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 classlist within the learning management system (Desire2Learn-D2L) as students register. Students have access to their online courses five days before class begins.
Faculty who develop online courses or who redesign existing online courses are considered to be faculty lead designers and are responsible for maintaining/updating their approved online and hybrid course content and for sharing the approved content with faculty (full-time and adjunct faculty) teaching sections of their courses during the three-year contract period.
Faculty Lead Designer Responsibilities:
- work with the department to schedule the course.
- update the content in the master shell each semester as necessary;
- upload the approved course for sectional instructors;
- each semester meet with professors new to the instruction of the course to familiarize them with the content and assist in updating the welcome page, contact information, and calendar;
- work with department to obtain textbooks and other course materials.
Note: These services should be provided by the faculty lead designers for sectional faculty even if they are not teaching their own courses during the semester.
- Faculty (adjuncts or full-time) teaching sections of online courses developed by others must meet with the lead designer to review course content and to revise the welcome page, calendar and faculty contact information. Approved online course content must not be changed by faculty teaching sections of an approved online course.
- Since students have access to their online courses five days before the semester begins, approved content must be uploaded into the semester shell and the revisions noted above are complete.
- Required training for new online instructors:
- complete an online, week-long New to Online Essentials workshop through the Online Learning Consortium (OLC). This session is funded by MTSU Online, and several sessions are available each semester. Faculty are required to complete it prior to teaching.
- One-on-one D2L training sessions are also recommended and may be scheduled by calling 615/904-8189. A self-registration, online D2L orientation is available in D2L. The self-registration tab is located at the top of the D2L home page.
- be sure textbooks are ordered or available.
- bdhere to and support MTSU's Information Technology Resources Policy and encourage students to do the same.
- review copyright resources as they pertain to online instruction. The Walker Library provides copyright and fair use resources for faculty teaching online.
- maintain up-to-date computer virus detection software and operating system updates.
- provide student access instructions and detailed descriptions of how the material will be used in conjunction with required D2L activities and assignments if external/ePublisher content is used in online and hybrid courses to enhance student learning.
- New MTSU Online instructors are also assigned an Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) to assist them during their first online teaching experience. This assignment is made by MTSU Online and is outside the instructor's discipline. The OFM will check the course at least three times during the semester to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement, if needed. The OFI is available to answer questions and provide assistance as much as needed.
Course Access and Instructional Expectations
- Access course(s) in D2L via PipelineMT or directly at elearn.
- Login to class on the first day
- Login to class at least three times per week
- Respond to student emails and discussion postings within 24 to 48 hours
- Assignment feedback and grades should be posted as soon as possible, and within two weeks of the assignment submission, depending on the nature and length of the course and assignment type.
- Create a high level of interaction between students and instructor.
- Submit final course grades by MTSU end-of-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 (email@example.com), in Distance Education Faculty Services. 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 the class at the start of the semester.
- Communicate with students via D2L email, discussion boards and only MTSU-supported email accounts.
- Take into account university holidays and academic schedules when establishing course assignment due dates.
Credit Hour Requirements
- The responsibility, of ensuring that the credit hour requirements for time and student learning outcomes are met, lies with the faculty member instructing the class and with the academic department chair.
- The student learning outcomes for a course must be the same regardless of whether the credit hours are delivered in the traditional format or by equivalent academic activities. In situations where a credit hour(s) is offered in a non-traditional format and there is no class section offered in the traditional format, department chairs will consult with the instructor to ensure that credit hour(s) requirements are similar to the traditional format. This includes but is not limited to internships, independent studies, experiential learning activities, and online courses.
Course Instruction and Best Practices
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?
The University of South Florida, recommends the guidelines below when communicating in an online course.
- Always identify yourself and keep your messages brief and to the point. Remember that not everyone accesses email from a computer these days. Many people use portable devices such as cell phones to quickly check their email while they are away from a computer. They will appreciate not having to wait for the long messages to download.
- Include a concise subject line with all of your emails. Use standard fonts.
- Let your recipient know right away if any action is required of them.
- Avoid “flaming” (inflammatory or antagonistic criticism) or sending insulting, abusive, or threatening remarks.
- Avoid using all capital letters in a message.
- Remember that email is not necessarily private. Your messages can be forwarded to many people without your knowledge. Before sending a message, read it over, double check the recipient(s) and make sure it would not become an embarrassment if it were forwarded to others not on your recipient list.
- Do not spam others. Spam is the practice of sending unsolicited email messages in bulk or overloading someone’s mailbox or server with messages.
- Include a signature that has your phone number or if you are sending internal email, your extension. This will make it easier for your recipient to contact you if they need to speak to you in person. Avoid recalling messages. Take the time to really determine if a message is necessary or not before sending it in the first place.
Discussion Board Examples
The discussion board is a useful teaching tool and allows for student-to-student and student-to-professor interaction. If you intend to grade discussion, provide students with guidelines, such as the following. 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 To Assess Class Discussions
(1) 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.
(2) 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.
(3) 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.
(4) 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.
(5) 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.
(6) 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 class. 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.”
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 Distance and Correspondence Policy Statement, 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 identification.”
This verification is accomplished by requiring the MTSU online student to:
1) use a secure login and pass code into the MTSU-supported Learning Management System, currently Desire2Learn (D2L) and/or;
2) sit for proctored examinations.
As of 2019 Fall Semester, MTSU will offer secure, online exam proctoring via Examity, and faculty may opt into this service which is interfaced with MTSU's learning management system (LMS) Desire2Learn (D2L).
Student Evaluation of Faculty
MTSU's Office of Institutional Effectiveness facilitates the student evaluation process by emailing the survey link to all students enrolled in distance learning courses each semester.
Adjunct Faculty Hiring
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 (Desire2Learn-D2L) and/or have documented prior online teaching experience 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
- All faculty new to online instruction must participate in D2L training and 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 website.
- Refer to the Provost’s Office website for additional forms and tutorials specifically for MTSU faculty.
Instructional Compensation - Adjunct
Adjunct faculty are paid $800 a credit hour for instruction of distance and traditional courses.
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 elearn.
- Use these instructions to change user name and password:
- Go to http://www.mtsu.edu/passwords.php
- Select to which areas the change of password will apply
- Follow the instructions noted on the site.
- Students enrolled in MTSU online and hybrid courses have access to their courses five days prior to the beginning of class, and faculty can see their populated classlists as students register.
Is Distance Learning Right for You?
MTSU provides a student readiness quiz to assess preparation for online instruction.
Learning Style Survey
The Austin Community College provides a Learning Style Survey to gauge student aptitude for online learning
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