UNM Online Handbook

Accelerated Online Programs


Accelerated Online Programs are undergraduate degree-completion and fully online graduate programs attracting non-traditional working adults who are looking for a flexible path to higher education. The goals of an AOP are to attract new student populations to the Albuquerque Campus* and generate self-sustaining enrollment* levels.

aop_handbook_lightning bolt_black Accelerated online courses and programs are denoted with a lightning bolt icon.

AOPs are an opportunity for academic units to grow though rewarding partnerships with Academic Affairs, UNM Online, the Center for Teaching and Learning, Canvas Support, IT – Academic Technologies, and Enrollment Management.

This handbook serves as a guide to Accelerated Online Programs and is a preparation tool for embarking on an AOP.

Program Characteristics

AOP courses are designed in an 8-week format and quality reviewed. With the 8-week formula, a program has up to 5 entry points a year, as listed below:

  • Fall – First Half Term
  • Fall – Second Half Term
  • Spring – First Half Term
  • Spring – Second Half Term
  • Summer – Full Term

Generally, Accelerated Online Programs are comprised of 30-36 credit hours that are available to students on a predictable course cycle. A typical AOP student focuses on one course, sometimes two, at a time, completing 6-12 credit hours over a traditional 16-week semester. For an undergraduate degree-completion program, AOP courses are the degree’s major courses – those 300-400 level courses* above general education requirements – while all courses in a graduate program are prepared to AOP standards. Undergraduate AOPs are best suited for students (often transfer students*) with an associate’s degree or at least 45-60 earned credit hours.

AOP tuition is assessed at a residency-free rate, opening educational paths to new markets. New Mexico residents in commuting distance to the Albuquerque Campus turn to AOPs often because of constraining circumstances that prevent in-person attendance, such as full-time employment, care-taking responsibilities, transportation limitations, military service, or personal health considerations.

A degree-seeking experience that is flexible about when and where learning takes place has strong appeal to time-strapped students. For many, access to the University is possible only through an online learning option.  Residents of rural New Mexico and those living outside the state are attracted to AOPs for the same reasons.

Promotion and Outreach

UNM Online supports promotion of the UNM brand and AOP offerings through digital advertising on social media platforms and search engine optimization (SEO) marketing managed by UNM Online and third-party vendors. UNM Online maintains an active social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and a blog. In 2023, UNM Online is committing new resources to local and regional outreach efforts including building employer and community partnerships, strengthening ties with UNM branch campuses and community colleges, and streamlining the processes for nurturing prospective students.

Collaboration with Academic Advising

Academic advisors who work with AOP students are encouraged to join the Supporting Online Students (SOS) team. Facilitated by UNM Online staff, the group meets monthly to share insights, discuss trends, and troubleshoot issues impacting student success. It includes access to a discussion channel that members use at any time to post questions to the community.

Requests to join the group are sent to online@unm.edu or by calling 505-277-9000. Though the focus of the group is academic advising support, UNM staff and faculty are welcome to join.

Recruitment and Student Support

UNM Online has two Student Success Specialists and a Student Recruitment Specialist. They provide holistic support to prospective leads and students currently enrolled in online courses, including AOP majors. Considered integrated advisors as opposed to academic advisors, UNM Online Student Success Specialists use the term “wayfinding” to describe their role helping online students find the resources they need at various points in their academic journey.

Student Success Specialists interact with students via phone, email, chatbot, social media, and virtual office hours. They perform “triage” for a variety of student issues unique to AOP students. For technical issues related to Canvas or other UNM-related technologies, students are directed toward Canvas Support or IT – Academic Technologies.

In collaboration with Enrollment Management, Student Success and Recruitment Specialists assist prospective students in navigating the admissions application and enrollment process. Once admitted to the University, AOP students connect with their program’s academic advisor for guidance on course selection and registration. Student Success Specialists maintain communication with current students through welcome, mid-course, graduation and other email campaigns, along with weekly virtual advising hours.

