Course Development Guidelines
DISTANCE LEARNING PARAMETERS
Online courses are those in which 100% of the course’s instruction are conducted in distance mode. Another course delivery option is hybrid (blended) courses; hybrid courses are those that combine classroom and online methods, and deliver 15% of the course’s content online. Both online and hybrid courses must go through the university’s approval process. Contact Michael Leamy, Director of Distance Education , for detailed information on the approval process.
Course developers must create their online course materials in accordance with the following requirements and guidelines, which satisfy or exceed the various accreditation criteria of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges for Distance Learning Programs. The Distance Education Coordinator provides training sessions for online course development, and throughout the development process course developers have access to training and support in the areas of design and building content within the Blackboard learning management system. Once a course is developed, the designer will maintain intellectual ownership of the course materials while Fitchburg State University will maintain and host the course offering in a Blackboard shell. Note that all course material must be delivered using the Blackboard learning management system unless otherwise authorized by the Distance Education Coordinator at Fitchburg State.
- Prior to the development of an online course, the course developer must complete the approval process. This process includes a form to be signed by the developer, the chair of the relevant academic department, the appropriate Dean, and the Director of Distance Education.
- The purpose of the course as a whole, as well as the activities required within the course, should be completely understood by the student. Thus, there must be a clear statement of intended learning outcomes and clear expectations of course activities. For information refer to the Fitchburg State syllabus guidelines in the Faculty Handbook.
- The course developer must take into consideration all the resources necessary to the student and must provide access to these resources by including relevant information in the course syllabus.
- Throughout the development process, course developers will have access to training and support in areas of design and content-building within the Blackboard learning management system.
- The course must be designed to include meaningful interaction among students and between each student and the teacher, in such a manner as to allow assessment of student work on a regular basis. This not only helps the Instructor to identify when students may need assistance, it also allows students to monitor their progress. A developed course must include frequent formally organized communication with the instructor and required participation in class discussion boards when appropriate.
- Online courses must include a variety of feedback opportunities and assessment options.
- Any copyrighted material may be copied into the course only if permission from the copyright owner is received specifically for this use. The course developer is responsible for obtaining this permission. Information about obtaining copyright permission may be obtained from Print Services. If permission has not been granted, the course developer may provide a single copy of a work to be included in a reference library for student access. (Copyrighted materials must be documented and signed off on by the designer demonstrating approval or necessary research as discussed in the TEACH Act.) Note that an online instructor may place a link on their course to a site where copyrighted material is appropriately displayed.
SUGGESTIONS FOR DEVELOPING ONLINE COURSES
- Online courses should be developed considering student diversity and thus should address different learning styles.
- Appropriate examples and grading rubrics for course assignments should be demonstrated to students whenever this is appropriate. This can help students understand what is expected and ensure a greater likelihood that appropriate work will be submitted.
- Student assessments may be accomplished through various types of evaluations. It is essential that all student work be evaluated through the use of clear criteria. Professors who want to require a proctored exam should contact the Distance Education Coordinator.
- The use of the discussion board is strongly encouraged in online courses and, when appropriate, should be used as the primary intellectual interaction between faculty and individual students and student groups. The discussion board should be monitored frequently by the instructor, checking the ongoing discussions among students, and making comments as necessary to guide the discussion.
- Both faculty and students have access to technical support, including support from the Distance Education Coordinator, throughout the duration of the course. Including the related contact information in course materials is strongly recommended. Also, faculty are encouraged to make students aware of the demo course available to all students as an introduction or review to Blackboard.