Course Policies and Guidelines
- Course Learning Objectives
- Instruction Mode and Units of Credit
- Propose a New Course
- Edit an Existing Course
- Propose a Course for General Education
- Propose a Course for United States Cultural Pluralism
- Propose Course to be Taught Online
- Courses Approved for Online Delivery
- Propose a Topic for a Topics Course
Course Learning Objectives
Course Learning Objectives (CLOs) are clear, concise statements of what learners will be able to perform at the conclusion of instructional activities. In other words, they complete the sentence, “Upon completion of this course, a student will be able to…” CLO’s reflect the lower or upper division nature of a course and are measurable. For assistance with writing good CLO’s for new course proposals, see Course Learning Objectives.
Following are the California State University (CSU) system-wide component values that identify the mode of instruction for a course and the number of class meeting (contact) hours to be scheduled per unit of credit.
- Lecture (LEC) – 1 contact hour per unit of credit
- Laboratory (LAB) – 3 contact hours per unit of credit
- Activity (ACT) – 2 contact hours per unit of credit
- Seminar (SEM) – 1 contact hour per unit of credit
- Discussion (DIS) – 1 contact hour per unit of credit
- Independent Study (IND) – also known as supervision mode and involves independent work done by students under the guidance of the faculty and does not meet regularly in a classroom; a minimum of 3 hours of independent study per week per unit of credit
A course may have more than one mode of instruction. For example, a 4-unit course may consist of 3 units of lecture and 1 unit of laboratory, so it is scheduled with 6 contact hours on a weekly basis.
When proposing a new course, refer to the CSU Definition of a Credit Hour to determine the appropriate number of credit units.
Instruction modes have different ‘CS numbers’ in the CSU Course Classification system. These CS numbers in combination with a course’s credit units drive the calculation and generation of faculty workload, student credit units, and facility utilization.
Proposers should carefully consider which courses or requirements are logically and reasonably necessary for success in the course. A brief, clear explanation on the course proposal form to describe why each requisite is needed will be valuable to reviewers as well as providing a record for the department.
Requisites (if any) for a course are listed in the course’s description in the Catalog.
Prerequisite: Coursework to be completed and/or requirements to be met before taking the course.
Concurrent: Two or more courses that must be taken in the same term.
Corequisite: Course or courses that may be taken prior to the course being described (prerequisite) or in the same term (concurrent).
Recommended: Course with supporting content that is recommended, but is not required to be taken in a previous term or in the same term
Prerequisite Strings: Some prerequisites have their own prerequisites, forming a string of courses that must all be taken. The course description shows the last course in the prerequisite string of courses.
For example, ME 212 Engineering Dynamics has prerequisites of MATH 241; and ME 211 or ARCE 211.
- MATH 241 Calculus IV requires MATH 143, which requires MATH 142, which requires MATH 141.
- ME 211 Engineering Statistics requires MATH 241; and PHYS 131 or PHYS 141.
- To enroll in ME 212 Engineering Dynamics, students must have successfully completed MATH 241, MATH 143, MATH 142, MATH 141 and ME 211 or ARCE 211 and PHYS 131 or PHYS 141.
Take care to ensure that prerequisites do not unnecessarily interfere with students’ ability to enroll. The validity of each prerequisite should be considered in terms of how essential the material from the required prior (or concurrent) course will be in maximizing student progress in the new course. Prerequisites are not designed to enforce the flow of curriculum; curricular flow is enforced through Curriculum Flowcharts and good advising.
Hidden Prerequisites: A curriculum may not have "hidden" prerequisites. If a course is a prerequisite for a required major or support course, then that prerequisite course must be included in the curriculum as a major or support course. For example, for a curriculum requiring MATH 241 as a support course, MATH 141, 142 and 143 must also be listed as support courses.
Consent of Instructor: If a student does not meet a requisite as outlined in a course's description, but can demonstrate to an instructor that they have the necessary knowledge or skills through alternative means, then the instructor may grant the student permission to enroll in the course. Every course is open with instructor’s consent; this goes without saying in the course description.
Proposals for new courses are developed by faculty and submitted for approval through the Curriculum Management system. See basic instructions and business process guides on using the system. For assistance with writing proposals, refer to the below examples of approved course proposals:
Early in the course proposal process, you should consult with faculty in other departments who may offer courses similar to the one you wish to propose. Other resources include your department head and college curriculum chairs, as well as the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology.
A new course may be proposed outside of a catalog review cycle, if it does not create a new curriculum requirement for students on current or prior catalogs. For example, the new course may be an addition to a list of electives.
A crosslisted course is the same course offered by multiple academic units as indicated by the course’s subject prefixes. An example of a crosslisted course is BIO/CHEM 441 Bioinformatics Applications.
