The terms below represent a combination of terminology used at the institutional, state and national levels.
Area of Focus:
A sequential arrangement of courses within a program (at the undergraduate level only) of at least 12 units but not equivalent to tracks or concentrations. Areas of focus are not reported on the student’s transcript at graduation.
A sequential arrangement of courses within a program which at the undergraduate level exceeds 23 units, at the master's level exceeds 11 units, and at the doctorate level exceeds 17 units.
A type of distance learning in which there is no requirement for the instructor and students to interact in “real” time.
Articulated System (ARTSYS):
A computerized data information system created to facilitate the transfer of students from Maryland community colleges to the University of Maryland System and other participating institutions.
Bachelor of Arts (BA)/Bachelor of Science (BS)/Bachelor of Music (BM)/Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA): Degrees awarded for successful completion of a program of 120 or more undergraduate semester units.
Bachelor of Technical and Professional Studies (B.T.P.S.):
Degree awarded for the successful completion of 120 semester units including an A.A.S. degree, a program of study in the designated area of concentration, and a three-credit hour internship related to the program.
Award recognizing mastery in a particular program area. The level of certificate is based on the entry requirements and the number of hours required. Categories include:
Post-baccalaureate certificate - An award for successful completion of at least 12 units at the graduate or upper division level, the majority of which are at the master's or specialized postgraduate level.
Post-master's certificate - An award for successful completion of at least 12 units of graduate study beyond the master's degree.
Certificate of Advanced Study - An award that that requires successful completion of at least 30 units beyond the master’s degree.
Professional Certificate- An award for the successful completion of the number of courses required by the appropriate natural professional association.
A period of time containing 50 to 60 minutes of class, lecture, recitation or faculty-supervised laboratory, shop training or internship. Maryland defines a clock hour as a 50 minute period (see Contact Hour).
Maryland colleges and universities maintaining full and unconditional accreditation and approval from the Middle States Association and from the Commission may respond to the request of a sponsoring agent to offer a previously approved academic degree program at a business or industry or governmental site solely for its own employees by submitting a letter of notification to the Secretary.
A unit of measure representing the equivalent of an hour (50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire term, exclusive of breaks. It is applied toward the total number of credit hours needed for completing the requirements of a degree or certificate. A one unit course requires a minimum of 750 minutes including a final exam. A three unit course requires a minimum of 2,250 minutes including a final exam.
Distance education courses offered with instructional materials being provided via mail.
Clinical (CLN): students participate in client and/or client related services as part of the learning process. Course occurs in an actual clinical setting and may involve working with clients who receive professional services from students supervised by instructors. Students typically do not receive compensation for these experiences.
Independent study (IND): students complete individualized and often self-paced plans of study. The instructor and the student negotiate the details of the plan of study.
Internship (INT): students complete a credit-bearing structured field experience in a setting consistent with the student's educational goals. Students have "real world experiences" under the supervision of an external supervisor and a Towson faculty member. Students may be paid as part of the experience.
Laboratory (LAB): students meet as a group in a laboratory to engage in exercises and or investigation under the direction of the instructor or lab instructor for the purpose of applying the methods and principle of a discipline. Labs may be stand-alone (for credit) or non-credit bearing.
Lecture (LEC): students meet as a group in a classroom with an instructor who is responsible for the presentation of the subject matter and the conduct of the class. It may involve lecture and some back and forth exchange of ideas.
Lecture/Lab (LLB): students meet as a group in a classroom setting with an instructor who is responsible for the presentation of the subject matter and the conduct of the class. Associated with the class is a linked lab typically under the direction of the same (who may be supported by a secondary instructor). The lab component is for the purpose of applying the methods and principle of a discipline.
Performance (PFM): students meet in a group setting with an instructor to create a performance.
Physical Activity (ACT): students meet as a group in a regularly scheduled classroom or related facility. Knowledge associate with the proper execution of a physical activity is presented by the instructor.
Practicum (PRC): students participate in supervised and practical application of previously studied theory in a setting outside of the postsecondary classroom. These are typically full-time culminating experiences and may occur in multiple settings.
