Standards for Quality Online Instruction
Note: This guide is intended for internal use only and is not intended for publication.
Introduction This guide is designed to assist the instructors of State Technical College of Missouri (STC) plan, develop, and teach web assisted and web based courses and programs. To ensure quality education is taking place at STC, this guide provides a basic overview for effective online education.
Online instruction should maintain standards and encourage academic integrity equal to courses offered in the traditional classroom based environment. As with any course, planning is essential to ensure success. The following four areas have been identified as essential components to developing and teaching an effective online course.
- Course Development: What essential elements must be considered and in place before setting up the course in Moodle?
- Course Structure: How should the course be set up to ensure content is presented clearly and students understand the expectations of the course?
- Teaching/Learning: How can the various instructional tools be used to ensure the teaching and learning environment is effective in meeting course objectives?
- Support: What support is available to instructors and students when problems arise?
This is meant to be a general guide. Specifics and details regarding content and the best delivery method for that content will change depending on the discipline using online instruction and the course(s) being taught.
Development & Design
- The course is organized into units, sections, or lessons. The instructor will control the pace of the class and control when resources and lessons become available.
- The course incorporates multiple instruction methods to meet the course objectives.
- Students are informed of the expectations and requirements for online students. These will help determine:
- If they possess the self-motivation and commitment to learn in the online environment.
- If they have access to the minimal technology required by the course.
- If they have acceptable reading comprehension skills.
- Students will receive a copy of the Expectations and Requirements for Online Students document from their advisor at the time of registering for an online class.
- A copy of the Expectations and Requirements for Online Students will be included on the class page in Moodle along with the class syllabus. Instructors should direct students to review the expectations and requirements at the beginning of class.
- If the individual course or instructor requires more specific or expanded guidelines, these will be posted along with the general expectations and requirements, and students should be directed to them at the beginning of class.
Multiple methods of delivering course materials are developed and determined prior to the course’s begin date. These methods could include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Instructor lecture notes and documents
- PowerPoints (with or without lecture)
- Desktop Recordings (Panopto)
- Discussion Board, chat, course Wikis, blogs, journals, or other methods of student collaboration (Moodle or other online interaction tools)
- Active links to other informative and relevant web sites
- Textbook based assignments
- Web based assignments
- Links to sample documents
- Other presentational or instructional software compatible with Moodle
Instructors are encouraged to incorporate other online learning environments that will enhance the delivery of course content. However, only Moodle is used for grades, attendance, and job readiness.
- The course content is of sufficient rigor and depth to support the objectives of the course. Assignments, exams, and activities relate back to course objectives.
- The course instruction engages students in a combination of passive, active, and collaborative learning. (Note: Depending on the nature of the course, it may be possible for course objectives to be met without needing all three.)
- Passive= Reading and listening.
- Active= Discussion, activities, and written exercises.
- Collaborative= Group interaction while learning or applying course materials.
- Students engage in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation while participating in course units or lessons. (Note: Depending on the nature of the course, it may be possible for course objectives to be met without needing all three.)
- Analysis= Students can take new information and can break it into parts and differentiate between the separate units.
- Synthesis= Students can take separate pieces of information and combine the pieces into a single, coherent whole.
- Evaluation= Students can examine another’s work and recognize the value of the conclusion or result.
- Point totals and evaluation methods for assignments are clear. The student has been provided the criteria that will be used for grading and the points associated with each piece of criteria.
- When used, point totals and evaluation methods for exams are explained clearly.
- A clear and complete course overview and syllabus are included in the course. Students are directed to the syllabus at the beginning of the class and questions regarding the syllabus are encouraged.
- If necessary, further documentation outlining how online resources are to be used and any further expectations should be included with the syllabus. A supplement to the syllabus explains how resources should be used and the points available. It may describe how the discussion board or other resources will be used and graded or explain the time limit placed on exams.
- Students have access to a course textbook or online text.
- Students have access to, and can effectively use, appropriate library resources. Resources could be electronic or traditional community and educational libraries.
- With other students
- When possible, students are given the opportunity to interact with other students in the class.
- When possible, opportunities are provided for active problem solving through teamwork.
- With instructor(s).
- Students have a clear, pre-determined manner in which to interact with the instructor. Students should be informed at the beginning of class of how communication will take place and should be encouraged to monitor this method carefully throughout the course.
- In the absence of a traditional lecture format, the importance of the textbook or other text resource(s) is stressed throughout the course.
Feedback to Students
- Feedback is provided to students in a timely, pre-determined manner. Instructor notifies students if time frames change or if the instructor will be unavailable for some period during the semester.
- Feedback on assignments provides detailed critique as well as positive recognition of good work and suggestions for improvement.
- Questions are answered in a timely, pre-determined manner. Twenty four hours is a reasonable time frame for students to expect a response.
- Students are made aware of how questions will be handled.
- Students are aware of how questions submitted outside of a standard work week will be handled. The instructor’s definition of timely may change if a question is submitted during evening hours, on a weekend, during a holiday, or over a scheduled break in the semester.
- Assignments are directly related to the course objectives.
- Due dates and manner of submission are clear.
- Assessment (Note: Course objectives may be met without using online assessment resources.)
- As in the classroom, quality assessment uses a variety of testing methods.
- Multiple Choice – Measures mastery of details and specific knowledge.
- Matching – Measures recognition of relationships.
- Short Essay- Measures ability to organize, interpret, and express ideas or concepts.
- Problem Sets- More effective in testing mathematic skill or scientific knowledge.
- Demonstration- Measures proficiency in performing a task, following instructions, or using equipment. This method may require students to visit campus for a live demonstration or require students to video the demonstration and submit digitally. The latter would require some level of proficiency in the use and submission of digital video.
- The integrity of online assessment is always an issue. Moodle does provide settings to help ensure the integrity of online exams including a time limitation, a secure window, shuffle feature for questions, and a shuffle feature for answers. (Other methods are being evaluated and may become available at a later time.)
- Discussion Boards (via Moodle or other online interaction tools)
- Discussion questions are relevant to the course and parallel traditional classroom discussions as much as possible.
- Instructors monitor discussion boards and are prepared to comment as well and keep discussion focused on topic.
- External Links
- Verify web links used for instruction remain active.
- Verify web links still contain content relevant to the course objectives.
- Faculty has convenient access to technical support for the duration of the course.
- Policies are set to address technical problems experienced by the student when they are unrelated to STC’s technology.
- Instructors have had basic training in the use of the college’s Course Management System (Moodle). Training should extend beyond grade book and attendance and include testing, assignments, discussion boards, uploading documents, and incorporating links to web sites. The Distance Education Coordinator will be responsible for setting up appropriate Moodle training.
- Students are provided with detailed instructions on how to acquire technical support when experiencing problems accessing STC’s Course Management System.
- Students receive introduction to using Moodle and using student email system prior to enrolling in an online course.
State Technical College of Missouri supports the effective and meaningful use of technology as a means to educate students and to prepare them “for profitable employment and a life of learning.” These guidelines are meant to provide a beginning point to ensure quality online instruction. They are meant to enhance the academic integrity of STC’s online course offerings and also meet the Coordinating Board for Higher Education’s Principles of Good Practice for Distance Learning/Web Based Courses.