STRONG FOUNDATIONS FOR
Quality Standards for Online Courses
Table of Contents
R E Q U I R E D P R A C T I C E S
1. Updated Institutional Syllabus 1
2. Updated Semester Schedule 1
3. Class Guidance for Each Chapter/Unit 2
4. Response and Participation Tools 2
5. Communication and Information Tools 3
6. Content Similar to a Traditional Course 3
7. Site Visits to Class 4
8. Instructor Posting 4
9. Organization of Site 5
10. Grading/Marking Tools 5
11. Current Dates on Materials 6
12. Accessible Media and Document Formats 6
13. Use of the Blackboard Grade book 8
14. External Links 8
15. Use of Quizzes/Exams 9
16. Security 9
17. Quality Standards Online Course Evaluation End
1. Updated Institutional and Course
The Institutional and Course Syllabus should be located in Course Information within the Blackboard class.
Does the course contain an updated Institutional Syllabus located within Course Information?
he syllabus should contain not only the institutional syllabus information, but also individual instructor notations as to class protocol, student responsibilities, and location of online information. The date and semester should be accurate. The syllabus, along
with any other material in a Crowder College class, should contain information pertaining only to Crowder College; no other college information should be mentioned. It is also a good practice to have a focused online syllabus, rather than one that attempts to give instructions for both traditional and online classes. Clear competencies that pertain to the online class should also be present, along with the manner in which the competencies will be reached. For example, one might mention that the Discussion Board will be used in the class, and that student responses will be expected for a certain number of points. An instructor might point out when exams will be taken and in what fashion. The syllabus should be clearly distinguishable to the students as the core document of the course. Methods and procedures relating to the online delivery should also be present.
2. Updated Semester Schedule
The Semester Schedule should be located in Course Information within the Blackboard class.
Does the course contain a complete semester schedule located within Course Information?
here should be a semester schedule, with daily and weekly assignments with clear due dates indicated. A generalized schedule without dates can be misleading to students, though it might be a time saver to instructors, since it can be reloaded each semester
without much revision. However, it is useful to take a close look each semester at the schedule; assignments may have changed, links might have disappeared, and page numbers and holidays may no longer be applicable.
3. Class Guidance for Each
Chapter and Unit guidance materials should be located in either Assignments or Course Documents within the Blackboard class.
Does the course contain class guidance for each chapter/unit covered during the semester, and are they located either in Assignments or Course Documents within the Blackboard Course?
here are many techniques that can be used in an online course; text lectures, study guides and links, instructor notes, Power Point demos, etc. Whatever is used, there should be adequate information given in some form or another to replicate the lecture
and handouts that students would normally receive in a traditional course; simply posting assignments and their due dates, relying solely upon the students careful reading and comprehension of the textbook is inadequate. If this were the case, college classes would quickly become redundant! Many textbooks now come with these materials that can then be posted in Blackboard. Or an instructor might have his or her own. Either is satisfactory.
4. Response and Participation Tools
Does the course utilize the Discussion Board within the Blackboard Class?
raditional courses at Crowder College offer at the very least these basic components: a systematic delivery of information and an opportunity for the exchange of ideas between the instructor and the students. The Discussion Board is a vital tool in a
Blackboard course since it is the only component that allows for the interchange of ideas such as those that occur in the traditional classroom. One of the most important, and often, the most neglected component in an online course is the interaction between the instructor and students. Online courses should resemble a traditional course, where students have the opportunity to interact with both their peers and the instructor. This may be the most demanding element of teaching online. It is vital that the instructor play a role in the Discussions, not only to provide further information, but also to answer any questions the
students may have. The Chat Room, while useful in many ways, limits the student interaction due to the obvious necessity of scheduled synchronous communication. Utilization of the Discussion Board, either with the entire class or in groups, is a necessity if one is trying to create an online course that resembles a traditional class. The Discussion Board needs to be a primary component of the class for the students and the instructor.
5. Communication and Information
Does the instructor use the Course Information, Course Documents, Assignments, and Communication buttons, allowing for an organized presentation of material and communication?
ourse Information, Course Documents, Staff Information, and Communication: email and announcements: these are all tools of Blackboard designed to systematically communicate course material. Simply lumping all the course information under
Course Documents, for example, is not advisable. The chief complaint of Crowder College students who take online courses is that each course is so different from the next in its organizational design. While organization can be present without having uniformity within the online courses, uniformity in design does create an ease and convenience for students when entering an online course. As well, the use of emails and announcements in the course are other methods of giving information to the students. Frequent announcements can be an effective method of keeping students up to date with changes in assignments or schedules, for instance.
6. Content is Similar to a Traditional
Is the online course comparable to its traditional counterpart?
t is extremely important that an online course offer the same components that a traditional course offers. For example, in a composition course, a traditional course provides for lecture of the material, an opportunity to compose written work, a return of the composed
material with weaknesses and strengths clearly marked, and instructor feedback as to possible corrections. Does the online course offer these same components to the students? Obviously different mediums will be used in an online setting; for instance, the discussion board can
duplicate the classroom setting where lectures would be given and questions could be asked. When feasible, scheduled chats might be helpful to provide online office hours. While closed book and monitored exams that would be given in a traditional course might not be possible in an online course, one can use timed exams, with higher order content, that will demand prior studying of the assigned material. Whatever the method, the online course needs to contain the same components as a traditional college course.
