This section shares instructional best practices; federal regulations related to student
privacy and engagement; teaching and lead designer responsibilities; sharing course
content; faculty hiring, training, and compensation; and helpful resources.
MTSU online and hybrid courses are taught within a professor's course load. Faculty can see the populated class list as students register. However, students do not have access to their courses until the first day of class.
Lead designers (course developers) are responsible for maintaining their approved online and hybrid courses and for sharing the approved content with sectional instructors (full-time and adjunct faculty) during the three-year contract period. Options for sharing content are provided below. Lead designers are responsible for the following:
- updating the master shell each semester as necessary;
- each semester meet with professors new to the instruction of the course to familiarize and assist in updating welcome page, contact information, and calendar;
- uploading approved course for sectional instructors;
- working with department to obtain textbooks and other course materials;
- working with the department to schedule the course.
Note: These services should be provided by the lead designer even if he/she is not teaching a section of his/her own course during the semester.
Faculty (adjuncts or full-time) teaching sections of online courses developed by others
must meet with the lead designer/course developer to review course content and to
revise the welcome page and faculty contact information. Approved online course content must not be changed by faculty teaching sections of
the approved course.
Faculty new to online instruction must participate in D2L training through the Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC). One-on-one training sessions may be scheduled by calling 904-8189.
Sharing Course Content
Sharing approved course content with other instructors may be accomplished two ways:
by uploading course files from the Shared Content Repository (see instructions below) and emailing the link to the instructor, or
by copying course content from the D2L development shell to the semester shell (see instructions below).
D2L Shared Content Repository Procedures
Currently, instructors can freely move their own material between courses to which
they’re assigned as “Instructor” using D2L’s “Copy Components” function. When an
instructor wants to share their material with a colleague, however, the instructor
must first request that the colleague be enrolled as an “Instructor” in the D2L course
before the colleague can access, review, and copy the desired material.
Use of the D2L Content Repository, however, offers a new method that permits the authoring instructor (aka “course designer/master instructor”) to export the entirety of their D2L material for a given course into a single “course package” file using D2L’s “Export Components” function, and place the course package into a network folder which can be accessed and downloaded via hyperlink by the colleague instructor. The colleague instructor would subsequently import the course package into their own course using D2L’s “Import Components” function on their terms and time schedule.
In addition to the availability and accessibility advantages, this new method inherently provides the means to effectively manage online course curricula by designating course designers/master instructors for selected courses who can easily ensure the availability and currency of their respective master course packages.
To preserve intellectual property rights, instructors are, of course, not obligated to share their D2L course material and, hence, not required to implement this shared content method. In specific instances where D2L course material has been developed under contract with University College, or as directed by departments and equivalent organizations, this method would be mandatory to ensure availability and accessibility of the master course package. The FITC highly recommends this method for those instructors who simply want to share their course material easily and swiftly with their colleagues. For all other cases where an instructor just wants to copy D2L course material between their own courses, this method would not be applicable, and the instructor would continue to use the “Copy Components” function.
Moving Course Content
- Open the course that needs to receive the course content.
- Locate the link “Import/Export/Copy Components” on the left side of the page.
- Click on Search for Offering and locate the course that contains the content you want to copy.
- Search for the course that contains the content, select it, and then click the Add Selected button at the lower left hand corner of the page. Note: You can type in the semester code – fall 2013 is “201380” and spring 2013 is “201310” and summer 2013 is “201350” and spring 2014 is 201410 and all of the courses you taught in that semester will display. Note, you may also need to search for a development course. Copy the name of the development course and paste that in the search box.
- Click the Copy All Components button if you want to copy the entire course. This is typically what you want to do. You can also select specific components.
- Continue through the Wizard until it finishes.
Faculty Readiness for Online Instruction
Faculty who wish to assess their readiness for online instruction may ask themselves
Will I be able to:
- Project my presence in an online or ITV environment?
- Cope with delayed feedback?
Do I know:
- What I'm trying to achieve with my instruction?
- What knowledge, skills and attitudes need to be taught?
- How much content I need in my instruction?
- What resources and strategies I can/will use?
- How I'll structure the content?
- How to assess whether students have met the objectives of the course?
Do I have good writing skills?
- Can I communicate clearly and effectively through email?
“Preparing Students for Online Learning”
The VCU Center for Teaching Excellence discusses practices and provides resources faculty may use to help their students
prepare for and be successful in the online environment.