UNM Online support staff can be contacted during the University’s business hours by phone at 505-277-9000 or email at online@unm.edu.

Analytics and Reporting

UNM Online collects data and generates reports on several AOP metrics. They include: 

  • Enrollment counts per AOP section, examined by semester and part of term. The data is used to track AOP section counts and enrollments.
  • Enrollment counts of AOP sections cross listed with Online Max (non-AOP) sections. Report's purpose is to monitor fill rates and support decisions to add sections.
  • Monitoring whether non-AOP majors are inappropriately registered for AOP sections. Non-AOP majors are prohibited from registering for AOP sections. The AOP tuition rate is different from in-state tuition and is intended only for AOP majors.
  • Down funnel tracking of prospective AOP students who are admitted to, and attending, the University.
  • End of semester summaries, by program, of enrollment and student credit hour production. 
  • End of semester student profile summaries per AOP. They are an aggregate count of student major, gender, race and ethnicity* as defined by IPEDS*, student classification* (sophomore, junior, etc.), and geo-location.

Additional data collection and reporting efforts are completed on an ad hoc basis as UNM Online staff capacity allows.



UNM’s Accelerated Online Programs (AOPs) began in Fall 2016 as an experiment to attract and better serve students who were working adults with time and place constraints that prevented them from pursuing their degrees in traditional formats. Students admitted into an AOP receive a specialized tuition rate for the AOP classes they take. Originally marketed as “Managed Online Programs” or MOPS the name was changed to “Accelerated Online Programs” or AOPs in January 2020 to better support digital marketing efforts.

UNM’s Accelerated Online Programs have grown substantially since 2016, moving from two programs producing 198 student credit hours* to 33 programs generating nearly 70,000 SCH in Fall 2023, with additional programs in process and double-digit year over year growth since the model launched. This growth is due to a combination of unique programs designed to meet the needs of online learners, active promotion and retention efforts, and a funding model that supports entrepreneurial efforts within departments.

Impact to Existing Offerings

Because Accelerated Online Programs are intended to create new access to UNM and serve net new student populations, departments should plan on their AOPs developing into self-supporting and stand-alone course offerings over time. Tuition sharing agreements and UNM Online marketing and retention efforts are designed to support this additive offering. Most importantly, the launch of an Accelerated Online Program should not diminish the face-to-face and Online Max options available to students.

Online courses, and particularly those that are offered at a rapid pace, have been disproportionately difficult for freshmen and sophomores. Launch and continuation of an AOP must not decrease a department’s ability to offer its usual line-up of face-to-face and/or 16-week format classes. Departments should consider their available instructional resources before initiating an AOP, and must ensure there are no negative consequences for existing curricula.

Seed Funding Loan

A department may choose to receive a seed funding loan from UNM Online to develop and launch a new AOP. The seed funding formula is based on calculating $1,000 per faculty member either developing a new course or converting an existing online course to an 8-week format. Funding is awarded once each course passes an AOP quality review. Additional funding may be considered at the department’s request. Seed funding is dependent on meeting deliverables on formally established timelines. Should the academic unit choose to accept seed funding, the agreed-to sum and deliverables are itemized in a Course Addendum.

Seed funding is a loan. It is to be recouped annually over the first three years of establishing an AOP through a transfer between the department and Academic Affairs. Departments may negotiate an extension to the payback period by request.

Tuition Share

Once all deliverables for an AOP are met, and UNM Online has recouped seed funding, the AOP tuition sharing agreement will route total net tuition as follows:

  • 65% to the academic unit,
  • 5% to UNM Online,
  • 5% to Digital Learning at the Center for Teaching and Learning,
  • 17.5% to the central tuition pool, and
  • 7.5% to the Provost’s Office.

Revenue Distribution

Tuition revenue distribution to units will occur at the end of each Fall, Spring, and Summer semester in which the revenue is earned.