Private lessons (PRV): students enroll in credit bearing private lessons to master a particular art form.
Recital (RCT): students meet in an individual or group setting and work with an instructor to develop techniques culminating a performance or music recital.
Research (RSC): students complete an individualized, self-paced research project that is more in depth than those offered within structured courses offered as a part of the curriculum. The student and the research advisor negotiate the details of the individual plan of study.
Seminar (SEM): A more interactive and typically smaller course forum than a lecture. Content may include student presentations and discussions. Enrollment is generally limited for greater focus on students' critical reflection and exchange in ideas. Discussion, not lecture is the primary pedagogical format of the course.
Studio (STU): students meet in a group setting and work with an instructor to create a product.
Thesis/dissertation (THE): students complete an in-depth research project that is typically the culmination of a degree program. Allows students to deepen their understanding of a specific issue and typically involves original research. Typically required a formal proposal; faculty mentors, and usually culminates in an oral presentation followed by a question and answer session from the audience and attending faculty.
Travel (TST): students participate in credit-bearing travel experiences under direct supervision of the instructor. A majority of the time is spent out of the classroom setting, but the travel experience is augmented with classroom/lecture support.
Towson University uses the term “unit” to describe credit hours. The actual amount of academic work that goes into a unit is calculated as follows:
One lecture unit represents one hour per week of scheduled class/seminar time and two hours of out-of-class student work. (IPEDS and MSCHE) Most courses are awarded three credit hours. Over an entire semester, this formula represents 45 hours of class time and 90 hours of out-of-class student work.
One laboratory unit represents one hour per week of instructional time plus a minimum of 1 hour per week of scheduled supervised or independent laboratory work, and two hours of out-of-class student work. (COMAR 13B.01.01.09) For a laboratory course earning 1 credit hour, this formula represents 15 hours of instructional time, between 15 to 30 hours of laboratory time, and 30 hours of out-of-class student work per semester.
One practice unit (supervised clinical rounds, visual or performing art studio, supervised student teaching, field work, internship, etc.) represents a minimum of 3 hours per week of supervised and/or independent practice. (COMAR 13B.01.01.09) This in turn represents a minimum of 45 hours of work per semester.
MHEC and the US Department of Education have different definitions regarding distance education courses.
Education that uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor synchronously or asynchronously. (USDE-IPEDS)
Course work taught by an institution through electronic distribution of instruction to a site other than the principal location of the institution, and advertised or described as leading to the formal award of a certificate or degree (MHEC-COMAR).
Distance Education/Distance Learning Programs:
An educational process in which all or the portion of the instruction occurs with the instructor and student in different locations. Instruction may be synchronous (in real time; simultaneous) or asynchronous. An educational program is considered distance education if 50 percent or more of the units required for the degree are delivered using distance technologies, regardless of site of delivery.
Dual Degree Program:
A program of study which provides students with an educational opportunity to complete two separate programs of study (majors) at two different institutions. Specifically, students would complete a program at one institution, usually in a shortened period of time, and then transfer to a second institution, completing a related or complementary program (e.g., Political Science & Law; Physics, Astronomy, and Geo-Sciences & Engineering). Upon completion of the second program, degrees would be awarded by both participating institutions in the areas of study successfully completed.
Degree awarded for successful completion of at least two years of study beyond the master’s level, including completion of a thesis or dissertation.
First Professional Degree:
Degree awarded for successful completion of all institutional requirements for becoming a practitioner in a field such as law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, theology, and nursing.
Faculty Requirements (COMAR 13B.02.02.17):
The faculty shall be competent on the basis of their formal education and professional experience to enable them, through effective instruction and other activities, to achieve the educational objectives of the institution.
A faculty member shall have completed formal studies at an institution accredited by an organization recognized as an accrediting agency by the United States Department of Education to grant institutional accreditation or internationally recognized institution at least through the master's or first professional degree, or its equivalent, in the field in which the faculty member teaches. "Equivalent" means documented outstanding achievement in the arts, music, letters, science, research, business or industry, or public service. A faculty member shall demonstrate successful experience and provide continuing evidence of keeping abreast of developments in the faculty member's field.
