University Standards for Digital Instruction

The following standards must be met for every asynchronous online, synchronous remote, or hybrid course offered at the University of Nevada, Reno. If you have any questions about the standards and objectives provided, please contact the Office of Digital Learning.

There are six standards with each comprised of multiple objectives:

For a detailed explanation of each of the six standards, including examples, suggestions, and how the objectives within the standards support Regular and Substantive Interaction (RSI) please visit our University of Nevada, Reno Standards for Digital Instruction explanations page.

Standard 1. Course Overview and Information

Objective 1.0

A Getting Started/Start Here welcome is provided and easily found when student first enters course site.


The course welcome establishes instructor presence and provides enough guidance to ensure that students will get off to a good start in the online space. In essence, this is the students’ first impression of the instructor and the course.

Objective 1.1

An Orientation or Overview is provided for the overall course and in each module. Students are informed how to navigate the course, what tasks are due, and netiquette guidelines.


Students benefit from knowing what they are about to learn, as well as the scope of work and time commitment expected from them. Providing an overview of the course will prepare students for what, when, where, and why they will be learning, and an overview of each course module will provide advance information on what content, interaction, and assessment will take place within specific time periods. An estimate of how much time students will spend on course work each week is communicated.

Objective 1.2

An accessible, printable syllabus is available to students.


Empowering students to remainon track is a core teaching goal, and the more information provided in advance, the fewer problems and obstacles students will encounter. Providing an accessible syllabus in a format that is available for students to access at their convenience is a key element of clear course design and complies with federal law.

Objective 1.3

Course includes links to relevant campus resources and policies on plagiarism, academic integrity, computer use, filing complaints, accommodating disabilities, information technology resources, etc.


Students are able to connect to their campus through their online courses, and that includes connecting to student services, policies, and procedural guidelines.

Objective 1.4

Course information states how content will be delivered (e.g., video, text, audio) and describes methods for accessing all course materials.


Students are informed how course content will be provided so they can plan appropriately and determine if the course is right for them. For example, some students may need asynchronous lecture material in order to succeed, while others may prefer synchronous lectures. Providing this information at the start of the course will help students determine whether staying in the course is the right action for them. Lectures and course materials may be provided in different formats, such as written notes, video, or interactive tools. Providing a succinct explanation in the syllabus and/or Getting Started materials of what students can expect at the start of class is vital in digital courses, since there is much variation in lecture delivery and methods.

Objective 1.5

Course provides contact information for instructor, department, and program.


In addition to providing this information in the syllabus, including a contact information page in the course site opens opportunities for students to contact and interact with course instructors as well as department and program administrators. This includes information on the best method of contact (Learning Management System messages, email, department website, etc.) and office hours.


Standard 2. Course Technology and Tools

Objective 2.0

All technology that will be used in the course is listed and explained in the syllabus.


Any hardware, software, or technology applications that are required for successful participation in the course are introduced along with resources that support a full range of student mastery. This information is communicated to students in the syllabus and reinforced throughout the term. If students are required to use third party content (publisher websites, online labs, assignment utilities, web-based subscriptions), links to associated resources, and explanations about how to access this content are included in easy-to-locate course documents.

Objective 2.1

Students can easily access frequently used technology tools. Any tools not being utilized are removed from the course menu.


If resources or tools are not used or no longer being used in the course, remove associated links from the course menu. Students rely on consistent navigation cues (established menus, etc.), however a link to a tool that they don’t need or no longer need can be considered a distraction in the course.

Objective 2.2

Course includes links to privacy policies for technology tools.


Students are provided access to information about how their information (identities, submissions, logons) is monitored, collected, and/or distributed either by the learning management system or through the registration process for an external tool (e.g., online homework platform such as Pearson MyLab).


Standard 3. Design and Layout

Objective 3.0

A logical, consistent, and uncluttered layout is established. The course is easy to navigate (related content organized together, self-evident titles).


The course is designed so students can easily navigate and progress through a logical sequence and pace. This is achieved through consistency in layout and delivery of information types in regular order within learning modules.

Objective 3.1

“Locked”, timed-release, or mark-as-done pages to access any locked material areexplained to students.


Any course material that is not readily available to students is explained in the syllabus and/or course site. Students are made aware of the purpose of the lock, when the material will be released, and why the locking is necessary and/or conducive to their learning.

Objective 3.2

Consistent naming and phrasing are used throughout, abbreviations are avoided or explained, and assignments are named/numbered appropriately.


Students need consistency in the presentation of course materials and assessments to avoid confusion and frustration which can stymie learning. Avoid using abbreviations and naming conventions that are not immediately clear.

Objective 3.3

Headers are used throughout each page allowing for the content to be easily viewed.


Titles and headings play an important role in catching the interest of the reader, and guiding their progress through information. By using titles and headings, instructors can effectively guide students through the course.

Objective 3.4

Instructions are provided for all assignments and assessments and aredescriptive, clear, and free of grammatical errors.


Clear instructions help students to function in the digital environment without having to repeatedly ask for clarification. Instructions can be communicated in many different forms, including orientations, introductions, announcements, guidelines, rubrics, etc.

Objective 3.5

Broken links, incorrect due dates, or irrelevant information have been removed/updated.


