Guidelines for Faculty Teaching Online Courses
The nature of online and hybrid courses, including the lack of a physical presence on campus and specific meeting times and locations for some or all of the course activities, requires guidelines to ensure consistency among faculty in the process of administering online courses at Fisher.
- The academic calendar for online and hybrid courses closely follows the traditional academic calendar of the College. Online courses are taught in either a 7-week or 14-week calendar during all three semesters: fall, spring, and summer. Hybrid courses may be taught during a variety of course lengths: 7-week or 14-week calendars during fall and spring semesters and 6-week or 12-week calendars during the summer semester. The full academic calendar can be found here: Academic Calendars
- Instructors of online and hybrid courses should monitor that all students have completed the Online and Hybrid Student Orientation module in Blackboard prior to starting any activities in their own courses. Instructors teaching online and hybrid courses will be added to the Online and Hybrid Student Orientation module in order to verify which students have completed the orientation quiz. An instructor may choose to award points based on the completion of that task in their own course grading scheme.
- Online and hybrid courses within Blackboard may be made available for student viewing prior to the start date of the course. However, students should not be required to complete any assignments or begin active participation in the course prior to the start date other than the orientation module. It is expected that class begins on the start date listed in the academic calendar. Assignments that are due during the first week of the course should be limited to the amount of work a student can reasonably expect to complete if they began work on the first day of the course.
- If there is a scheduled College break or holiday during the term, students in an online or hybrid course should not be required to perform course related tasks during that time. The Blackboard course may be left available for students to access, but is not required to be monitored by the faculty or students in the course.
- Online courses at Fisher should include aspects of social, cognitive and teaching presence while creating a sense of community among all learners. Creating a cycle for the course (weekly or otherwise) and maintaining the sense of online community following that cycle together is essential to successful online course facilitation. While content may be visible for students to read ahead, activities that involve active participation (blogs, discussions, VoiceThread, etc.) should be made available within a set timeframe (i.e., weekly) to engage all learners on a common topic. This will prevent students from working ahead independently without peer interaction and will focus the group on the specific topics of that week, which will result in better discussion and small group collaboration in the course. Fisher’s online course should avoid a self-paced design model.
- Formative and summative feedback should be spread throughout the entire term of the course to ensure that students received frequent updates on their progression in the course. Large assessments at the end of the term should be scheduled to ensure a sufficient amount of time for grading and submission of final grades by the dates listed in the online academic calendar.
- Faculty presence in an online course and the online portion of a hybrid course is essential to creating a successful online learning environment. Faculty are encouraged to respond to student inquiries within 24 hours for 7 week courses and with 48 hours for 14 week courses. Faculty are also encouraged to grade student work and provide feedback on student progress within 7 days following the assignment due date. Please be aware for 7-week courses, even the 7-day turn around may not be adequate to provide student feedback on assignments that scaffold throughout the term.
- Faculty are encouraged to have at least one proctored event in the design of their online courses. A proctored event may include any technology where the instructor can see and hear the student using audio and video to verify their identity (i.e. Collaborate, VoiceThread) or a proctored exam overseen by the faculty member or a designee of their choosing.
- Faculty should abide by the College policy on reporting of attendance for all students per the Registrar’s policies and practices posted on the College website. In online courses, attendance is defined as active participation in the course activities, most commonly in a discussion forum within the course. The sole act of logging into the Blackboard course does not qualify as attendance on its own.
- Faculty should abide by the College policy on office hours (Faculty Statutes Part 5 Teaching Faculty, Department Chairs, Deans, 5.A Teaching Faculty, 3.5.A.4) and make themselves readily available to students throughout the term of the course. This may be done through phone, email and/or Blackboard Collaborate.
- Faculty need to be mindful of students needing accommodations in the creation and selection of the course materials and resources used in their online courses. All materials used in online courses must comply with the College policy, as posted by the Provost.
- Course evaluations for online and hybrid courses will follow the same policies and procedures that apply to all courses. The same online platform, EvaluationKIT, used to administer campus course evaluations will be used to administer online course evaluations. Slight wording changes in specific questions on the evaluation are made to account for the lack of seat time, but the intended nature of any question on the evaluation will not be altered.
Student Eligibility to Take Online and Hybrid Courses
In order for an undergraduate student to be eligible to take an online course, he or she should have sophomore status or above. No such restriction applies to graduate students.
There are no restrictions on students registering for hybrid courses.