Program Performance and Review

Academic Affairs reserves the right to change the tuition share structure every three years, in consultation with involved parties, to address the evolving economics associated with online program offerings in the national higher education environment or internal UNM financial considerations. This right is reserved by Academic Affairs in the same way that budgets and tuition for other programs are reviewed annually.


At the third-year review, departments must report to their College/School dean the target enrollment minima, demonstrate their ability to sustainably deliver stand-alone AOP sections not-co-scheduled with non-AOP sections, and an analysis of revenue surplus/deficit based on actual expenditures for adjunct faculty and the cost of regular voting faculty teaching in the program as a percentage of their overall effort/FTE. 

Over time, successful AOPs should have sufficient enrollment to be offered as stand-alone course offerings. In cases where the department has a pedagogical outcome or student demand that justifies co-teaching a section of AOP students with a section of regular online students, the academic unit may cross list an AOP course section with a non-AOP online section. College/School deans will review third-year reports, followed by Academic Affairs, either of which may require revisions to the Accelerated Online Program and planned department actions.


Major Codes

An AOP student is identified in Banner as having an AOP major code. AOP major codes are easy to spot. The code starts with the letter “X”. For example, an AOP in psychology is coded as “XPSY” while an AOP in music is “XMUS”.

Major codes for currently registered students are accessible through MyReports, a curriculum data source available to staff and faculty with the appropriate Banner Authorization Role. At myreports.unm.edu, major code information is accessed by following this path: Student/Student_Reports/Class_List_Guided_Adhoc. MyReports data is updated every 24 hours. Changes are visible following an overnight refresh. For more about Banner Authorization Roles, staff and faculty may use their UNM credentials to log into bar.unm.edu.

Dual Majors

A student pursuing a dual degree, where the second degree is an AOP, is noted in Banner only by their first degree. UNM Online has no sure way to confirm whether a student has a second degree in an AOP. The academic unit is strongly encouraged to update UNM Online about AOP dual majors by emailing aop@unm.edu.

Who May Register

AOP course sections are exclusively for AOP majors who are billed at AOP tuition rates. AOP tuition is different from in-state tuition. AOP students are welcome to enroll in non-AOP courses, although they will be billed at UNM’s residential tuition rates. Non-AOP majors may not register for, or receive an override into, an AOP section.

Registration Restrictions

UNM Online works with the Scheduling Office to assign program restrictions to each AOP section. The restrictions allow only AOP majors to register for AOP courses.

If an AOP section is cross listed with a twin Online Max (non-AOP) section, the Online Max section restricts AOP majors from registering. This is to ensure AOP majors register for the AOP version.

Overriding a non-AOP major into an AOP section is prohibited. A program restriction error code results when a student with a non-AOP major attempts to register for an AOP section. To enroll in an online course, a non-AOP major may either register for an Online Max (non-AOP) section or change to an AOP major.

Conversely, a program restriction error code may sometimes result when an AOP major attempts to register for a non-AOP section of any delivery type (online max, hybrid, in-person, etc.) The solution is for the AOP major to register for an AOP section.

To verify the program restrictions applied to an Online Max or AOP section, contact Online Scheduling.

UNM Online regularly tracks registrations to identify non-AOP majors enrolled in AOP sections, and reaches out to academic units to ask for non-AOP majors to be placed into appropriate non-AOP sections.



UNM Online and Digital Learning at the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) are readily available to support faculty in designing and teaching AOP courses.

An instructor preparing to teach an AOP course is assigned a CTL instructional designer to assist with the pedagogical and technological considerations of teaching online. CTL also offers a range of workshops on UNM’s Learning Management System (Canvas) along with Open Lab sessions open to all faculty and covering an array of topics.

UNM Online hosts Faculty Support guidance for teaching online. Questions can also be directed to aop@unm.edu.

Training, Course Review and AOP Certification

AOP faculty complete trainings on regular and substantive interaction, (RASI) and evidence-based practices for teaching online, (EBPTO). Academic Affairs outlined the RASI requirement in a memo to faculty and instructions on accessing it in Learning Central is available here. With instructional designer support, courses are built to the accomplished standard of the Online Course Standards Rubric, then reviewed and AOP-certified.

