Golden Paw Certification

The Golden Paw certification is based on the Online Learning Excellence Framework, a research-informed framework developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning in 2023 - 2024 to help guide instructors in designing effective and engaging online courses. The framework grew out of the past work of the Provost's UNM Faculty Online Standards Task Force (2005-2009), the OCAC's development of the Online Course Standards Rubric approved by the UNM Faculty Senate Teaching Enhancement Committee in December 2013, and the revised UNM Online Course Standards Rubric (2019). The Online Learning Excellence Framework replaces all previous versions of the UNM Online Course Standards Rubric.

The new Framework contains 18 Foundational Design Elements and six Advanced Strategies. The Foundational Design Elements will guide instructors in making design choices and planning for pedagogical strategies that support student learning and allow courses to meet regulatory obligations for distance education. The six Advanced Strategies help instructors learn from current feedback in their courses and demonstrate their thoughtful approaches to continuous improvement.

The Golden Paw certification recognizes instructors whose courses have implemented and provided evidence for all of the Foundational Elements and Advanced Strategies of the Online Learning Excellence Framework. Each Fall and Spring semester, the Center for Teaching and 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

  • All UNM Main Campus instructors are eligible.
  • Course must have been taught by the instructor a minimum of two times online through UNM Main Campus.
  • 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

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

Certification Benefits

  • Instructional designer support with redesign and review preparation.
  • If certified, the instructor will receive a $2000 stipend.


Apply now! Applications are being accepted through August 9th, 2024.


Past OCAC Recipients

For a list of previous certifications, view OCAC Certificate Recipients.

  1. Start

    CTL provides you with a GP Temp Course to work in, and adds your assigned instructional designer.

  2. Apply the Framework

    Meet with your designer to determine what updates your course may need to follow the Online Learning Excellence Framework. Complete a self-review of your course documenting evidence of how you have implemented all of the Foundational Elements and Advanced Strategies.

  3. Submit Course for Review

    Submit your Self-Review and your course map to Rob Wolf four business days prior to your scheduled review.

  4. Review

    Your review will be scheduled with a panel of two faculty colleagues who have previously been through the Golden Paw certification process.

  5. Notification

    You will receive notification that your course has completed all required steps to receive Golden Paw Certification, or that there are required changes that need to be addressed before resubmitting.

  6. Submit Changes

    Submit any additional changes and submit for re-review.

  7. Certification

    Once your course meets the requirements of the entire Online Learning Excellence Framework:

    The course will receive a UNM Golden Paw Seal of Approval to place in the course and note on the UNM Online Course Website.

    You will receive a $2,000 stipend and a certification letter.