- are shared by two or more academic units
- have identical course elements (e.g. title, description, units, mode of instruction, prerequisites) except the course prefix which reflects the academic unit
- are interchangeable for degree requirements
- cannot be repeated for degree credit under separate subject prefixes
- may be scheduled with the same instructor, room, and meeting pattern
- may be scheduled with all, some, or one of the subject prefixes
If the new course is similar in content to a prior or existing course that will no longer be offered, respond “yes” to the question in the online proposal form, asking whether it is a replacement course. A replacement course:
- is coded as the replacement for the prior course in the student administration system and degree progress report;
- meets a curriculum requirement in a program in a prior or current catalog;
- allows repeats to automatically process (if a student failed the prior course, he/she may use the replacement course as a repeat course);
- has a different course number than the prior course;
- may have a different title, unit value, course description, and/or prerequisite.
Note: If the course number, title, units, level and/or prerequisites change, but the catalog course description remains the same the course will be treated as a replacement for the prior course. If the department determines that the course is not a replacement for a prior course, the catalog course description must be changed.
(This information is needed for students, advisers, community college articulations, and the Office of the Registrar.)
If the new course may be repeated for credit, respond “yes” when asked in the online proposal form. An example of a repeatable course is MU 170 University Jazz Band, which is a 1-unit course that may be repeated for up to 6 units. Note that repeating a course for credit is different from when a student repeats a course for grade improvement.
If a course may be repeated for credit, the online proposal from will prompt for further information:
- What is the maximum number of units that may be earned in the course? This information will be noted in the course description, e.g. “Total credit is limited to 4 units.”
- Can the course be repeated for multiple credit in the same term? This is common for courses offered with topics. If multiple sections of a course with a different topic per section is offered in the same term, then the department may want to allow students to enroll and receive credit in more than one section.
Edits to existing courses are developed by faculty and submitted for approval through the Curriculum Management system. See basic instructions and business process guides on using the system.
Early in the course proposal process, you should consult your department head and college curriculum chairs.
Outside of a catalog review cycle, the only edits that may be proposed to a course are:
- adding a crosslisting or
- making the prerequisite less restrictive in order to support student enrollment, or
- making a change to the modality (i.e., method(s) of delivery) of the course (proposal is required only of more than 25% of the course’s contact hours are being replaced with technology)
To propose a course to meet a General Education requirement, follow the process for submitting new course proposals in the Curriculum Management system. Be sure to address the educational objectives and criteria for the relevant GE area.
To propose a course to meet the United States Cultural Pluralism (USCP) requirement, follow the process for submitting new course proposals in the Curriculum Management system. Be sure to address each of the criteria for USCP.
Online Teaching and Learning comprises all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching. It is the use of a computer-enabled environment in which students acquire skills and knowledge employing any form of electronic media content delivered on any type of platform.
Guidelines set forth in the Online Teaching and Learning Resolution was established to serve to standardize the course proposal process for all modalities (e.g., methods of delivery) while at the same time ensuring accountability and rigor in the offering of online education.
Courses may be proposed to utilize one or more modality, and instructional activities may be characterized as Synchronous (activities where both instructor and students are engaging in activities at the same time), or Asynchronous (activities where the instructor and/or some or all students engage in activities that are not necessarily occurring simultaneously). Cal Poly uses the following CSU Academic Senate approved course modality definitions to describe methods of in-person and online instruction:
- In-Person Face-to-Face Course, Traditional (FT) - Instruction occurs in person with student(s) and faculty present in the same location and time. Note. In-Person does not prohibit or limit technology-mediated instruction and may include a range of technological and online enhancements (e.g., integration of a learning management system to post the syllabus and assignments, flipped design with lecture material online to enhance active learning in the classroom, etc.). However, scheduled in-person face-to- face class sessions are not normally replaced with online activities.
- In-Person/Synchronous, Hybrid Course (HY) – A course is offered through a combination of in-person and synchronous instruction. To be considered In-Person/Synchronous hybrid, a course will meet synchronously online for roughly 25%-75% of class sessions. Note. Instruction using a blend of traditional and online methods. For this hybrid modality, at least 25% of the course activities take place online.
- In-Person/Asynchronous, Hybrid Course (HY) – A course is offered through a combination of in-person and asynchronous instruction. To be considered In-Person/Asynchronous hybrid, a course will meet asynchronously online for roughly 25%-75% of class sessions. Note. Instruction using a blend of traditional and online methods. For this hybrid modality, at least 25% of the course activities take place online.
