With more than 70 online programs and 800 individual online courses, Boise State University has an undeniable presence at the virtual learning level. This has been heightened over the last 2 years, as online learning has taken the front seat of higher education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Online programs have allowed for continuous flexibility in learning pathways for traditional and nontraditional students, and increased access to education for various student populations within the state of Idaho and beyond.
Boise State and the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements
The development of Boise State’s substantial online offerings has involved hundreds of hours of work within Extended Studies and requires ongoing monitoring as the programs and courses continue to be delivered to students. One very critical piece to this process is the University’s continuous participation in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which allows the university to deliver courses to students in 49 member states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is due to the fact that many states have prescribed an “authorization” process for out-of-state institutions delivering online programs to its state residents. Authorization (sometimes referred to as “registration,” “licensure,” “approval,” etc.) indicates that the institution has met certain minimum standards under the laws and regulations of that state.
Improving Access to Boise State Online Programs
By being a voluntary member of NC-SARA, Boise State University is able to deliver online education to students in other member states and territories, without needing to go through the tedious process of additional authorization. Within this membership, all participating institutions in the member states are required to adhere to stringent requirements set and imposed by states and NC-SARA, including maintaining their accreditation, remaining in good financial standing and maintaining compliance with certain federal regulations. Thus, a consensus has been established within the national membership which holds all participating institutions to an identical standard, ensuring that quality education is being provided to students of each member state. Not only does membership in NC-SARA ensure ease of delivery of distance education to out-of-state students, but it also ensures student protection and success by enhancing the quality and strengthening oversight of online programs.
As of October 2021, more than 2,300 institutions participate in SARA (NC-SARA, 2021). Boise State University renews its membership with NC-SARA on an annual basis, which is overseen and approved by both the Idaho State Board of Education and NC-SARA itself. This renewal is dependent upon the university’s compliance with all NC-SARA requirements. The Regulatory Affairs Coordinator within the eCampus Center is responsible for maintaining and coordinating the renewal and other NC-SARA related matters, as these regulations mainly pertain to online education.
The Future of Online Learning
An additional benefit and NC-SARA participating institution requirement is the annual submission of the university’s fall distance education enrollment and out-of-state learning placements (i.e. clinical rotations, practica, field research opportunities, internships or student teaching programs). The submission of this location data allows for NC-SARA to gather a collection of all 2,000+ participating institutions’ distance enrollment and placement information and create a holistic picture of the progress and trends within distance learning.
For example, this allowed for a visual of the surge of online higher education learners due to the COVID-19 pandemic–showing that almost 6 million students were enrolled exclusively in distance education programs in fall 2020, a striking 3 million more individuals than in fall 2019. This only further displays the importance of the online learning offerings that Boise State provides, and maintaining our ability to serve students across the country.
Boise State Delivers High-Quality Online Programs
The University’s participation in NC-SARA is one small, yet very important piece to the machinery that keeps our online programs continuously operating. It plays a role in our capability to deliver online education to students nationwide and in ensuring that those students are protected as consumers while receiving a high-quality education.