Errors throughout the course site can be frustrating and confusing for students. While the instructor knows the material and course site, the students do not. Broken links, incorrect due dates, and any other erroneous material are corrected or removed.


Standard 4, Content, Activities, and Interaction

Objective 4.0

Each module includes an overview or review page, including a checklist or summary of activities that students will need to complete, identifying those that are practice-only, graded, submitted, not submitted, etc.


Providing a rough outline, road map, activities list, and/or overview is a best practice in online course design because this helps students navigate both the course site and instructor expectations. Courses without regular assessment, direction, skill-checks, and or measurement can reduce student competency, engagement, and motivation.

Objective 4.1

Course materials comply with copyright laws or fall within the rules for fair use.


Instructors need to be aware of copyright and licensing status on all materials used in their courses. The materials used in connection with the course may be subject to copyright protection and are only for the use of students officially enrolled in the course for the educational purposes associated with the course. Copyright law must be considered before copying, retaining, or disseminating materials outside of the course. Open source materials (e.g., OERs) are leveraged whenever possible.

Objective 4.2

Materials, activities, and assessments promote the achievement and alignment of course-wide objectives/student learning outcomes (SLOs).


Course objectives are specific, observable, and measurable as well as reflective of student learning across cognitive levels and express some level of mastery that students will be able to demonstrate as a result of participating fully in the course. All course content, learning activities, interactions and assessments arein alignment with these objectives/outcomes. Materials, activities and assessments meet the diverse needs of learners, including the use of information from diverse sources and a variety of methods for students to demonstrate achievement of outcomes.

Objective 4.3

Adequate time is provided for students to complete and submit activities, and time requirements are clearly communicated.


Course activities and assessments are scaffolded and spaced throughout to allow students time to properly digest information and build knowledge. Student workload and assessment submissions adhere to what is considered appropriate based upon department standards, course level, and UNR Definition of Student Credit Hour.

Objective 4.4

Frequent instructor communication is present throughout the course, enabling ample opportunities for students to engage with instructors.


Instructors who share personal narratives make a lasting impression on online students. Ample opportunities for interaction with the instructor are built into course design (i.e., engaging in discussion-based activities, answering emails/messages quickly, Zoom, etc.).

Objective 4.5

Expectations for student interaction are clearly stated, including netiquette, grade weighting, models/examples, and timing and frequency of student contributions or participation.


Expectations for assignments, class participation, proctoring, due dates, and attendance requirements are all clearly communicated to the student.

Objective 4.6

Course offers opportunities for student-to-student interaction and constructive collaboration.


Collaboration in a digital course fosters constructivist learning by enabling students to be active participants, take initiative, think critically, and engage each other in dialogue.


Standard 5. Assessment and Feedback

Objective 5.0

Course includes frequent and appropriate methods to assess students’ mastery of content.


Consistent and regular assessments help students demonstrate their progress and deficiencies. As students move through a digital course, they encounter regular assignments, activities, and interactions designed to measure how they have mastered the learning content, and how close they are to meeting program, course, or module learning objectives.

Objective 5.1

Criteria for the assessment of a graded assignment are clearly articulated (rubrics, exemplary work).


Guidelines or rubrics for the assessment of graded work includes performance criteria, setting desired performance/proficiency levels for students, and creating performance descriptions. Criteria that delineate specific grade scales and practices are clear and tie directly to the goals and objectives of the assigned work that is to be graded. Grading practices are consistent with university and program standards.

Objective 5.2

Students have opportunities to review their performance and assess their own learning throughout the course.


Self-assessments provide students with opportunities to check in to see how they are progressing. Such assessments often offer opportunities for students to explore more materials if they still need to master concepts or skills.

Objective 5.3

Students are informed when a timed response is required. Proper lead time is provided to ensure there is an opportunity to prepare a time accommodation for qualified students.


All students need clear guidance on when learning activities and assignments are due, and what they need to do in order to meet those deadlines. Providing guidance on when timed responses are required enables students to anticipate workload and be better organized.

Objective 5.4

Students have easy access to an up-to-date gradebook.


By providing easy access to an up-to-date gradebook, instructors give students the ability to check in on their progress continuously throughout the course term. The added functionality and reporting features enable instructors to review and analyze the gradebook, as well as create reports on student progress and course completion.Instructors plan for timely grading and feedback, and expectations for receiving grades and feedback are clearly communicated to students.

Objective 5.5

Students have multiple opportunities to provide descriptive feedback on course design, course content, course experience, and ease of use for online technology.


Providing mechanisms where students can offer feedback to the instructor and/or course designer on navigation, access, and the overall learning experience can guide better design choices to support student success while the course is in progress.


Standard 6. Accessibility Requirements

Objective 6.0

Content and third-party instructional tools used within the course are accessible according to University accessibility policy.


Providing content and tools that are accessible is critical to keeping students with disabilities on track and is required in order to comply with federal law. All enterprise-wide applications in use by the University have already been vetted for accessibility (i.e., Learning Management System).

Objective 6.1

All videos are captioned and transcripts are provided for audio materials; alternative text is provided for images or visual materials.


This is required for compliance with federal law; additionally, it meets Universal Design for Learning standards and provides benefits for students who may not be able to view materials with sound on for various reasons.