Also, the Washington Online Virtual Campus provides a student assessment for online readiness at, which may be helpful.
The Austin Community College provides a Learning Style Survey to gauge student aptitude for online learning.
Instructional Best Practices and MTSU Guidelines
- Access assigned course(s) in D2L via PipelineMT or directly at https://elearn.mtsu.edu/
- Login to class on the first day
- Login to class at least three times per week
- Respond to student e-mails and discussion postings within 48 hours
- Grade assignments, discussions, quizzes, etc., and post the grades within two weeks of the assignment's posted due date
- Create a high level of interaction between students and instructor.
- Submit final course grades by MTSU semester deadline.
- Review the Student Attendance Reporting and Unofficial Withdrawals Tutorial and complete the attendance report for non-participating students.
- During the first week of class, faculty may identify students who have not participated in a distance course, and email the names to Teresa Umphrey (firstname.lastname@example.org), in Distance Education Faculty Services Office. Teresa will try to contact the students to confirm that they are still enrolled in the course and to offer access assistance.
- When it is evident that a student is falling behind in his/her work, faculty should email him/her immediately to offer assistance.
- Instructors should insure that their policies on accepting late work are clear. If late work is not allowed, instructors should communicate this to their class at the start of the semester.
Best Practices for Student Success and ROCC Policies & Guidelines:
First Day of Class
- Email and post a message on the Discussion Board to students welcoming them to class and encouraging them to actively communicate with their classmates.
- Encourage students to email you regarding any learning problems or issues.
- Direct students to review the course syllabus and 'Getting Started' information which will help students to understand the course organization and requirements.
- Encourage students to review your course expectations and remind them of appropriate behavior in an online environment.
First Week of Class
- Be prepared for registration adjustments during the first week of class.
- Students on financial aid may be delayed in obtaining their textbooks due the processing of the materials. Therefore, please provide some alternative options for students without books to access the information for the first week (Internet, etc.).
- Make students aware of support services that may enhance their success online (free tutoring, virtual library, ADA services, etc.). Share with them that within their class are links to all of the services.
- Help students practice any tools they will need later on, such as a special quizzing browser, an online writing or math lab with a required access code, a certain type of file or program, a media player, an audio recorder, a video camera, etc. Get problems solved during the first week so that students can focus on learning content - not technology - later on.
- Urge students who will require a proctor to schedule this during the first week or two of class. Most testing centers are not heavily staffed, and trying to accommodate latecomers can become a nightmare for them.
- Especially during the first week of class, try to be online every day. This will help
students by:Studies have shown that instructors who are available online every day
during the first week have a significantly higher retention rate, increased communication
and bonding, and fewer classroom problems.
- reducing concerns;
- addressing questions;
- establishing bonding;
- assisting students in preparing for the class; and
- assisting students in learning to navigate the course.
- Login to class at least three times per week to initiate communication with your students in an effort to serve as "facilitators of learning" and "motivators".
- Respond to student e-mails and discussion postings within 48 hours, unless the students have been notified of any change beyond the required 48 hours.
- Grade assignments, discussions, quizzes, etc., and post the grades within two weeks of the assignment's posted due date.
- MTSU online courses are to be taught asynchronously, and professors cannot require synchronous student interaction or assignments where students must be online, or on campus, at a designated time/place.
Discussion Board Examples
The discussion board is a useful teaching tool and allows for student-to-student interaction. If you intend to grade discussion, provide students with guidelines. All students will post a response to each of the discussion questions. In addition each student will respond to the comments left by at least one of the other students. You may only respond once to any particular student and that student must respond to your comments. You may however respond to as many students as you like, and they may respond once to you.
General criteria used to assess class discussions:
- Content Mastery: Students must evidence an understanding of the fact, concepts, and theories presented in the assigned readings and lectures. This ability is the basis for all higher-level skills and must be made evident by comments and/or response to questions.
- Communication Skills: Students must be able to inform others in an intelligent manner what he/she knows. Ideas must be communicated clearly and persuasively. Communication skills include listening to others and understanding what they have said, responding appropriately, asking questions in a clear manner, avoiding rambling discourses or class domination, using proper vocabulary pertinent to the discussion, building on the ideas of others, etc.
- Synthesis/Integration: Students must be able to illuminate the connections between the material under consideration and other bodies of knowledge. For example, one could take several ideas from the reading or class discussions and combine them to produce a new perspective on an issue, or one could take outside materials (from other classes, personal experiences, etc.) and combine them to create novel insights. Students who probe the interdisciplinary roots of the theories presented or who are able to view the author or the materials from several viewpoints demonstrate this skill.