Faculty members who engage in instruction shall be able to communicate effectively in both written and spoken English.
At least 35 percent of the full-time faculty in colleges offering baccalaureate or higher degrees, and 50 percent of the full-time faculty in universities and in separately incorporated graduate institutions or centers shall hold a terminal degree in the field in which they teach.
At least 50 percent of the total credit hours offered by an institution within a normal academic year of 2 semesters or 3 trimesters, normally September to May, which are creditable toward a formal award, shall be taught by full-time faculty members at the institution.
Full-time faculty members of the parent institution shall teach at least 1/3 of the credit hours offered in an off-campus program.
There shall be at least one full-time faculty member with a degree in an appropriate discipline in each degree program. For degree programs with a collective title involving more than one major discipline and with areas of concentration in unrelated disciplines, such as general studies, interdisciplinary studies, or liberal studies, there shall be at least one full-time faculty member with a degree in an appropriate discipline in each area of concentration.
A certificate, diploma or degree granted in recognition of successful completion of the requirements of a program. Such official awards are conferred by the faculty and ratified by the institution’s governing board.
Full-time equivalent faculty (FTEF) is defined as the number of full-time faculty plus the number of course units taught by part-time faculty during the fall and spring semesters divided by 24 for teaching four-year institutions and 18 for research institutions.
A course of study, requiring the completion of a specified number of course units from among a prescribed group of courses, which leads to a formal award.
IVC Interactive Video Conferencing Courses:
Distance education courses offered using interactive video conferencing technology. Site to site delivery from studio. Instruction is synchronous (in real time).
Joint Degree Program:
A program of study that allows students to complete major requirements by taking courses at another participating institution through a standardized registration process, and without paying an additional or differential tuition rate. Upon successful completion of a joint program, a diploma would be issued listing the names of both institutions sponsoring the program.
A coherent, sequential, and integrated study of an academic discipline which includes in-depth study of a body of knowledge, methods of study, and practice appropriate to a specific discipline. At the undergraduate level, majors consist of a minimum of 30 units of which at least half must be upper-division.
Degree awarded for successful completion of at least 30 units or the equivalent of graduate-level courses in a defined program of study.
An institutionally approved area of study outside of the major, of at least 12 but no more than 24 units.
MHEC and Middle States have different definitions regarding off-campus offerings.
Off-campus locations (MHEC): Programming or courses offered at a location or site other than the primary campus. An off-campus program exists when an institution offers more than 1/3 of the required course work in a major at a location other than that of the sponsoring institution or campus during any 12-month period. For certificate and graduate programs, the total number of units is based on the number of hours applicable to the degree.
Off-campus Location (Middle States): An off-campus location exists where 50 percent or more of the units required for the degree are offered.
Off-Campus Program (MHEC):
An off-campus program exists when one or both of the following occur:
A. An institution offers more than 1/3 of the required course work in a major field of study leading to a certificate or degree at a location other than that of the sponsoring institution or campus during any 12-month period.
B. An institution advertises or advises students that course work at an off-campus location will lead to the award of the certificate or the degree.
Other Instructional Sites (Middle States): An instructional site, other than the primary campus, a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Sites established outside the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50 percent or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an Additional Location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly.
Branch Campus (Middle States): A branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is considered independent if it offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and has its own budgetary and hiring authority.
Instruction may be synchronous (in real time; simultaneous) or asynchronous. Towson using the following categories:
Online: All class activities occur online, with little exception. Typically no in person classroom meetings are scheduled beyond a course orientation, wrap-up, or testing session. Typical amount of instruction time delivered online is between 90-100%.
50% or More Online: Half or more of classroom meetings are reduced and replaced with online activities. Typical amount of instruction time delivered online is between 50-89%.
Less than 50% Online: Less than half of classroom meetings are reduced and replaced with online activities. Typical amount of instruction time delivered online is between 10-49%.