- In-Person/Asynchronous, Local Course Online (LO) - Instruction occurs over the internet asynchronously. Scheduled face-to-face meetings MAY be required for orientation and student evaluation. Note. “Student evaluation” refers mainly to student assessments such as midterm and final exams but may also include course/instructor evaluations. For the Local Course Online modality, in-person face-to-face meetings do not exceed twenty-five percent (25%) of the course activities.
- Synchronous, Face-to-Face Course Online (FO) - Instruction occurs synchronously, with students and faculty present via technology at the same time (e.g., television, tele-conference, video-conference, or chat). Note. Instruction is conducted solely online in the Face-to-Face Online modality without any in-person meetings for orientation, exams, etc. In addition, 100% of the course activities take place online. The difference between Face-to-Face Online and Remote Course Online is the synchronous delivery method and the need for scheduling of set meeting times.
- Asynchronous, Remote Course Online (RO) - Instruction occurs over the Internet asynchronously. Students do not need to be on campus for any portion of coursework. Note. Instruction is conducted with students and instructors working at separate times and in different physical locations. For the RO modality, 100% of the course activities take place online. The difference between RO and FO is the asynchronous delivery method without the need for scheduling of any set meeting times.
- Synchronous/Asynchronous Hybrid, Face-to-Face Course (FO) - A course is offered through a combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous instruction. Note. Instruction is conducted solely online through a combination of Face-to-Face Online and Remote Course Online modalities without any in-person meetings for orientation, exams, etc. In addition, 100% of the course activities take place online. This method will have a portion of the instruction with a scheduled set meeting time.
New course proposals and course modifications shall specify the mode (e.g. lecture, or laboratory) and modality, which establishes the expected contact hours or their equivalent.
In courses with modalities that include online instruction (FO, LO, RO, and HY), direct faculty instruction takes the place of classroom time, and a credit hour may be measured by an equivalent amount of direct instruction (e.g., text-based learning modules, asynchronous screencast lectures, lecture transcripts, recorded podcasts, assigned videos, faculty-mediated asynchronous or synchronous discussions, quizzes/exams, etc.). The equivalent for out-of-class work is very similar to that provided in the FT modality (e.g., assigned reading, homework problems, non-faculty mediated discussion board posts, individual/group projects, papers, service-learning, etc.). Proposals for online courses should address these credit-hour requirements, assuring that the courses in their proposed modes and modalities will entail the equivalent hours of instruction or out-of-class work.
Cal Poly faculty have the collective and exclusive responsibility for determining the pedagogies, instructional methods, and best practices most appropriate for their instructional modules, courses, and academic programs (pursuant to administrative assurance of resources).
At the department and program level, faculty with expertise in their respective disciplines are empowered to make decisions regarding the curriculum and present such decisions to the college and university levels for further review and approval. These decisions include those regarding the appropriate mode and modality for instruction.
It should be noted that courses and their accompanying modes and modalities are approved at the university level, not the faculty who propose and/or teach the courses. Departments should carefully consider those who are assigned to teach any course but particularly those within the online modalities due to the specialized skills required.
The Online Teaching and Learning proposal functionality has been added to our online Curriculum Management system. We have worked with the vendor to integrate this into the online forms to edit an existing course or propose a new course.
Additionally, faculty who are assigned to teach and/or develop courses with online modalities (FO, RO, LO, and HY) are strongly encouraged to either have prior online pedagogical experience and/or engage in appropriate training. We recommend that faculty consult with Cal Poly’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) and the California State University’s (CSU) Quality Assurance Program (including the 7 associated “Core 24” objectives) for the latest in professional development related to online education (applies to both initial and ongoing development of online modalities).
This policy "AS-896-20 Resolution on Online Teaching and Learning" was adopted by the Academic Senate May 19, 2020 and supersedes "AS-750-12 Resolution on eLearning Policy".
Courses that are taught with different topics or subtitles are referred to as "Topic Courses”. These are not to be confused with “Selected Topics Courses”. Example of a Topic Course: ENGL 439 Significant British Authors (4 units) repeatable to 12 units with different subtitle (e.g., "Jane Austen," "Victorian Poets," "Blake," "Hardy.")
“Topics Courses” allow closely related course content to reside under one generic "umbrella” title, sharing the same learning outcomes and assessment methodologies. Topics Courses are shown in the catalog with generic "umbrella" titles but are offered under specific topics in the Class Schedule. Topics courses are usually repeatable with a different topic.
Each college determines its own internal review process for Topics Courses. Please check with your dean's office. Note: the College of Liberal Arts requires dean’s approval.
For topic approval and scheduling by the Office of the Registrar, either department chair/head or associate dean (depending on the process of the College) submits the topic to Daniel Parsons, the Associate Registrar.
Topics approved at least one month prior to the start of registration for a term can become valid that term.