NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, where a separate standard is listed for a particular degree level/category (i.e. ‘For Applied Degrees’), that standard completely replaces the main standard.
Faculty and staff – The program is supported by an appropriate number of suitably qualified academic faculty and instructional staff to develop and deliver the degree program. Faculty shall have an appropriate level of scholarly output and/or research or creative activity for the baccalaureate or graduate program involved.
For Applied Degrees: The program is supported by an appropriate number of suitably qualified academic faculty and instructional staff to develop and deliver the degree program. Faculty shall maintain continuing academic and professional competence and accreditation in their discipline or field appropriate to the specific applied degree program.
Academic policies – The program has academic policies such as those dealing with admissions, promotion and graduation requirements, mature students, credit transfer and prior learning assessment, appeals, and academic dishonesty consistent with the level of the degree program. It has established policies and procedures that outline the process by which transfer of academic credit is awarded.
For Applied Degrees: By definition, applied degrees must have a work-related experience component. Therefore, in addition to the above, the institution must have policies and procedures which define the roles of the institution, employer and student in the directed field studies component of the program and resources in place to effect these policies. Work placements and learning outcomes must be directly related to the practical and work experience program outcomes.
Resource capacity – The program is supported by the physical resources, both start-up and development, needed to assure the quality of the degree program. These include, where applicable, equipment, library and learning resources (physical and electronic), laboratories, computing facilities, shops, specialized equipment, etc., and work placements where this is a component of the program. There is an institutional commitment to maintaining and supplementing resources and equipment as needed to meet standards applicable to the field.
Credential recognition – The credential is or can be recognized and accepted by other post-secondary institutions, employers, and professional and licensing bodies, where applicable. There is an appropriate fit between the nomenclature of the credential and the content of the degree. The name of a degree should convey long-term meaning, and the content of the degree program should be consistent with the name.
For Applied Degrees: The credential is or can be recognized and accepted by other post-secondary institutions, employers, and professional and licensing bodies, where applicable. There is an appropriate fit between the nomenclature of the credential and the content of the degree. The name of a degree should convey long-term meaning, and the content of the degree program should be consistent with the name. Institutions are responsible for advising students of the nature of the applied degree with respect to its recognition for further study.
Program delivery – Learning methodologies are the methods of delivery that will be used to achieve the desired learning outcomes at an acceptable level of quality. The institution must demonstrate that it has the expertise and resources to support the proposed methods of delivery and ensure their effectiveness. The institution should also demonstrate the ways in which it understands and attends to the learning needs of students in the program, and supports their engaged and active learning.
Program content – The program offers education of sufficient breadth and rigour to meet relevant national and international standards, and the content of the program, in both subject matter and outcome standards, is appropriate to the level of the degree program and the field of study. Its curriculum must be current and reflect the state of knowledge in the field, or fields in the case of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs. The institution must have a process to maintain the currency of the program and the quality of its learning outcomes.
Program structure – The structure of the degree is such that there is an appropriate balance between core requirements and specialized courses, for example, between Arts and Science courses and discipline specific courses, and between the proposed program and existing programs.
Program evaluation – The program is subject to a formal, approved policy and procedure requiring a periodic review and improvement process. The policy and procedure includes assessment of the program against published standards (including the institution’s own learning outcome standards for the program), and assessment of individual student work in the terminal stage of the program against program outcomes. Such assessments normally include the advice of external experts.
Regulation and accreditation – Learning outcomes and other requirements for graduation in programs leading to professions are designed to prepare students to meet the requirements of the relevant regulatory, accrediting, quality assurance or professional body.
Dated: April 2005, with revisions to December 2011
Proposals for undergraduate degrees must meet the CAQC Expectations for Design and Structure of Undergraduate Degrees in Chapter 4.3.3 of the Handbook. Degree programs delivered in whole or in part in blended, distributed or distance modes are expected to also meet Council’s Additional Quality Assessment Standards for Programs Delivered in Blended, Distributed or Distance Modes in Chapter 4.5 of the Handbook.
Faculty and staff – The program, whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary in nature, is supported by suitably qualified academic faculty and instructional staff to develop and deliver the graduate degree program and to supervise students. Faculty will have an appropriate level of scholarly output and/or research or creative activity for the graduate program involved. The institution will have a critical mass of scholars/researchers, not only in the program area but in related areas, with a range of expertise to allow for intellectual leadership and challenge. The program will be anchored by a designated complement of faculty who are primarily responsible for its delivery and continuity.
Commitment to research and scholarship – The institution and the program being proposed have a research culture (the scholarly context within which graduate study will occur) which is fundamental to maintaining and enhancing high quality graduate programs. The institution is clearly committed to research which promotes the depth and breadth of knowledge, both within the field/discipline, and in a cognate field/discipline when necessary.