The program of study (or courses) at one institution of higher education which has comparable objectives to those at another higher education institution, e.g. a transfer program in psychology in a community college is definable as a parallel program to a baccalaureate psychology program at a four-year institution of higher education.
Programs of study designed by institutions to prepare students for specific careers in such areas as: medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, engineering, and law, etc. Students should consult the sponsoring departments regarding requirements for specific pre-professional programs of study.
Program Productivity Standards (MHEC)
Baccalaureate degree programs must graduate five (5) students in the most recently reported year or a total of fifteen (15) students in the last three years.
Master’s degree programs must graduate two (2) students in the most recently year or a total of six (6) students in the last three years.
Doctoral degree must graduate one (1) student in the most recently reported year or a total of three (3) students in the last three years.
(a) A minimum of 30 semester credit hours, 1/2 of which must be upper divisional credit, in one field or in an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary field; and
(b) A coherent, sequential, and integrated program of study-in-depth which is intended to provide:
(i) A body of knowledge;
(ii) Methods of study; and
(iii) Practice appropriate to a subject area.
Includes coursework in the discipline. It may also include a concentration or track if available. Some programs require cognates (coursework in a related discipline, but outside of the major).
Recommended Transfer Program (RTP):
A planned program of courses, including both general education and courses in the major, taken at the community college which is applicable to a baccalaureate at the receiving institution; ordinarily the first two years of the baccalaureate degree.
Towson University has two standard semesters (fall and spring) of 15 weeks, a three-week winter term, and a ten-week summer term. Abbreviated sessions include two 7-week sessions in the fall and spring semesters and two five-week and one seven-week sessions in the summer term. Other variations are approved on a case-by-case basis with a minimum requirement of at least one week of instructional time for each credit. Three unit courses require at least three weeks of instructional time.
Middle States identifies a series of activities that may potentially have in impact on the capacity of an institution to offer high quality programming. These require prior approval. They include:
Significant Changes in Mission, Goals, or Objectives of an Institution, Other Changes that Significantly Affect the Institution-This includes any changes that might affect mission, goals, or objectives including merger, acquisition, closure, expansion, adoption of new delivery modes, establishment of a new program that is not a logical extension of programs currently offered.
Distance Education; New Courses and Programs; Change in Content or Method of Delivery - This includes instruction constituting at least 50% of a degree or certificate program that represents a significant departure, in terms of either the content or method of delivery, from those assessed when the institution was most recently evaluated (e.g., a business school now offering nursing; distance education; correspondence courses). Although an institution may have offered one or more distance education courses in the past, the Commission requires that the institution receive prior approval through the substantive change procedures before offering 50% or more of a degree or certificate program through distance education. The 50% standard includes only courses offered in their entirety via distance education, not courses utilizing mixed delivery methods.
Higher Degree or Credential Level - The addition of the first two courses or programs offered at a degree or credential level above that which is included in the institution’s current accreditation must be approved by the Commission prior to implementation. Because branch campuses and additional locations operate with some independence from the main campus (including the resources available on each campus), the Commission also may require a branch campus or additional location to request a substantive change for the addition of programs at a higher degree level at that site, even if the main campus already offers that degree.
Contractual Agreements - Certain contractual agreements with an institution or organization not accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide any portion of a postsecondary educational program that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential on behalf of the accredited institution are subject to Commission review. This includes degree completion programs developed by third parties. In addition, certain contractual relationships with entities accredited by a federally recognized agency to provide a credit-bearing program are substantive changes. The types of factors that will determine whether a particular contract is a substantive change include: the experience of the accredited institution and of the contracting entity in offering similar contracted services; the percentage of total programs affected; and the location and method of delivery of the program. Other contractual agreements may be considered substantive changes under other circumstances.
Non-credit Offerings that Affect Mission - Commission review typically covers programs and courses that are offered for academic credit, including credit-bearing non-degree courses and certificate programs offered at either the pre-baccalaureate or the post-baccalaureate levels. Non-credit courses and community services offered in response to constituency needs do not normally fall within the purview of this policy unless they become a major component of the institution’s activities. Nonetheless, the Commission expects that established institutional procedures will ensure their quality and integrity, and will ensure that these offerings do not affect negatively the institution’s ability to meet its mission.
