IFAS Internal Management Memoranda

IFAS; UF/IFAS Policy on Distance Education

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 13, 1997


SUBJECT: IFAS; UF/IFAS Policy on Distance Education


    The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) distance education system is administered by the UF Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UF/IFAS Deans for Academic Programs, Research, and Extension. The primary purpose of the UF/IFAS distance education system is to enable UF/IFAS to be more successful in accomplishing its mission for making knowledge in food, agricultural, human and natural resources accessible to all Florida residents.

    For the purpose of this policy, distance education is defined as two-way communication between teacher and student(s) separated by a geographical distance and/or time, where the communication is mediated by technology to support the educational process. Recent developments of technologies have made distance education a viable alternative for accessing educational opportunities by learners of all ages, and in a wide variety of environments.

    The scope of this policy statement shall encompass all distance education systems and provide guidelines for using the UF/IFAS distance education system. As particular technological formats emerge, specific guidelines and procedures will be developed for each as a part of the UF/IFAS distance education system. All distance education systems, including credit courses, are referred to as programs in this policy document.
    The Distance Education Committee will oversee the use and delivery of distance education courses and educational programs within IFAS, as well as off-campus instruction. Committee members will represent a variety of users within IFAS: Agricultural Education and Communication; extension, research, and teaching faculty; Educational Media and Services; Department Chairs and Center Directors; and county extension and research center faculty.

    The Distance Education Committee will be responsible for recommending programs to be delivered via distance education from submissions received at least one year in advance from faculty members to the Deans. The Deans will take the Committee's recommendations and make the final decision on program offerings via distance education.

    Priority for formal distance education programs should be given to supporting off-campus credit programs at Ft. Lauderdale, Milton, Immokalee, and other IFAS locations. Preference for selection should be given to "high-priority" or "high demand" programs that traditionally have been needed by many students or audiences.

    Priority for non-formal distance education programs should be given to those that clearly support the extension state major program areas and for responding to identified emerging crises or needs such as disaster remediation.

    In both formal and non-formal programing, consideration should be given to programs that could be distributed to national and/or international audiences via the University's membership in the A*DEC Consortium.

    Distance education delivery without special provisions will be given low-priority. For example, while grant-funded distance education programs may serve a specific audience, and are a part of the grant's deliverables, they must be included in the planning process. Faculty pursuing grants that would fund distance education programs should collaborate with the Distance Education Committee before submitting the grant proposal so it will be placed in a "high-priority" position if the grant is awarded.

    As much as nine-month advance planning period may be required for UF/IFAS initiated distance education programs. The lead time requirement will be waived for programs needed to respond to unexpected events such as natural disasters and urgent administrative matters, or where programs are shown to be fully developed and can be implemented effectively in a shorter period of time.

    Submissions for credit courses must be made one year in advance, and submissions for one-time programs must be made three months in advance to the Distance Education Committee. If the submission is recommended by the Committee, it will be forwarded to the appropriate Dean for approval. Once approved, the planning process for the course or program will begin.

    All UF/IFAS locations, such as Research and Education Centers and County Extension Offices will be given the opportunity to participate in all UF/IFAS distance education programs. Offices should be contacted prior to a distance education course or program to inquire about participation. If a location chooses to participate, it will be expected to carry out the program commitment. Where distance education programs embrace Internet/World Wide Web technologies, delivery may not involve specific sites but rather be direct to students in home/office environment.

    All locations must have designated faculty or staff members who have been identified as site coordinator, equipment technician, and site facilitator. Both the site facilitator and equipment technician should receive consultation from IFAS Educational Media and Services personnel in planning and implementing programs and using various required technologies. The same person may serve more than one role.

    The function or each role is as follow:

    Site coordinators -- Coordinates and oversees distance education offerings at their sites.

    Equipment technicians -- Operates equipment at their sites.

    Site facilitators -- Serves as local content or subject matter specialist at their sites.


    Instructional support services must be in place to support transitioning faculty to a mode of operation consistent with current and developing technological delivery systems. In particular the following UF/IFAS groups will be responsible for the following functions:

    Agricultural Education and Communication Department
    • Assist with the design of curriculum and instructional methods, materials, and evaluation for distance education.

