Quality guidelines

The Centre for Extended Learning (CEL), together with the Advisory Committee on Distance and Online Education and the Associate Vice-President Academic are committed to promoting the following principles of good practice in the design and delivery of University of Waterloo online courses.

General principles

  • Courses strive to be academically rigorous, current, and reflective of the standards of scholarship within the discipline, as well as best practices in pedagogy.
  • Courses strive for a learning experience that is equivalent for all online students, regardless of their geographic location, schedule, or disability.
  • Courses encourage and exemplify the highest standards of academic integrity.
  • Courses have a course outline that complies with university policy .

Intended learning outcomes

  • Outcomes are measurable, achievable, relevant, concise, and clearly stated.
  • Online learning activities, assessments, and content align with, and promote the achievement of the intended learning outcomes.


  • The course engages students in active learning through an appropriate mix of student content, student-instructor, and student-student interaction.
  • Course activities respect diverse talents, backgrounds, and ways of learning, and reflect an awareness of an international audience.
  • Whenever possible learning activities should reflect activities within the discipline, and are relevant and/or applicable to real-world situations.


  • Policies pertaining to assignments and grades are clearly stated.
  • Students are provided with the necessary information to complete assignments (e.g. instructions, evaluation criteria).
  • Constructive feedback about performance is provided to students in a timely manner throughout the course (e.g. providing sufficient time for students to incorporate feedback into the next assignment).

Content Presentation and Media Selection

  • The technology and media chosen are appropriate for the content, audience, and intended learning outcomes.
  • The course follows CEL practices for ensuring accessibility.
  • Media resources follow CEL’s Presentation Standards and are consistent with Waterloo’s institutional identity.
  • Media used in the course complies with Canadian copyright legislation.

Pace, organization, and sequencing of the course

  • Work expectations are clearly communicated to students and fall within the University of Waterloo’s guidelines (i.e. approximately 10 hours per week for undergraduate courses).
  • The course includes standardized information that supports the learner’s progress (e.g. Getting Started, Technology Check, Schedule, Assignment Submission Instructions, and Final Exam Information).
  • The course is well-organized and uses an evident design framework (e.g. chronological, thematic, easy-to-difficult, etc.)

Teaching and facilitation

  • The instructor maintains a presence and interacts with students in a variety of ways throughout the course.
  • The instructor fosters a supportive learning environment for students.
  • The instructor sets and meets expectations for instructor responsiveness and availability (e.g. turn-around time for email and discussion forum postings, feedback on assignments, etc.)
  • Student feedback is collected and used to continually improve course quality.

Accessibility Statement

The Centre for Extended Learning strives to meet the needs of all our online learners. Our ongoing efforts to become aligned with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) are guided by University of Waterloo Accessibility Policy and the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. The majority of our online courses are currently delivered via the D2L Learning Environment. Learn more about D2L’s Accessibility Standards Compliance.​​​