Branch Campus - A branch campus is a location of an institution that is geographically apart and independent of the main campus of the institution. Branch campuses may be domestic or international. The location is independent if the location offers courses in educational programs leading to a degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential; has its own faculty and administrative or supervisory organization; and has its own budgetary and hiring authority.
Additional Locations - An additional location is a location, other than a branch campus, that is geographically apart from the main campus and at which the institution offers at least 50% of an educational program. Additional locations may be domestic or international. These include corporate sites and locations for limited, rather than ongoing, provision of programs. Some additional locations might be subject to other substantive change policies, including contractual agreements for the provision of courses at the site, which might require additional substantive change requests.
Instructional Site - An Instructional Site is a location, other than a branch campus or additional location, at which the institution offers one or more courses for credit. Instructional Sites should be noted on the annual Institutional Profile. Commission approval is not required for an Instructional Site to be included within the scope of accreditation. However, if an Instructional Site changes over time and meets the definition of an Additional Location or Branch Campus, further reporting and a substantive change review are required. Sites established outside of the U.S. for the sole purpose of offering courses through the study abroad experience are not considered to be instructional sites. If 50% or more of a program is offered, the site will meet the definition of an additional location and must be reviewed and approved accordingly.
Rapid Growth -The Commission may, at its discretion, conduct visits to additional locations, to ensure that accredited and pre-accredited institutions that experience rapid growth in the number of additional locations maintain educational quality. Institutions contemplating rapid growth (or uncertain whether planned changes fall under this category) should be in contact with the institution’s designated Commission liaison prior to submitting comprehensive information to the Commission.
Mergers and Other Changes in the Legal Status, Form of Control, or Ownership of the Institution - This includes, for example, merger or consolidation with another institution; sale of a proprietary institution; or beginning or ending public sponsorship and control. The institution must notify the Commission as soon as it is aware of the potential change, such as negotiations for transfer of ownership.
Site Closure - An institution planning to close or merge an additional location or branch campus should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date or as soon as such plans are approved.
Institutional Closure - An institution planning to close or merge should inform the Commission no later than six months prior to the planned closure/merger date. Institutions planning an institutional closure should submit to the Commission for approval any plans to provide students with reasonable opportunities to complete their education, including any teach-out agreements that the institution has entered into or intends to enter into with another institution. Approvals from any licensing, regulatory or other legal entities as may be necessary also should be provided.
Clock/Credit Hours - Change from clock hours to credit hours; or a substantial change in the number of clock or credit hours required for the successful completion of a program, or the length of a program.
Often used in descriptions of distance education, this term can also be used to describe a traditional classroom setting. In a Synchronous learning environment, the instructor and students interact in “real” time, whether in a classroom or via distance education through the Internet or videoconferencing.
A sequential arrangement of courses representing a specialized area of study within a program (does not require external approvals). Tracks appear on the student’s transcript as a Sub-Plan upon graduation.
At the undergraduate level, a track requires between 18 and 23 units; 2/3 of the units should be unique to that track and distinguish it from the major, a concentration or another track. No course can be common to all tracks and concentrations within a major.
At the graduate level, a track requires between 9 and 11 units. 2/3 of the units should be unique to that track and distinguish it from the major, a concentration or another track. No course can be common to all tracks and concentrations within a major.
A unit is the value given generally to one 50-minute class (or its equivalent) meeting weekly for a term. This means that a class meeting Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-9:50 a.m. or Tuesday and Thursday from 8-9:15 a.m. will be a 3-unit course. Most classes fit this format. Classes that require laboratory or studio time in addition to lecture time will usually merit an extra unit, becoming 4-unit courses, just as those requiring less class time will merit fewer units. The course description section of the catalog lists the number of units each course carries. Faculty expect students to spend at least two hours reading, writing and doing research outside of class for each hour spent in class.