Course Definitions and Modes of Delivery
The Commission on Colleges (COC) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) defines Distance Education in its 2009 Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement as follows:
Definition of Distance Education
For the purposes of the Commission’s accreditation review, distance education is a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous. A distance education course may use the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVD’s, and CDROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program."
The University Council adopted the following definitions, based on Online Learning Consortium descriptions in order to provide members of the University community with a common language to discuss distance and electronic learning options. These definitions will guide Office of Distance Learning investments and activities for all course types.
Hybrid (50 to 99%)
Hybrid courses are delivered at least 50% online, with the remainder of course meetings delivered face to face. Hybrid courses bring students together only where/when needed, allowing them to engage in asynchronous (anytime / anywhere) learning otherwise. Hybrid instructors typically have a substantial portion of the content and learner engagement delivered online using discussion forums and other electronic collaboration formats to engage students with the content, other students, and the instructor.
An online course has most or all of the content and learner engagement delivered online. Typically, online instructors have no face-to-face meetings. An appropriate variety of media, Internet technologies and collaboration tools, and instructional strategies are used in a systematic design to facilitate student achievement of learning outcomes.
Modes of Electronic Delivery
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette currently utilizes two electronic delivery modes for instruction:
- Compressed Video: Occurs in real time and allows the instructor to communicate with remote site sections of the class via two-way video and two-way audio. Instructors and students hear and see each other live from each site.
- Hybrid and Online: Courses offered via the World Wide Web using learning management software.
The following sections address internal approval processes for the design and delivery of electronic courses by University colleges, departments, full-time faculty, and adjunct faculty.
- The University of Louisiana at Lafayette strives to deliver 100% of its courses in a Web-Enhanced format. Thus, each instructor is expected to post a minimum of a syllabus on the University Learning Management System (currently Moodle) each semester for each course taught. Web-Enhancing a majority of all courses is one of the University’s continuity of instruction strategies in case of closure due to a catastrophic event, such as a terrorist attack, hurricane, outbreak, or other disaster.
The design and development of electronic learning credit and non-credit modules, courses, certificates, and programs should follow priorities established by the University as informed by educational requirements, market studies, societal demand, community and business needs, and the competitive advantage of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Offerings may include instruction for undergraduates, those in professional and graduate degree programs or other advanced degree programs, practitioner-oriented programs, specialized training, and K-12 outreach efforts.
A faculty member may or may not need to notify their respective Department Head and the Office of Distance Learning staff when interest exists in developing a new course for electronic delivery.
It is within an instructor’s purview to experiment with new instructional methodologies, including the use of learning technologies, and to modify a face-to-face course to be either web-enhanced or blended without department head approval. Notification Not Required.
Modification of existing courses into a hybrid or online course format involves a "substantive change," and is subject to administrative approval. This approval mechanism allows the University to remain compliant with accreditation standards by tracking and reporting activity on all distance education courses as defined by SACS, the Board of Regents, and the University of Louisiana System. Notification Required.
- It is within an instructor’s purview to experiment with new instructional methodologies, including the use of learning technologies, and to modify a face-to-face course to be either web-enhanced or blended without department head approval. Notification Not Required.
A program may not be delivered electronically (hybrid or online) without prior approval from the University of Louisiana System and the Board of Regents. Approval from the Board will be solicited through the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs through coordinated efforts of the Office of Distance Learning and the respective Academic College and/or Department.
- The selection of a course to be leased or purchased from outside of the University will be made by the Dean of the College, Director of Distance and Electronic Learning, and the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Development and Delivery of Locally Produced Electronic Courses
- When the faculty member and the Dean of the College, in consultation with the Director of Distance Learning, agree on a new course for hybrid or online development/delivery, the faculty member will satisfactorily complete designated required faculty certification and the course certification process before the course can be offered. (See Faculty Professional Development section)
- In keeping with AAUP (2006) principles for distance education, the University may provide compensation for electronic course design to faculty for creating new courses and/or adapting course materials originally prepared for the traditional classroom. Updating course content only is a basic responsibility of all faculty members and does not qualify for a stipend. (See Faculty Incentives Section)
Upon Provost approval, the Dean of the College in collaboration with Department Heads will determine if faculty will be given any form of non-financial incentive in order to teach the course.
