FAQs: Substantive Change

Substantive Change for ACEN-Accredited Programs

We have a two-credit hour nursing course, and students can elect to attend a course component (e.g., didactic or lab) “in-person” or they can participate in the component using videoconferencing from a location that is NOT AT the same physical location as the faculty member and other students. However, all students are engaged in the teaching/learning experience at the same time (synchronously). Is this considered distance education per the ACEN?

Yes, this is distance education since a portion of the students are not in the same physical location as the faculty member.

We offer four optional/elective nursing courses via distance education that are not part of the program of study as “required electives” or “free electives;” students decide to take one or more of these courses to enhance their knowledge/skills and graduate with more credit hours than required. These distance education courses are popular, and many students enroll. Do we need to submit a substantive change per ACEN Policy #14?

No, if the distance education courses are not in anyway required for graduation, this would not need to be submitted per ACEN Policy #14.

What is the difference between a “hybrid” course and a “web-enhanced” course? Is a web-enhanced course considered a form of distance education by the ACEN?

A hybrid course is when a portion of the traditional in-class time is replaced by distance education modalities. A flipped-classroom would not be a hybrid course, unless a percentage of the traditional in-class time is replaced by distance education modalities.

A web-enhanced course is when the faculty and students use a learning management system or web-platform to augment in-class learning and communication between and among faculty and students. A web-enhanced course would not be a hybrid course, unless a percentage of the traditional in-class time is replaced by distance education modalities.

We offer one nursing course as either face-to-face or online. Students have the option of taking the course through either method of delivery. Would this need to be reported as distance education per ACEN Policy #14?

This would be considered distance education and may need to be reported per ACEN Policy #14. Please review the Distance Education page in the Substantive Change Guidelines for more information.

Why does the ACEN define “hybrid” course delivery as distance education? Our governing organization does not define what we are doing as distance education.

The ACEN wants to ensure that nursing faculty engage in an intentional decision-making process regarding the method of delivery. Teaching and learning can effectively occur through a variety of delivery methods, and nursing faculty should implement distance education if it is the best method of delivery for the program’s students. Regardless of how a nursing course is delivered, faculty must be able to effectively deliver the instruction; and students and faculty must have access to the resources they need for success. To maintain the quality of the nursing education program, the ACEN defines any teaching/learning experience that occurs when the faculty and the students are not in the same physical location (e.g., on the college’s main campus) as distance education. This approach ensures that the program’s policies, learning resources, student support services, and faculty development efforts are inclusive of all methods of delivery, even if only one nursing course is offered using some form of distance education.

We offer two ACEN-accredited program types in our nursing education unit, a baccalaureate and a master’s degree. Our master’s degree is approved by the ACEN to be delivered via distance education. If we want to offer the baccalaureate degree via distance education, do we need to submit a substantive change for the baccalaureate program?

No, you would not need to submit a substantive change to the ACEN. Once one program or program option within a nursing education unit has been approved for distance education by the ACEN, approval of subsequent nursing programs or program options (in the same nursing education unit) is not required.

If we implement distance education, will a focused visit be required?

No, a focused visit is not required if a program implements distance education per ACEN Policy #14 Reporting Substantive Changes; however, a focused visit is possible. Only the ACEN Board of Commissioners or the Chief Executive Officer has the authority to authorize a focused visit. A determination about the need for a focused visit is based on a comprehensive evaluation of the program’s substantive change submission, including program outcomes. When authorized, the purpose of a focused visit is to ensure that the program is in compliance with select ACEN Standards and Criteria related to the substantive change, and to ensure that the student learning needs are being met.

Is there anything special we need to know before submitting a substantive change for the implementation of distance education?

No. Just complete the appropriate template for the substantive change being submitted. Complete all applicable sections of the template and if something does not apply, simply indicate this. Keep responses clear, concise, and consistent; there are no hidden agendas in the templates. Attach all required supporting documents (listed on the template), and remember that the goal is to ensure that the program is in compliance with the selected ACEN Standards and Criteria and to ensure that student learning and faculty teaching needs are met after the implementation of distance education.