- Creativity: Students must demonstrate that they have mastered the basic materials and have gone on to produce their own insights. A simple repetition of ideas from the articles will not suffice, nor will simply commenting on what others have said. Students must go beyond the obvious by bringing their own beliefs and imagination to bear. Creativity may be displayed by showing further implications of the material, by applying it to a new field, or by finding new ways of articulating the materials, which produce significant insights.
- Valuing: Students should be able to identify the value inherent in the material studied. Furthermore, students should be able to articulate their own positions by reference to basic underlying values. Students must not simply feel something is wrong or incorrect; she or he must be able to state why, based on some hierarchy of values. In either accepting or rejecting a position, the operative values must be explicit.
- General Enthusiasm and Interest in the Class: This can be shown by regularity of discussion and bringing in outside, ancillary materials that you read or have passed along to you. The more substance students bring to the discussion, the higher their grades.
Student Engagement in MTSU Online Courses
Simply logging into a course no longer constitutes student participation in an online
To be in compliance with new federal regulations regarding student engagement and participation in online courses, MTSU “must demonstrate that a student participated in class or was otherwise engaged in an academically-related activity, such as by contributing to an online discussion or initiating contact with a faculty member to ask a course-related question.” For additional information, please review the Attendance Reporting tutorial provided by the Scheduling Center.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy
of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under
an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
Per this Act, MTSU faculty must communicate with and provide course feedback (including grades) to their distance education students within an institutionally-assigned email account, preferably within D2L. Faculty may respond to student emails received via the MTMail account, but educational data (such as class schedule, grades, GPA, academic standing, test scores, academic transcripts, student employment, class lists, and email between the student and MTSU) and personally identifiable information (Social Security Number, driver’s license number, account number, and credit or debit card number in association with the person’s name or access code) must never be sent to or from a non-institutional assigned email account.
Student Authentication Requirements
To be in compliance with the Higher Education Opportunity Act and SACS Policy and Principles of Accreditation, MTSU must "demonstrate that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence
education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes
the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student
who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution,
methods such as (1) a secure login and pass code, (2) proctored examinations, and
(3) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student
This verification is accomplished by requiring the MTSU online student to:
- use a secure login and pass code into the MTSU-supported Learning Management System, currently Desire2Learn (D2L) and/or;
- sit for proctored examinations.
The MTSU Student Evaluation of Faculty Instrument is used in the evaluation of distance educators. Distance Education Student Services facilitates the student evaluation process by emailing the survey link to all students
enrolled in distance learning courses.
All distance learning instructors are evaluated every spring and fall semester. During summer semesters, ITD selects a small percentage of faculty for evaluation.
Hiring and Instruction Preparation
- Academic departments are responsible for hiring faculty to teach MTSU online/hybrid courses.
- Faculty hired to teach MTSU online/hybrid courses are required to be trained on the University-supported learning management system (currently Desire2Learn) and/or have documented prior experience teaching online prior to the first day of the teaching assignment. (Refer to the Academic Preparation Certification Form). Hiring information is available at the University Provost website.
Required Faculty Training
- Faculty may register for D2L workshops, or they may schedule one-on-one training sessions with the Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC) staff by calling 615-904-8189.
- All MTSU faculty are required to successfully complete Preventing Sexual Harassment training. The MTSU policy statement on sexual harassment (and other resources) is available on the Institutional Equity and Compliance web site.
Instructional Compensation - Adjunct
Adjunct faculty are paid based on their rank (see chart below) within their academic departments per TBR Guideline No. P-050.
|Faculty Rank||Rate Per Credit Hour|
Email and Course Access
- ITD establishes MTSU email and Pipeline accounts for the new instructors after the hiring documents are signed and sent to Academic Resources.
- Faculty access MTSU online courses through PipelineMT or directly at https://elearn.mtsu.edu.
- To access PipelineMT, these instructions should be followed:Students enrolled in MTSU online and hybrid
courses do not have access to their courses until the first day of class, but faculty
can see the populated class list as students register.
- Go to http://www.mtsu.edu/passwords.php
- Click “How do I replace my PipelineMT password?”
- Click the “STAFF/FACULTY” link.
- Type in your social security number.
- Click “agree” on the security policy screen, and you are then taken to a screen displaying your username and on which you may change your password.