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OCAC Best Practice Initiative

Online Course Best Practices Initiative: Golden Paw Certification


In collaboration with UNM Extended Learning Strategic Initiatives (EL), the Center for Digital Learning (CDL), and the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE), the UNM Online Course Advisory Council (OCAC) has established the Golden Paw certification to support the development and implementation of online best practices for teaching and learning. We have reviewed 134 courses since 2015.

The Golden Paw certification is based on the Online Course Standards Rubric, a document guided by ideas from the Provost’s UNM Faculty Online Standards Task Force (2005 – 2009). The OCAC built on this foundation to develop the rubric that was approved by UNM Faculty Senate Teaching Enhancement Committee in December 2013, and recently revised for clarity in 2019. The Rubric provides a framework for online course design based on the University of New Mexico’s online course standards, evidence-based practices for teaching and learning, federal compliance for online courses, and national standards for quality online course delivery (Practices for Verification of Student Identity).

The Golden Paw certification recognizes instructors whose courses have surpassed the highest standards of the Online Course Standards Rubric. Each Fall and Spring semester the Center for Digital Learning will put out a call for applications inviting eligible instructors to nominate their course for a Golden Paw review. Please see below for eligibility criteria, certification benefits, and a timeline of the review process.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. All UNM Main Campus instructors are eligible.
  2. Course must have been taught by the instructor a minimum of two times online through UNM Main Campus.
  3. Course will be taught online for three subsequent semesters after being certified (these do not have to be sequential semesters). The application will require your department chair’s confirmation of the course's future offerings.

Selection Criteria

  1. Instructors who have received the Golden Paw certification previously may apply with another course, but new applications will be given priority.
  2. General Education courses and/or courses that are part of an online degree or degree completion program will be given priority.

Certification Benefits

  1. Instructional designer support with redesign and review preparation.
  2. If certified, the instructor will receive a $2000 stipend.
  3. If certified, the Center for Digital Learning will pay to have the course go through a Quality Matters course review ($1000).


Our next application cycle will be posted in August 2020 for Fall 2020 certifications.

Past OCAC Recipients

For a list of previous certifications: 2015-2019 OCAC Certificate Recipients.