Internet Explorer Detected

The Penn State Graduate School website is best experienced in Firefox or Google Chrome. It is highly recommended that you use an alternative browser.

GCAC-213

Residency and Related Policies for Off-Campus Degree Programs

adjust

Purpose

This policy defines residency and other requirements for graduate degrees classified as off-campus degree programs.

school

Academic Goal

The academic goal of this policy is to ensure the academic standards of traditional resident graduate degree programs are maintained as graduate degree programs are offered online and by other nontraditional means.

crop_free

Scope

This policy pertains to all graduate programs.

One of the traditional goals of public universities has been to make graduate education accessible to the widest possible range of suitably prepared and motivated students, while maintaining the academic quality that gives advanced degrees their value. With the rapid changes in available instructional technologies, a considerable array of new and innovative approaches to graduate education has become feasible.

Residency requirements previously have been met by a period of enrollment at or the completion of a minimum number of credits that are administratively associated with a specific Penn State campus and that are fulfilled in residence. As a result, it is appropriate to reconsider the meaning of residency and its applicability to off-campus and online graduate degree programs.

In addition, there are important implications with respect to the offering of graduate degree programs off-campus, online, and by other nontraditional means. This policy also addresses those issues.

Overall, the intent of Graduate Council is to encourage creative ways of addressing student and community needs, while ensuring that such graduate degree programs maintain academic standards parallel to those of more traditional programs.

Blended Graduate Degree Program
A graduate degree program in which four or more courses but less than half are offered off-campus or online.
Extended Graduate Degree Programs
Programs that are extended from one approved graduate center (University Park, Behrend College, Great Valley School of Graduate Professional Studies, Capital College, College of Medicine) to another approved graduate center location.
Off-Campus Courses
Graduate courses that are offered remotely from the graduate center responsible for the class via any suitable technologies.
Off-Campus Degree Programs
Graduate degree programs in which more than half of the course credits required for completion of the degree consists of off-campus courses. Off-campus degree programs include programs offered through the World Campus and at non-University locations (e.g., corporate facility, school district, etc.) or at University locations that are not an approved graduate center location, and include both programs delivered in a traditional face-to-face format and those delivered online.

Policy Statement

  1. The essential elements of residency are (see also Fulfilling the Essential Elements of Residency in Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs – Procedure):
    1. interaction between faculty members and students above and beyond direct instruction (e.g., reading groups, coffee hour discussion groups, informal conversations, etc.);
    2. interaction between peers (i.e., among students in a given program);
    3. meaningful engagement with libraries, laboratories, and research facilities;
    4. exposure to and socialization in the field of study, including but not limited to seminar series, workshops, research exhibitions, discussions with professional peers, informal departmental activities, and other shared experiences;
    5. providing adequate and individualized academic advising.
  2. A research doctoral (Ph.D.) degree may not be offered as an off-campus graduate program, including online.
  3. A professional doctoral degree may be offered as an off-campus graduate program, including online. Proposals to create an off-campus professional doctoral degree or to offer an existing residential professional doctoral degree at an off-campus location must include a section demonstrating how each of the essential elements of residency will be achieved.
    1. All off-campus professional doctoral programs must contain a period of residence to ensure the acquisition of the full scope of knowledge, skills, and professional attributes specific to their discipline. For off-campus students, residency can be met by:
      1. Attending a 5 day on-campus residency; or
      2. Attending multiple shorter on-campus residencies that combined add to a minimum of 5 days.
    2. In exceptional cases Graduate Council will consider other approaches to meet this Residency Requirement when accompanied by a clear and compelling justification through the Graduate Council curricular review process.
  4. A research master’s degree (M.A. or M.S.) may be offered as an off-campus program, including online. Proposals to create an off-campus research master’s degree or to offer an existing residential research master’s degree at an off-campus location must include a section demonstrating how each of the essential elements of residency will be achieved.
  5. A professional master’s degree program may be offered as an off-campus graduate program, including online. Proposals to create an off-campus professional master’s degree or to offer an existing residential professional master’s degree at an off-campus location must include a section demonstrating how each of the essential elements of residency will be achieved.
  6. Postbaccalaureate and graduate credit certificate programs may be offered off-campus, including online, and need not require satisfaction of any residency requirements.
  7. All graduate courses offered off-campus and regardless of the delivery mode, must be delivered by members of the Graduate Faculty or individuals who have received special approval to teach them (see GCAC-101 Graduate Faculty Membership).
  8. New or revised off-campus degree programs must be offered through existing departments, schools, colleges, and/or intercollege programs at the University, and those units retain academic control over program definition and content.
  9. While all degree programs must be available to and advertised to all applicants, off-campus degree programs or courses may be offered at specific company or other organizational sites, and instruction (e.g., case studies, problems, or class projects) may be tailored to particular groups of students. Off-campus delivery sites may restrict access at proprietary facilities to their employees or other approved participants. However, off-campus degree programs will not be created to serve a specific organization or client exclusively, and a public offering of every degree program must be made available. This policy statement also applies to off-campus postbaccalaureate or graduate credit certificate programs.
  10. All students enrolled in off-campus degree programs must be advised throughout their studies, beginning with or prior to initial enrollment, by Graduate Faculty members who serve on the faculty of the relevant degree program.
  11. Admissions criteria for off-campus degree programs must be the same as for residential degree programs, and ideally should be evaluated by the same individuals or committees. Admission may not be offered on a blanket basis (e.g., to all students who have completed a particular training or certificate program, or to all employees identified by a given company).
  12. Off-campus degree programs must meet all applicable accreditation standards, where accreditation exists.