To aid in managing expectations and tracking milestones, a deliverables checklist and timeline document is available.


An AOP instructor of record completes a Course Information Form for each section they teach online. These are guided forms used to collect and make public necessary student disclosures. There is a legal compliance component to online learning that the University is required to honor. Through faculty trainings, course build and review and student disclosures, AOP courses meet distance education requirements.


General Education

UNM offers a variety of General Education courses in the AOP format. They are not associated with any particular Accelerated Online Program and are available only to AOP students. Offerings include courses satisfying the US & Global Diversity and Inclusion undergraduate degree requirement. AOP gen ed courses are listed on the UNM Online website and are found in the schedule of current online course offerings.

With a growing number of students entering AOPs without the necessary general education credits, there is strong demand for such courses. Offering them is also an opportunity to capture additional tuition revenue. An academic unit may contact aop@unm.edu to propose one or more courses.

Minimum Enrollment

An online course is expected to generate enough enrollment to cover the cost of instruction. The decision to fund an under-enrolled course is possible with approval from the dean of your college. The enrollment minimums below are recommended benchmarks that typically generate enough revenue to cover instructional costs. Check with the UNM Scheduling Office for enrollment minimum updates.

Fall and Spring Terms:

  • 100/1000 and 200/2000-level class: minimum is 13
  • 300/400-level class: minimum is 10
  • Graduate-level class: minimum is 5

A combination of upper and lower division* cross listed offerings are recommended to meet a minimum of 13.

Instructional Delivery Types

Definitions, Business Processes and Regulatory Considerations

Refer to this link for details on the following instructional delivery types:

  • Accelerated Online Program
  • Online Max
  • Online + Classroom (O+C) Format
  • Hybrid
  • Web-Enhanced

Propose an AOP

To propose an Accelerated Online Program, the academic unit contacts UNM Online at aop@unm.edu. Online course proposal (OCP) forms are not required. Instead, a simple expression of interest is all that is needed.

The request initiates an assurance check. UNM Online verifies the program’s curriculum according to the most current UNM Catalog. For each course in the program, the following are also determined:

  • History of offering via the online delivery type,
  • The stage of development in the learning management system (Canvas),
  • Whether there exists distinguished recognition for design quality,
  • The readiness of the instructor assigned to building the course, and
  • The readiness of the instructor assigned to teaching it.

Next, UNM Online opens a dialog with the academic unit to discuss:

  • Whether the proposed AOP is appropriate for the unit’s and the institution’s goals.
  • The net new student population(s) the program will attract.
  • The expectations and costs of committing to an AOP.
  • The timing and elements of the program’s launch.

With approval from the Provost’s Office, UNM Online enters a Memorandum of Understanding and Course Addendum agreement with the academic unit, Academic Affairs, and the Center for Teaching and Learning. A document detailing AOP deliverables is also shared.

Launch an AOP

This resource describes the elements of an AOP launch. Topics include:

  • Initial Documentation
  • Orientation
  • Promotion and Outreach
  • Faculty Training
  • Course Development
  • Course Review and AOP Certification
  • Schedule an AOP Section
  • Identify an AOP Section
  • Section Grouping
  • Course Information Disclosures
  • Student Support
  • Analytics and Reporting


*These links are to the UNM Office of Institutional Analytics - Data Dictionary
Refer to Data Dictionary TermFor a Description of Handbook's Term
CampusAlbuquerque Campus
Enrolled vs. RegisteredEnrollment
Upper vs. Lower Undergraduate Courses300-400 Level Courses
Transfer StudentTransfer Students
EthnicityRace and Ethnicity
Student ClassificationStudent Classification
Student Credit Hours (SCH)Student Credit Hours
Upper vs. Lower Undergraduate CoursesUpper and Lower Division


Handbook Updated 4/2/2024