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Crowder College

STRONG FOUNDATIONS FOR ONLINE TEACHING


Quality Standards for Online Courses

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Table of Contents REQUIRED PRACTICES 1. Updated Institutional Syllabus 2. Updated Semester Schedule 3. Class Guidance for Each Chapter/Unit 4. Response and Participation Tools 5. Communication and Information Tools 6. Content Similar to a Traditional Course 7. Site Visits to Class 8. Instructor Posting 9. Organization of Site 10. Grading/Marking Tools 11. Current Dates on Materials 12. Accessible Media and Document Formats 13. Use of the Blackboard Grade book 14. External Links 15. Use of Quizzes/Exams 16. Security 17. Quality Standards Online Course Evaluation

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1. Updated Institutional and Course Syllabus 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?

T

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.

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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?

T

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/Unit 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?

T

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. 6


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4. Response and Participation Tools Does the course utilize the Discussion Board within the Blackboard Class?

T

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 should be a primary component of the class for the students and the instructor.

5. Communication and Information Tools Does the instructor use the Course Information, Course Documents, Assignments, and Communication buttons, allowing for an organized presentation of material and communication?

C

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, 7


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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 Course Is the online course comparable to its traditional counterpart?

I

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 use 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.

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7. Site Visits to Class Does the instructor access/visit the course at least three times a week?

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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?

A

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 9


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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?

C

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

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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?

D

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?

M

aterials within the course should be updated each semester. These would include syllabi, schedules, individual assignments, and instructor postings in the Discussion Board.

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Does the instructor use Rich Text Format, Html, PDF or other types of easily accessible files?

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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 PC’s. 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 12


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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: • •

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Create a logical tab order through links, form controls, and objects. Place distinguishing information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc. Supplement text with graphic or auditory presentations (i.e. roll over text descriptions) where they will facilitate comprehension of the page. Primarily audio based courses should have a comparable amount of textbased lessons. Font size should be 12 or above. Provide closed captioning to any video presented with course content. Provide a text equivalent for every non-text element. This includes: images, graphical representations of text (including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated GIF's), applets and programmatic objects, ASCII art, frames, scripts, images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, all sounds, stand-alone audio files, audio tracks of video, and video. Avoid causing the screen to flicker. Use of frames is discouraged. If you must use frames, title each frame to facilitate frame identification and navigation. Ensure that foreground and background color combinations provide sufficient contrast when viewed by someone with color deficits. Clearly identify the target of each link. For data tables, identify row and column headers. When a timed response is required, the user shall be alerted and given sufficient opportunity to indicate more time is required. Do not cause pop-ups or other windows to appear and do not change the current window without informing the user.

13. Use of the Blackboard Grade Book

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Does the instructor use the Blackboard Grade Book effectively?

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tudents need to know what their grades are, and unless an alternative and equally effective method of checking for grades and missing assignments is offered, then the Blackboard grade book needs to be used. Scores and grades should correspond to those grades submitted officially to Crowder College; the final grades should also correlate with department parameters. At the end of the semester, the instructor should save the grades in Excel and send the grade book to their department head. The spreadsheet should be labeled in some manner that clearly indicates the semester, year, line number, and name of instructor. Documentation is always vital in case of future student complaints!

14. External Links Does the instructor utilize the External Links area within Blackboard and/or incorporate helpful links in assignments, discussion boards, schedules, or other course materials? here is a wealth of extremely good scholarly information on the internet that can add depth to any online course. It is to some extent dependent upon the nature of the course as to how many links a “good” course should have. In theory, one can have a perfectly sound course without any links at all. However, most teachers in traditional classes bring to the course, not only the information, but also a wealth of experience and other knowledge that is not in the textbook. While internet links cannot replace this, they can add depth to a course with very little effort. Learner styles differ, and the internet does have some visually rich links that might be helpful to struggling students. Some links might be present in areas other than “External Links,” such as those integrated within lectures and assignments and study guides. One thing to keep in mind, however, is the internet is a fluid machine, and as such, changes rapidly. Working links can quickly “die.” Another hazard is that many links are simply not credible or scholarly in nature. One needs to evaluate exactly what we offer our students in the way of internet guidance! For example, a fourth grade class “geocity” history link might not be the best choice for a college level course.

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15. Use of Quizzes/Exams Does the instructor evaluate the student’s performance through the use of quizzes and exams?

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significant part of a final grade should be earned by means that unequivocally connect the individual student to the work evaluated. Does the instructor test his or her students over the competencies outlined in the syllabus? Does the instructor utilize Blackboard quizzes and exams tools? Be sure and utilize the assessment and quiz/exam tools within Blackboard for a portion, if not a majority, of the course. Tests that are in a document format that students are required to download, answer, and then resubmit in some fashion to the instructor are notoriously high in creating instances of student cheating.

