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Standards For Distance Education Courses

Memorandum No. 14 Standards for Distance Education Courses

Policyholder: Dean, Online Learning and Media Services
Effective Date: November 29, 2001 
Revised: April 20, 2022
Approved by: President 

This document provides a uniform standard for distance education courses. Distance education courses are defined as those courses where the faculty member may be in a different physical location than the students. This encompasses online and hybrid courses. The goal of these standards is to promote high-quality distance education courses.

Types of Online Learning

Fully Online
Fully online courses are available in two ways:

  • Asynchronous online – Courses are conducted entirely via the Internet using the College’s LMS and do not require any face-to-face interaction on campus. These courses have no scheduled lecture time.* 
  • Synchronous online – Online classes meet virtually via video conferencing and are scheduled on a regularly occurring day/time throughout the semester. These courses have a scheduled lecture time.*

Hybrid courses are delivered in a wider variety of formats and combine elements of face-to-face with online components.  Most hybrid courses generally have 50% regularly scheduled face-to-face meeting times on campus and 50% online with either unscheduled time or scheduled time for video-conferenced meetings.

Online courses shall be hosted on an approved College platform (e.g. Zoom), or within the College’s approved LMS.

* However, there may be some classes which require in-person testing

Online Course Design

When an instructor is assigned an online or hybrid course by the department head, they will place a version of their current course syllabus on a publicly available College website. Course information contained in the syllabus must be consistent with departmentally approved course documents. Departments offering online courses may choose to post generic course syllabi on the publicly available website for the use of prospective students.

The choice of instructional materials shall be made by the instructor(s) teaching a course or as otherwise approved by the applicable Department. All materials and learning objects should be accessible by students with disabilities. All materials should be made available online that can be done so practically, legally, and in accordance with academic standards.

In accordance with Federal regulations 34 C.F.R. §600.2 of the Higher Education Act (HEA), regular and substantive interaction between instructor and student shall occur in fully online and hybrid courses as in traditional courses. Online interaction, using communication methods and media appropriate to the course, shall be integral elements of the course. Instructors shall maintain regular online communications with students on a schedule made known to their students.

Assessment of Students
Online courses shall include online tests and/or practice quizzes, projects, or other forms of assessment as appropriate. Provision for the integrity of the assessment should be part of the course design. This can include multiple measures of learning outcomes assessment, varied approaches to assessment of learning, as well as technological solutions such as online test proctoring.

The following forms of support shall be available for online and hybrid courses:

For Students:

  • Technical support for students via phone, e-mail, or online chat by the Office of Online Learning and/or software vendor where available. This will not include general computer support. 
  • Course support for students via phone, e-mail, or online methods by instructors.
  • Academic support through online tutoring, advising, library resources, etc.
  • An online tutorial or other documentation for use of the LMS.

For Faculty:

  • Access to technology for faculty to manage courses while on-campus.
  • Training to teach online. Specifically, training includes best practices in online pedagogy, instructional technology, and compliance with relevant laws such as those related to copyright, students with disabilities, and use of the LMS.
  • Instructors of online courses who require additional necessary software directly related to their courses shall be provided a copy for use at home. (This applies only to software that students are required to have purchased and not to proprietary development software.) 
  • Library resources and services in electronic format.
  • Access to the Quality Matters rubric and training.

Faculty Training
When an instructor desires to teach a fully online, synchronous online, or hybrid course, faculty must demonstrate proficiency in online course design and delivery consistent with departmentally approved requirements. Training is available for online strategies and the currently approved LMS.

Fully Online and Hybrid Course Approval Process
For a course to be developed in a fully online or hybrid format, the following procedures will be followed: 

  1. The appropriate department head (representing the department/program) recommends courses for development in an online or hybrid format, as well as the instructors who will participate in the process.
  2. Faculty meets with Online Learning to discuss preliminary design.
  3. Faculty builds the course.
  4. When the course development process is complete, the instructor and the Office of Online Learning conduct a final review and approval based on: 
    • Compliance with relevant laws such as copyright laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
    • A quality assessment of the course using Quality Matters or other nationally recognized course design standards.
    • Compliance with the provisions of other College policies and procedures.
  5. The Office of Online Learning forwards a recommendation for approval to the appropriate department head.  The department reviews and approves the course, and forwards it to the dean.  Upon approval by the dean, the course may be offered.

Course Design Quality Assurance
The Office of Online Learning currently utilizes the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric as part of the online and hybrid course development process and periodic review of courses. In addition, a periodic review of all existing online courses takes place at regular intervals.