Guidelines for Online Courses

Credit hours

The federal definition of a credit hour requires one hour of classroom interaction and two hours of out-of-class work per week of the term for each credit awarded.

Online courses have little or no face-to-face component, therefore, credit hours are not determined by the amount of time students spend in the Learning Management System (LMS), but rather by the amount of time students are engaged in course work such as discussion boards, assignments, readings, synchronous and asynchronous discussions, and other activities.

Online courses must be equal in content and challenge to the equivalent face-to-face course.

While students should be free to participate in online courses at times that are convenient for them, the course should have a framework of guidelines and deadlines so that is it is possible to measure engagement throughout the course.

Last day of attendance

Federal law requires that a portion of financial aid money is returned to the government when a student withdraws from a course. It is necessary to know the student's last day of attendance in order to accurately calculate the appropriate refund.

  • In an online course, logging in does not constitute “attendance.” Log-in date is not sufficient, you must measure both the quantity and quality of learner engagement.
  • The syllabus should spell out last day of attendance policies, and drop and withdrawal policies should be applied consistently across online and onsite courses to avoid potential Department of Education fines.
  • Faculty should consider requiring students to complete an activity on the 10th day of instruction?

Authentication/academic integrity

Federal law requires schools to ensure that the student who registers for a course is the same one who does the work and receives the academic credit.

Student login to Canvas, Office 365, Google Drive with a SPU username and password, etc., equals authentication. However, this doesn’t necessarily ensure that the person logging in is the same person who completed the work.

Rather than giving a single, summative assessment, faculty should encourage student-student and student-teacher interaction throughout the course as a part of the course grade. This decreases instances of academic dishonesty, and increases student engagement. It also makes it easier for faculty to recognize plagiarism or other problems in the course.

Instructors can consider proctoring high stakes, summative exams.

SPU Banner course classifications

Traditional or web-enhanced

Course where little or no online technology used OR course that uses web-based technology (e.g., Canvas) to facilitate face-to-face instruction without changing the amount of face-to-face time. In a web-enhanced course, the instructor may post the syllabus, content, and/or assessments online but the course still meets in-person for the expected amount of time given the number of credits.

A flipped course would fit under this definition because the activities done in class and outside of class are “flipped” without a reduction in face-to-face time.

Blended (BRL)

Course that blends online and face-to-face delivery. A substantial proportion of the content is delivered online using online lectures, discussions, and/or assessments resulting in reduced face-to-face time. The typical reduction may be between 30 and 80 percent depending on the amount of online content.

For example, a 10-week course that traditionally meets once a week in a traditional format, may meet only five times face-to-face, while the rest of the course content (which would approximate five weeks’ worth of instruction) would be delivered through the web.

Online (OIL)

Course where most or all of the content is delivered online (80–100 percent). A course using this format typically has no face-to-face meetings and therefore has no Banner room assignment.

An online course may include a face-to-face orientation and/or an in-person final exam without being classified as a blended course.

Appropriate classifications

Course classifications are based on scheduled class time and not the use of web-enhanced assignments that students work on outside of that scheduled time.

In thinking about the appropriate classification, it helps to start with picturing a traditional course where all class time occurs in a specific space (or spaces) that is scheduled in Banner. For example, synchronous meetings that occur through google hangouts during scheduled class time would count toward BRL or OIL courses.

Then to determine if a class is blended or online, use your syllabus to estimate the percentage of class time that has been removed from the classroom or learning space. For example, if two hours each week of a 5 credit “Intro to Psychology” class syllabus is online, then 40 percent of the course is considered online and should be coded as a blended course (BRL).

If four or more of those hours are delivered online then it would be considered online (OIL). As noted in this example, four hours could be classified as either BRL or OIL.

SAS will leave it to the discretion of the department chair to decide the appropriate code. Web based activities that occur during traditional class or physical learning spaces is considered web-enhanced learning and still counts toward a traditional course. For departments with multiple sections of a course that are delivered in different modalities: each section can be coded appropriately.

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2014). Grade change: Tracking online education in the United States. Babson Survey Research Group and Ouahog Research Group.

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