- Non-financial incentives include release time or course size reduction, or other incentives within the department.
- National research confirms that more time and effort is needed to teach an online course; therefore the Department Head in conjunction with the Dean and the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs will determine the appropriate class size and work load for the individual faculty member.
All hybrid/online courses must use the course management/gateway software package(s) approved by the University.
- This standard does not limit use of additional hardware and software for the successful delivery of electronic courses.
- The policy recognizes the need for those charged with faculty assessment to have access to electronic classrooms, the same as is available with traditional classrooms.
- Adjunct faculty members may be utilized for creating and teaching electronic courses.
Course Content Guidelines
- At a minimum all work required for a course offered by compressed video or online must meet the same standards as the traditional course offered on main campus.
- All electronic courses must adhere to the standards set forth by the Southern Region Electronic Campus (SREC), Southern Association of College and Schools (SACS), the Louisiana Board of Regents, the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, program-specific accreditation, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Course Certification (Electronic Course Peer Review Process)
UL Lafayette has adopted the Quality Matters rubric to certify the readiness of a course for hybrid or online delivery. Quality Matters’ distinguishes between course "design" and "delivery" in the following definitions:
- Course Design: The forethought and planning that a faculty member puts into the course.
- Course Delivery: The actual teaching of the course; the implementation of the design.
- To assure students enrolled in hybrid and online learning courses receive a quality education, the University is requiring each course to be submitted for and then pass an internal certification review based on a Quality Matters© (QM) rubric and peer review process.
- Course certification is intended to ensure that hybrid and online courses meet University minimum expectations for presentation of instructional content and instructor/student interaction in an electronic environment.
The Electronic Course Peer-Review Process
- The review team includes the Instructor (SME), at least one department reviewer, two university reviewers, one department head (or designee), and a university review chair. All reviewers must be up to date on Quality Matters training before they can serve as a reviewer. The Office of Distance Learning also attempts to put teams together which includes online or hybrid teachers, faculty with at least one certified course, or faculty who hold ULearn Certifications (so long as the Quality Matters training is complete).
- Course certification shall be done for each version of a course. In other words, every unique course/instructor combination shall be certified. (E.g., Prof. X is certified to teach course Y as hybrid and/or online.)
- To earn certification, a course must receive 81 out of 95 possible points, and also have met all 21 essential (3-point) standards.
- Once a course is certified, it earns the ULearn Course Certification seal. A block acknowledging this distinction will be placed into the course shell in Moodle. See Course Selection and Rotation for specific information about when courses are reviewed and how long certifications remain valid.
- The process to certify online and hybrid courses, including how courses are selected for review and how review teams are created, is explained on the “Course Certification” page.
Course Selection and Rotation
The Office of Distance Learning maintains a rotation of online and hybrid courses slated for course review. Typically, courses are selected for review for one of the following reasons:
- Frequency of offering (either one offering each semester for multiple semesters, or multiple offerings in recent semesters);
- Course is part of an online program, or is a core course for a traditional program;
- Course was created in the Course Design Practicum;
- Course was created as a result of receiving a design stipend; and/or
- At the request of the instructor, department chair, or dean.
- Courses will remain certified for up to five years. However, one of the following may necessitate re-certifying the course sooner:
- Change in instructor;
- Significant and substantial changes to course content or course design;
- Delivery format change (from hybrid to online; or online to hybrid);
- A change to the Quality Matters rubric; and/or
- At the request of the instructor, department chair, or dean.
- Courses should be certified within three semesters of first being offered online or hybrid. Online and hybrid courses listed in the “Master Schedule of Classes” must be coded as online (OL) or hybrid (HY).
