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Outside the Classroom

3 Things to Know About NCAA and Online Learning

Thinking of implementing online courses with student athletes? It’s important to know the NCAA’s guidelines and policies to ensure that students who take online courses won’t face obstacles getting those courses approved for eligibility once they get to college.

Although the first step is identifying an appropriately rigorous, college preparatory curriculum like Edgenuity, having your online courses approved by the NCAA is as much about how you implement the courseware as it is about the courseware itself.

1) Students cannot take less rigorous “credit recovery” versions of online courses.

NCAA does not prohibit students from recovering credits, but they do mandate that students who are recovering credits take courses that are comparable in length, content, and rigor to courses taken by students earning initial credit. In addition, NCAA guidelines prohibit pretesting and prescriptive testing, both of which allow students to test out of content they have already mastered.

2) Courses must be facilitated by a qualified teacher who has a substantial instructional role.

In NCAA-eligible courses, a qualified teacher must have regular instructional interaction with students. Although the actual implementation model may vary widely from school to school, teachers must be acting as instructors, not simply tutors. In addition, teachers must proactively ensure they interact with all students, not just students struggling with content. For example, a “help desk” model in which teachers are just available to students who seek their assistance would not meet NCAA guidelines.

3) Courses must have a defined time period for completion.

Online courses must be time-bound, and there must be a stated minimum and maximum amount of time for students to complete the course. For example, if your policy is that students have 14-18 weeks to complete a one-semester online course, students should not be permitted to complete the course in a matter of a few weeks. Note that this guideline is independent of state seat time requirements; it refers only to the calendar length of the course.

Know the guidelines before planning your implementation model.

The NCAA publishes tools and resources for understanding and applying the guidelines for nontraditional courses. You can view their FAQ here.

To learn more about Edgenuity and NCAA, visit

About the Author


Deborah Rayow

Deborah began her career as a fifth grade teacher. After several years in the classroom, she shifted to curriculum planning and professional development, eventually focusing on e-learning, instructional design, and product development. Her expertise was gained while working with some of the most recognizable names in education, among them being Kaplan K12 Learning Services, Scholastic Education, and the New York Times Learning Network.