Academic and program policies and procedures – The program is governed by academic policies appropriate to the administration of a full-time or part-time graduate program including, but not limited to, those dealing with admissions, placement, applicable residency requirements, maximum time limits for completion, assessment, progression and graduation requirements, supervisory committee requirements, comprehensive/candidacy examination requirements, thesis oral examination committee and procedures, credit transfer and prior learning assessment, appeals, academic dishonesty, intellectual property rights, and ethical guidelines for research.
Graduate supervision plans – The institution has a detailed graduate supervision plan in place to organize the advising, supervision and monitoring of graduate students. The proposed program has criteria for the appointment of faculty who will supervise graduate students, and for the appointment of supporting or adjunct faculty and mentoring practices to enhance the supervisory skills of faculty. The proposed program specifies graduate supervisory loads for faculty, advising and monitoring practices for graduate students, and procedures for the monitoring and evaluation of students that will provide adequate feedback to the program administrators and to the student.
Quality of students – Admission to master’s or doctoral programs will normally require either a recognized undergraduate or graduate degree with an appropriate specialization or relevant bridging studies. Institutions will expect those admitted to graduate programs to have achieved an academic standing in the previous degree (or equivalent) to enable success in the program and will require that students maintain standards appropriate to graduate study in order to progress and graduate from the program. The proposed program will have a systematic and effective process for recruiting high quality graduate students. The extent and nature of financial support available to students and the financial resources dedicated to support the proposed size, scope and nature of the program and a critical mass of students will be described.
Resource capacity – The program is supported by the physical resources, both start-up and continuing, needed to assure its quality. These include, where applicable, space for graduate students, equipment, library and learning resources (physical and electronic), laboratories, computing facilities, shops, specialized equipment and work placements. There is an institutional commitment to maintaining and supplementing resources and equipment as needed to meet standards applicable to the field.
Recognition of the degree – The credential should align with Canadian standards and be recognized and accepted by other postsecondary institutions, by employers, and by professional and licensing bodies, where applicable. The nomenclature of the degree should reflect its content. The program type and degree level should be consistent with Canadian practice in graduate education, as exemplified by the Canadian Degree Qualifications Framework (CDQF), and it should have learning outcomes as defined by the CDQF that are consistent with national and international standards of quality.
Graduate program design, content, and delivery – The program offers education of sufficient breadth and rigour to meet relevant national and international standards, and the content of the program, in both subject matter and outcome standards, is appropriate to the level of the graduate degree program and the field of study. The program’s design and content structure assures that the student will achieve the objectives of the program. Its curriculum must be current and reflect the state of knowledge in the field, or fields in the case of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary programs. Learning methodologies are the methods of delivery that will be used to achieve the desired learning outcomes at an acceptable level of quality; the institution must have the expertise and resources to support the proposed method(s) of delivery and ensure its effectiveness.
Graduate program evaluation – The institution must have a process to maintain the currency of the program and the quality of its learning outcomes. The program is subject to a formal, approved policy and procedure requiring a cyclical review and improvement process, and includes assessment of the program against published standards (including the institution’s own learning outcome standards for the program), and assessment of individual student work in the terminal stage of the program against program outcomes. Such assessments must include the advice of independent academic experts .
Credentialing – Learning outcomes and other requirements for graduation in programs leading to professions (such as entry to practice programs) are designed to prepare students to meet the requirements of the relevant regulatory, accrediting, quality assurance or professional body. If the proposed program is a professional or clinical practice program, it has sufficient empirical and theoretical foundations so that study can be integrated with and informed by original research in the unit.
Dated: June 2005, with revisions to December 2011
 In engaging external experts, institutions should be guided by Council’s guideline on Independent Academic Experts (CAQC Handbook, Appendix I).
The Campus Alberta Quality Council, in its review of degree programs, is guided by the principle that while instructional methods may differ, expectations of high quality remain the same. The key considerations in assuring the quality of any program are that they are learning-driven and that they are informed by excellent research and scholarship not only in the discipline or disciplines addressed in the program but also in teaching, learning and assessment.
Degree programs delivered in whole or in part in blended, distributed or distance modes, like degree programs offered exclusively in face-to-face mode, are required to meet Council’s existing quality assessment standards for undergraduate and graduate programs. In addition, these programs will be assessed using the following standards for blended, distributed or distance learning.
Although some of the standards listed below may be applicable only to degrees using particular pedagogies or technologies, all degree programs will be consistent with leading practices in teaching and learning. Council has developed these additional standards with reference to national and international norms and benchmarks for blended, distributed and distance learning and expects those proposing such programs to do the same.
Council will use the following standards in its assessment of programs relying on blended, distributed or distance delivery modes.