16. Security Does the instructor make use of available, appropriate and feasible security measures?

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he electronic environment presents distinct challenges to the security of testing and assessment. In an electronic environment it is much harder to verify the identity of a student than in a conventional classroom setting. Digitally submitted assignments and contributions in general cannot be identified by handwriting or unique signatures. And, just as in the classroom, communication among students cannot be monitored or controlled. The use of timed quizzes, proctored exams or onsite exams, and assignments created with higher order content can help to secure the online environment. A traditional means of insuring the identity of the test-taker is to use the proctored environments of secure testing labs. This is a highly recommended solution for courses that are crucial to gain some kind of certification. Crowder College currently has several options available for courses such as this. Instructors should also enhance security by taking advantage of Blackboard’s ability to build a "pool" or "bank" of test items. Each test is generated from randomly selected items from each category. This results in individualized versions 15


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of tests that make it more difficult for students to share test questions and answers. There is also the option of inserting an html script into tests that prevent students from copying, pasting, or printing while taking an exam. The use of timed exams can also help control cheating. Major exams and tests should also contain higher order content that depends upon previous studying of the course material. Essay questions that carry more weight than multiple choice questions can also add security. Best practices within Blackboard when creating exams and quizzes:

Use Random Questions that give everyone the same quiz but in a different order • Use Timed Quizzes • Try using an Additional Password • Start with Pools and then pull the questions into the Assessment Manager • Utilize Essay based exams • Apply Html scripts that prevent copying, pasting, and printing during exams • Devise Exams that contain higher order content • Assign preliminary outlines • Assign process-oriented coursework As well as exam security, the instructor needs to be alert as to possible security issues with login names and passwords. It is suggested that the instructor change his or her password frequently. Smart boards, for instance, are a security risk in that the instructor enters the course in front of students. Logging in before class begins might avert potential problems. •

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Quality Standards Online Course Evaluation INSTRUCTOR: DEPARTMENT:

COURSE NAME: SEMESTER:

1. The course contains an updated and appropriate Syllabus. (See page 1 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

2. The course contains an updated Semester Schedule. (See page 1 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

3. The course contains class guidance for each chapter/unit. (See page 2 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

4 The course utilizes Response and Participation tools. (See page 2 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

5. The course utilizes Communication and Information tools. (See page 3 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

6. Is the online course comparable to its traditional counterpart? (See page 3 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

7. Does the instructor access/visit the site at least three times per week? (See page 4 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO


8. Does the instructor participate weekly (respond to students) in a meaningful way in the Discussion Board? (See page 4 in Manual) Attach information to this evaluation.

YES

NO

9. Does the instructor use the required Crowder organizational pattern in his or her course? (See page 5 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

10. Does the instructor provide feedback to the students on tests, quizzes, and writing assignments as one would in a traditional class? (See page 5 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

11. Do the course materials contain current dates? (See page 6 in Manual) Comments:

YES ☐

NO ☐

12. Does the instructor use Rich Text Format, Html, PDF or other types of easily accessible files? (See page 7 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

13. Does the instructor use the Blackboard Grade Book effectively? (See page 8 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

14. Does the instructor utilize the External Links area within Blackboard and/or incorporate helpful links in assignments, discussion boards, schedules, or other course materials? (See page 8 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

REQUIRED: In the class being evaluated, click on Control Panel/Evaluation in Blackboard. Select “Performance Dashboard”. In the Discussion Board column for the instructor, click on the number of posts listed in the “Discussion Board” column. “Highlight” the information on this next screen, and then print out, using the “print selection” option. Attach the print out to the evaluation.

Comments:


15. Does the instructor evaluate the student’s performance through the use of quizzes and exams? (See page 9 in Manual) Comments:

YES

NO

16. Does the instructor make use of available, appropriate and feasible security measures? (See page 9 in Manual)

YES

NO

Comments:

☐Employee’s performance meets expectations (all 16 criteria are YES) ☐Does not meet expectations. (One or more criteria are marked NO) If employee does not meet expectations, employee has been counseled about next steps. Attach or list below specific plan for improvements to be met by the following semester.

EMPLOYEE: REVIEWER:

BE

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Official Copy: August September 2013 Copyright © Crowder College Copyright in this document is owned by Crowder College. All rights are reserved. 601 Laclede • Neosho, MO 64850 Phone 417.451.5484 • Email: debrabrown@crowder.edu


Quality standards for online courses manual revised september 2013