    • Consult with faculty members, who are in the early planning stages of developing a distance education course, on instructional design of distance education courses.

    • Assist faculty members, who are in the early planning stages of developing a distance education course, on instructional design of distance education courses.

    • Assist faculty and site facilitators on distance delivery systems presentational styles and delivery of instruction using technology.

    Educational Media and Services

    • Assist faculty and site facilitators on the various technical equipment that will be necessary for program delivery.

    • Coordinate all marketing activities, including needs assessment, and promotion.

    • Conduct and maintain quality control for all production-related activities (videotaping, satellite delivery, Internet/World Wide Web, compressed video, graphic design and artwork).

    IFAS Information Technology Office/Computer Network

    • Implement policy and develop standards for information technology software and applications development and hardware and connectivity.

    County Extension Offices and Research and Education Centers

    • Identify a coordinator of distance education at each county office and Research and Education Center. This person is responsible for coordinating all distance education activities at his or her location.

    Where faculty has received approval for conducting distance education programs, they shall receive appropriate work load credit for developing and conducting the program. Additionally, they should receive appropriate release time from regularly assigned duties to accommodate time requirements of distance education programs. Credit and release time is the responsibility of the appropriate Department Chair/Center Director/County Extension Director.

    Faculty involved in developing approved distance education programs shall also receive program support from Agricultural Education and Communications, Educational Media and Services, and the IFAS Information Technology Office in the form of materials, direct personnel assistance, hardware/software/systems training, and other appropriate support as required.

    IFAS distance education programs may be conducted using a variety of supporting technologies but not limited to video tape, satellite systems, compressed video systems, networked personal computers, CD ROMS, and internet/World Wide Web.

    In all cases, UF/IFAS programs and support unity facilities should be involved in distance education programs, including origination and access locations, to insure quality control.


    1. Teaching
      Distance education programs provide an alternate mode of delivering credit courses to students at different locations. A credit course consists of a series of ongoing class sessions involving a registration procedure and tuition fee, transcript of credit, grades, and college-level learning experience.

    2. Research
      Distance education programs may be useful for state wide planning and coordination of research activities among cooperating scientists, eliminating time constraints and costs associated with travel. Research faculty might include distance education programs for professional development or appraisal of new technologies or techniques.

    3. Extension
      Distance education programming can also support the UF/IFAS mission of extension and problem-solving at the state and local levels. Extension workshops and certification programs conducted via distance education may carry the full University of Florida endorsement where participant certification or continuing education credit is desired. Distance education programming can also support the professional development needs of the faculty.

    4. Administrative

      Distance education programs should be used when they provide an appropriate way to conduct administration statewide activities and are cost effective.

    A budget identifying projected costs and sources of financial sources of financial support should be prepared for each distance education program, and must be included in the UF/IFAS distance education program proposal.

    1. User Fees
      User Fees in addition to tuition are defined as a charge to a participant in a distance education program. User fees should cover actual out-of-pocket expenses connected with distance education programs. However, user fees may not include salary or time of permanent county or state faculty and staff. User fees should be deposited in an appropriate account for the purpose of paying the costs associated with the program.

    2. UF/IFAS Underwriting
      Some programs will be supported entirely or in part by departments, units or centers. Such support should be documented on the UF/IFAS distance education program proposal and verified in writing by the appropriate unit administrator and/or Dean. Programs entirely supported by UF/IFAS underwriting may recover costs through a user fee.

    3. Non UF/IFAS Programs
      When non-UF/IFAS organizations are using UF/IFAS facilities for distance education program access, such outside organizations are responsible for all costs associated with delivery of the program.

    Many sources, including the A*DEC Consortium and the Florida Distance Learning Association of which UF/IFAS is a member, originate distance education programs. In situations where UF/IFAS personnel have reviewed the outside programming and have deemed it appropriate for Florida, outside programs may carry the UF/IFAS endorsement.

    As in the case of UF/IFAS originated programs, UF/IFAS locations may be given the opportunity to participate in non-UF/IFAS originated programs. UF/IFAS locations choosing to participate are expected to accommodate all of a given programs' requirements.