Process

  1. Delivery of any graduate (500- and 800-level) course to students at an off-campus location, either in face-to-face instruction or online, requires academic approval:
    1. Up to three existing graduate courses may be offered to students at an off-campus location with approval from the Chair of the Graduate Council Committee on Programs and Courses and the Dean of the Graduate School through the Expedited Review Process for Limited Off-Site Course Offerings (see Process 2).
    2. A program intending to establish a blended program, e.g. more than four off-campus graduate courses but less than half of the course credits required for completion of the degree, must submit a program change proposal.
    3. A program change proposal to offer a graduate degree program off-campus is required to offer more than half of the course credits required for completion of the degree to students at an off-campus location (including online).
  2. Expedited Review Process for Limited Off-Campus Course Offerings

    The following process enables graduate degree programs to offer up to three existing graduate courses at a specific off-site location for specific semesters. This process may not be used for more than three courses, new courses, or degree program delivery.

    1. No more than three existing courses per graduate degree program may be submitted for approval by this expedited process.
    2. The courses to be delivered off campus must be previously approved, existing courses.
    3. The faculty members teaching the specified courses must be members of the Graduate Faculty or individuals who have received special approval to teach them.
    4. Students in these courses must have been admitted to the Graduate School as nondegree graduate students or as degree-seeking graduate students.

Procedure

P1 - Graduate Curricular Proposal Requirements

P2 - Expedited Review Process for Limited Off-Campus Course Offerings

P3 - Fulfilling the Essential Elements of Residency in Off-Campus Graduate Degree Programs

Forms

insert_drive_fileExpedited Review Process for Limited Off-Campus Course Offerings - Form (PDF)

Revision History

  • Approved by Graduate Council, April 14, 2021. Effective date: Fall 2021 (8/16/2021).
    • Revised to ensure that all four degree types were addressed in the policy in a consistent way. Recommendations from the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Doctoral Policies were incorporated. The essential elements of residency were updated.
  • Approved by Graduate Council, January 16, 2019. Effective date: Fall 2019 (8/12/2019).
    • The requirement for a 3-year report to Graduate Council for new off-site and online programs was eliminated. The requested information will now be submitted and reviewed as part of the Graduate School’s regular three-year graduate program review cycle.
  • Revised by Graduate Council, September 2013.
  • Approved by Graduate Council, April 1997.
    • New policy.
This page was generated on October 22, 2021 at 5:37 PM Eastern Time. This may not be the most recent version. Check the website for updates.