On October 7, 2016, new regulations went into effect making certain changes to two (2) portions of the Board’s regulations, specifically school regulations and regulations governing apartment rentals, 254 CMR 4.00 and 7.00. The purpose of these frequently asked questions is to assist licensees and the public in understanding these changes.
1. What exactly has changed in the regulations?
A: In the school portion of the regulations, 254 CMR 4.00, the Board has formally adopted online/distance education for both continuing education and for pre-licensure. In the apartment rental portion of the regulations, 254 CMR 7.00, the Board made a very minor change in which it no longer requires a fee disclosure be made to prospective tenants seeking a property rental when no fee is being charged.
2. My school is already Board approved, do I need permission to offer online courses?
A: Schools which have previously been approved that offer online courses for continuing education may continue to do so without additional approval, however, they should review 254 CMR 4.00 to ensure that they are in compliance with the regulation requirements. No schools have been permitted to provide online pre-licensure courses prior to October 7, 2016.
3. My school wishes to offer online pre-licensure education, what do I need to do to obtain Board approval?
A: As a prerequisite, you must be a Board approved real estate school, if you are not, fill out the Board form entitled “Application for Approval as a Massachusetts Real Estate School” which can be found on the Board’s website under the “Applications and Forms” link. Regarding the online course itself, the Board may create an application form in the future for online courses, until that time, submit the following to the Board in order to seek approval for teaching online education:
1. A full description of the course, including curriculum, course materials to be used, and instructor(s);
2. A description of the communication technology to be used to ensure students and instructors are able to interact in real time; and
3. A description of videos or other multimedia presentations not involving the interaction of instructors and students to be used as part of the course, including their duration, if applicable.
4. My school wishes to offer online continuing education, what do I need to do to obtain Board approval?
A: As a prerequisite, you must be a Board approved real estate school, if you are not, fill out the Board form entitled “Application for Approval as a Massachusetts Real Estate School” which can be found on the Board’s website under the “Applications and Forms” link. At this time, so long as approved schools follow one of the Board approved continuing education subject matter curriculums, no additional approval is required. However, schools are reminded that they must ensure any online course meets the provisions of 254 CMR 4.00 to ensure that they are in compliance with the regulation requirements.
5. Once approved, do I need to provide any special information to students taking an online course?
A: Per the regulations, prior “to the beginning of a course, the Board approved outline and orientation shall be provided to the student which shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
1. how credit will be recorded for later access;
2. technology requirements for completion of the course;
3. links to school policies including such policies on misrepresenting student identity and refunds;
4. description of how much time a student has to complete the course;
5. information about access to content and technical support; and
6. methods to obtain answers to student questions.
6. May I offer a 40 hour pre-licensure online course that is go-at-your-own pace, such as a video lecture?
A: No, per Massachusetts law, pre-licensure classes must be classroom based. Prior to now, no online pre-licensure classes were allowed in Massachusetts because of this restriction.
7. If pre-licensure courses must be classroom based, how can the Board allow online classes?
A: The Board has taken the position that the reference to classroom based in the law is a requirement that instructors be able to interact with students in real time, not that they must be physically in the same location. As a result, commencing with these regulations, the Board can approve online pre-licensure courses which utilize communications technology to allow this link between the instructor and students.