Program Approval

Distance learning programs can request recognition as a "fully online program" through the University of Hawaiʻi System Information Technology Services (ITS). This classification grants the program a special code upon which processes and services are built. For example, students enrolling in a "fully online program" are exempt from providing state required health clearance information. Additionally, fully online programs appeal to students who need assurance that they can complete their program from a distance without ever having to step foot on campus.

Before requesting this designation, please review the guidelines for a program to be recognized as fully online. The Campus Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs must approve the request before materials are sent to ITS. A copy of the approved substantive change letter or administrative approval letter from WASC or ACCJC as appropriate as well as the program map must be included with the request.

Fully Online Program Recognition Request Form

Distance Learning and Online Program Approval Process

UH departments and faculty considering distance delivery of a new or existing academic program should refer to specific procedures for their campus outlined below

UH Mānoa

Procedures and processes regarding the approval of distance delivered programs are posted on the UH Mānoa Distance Education website.

UH Hilo

For information about Distance Learning, please see the Distance Learning website. Faculty interested in offering Distance Learning programs should contact their respective college Dean.

For information on WASC substantive change review and proposals, please contact Seri Luangphinith, Accreditation Liaison Officer, at (808) 932-7217 or

UH West Oʻahu

The University of Hawaiʻi-West Oʻahu is committed to developing distance education programs, concentrations, and certificates. Currently over 30% of our classes are offered in a distance modality. If a program already exists and courses have been approved for face-to-face classes, then the approval process to offer that program as Distance Education (DE) depends on whether there will be a need to submit a substantive change report to WASC, which would only be in the case of a program offering more than 50% of its coursework as DE. The internal DE approval process is not dependent on the percentage of DE coursework. The internal approval process is as follows:

  1. Faculty initiate the development of a DE program by holding discussions within their division and the VCAA.
  2. After these preliminary discussions, the faculty will submit a proposal to the Curriculum Committee. (if the program does not currently exist. If the program already exists as a face-to-face program, the proposal for the DE program goes directly to the Distance Education Committee.) If the program does not currently exist, then the new DE program is first reviewed by the Curriculum Committee, and the next step would be review by the Distance Education Committee before going to the Faculty Senate for approval.)
  3. Curriculum Committee and Distance Education Committee approve the proposal and is submitted to the Faculty Senate for approval.
  4. After Faculty Senate chair signs the document, it is then submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for approval.
  5. Once the VCAA approves, it is sent to the Chancellor for final approval.

Those programs that offer more than 50% of their coursework as DE have to submit a substantive change report to WASC as an additional requirement for approval. Only those programs that intend to have more than 50% of their coursework as DE will have to submit this report.

For information on proposing new online programs, please contact Gloria Niles at (808) 689-2497 or

UH Community Colleges

ACCJC's website has: an explanation of substantive change, the current Substantive Change Manual for campuses to use when preparing a proposal, the current Distance Learning Manual, and a timeline for the proposal process. Institutions are encouraged to review both manuals and the Substantive Change Policy that is included as Appendix A of the Substantive Change Manual and in the last section of the Distance Learning Manual.

To request a copy of an approved Substantive Change proposal, please contact Tammi Chun, contact for UH Community Colleges' accreditation initiatives, at (808) 956-3869 or

Accreditation Approval Process for Distance Learning Programs

When an institution offers more than 50 percent of a degree program electronically distance-delivered, approval from the regional accrediting association is required before student recruitment can begin.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

WASC is one of six regional associations that accredit public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the United States. The oversight of WASC's accreditation activities for the University of Hawaiʻi System is done by two Commissions, each dedicated to a different level of education:

WASC Distance Education definition:

Distance Education delivers instruction to students who are separated from the instructor. It supports regular and substantive interaction between the student and the instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously, via these technologies: