online degree programs, certificates and endorsements. 

The idea to explore the delivery of a degree program via distance education may come from many directions, including requests from prospective students, faculty members who believe an audience exists for a particular program, or recognition by staff of emerging needs and market trends. Regardless of the origins of the concept, given the highly competitive distance education market, the ability to move quickly when opportunities are identified provides a competitive advantage.

At the same time, because the development and delivery of an academic program through online, blended or off-campus instruction requires a significant investment in resources, a number of critical questions must be addressed as part of the decision-making process. The primary responsibility for working through these questions and making a final decision about whether to move forward with offering a degree program at a distance is a collaborative one involving the sponsoring academic department and college and the Office of Online & Distance Education. In addition, consultation with other stakeholders who are directly impacted by the decision to offer a degree program via distance education is critical to ensure commitment is solid for the program plan.


The process of deciding whether to move forward with delivery of a distance education program can be considered in three stages: exploratory, advancement and commitment. In the exploratory stage, an initial assessment takes place to determine whether or not offering the program is in the realm of feasibility. This stage also provides a foundation for the advancement stage, in which the details of the program staffing, support structures, finances, marketing and assessment are analyzed and developed. In addition, approval or notification requirements from outside entities, if required, are addressed during the advancement stage. The final stage consists of a more refined assessment of the demand for the program, a review of all the criteria, and a decision about whether to commit to the delivery of the program or take another course of action.

The criteria involved in deciding to offer a degree program through online, blended or off-site instruction are listed as follows in the form of key questions.


Interest in or questions about developing a distance learning program may be directed to Online & Distance Education at (319) 273-7206 or