Institutional commitment – The mandate or mission, the academic plan, the goals of the institution and its policies must be well matched to the programs offered, whatever their mode of delivery. The institution is obliged – administratively, financially and technically – to create and sustain a program for a period sufficient to enable all admitted learners to complete a degree in the published timeframe. That timeframe must be appropriate and relevant for the learners for whom the program is intended and for the specific area of study addressed by the program.
Institutional ownership of the program – The institution in which the learner is enrolled, not its contractors or partners, has an obligation to and a relationship with the learner. Although important elements of a program may be supplied by individuals or groups outside the institution or outsourced to other organizations or contractors, the responsibility for program quality remains with the credentialing institution(s), that is, the institution(s) awarding the degree.
Collaboration and joint delivery – Council recognizes that institutions may enter into agreements with partners or consortia for programs that rely on blended, distributed and distance modes of delivery. In instances where several institutions are delivering a program jointly, the responsibility for program quality will be shared jointly, even though the onus for quality rests ultimately with the credentialing institution(s). It is therefore important that when adopting materials supplied by other institutions or developed within a consortium, the credentialing institution(s) negotiate permission to amend materials if changes are necessary to meet institutional standards of quality. Where collaboration or joint delivery of a program is contemplated, section 4.6 in Council’s Handbook (collaborative degrees) should be considered.
Risk management and mitigation – An institution using blended, distributed or distance learning modes should demonstrate that it has in place appropriate risk management provisions, including those that ensure that technological infrastructure is stable, reliable, well maintained and secure, that a disaster recovery plan is available in the event that servers or other technologies fail, and that learners will not be adversely affected should an agreement with a partner or contractor be abrogated.
Privacy, identity and confidentiality – The institution recognizes that appropriate safeguards must be in place to assure the authentication of learner identity and the integrity of learner work in blended, distributed and distance programs. Documented procedures and appropriate storage protocols assure that security of personal information is protected in conducting assessments and evaluations and in the dissemination of results. It is equally important to establish procedures and timelines by which personal data no longer needed for authentication purposes will be destroyed.
Accessibility – Given that learners have diverse learning needs, the institution should assure that the diverse needs of learners are appropriately addressed, and when necessary, accommodated.
Intellectual property – The institution has policies to deal with the requirements of copyright and intellectual property laws and to address issues pertaining to digital rights management and appropriate use of learning object repositories.
Technology and renewal – The technology used to administer and deliver the program, both pedagogically and administratively, is adequate to facilitate program delivery, and institutions are committed to appropriate updating of any technologies employed, and the identification and evaluation of emerging technologies. Sufficient resources need to be available for development and sustainability. The support for the building and maintenance of the technology for learning activities is maintained and supported and is as failsafe and secure as possible.
Program planning and design
Appropriate planning – There is a clear, well-understood process by which the program evolves from conception to approval to implementation to institutional review to continuous improvement. The instructional methods, modes of delivery and assessments of learning and feedback used should be aligned with articulated learning outcomes for the course or program.
Team/collaborative/networked learning – Due consideration should be given to the substantial amount of learning that comes from peers, and to the implications of cohort models and other team, collaborative and networked learning environments.
Course development and evaluation – Instructional and course materials should be reviewed regularly to ensure that they continue to meet the requirements and standards for the program. The intended learning outcomes should be reviewed regularly to ensure clarity and appropriateness, and their effectiveness evaluated through several appropriate methods.
Advice to learners – Learners are fully advised about the competencies, the self-discipline and the equipment they will need to have in order to participate in the program, and are provided with information about the programs, courses, required texts and/or materials and other requirements in a timely manner to enable them to acquire the materials for their course as it begins. Learners should also be informed of the costs associated with the mode of delivery of their program.
Learner support – Learners are provided with training in how to use on-line tools, and are updated when changes are planned or implemented.
Hardware and software – Procedures are in place to ensure that learners are supported in their use of the hardware and software required and have access to advice on these matters. In particular, before starting the program, learners are advised of the technical and time requirements (e.g., synchronous learning sessions).
Learner services – Learners are informed about what learner services (e.g., academic advising, counseling) are available, if any, to assist them, and to address any complaints they have, or they are referred to the appropriate institutional documentation.
Oversight of program curricula – Program curricula, assessment and oversight are the responsibility of academically qualified persons. The presentation, management, assessment and evaluation of the program are the responsibility of staff with appropriate academic qualifications.
Technology training – All those involved in course design and delivery are adequately trained and assisted in the technology and pedagogy of on-line learning. Academic staff are assisted and supported in making the transition from classroom to online teaching or vice versa, and are assessed and mentored as they progress in their online teaching.
Technical support – Academic staff are provided with an orientation to, and sufficient ongoing training/technical support for any hardware and software resources required in the program, and are also updated in a timely manner about any impending or actual changes that could affect their access to or involvement in their online programs.
Dated: September 2006, with revisions to April 2011