Review Team (Roles and Responsibilities)
The internal electronic course peer-review process involves the Instructor (course designer / SME); a team of reviewers; the department head; and a review chair from the Office of Distance Learning. The peer-review process focuses on certifying the course design according to the standards established by Quality Matters. Departments may elect to conduct an internal review of course delivery, content, and/or pedagogy (a recommendation for conducting an internal department-specific review is available in the “Department-Specific Review” section). The responsibilities of the review team are delineated below.
Instructor (Course Designer / SME)
Once a course is identified for internal course review, the Instructor / Course Designer is responsible for:
- Completing the Instructor Worksheet electronically (via Process Maker). The worksheet includes basic course information; a link to the course section to be reviewed; course tools / policies / requirements / format information; course learning objectives / materials / technologies (including a separate attachment of course learning objectives); course interaction components; and instructor perspectives. The Instructor Worksheet is shared with the review team electronically.
- Meeting with the Office of Distance Learning to review the recommendations provided by the review team.
- Implementing changes to the course design based on the recommendations provided, and summarizing these changes electronically.
- Allowing Review Chair and Department Head access to revised course to review changes.
- Notifying the Office of Distance Learning if and when any substantial changes to the course occur.
Instructors (SME) should complete Quality Matters training prior to the course review, or make plans to complete this training within six months of the review. Instructors (SME) whose courses are certified should participate and obtain the faculty ULearn Certifications for Online Teacher and Course Designer. At any time, Instructors (SME) are encouraged to contact the Office of Distance Learning for an informal mini-review in preparation of delivering a course for the first time.
Department / University Reviewers
Each review team includes at least one department reviewer (and up to five) identified by the Department Head, and two university reviewers identified by the Office of Distance Learning. All reviewers must be up-to-date on Quality Matters training, with preference given to those faculty members who have completed the online “Applying the QM Rubric” training. Department and university reviewers conduct simultaneous and independently. Additional information about which standards are reviewed based on reviewer role is provided below.
Department Reviewers are responsible for reviewing the course and providing meaningful and substantial feedback for a number of Quality Matters standards. Department reviewers who complete the review electronically and on time will receive compensation of $100.
University Reviewers are responsible for reviewing the course and providing meaningful and substantial feedback for a number of Quality Matters standards. University reviewers who complete the review electronically and on time will receive compensation of $100.
Department Head (or Designee)
The Department Head has two primary responsibilities in the review process:
- Identify department reviewer(s). The Department Head must identify one (and up to five) department reviewers who can complete the responsibilities identified above. These reviewers must be up-to-date on all Quality Matters training (a list of eligible reviewers is provided). Department heads may select reviewers from the list who are content experts for that specific course, or simply faculty in the department or college. If there are no eligible department reviewers, the department chair will work with the Office of Distance Learning to identify a qualified reviewer.
- Review course changes. Once the reviewers have conducted their reviews and provided recommendations, the instructor / course design will implement the required changes. At that time, the Department Head must approve the changes or recommend that additional changes be made. The Department Head may assign a “designee” to fulfill the Department Head role in the review process.
The Office of Distance Learning’s Instructional Designers serve as University Chairs in the Peer-Review process. The responsibilities for this role include organizing the courses for review; identifying the university reviewers; and meeting with instructors / course designers to go over recommendations and changes. The University Chair will provide final course certification approval after: 1) the review team’s recommendations have been implemented, 2) a score of 81 is earned and all essential standards are met, and 3) department head approval of changes is received (when required).
Other Review Options
At any time, an instructor may request that the Office of Distance Learning conduct a mini-review of the online or hybrid course. Generally, mini-reviews take 2-3 weeks to complete, though may be expedited upon request. Mini-reviews will provide feedback on all essential (3-point) standards, and any other concerns presented by the instructor. Mini-reviews are recommended 1) prior to the course being offered for the first time online / hybrid; or 2) after significant changes made but before a formal review is scheduled.
