HLC Requirements for Online Courses

Northern Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to award bachelors, masters, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees. The NIU Office of Institutional Effectiveness oversees NIU's accreditation process. Learn more about NIU's accreditation.

HLC uses the term Distance Education to refer to degrees or courses that "deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor." This includes education delivered online using technology to support "substantive interaction between the students and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously." (HLC Glossary)

The most important criteria for distance education is 3.A.3:

The institution's program quality and learning goals are consistent across all modes of delivery and all locations

In addition, HLC follows the Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education that were developed by the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC). The Guidelines include nine hallmarks of quality for distance education:

  1. Online learning is appropriate to the institution's mission and purposes.
  2. The institution's plans for developing, sustaining and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation processes.
  3. Online learning is incorporated into the institution's systems of governance and academic oversight.
  4. Curricula for the institution's online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive, and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats.
  5. The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online learning offerings, including the extent to which the online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals.
  6. Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating the students' success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported.
  7. The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings.
  8. The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings.
  9. The institution assures the integrity of its online learning offerings.

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595
Email: citl@niu.edu

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