Sonoran Desert Institute understands that its students are mature, responsible, and independent. Moreover, the Institute knows that its students are driven to learn in order to impact the workplace by applying their acquired knowledge. The learning process must therefore be flexible by allowing students to complete coursework while meeting the demands of work, family, and other commitments. It is with this understanding that SDI provides all of its coursework through distance-delivered learning practices.


Upon enrollment, an entry point is determined and a schedule for the program is established for each 16 or 20 week semester. Students will typically have a one-week break between each semester. Within the semester, courses are scheduled in a modular basis.

Courses are generally 4-weeks to 8-weeks in length, with fixed start and end dates and weekly requirements for each. SDI’s academic week is defined as Monday through Sunday. Attendance is monitored on a daily basis, with an expectation that students demonstrate their participation online at least once per week. This is done as noted above by submitting assignments, posting course-related discussions and taking/submitting quizzes and exams.

Students in credit-bearing courses/programs will be removed from any new course if there is no demonstrated academic participation in the first 7 days. Once academic participation is established within the first 7 days of the course, a student is subject to withdrawal if there is no academic participation (attendance) for 14 consecutive days.

Credit Hour Definition

Programs offered for credit earn semester credit hours. Semester hours shall be equivalent to the commonly accepted and traditionally defined units of academic measurement in accredited institutions. Academic degree or academic credit-bearing distance learning courses are measured by the learning outcomes normally achieved through 45 hours of student work for one semester credit.* This formula is typically referred to as a Carnegie unit and is used by the American Council on Education in its Credit Recommendation Evaluative Criteria.

 *One credit/semester hour is 15 hours of academic engagement and 30 hours of preparation.

Credit Hour Maximum

A maximum of 18 credit hours may be attempted per term/semester. Students may appeal in writing by sending an email to the designated Student Success Coach or emailing Such appeals will be considered on a case-by-case basis. If a student wishes to reduce or increase course load, the student should contact the assigned Student Success Coach for assistance. If a course has not yet been started, the course may be unregistered. Courses in which a student has already participated may be dropped, with a grade of “W” to show it was withdrawn, up to the 75% point in the 4-8 week course length or the 80% point in the 5 week course length. Students may also need to discuss impact on funding with a Financial Services Advisor.

Academic Activity and Substantive Interaction

SDI is committed to ensuring students take personal responsibility for achieving the learning objectives outlined within each course. To assist students in meeting that goal, the Institute requires students to participate by regularly accessing their course(s), substantively interacting with students and instructors through group discussions, and submitting all assignments and exams in a timely fashion. The purpose of substantive interaction is to promote understanding of topics and subject matter, which will enhance the educational experience for students. Students are encouraged to begin participation in the Discussion Board as soon as possible during each week of the term.

The following actions are considered academic activity, in alignment with the Department of Education requirements:

  • Submission of assignment
  • Course-related discussions
  • Taking and/or submission of exam or quiz

Students are expected to establish participation by demonstrating academic activity within the first week of the course and are subject to course and/or institutional withdrawal or cancellation if there is no activity within 7 calendar days of the course start date. Throughout the term, students must participate in such a way as to ensure successful completion of the course by the course end date. Course acceleration is not permitted. Submitting work prior to its due date (accelerating) and going inactive for 14 calendar days is considered a lack of participation in the course and students are subject to course and/or institutional withdrawal. Bulk assignment submissions after periods of inactivity are not recommended since students are expected to pace with the weekly course guidelines.


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