7. Site Visits to Class
Does the instructor access/visit the course at least three times a week?
f one works on the assumption that instructors deserve weekends and an occasional holiday off, then the expectation that an online instructor should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is unrealistic and unfair. However, most instructors are on campus
five days a week, available to students between 8-4, or some variation of this, and in class for typically two to three times a week for an hour or so. Given these hours of availability, it is not unreasonable to expect online instructors to view their courses at least three times a week. Those instructors who check in daily, Monday through Friday will probably find that their classes and students are stronger and more receptive as a result of the instructor attention. Some instructors will clearly outline their expected visits in their syllabi, such as
I will be in the class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but I do not check the course on the weekend. Please email me if you have any questions during those times.
Clearly outlined instructor visits that are comparable to a traditional course seem adequate.
8. Instructor Posting
Does the instructor participate/post weekly in a meaningful way in the Discussion Board?
s mentioned earlier, all of the literature in Long Distance Learning promotes the use of the Discussion Board, asynchronous communication, as a necessary tool of online learning. While it is impossible, and usually not suggested, that an online instructor
respond to each student, certainly, at the very least, student questions should be answered promptly, and further elaboration of core material should be given as feedback. An instructor should be involved in the classroom discussion, not just an observer and a collector of assignments. While a math class might not have as many instructor responses or as many
discussion folders in the Discussion Board as a literature course, since more concrete questions and answers would be asked and given, it is still possible to evoke discussion from students who are struggling with the material or simply to deepen the class experience by encouraging an exchange of ideas among the students. These conversations can sometimes limp along, particularly when student responses are assigned by the instructor, but a judiciously placed response from an instructor can help make a weak discussion a much more focused one. It is suggested that student responses be part of the assigned curriculum in an online environment. Without the motivation of credit, most students will most probably not participate to any great degree.
9. Organization of Site
Does the instructor use a clear organizational pattern in his or her course?
rowder College requires that the instructor use the following organizational pattern (visible buttons of the five components should show in the course) when designing an online course; more can be used if needed.
1. Announcements: announcements can be a useful tool in guiding students to the material.
2. Course Information: Syllabus, Schedule
3. Assignments: daily and weekly assignments, along with quizzes and tests
4. Course Documents: other helpful course material, such as study guides, notes, etc.
5. Staff Information: brief biographical information and a photograph
10. Use of Grading/Marking Tools
That Provide Feedback to Students
Does the instructor provide feedback to the students on tests, quizzes, and writing assignments as one would in a traditional class?
oes the instructor provide feedback in some adequate and comparable form to that of a traditional course? For example, an instructor might use Microsoft Word or Adobe software for grading compositions, or one could utilize the Assignment Feedback and
inline grading tools within Blackboard on exams, quizzes, and homework. Another instructor
might rely heavily on more lengthy and detailed email responses in order to provide adequate feedback. Online teaching should not mean that we quit grading or giving feedback, and tools are available within Blackboard and with inexpensive software that can provide this to the students. Simply recording scores does not given adequate feedback to the students.
11. Current Dates on Materials
Do the course materials contain current dates?
aterials within the course should be updated each semester. These would include syllabi, schedules, individual assignments, and instructor postings in the Discussion Board.
12. Accessible Media and Document Formats
Does the instructor use Rich Text Format, Html, PDF or other types of easily accessible files?
oes the instructor use RTF, Html, and PDF? If Power Points are used, are links provided by which the student might download PowerPoint viewers? Keep in mind that many students do not have Microsoft Office, and some use Macintoshes rather
than PCs. Another item to note is that many Crowder students do not have broadband or fast dialup internet. Word documents loaded into Blackboard, whether they open up within the Blackboard framework or as separate documents, can take an enormous amount of time and speed in order to open, assuming that the student can open them. The instructors should also note in their syllabus the desired format that they wish the student to use when sending assignments. It is also suggested that clear instructions on how to do this be posted, as well.
Students with Disabilities Accessible Media
Many of the courses offered at Crowder College use technology to enhance course delivery, both on-campus and through distance learning (referred to as eLearning). The United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has stated that eLearning must be designed and delivered in such a way that all students, including students with disabilities, have equal access to course content.
Collectively, State and Federal regulations require equal access to resources and materials for students who are otherwise qualified to enroll in the course. Furthermore, accessibility must be built into eLearning; OCR interpretation states that a College or University violates its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act when it responds only on an ad-hoc basis to individual requests for accommodation. Finally, this instruction must result in a course-taking experience that is similar to that of students without disabilities.
The concept of designing an accessible online course means designing for the widest range of people's abilities. Not all web users and visitors are using the standard graphical browsers. They may be using adaptive technologies such as screen readers or text-based browsers, have their browser graphics turned off, or may not be able to use, or have access to a mouse or keyboard. Some users also have physical or cognitive disabilities that impact their use of a Web page. Eventually we may be using cell phones or audio devices from our cars to access the web. In keeping with this commitment to provide accessible information and services, the following are some suggestions to ensure your online course will meet basic accessibility standards:
Create a logical tab order through links, form controls, and objects.
Place distinguishing information at...