Internal Department-Specific Review
Each department, in accordance with its college and accrediting agency standards, is responsible for the content of all courses, including those delivered in online or hybrid formats. The Course Review process does not allow for any determinations, reviews, or recommendations to be made on the content of the course. The review process is solely focused on the course design. Departments may, if they choose, conduct an additional internal review of the content, pedagogy, or delivery of the course. These separate reviews are not a part of the Electronic Peer Review Process which leads to ULearn Course Certification, and occur at the department’s discretion.
(50% or more of the coursework can be completed electronically)
- When a Department Head, and the Dean of the College, in consultation with the Director of Distance Learning, agree on a new program for hybrid or online development, a timeline for course production, program approval (per SACS and Regents policy), and delivery will be developed.
- Approval from the Provost to start production and approval processes will be granted before implementation of the established/revised timeline begins and will follow existing University policies and procedures.
- Each Department Head with the Dean’s approval will determine the appropriate class size for hybrid and online courses. University established course size minimums apply.
- Course sizes may vary by discipline, course by course within a discipline, major by major within a department, and department by department within a college.
- Variations are allowed to consider the vast differences in instructional delivery across and within disciplines while also allowing distance learning to achieve the appropriate economies of scale.
- Course sizes must be published in the schedule of classes and demonstrate alignment with published best practices for delivering electronic courses.
- Scheduling of electronic courses will occur within the same framework and timeline of all other course types delivered by the University, unless otherwise noted herein.
- Appropriate scheduling and identification of electronic courses in the schedule of classes is critical.
Department Heads will be responsible for the following for each course to be delivered electronically before submitting course schedules to the Registrar’s office:
- Identify the type of course - Hybrid or Online
- Identify the course size
- Code the course - HY (hybrid) or OL (online)
- Create special notes to be placed in the course schedule. For example: Students must attend class on the first night or will be dropped. OR This course will not include any face-to-face meetings, but multiple weekly log ins are required. OR The final test for this course must be completed in a proctored environment. Please read your syllabus for instructions for locating an approved proctor site.
Note: Beginning with the fall 2010 schedule, the DL code will no longer be used. It will be replaced by HY and OL.
- All courses must be submitted according to the instructions provided by the University. Any course that does not meet the specified requirements for submission is subject to rejection and removal from the system. Upon approval of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, the course will be forwarded to the Board of Regents and the SREB.
- All electronic courses shall have an Instructor identified for the course when submitted for approval. If the instructor is not listed, valid contact information for the department must be provided for prospective students. The department should amend the Instructor information once an instructor has been assigned to the course. Course sections will be identified by the academic department and are subject to change.
Adjunct Faculty Assignment Process
- Adjunct faculty who teach Distance Learning courses will be hired using the existing policies and procedures established at UL Lafayette. There is no difference between an adjunct faculty who teaches in the classroom versus one that uses electronic learning in terms of employment policies and procedures.
- Adjunct faculty members, who are hired or designated to teach electronic courses, will be required to complete some level of CAFÉ training or provide verification that previous training has been achieved.
Assessment of Electronically Delivered Courses and Programs
- Electronic courses should be designed and evaluated according to those standards utilized for regular courses and identified by SREB and SACS.
- Course evaluation standards are approved and maintained by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Assessment of Course Learning Outcomes
Direct assessment of student learning outcomes in electronically delivered courses and reporting of those results is the responsibility of the College, Department, and Course Instructor.
Student Evaluation of Instruction
Course evaluations by students are conducted each semester using an online evaluation. It is the responsibility of Information Systems to ensure that the online mechanism by which the evaluation is conducted is in place. The Office of Institutional Research coordinates all other components of the evaluation including the request of Information Systems to activate/deactivate the system and disseminates results.
Faculty will be evaluated in accordance with standards and procedures set forth in the Faculty Handbook for non-electronic courses.