Policy 2225 - Distance Learning
Effective Date: 6/13/2014
Responsible Office: Vice President for Academic Affairs
The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework that increases the access for our citizens to educational opportunities through the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of distance learning courses and programs offered for academic credit at Louisiana Tech University. These policies and procedures, in conjunction with the Distance Education Policy Statement of The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), The Louisiana Board of Regents, and the University of Louisiana System, are intended to help everyone involved in distance education to be successful and to ensure quality of instruction, delivery, assessment, and continuous improvement.
Louisiana Tech University is committed to academic excellence in all offerings---programs, courses, certificates--- regardless of teaching and learning media. Our electronic offerings meet the same standards for content, rigor, quality instruction, and student outcomes as comparable face-to-face learning experiences.
Louisiana Tech University’s mission to be a world-class leader in e-Learning by offering educational opportunities for a global community to meet the needs of undergraduate, graduate, and non-traditional students-- anytime, anywhere.
Definition of Distance Education
SACSCOC’s definition for distance education is used in this document: “Distance education is defined as a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous. A distance education course may use the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVD’s, and CD-ROMs if used as part of the distance learning course or program.
Distance education courses and programs (e-Learning courses or modifications thereto) shall comply with all of the standard practices, procedures, and criteria which have been established for traditional in-the-classroom courses including but not limited to faculty involvement at the level of course development, selection of qualified individuals to teach the course, pedagogical determinations about appropriate class size, approvals at College and University Committee levels (Instructional Policies Committee for undergraduate and Graduate Council for graduate level offerings with final approval by the University President) and oversight of all final course offerings by the appropriate academic personnel to ensure conformity with previously established traditions of course quality and relevance to programs.
Basic Principles of Good Practice
Louisiana Tech University, the Louisiana Board of Regents, and SACSCOC require that credit courses, academic degrees, and certificate programs in which the majority of instruction occurs when the student and instructor are not in the same place meet “Principles of Good Practice.”
The purpose of this section is to identify the expectations and requirements for participation in distance education at Louisiana Tech University.
These principles will be used to guide the development of electronically delivered programs and courses, to ensure that characteristics of good teaching and learning are addressed, and to ensure the quality of the course or program listed on the Louisiana Tech University website.
Curriculum and Instruction
- Each program or course of study results in learning appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or award level.
- A degree, certificate program, or course offered electronically is coherent and completer.
- The course provides for appropriate interaction between faculty and students and among students.
- Qualified faculty provides appropriate supervision of the program or course that is offered electronically.
- Academic standards for all programs or courses offered electronically are the same as those for other programs or courses delivered at Louisiana Tech University
- Student learning in programs or courses delivered electronically should be comparable to student learning in courses or programs offered in face-to-face instruction.
- Materials, programs, and courses are current.
Institutional Context and Commitment
- Role and Mission
- The program or course is consistent with the role and mission of Louisiana Tech University.
- Review and approval processes ensure the appropriateness of the technology being used to meet program or course objectives.
- Appropriate equipment and technical expertise required for distance education are available.
- Long-range planning, budgeting, and policy development processes reflect the facilities, staffing, equipment, and other resources essential to the viability and effectiveness of the distance education program.
- Students and Student Services
- The program or course provides students with clear, complete, and timely information on the curriculum, course, and degree requirements; nature of faculty/student interaction prerequisite technology competencies and skills; technical equipment requirements; availability of academic support services; financial aid resources; and costs and payment policies.
- Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to student services and resources appropriate to support their learning such as the Career Center, Counseling Services, Disability Services, and all other services provided to resident students,
- The University has admission/acceptance criteria to assess whether the student has the background, knowledge, and technical skills required for undertaking the course or program.
- Advertising, recruiting, and admission materials clearly and accurately represent the program or course and the services available.
- Faculty Support
- The program or course provides faculty support services specifically related to teaching via an electronic system.
- The university ensures appropriate training for faculty who teach using technology.
- The program or course provides faculty with adequate equipment, software, and communications for interaction with students, institutions, and other faculty.
- Resources for Learning
- The program or course ensures that appropriate learning resources are available to students.
- Course requirements ensure that students make appropriate use of learning resources.
- Commitment to Support
- Policies for faculty evaluation include appropriate recognition of teaching and scholarly activities related to courses or programs offered electronically.
- The University demonstrates a commitment to ongoing support, both financial and technical, and to continuation of the course or program for a period sufficient for students to complete a degree or certificate.
Evaluation and Assessment
- The institution evaluates course and program effectiveness, including assessments of student learning, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction.
- At the completion of the program or course, the University provides for assessment and documentation of student learning, student retention, and student and faculty satisfaction.
- At the completion of the program or course, the University provides for assessment and documentation of student achievement in each course.
- Course or program announcements, website, and electronic catalog entries provide appropriate information.
The Office of Continuing Education and Distance Learning, with direct reporting lines to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, is responsible for the administration of the distance education program and course delivery.
All academic units of the University shall have an opportunity to participate in providing distance education courses and/or programs and shall be encouraged to provide distance education wherever there is an identified need. The University shall assure that the institution’s administrative policies and procedures allow for an effective and efficient distance education support structure.
Distance Education Programs
Programs offered via distance education shall be consistent with the role and mission of Louisiana Tech University and the offering units. There shall be no distinctions between programs offered through distance education and those offered on campus except by section number. Development of new online programs and courses will follow the same development and approval procedures as traditional programs and courses.
Selection of programs to be offered via distance education is the purview of the appropriate academic unit and subject to approval at the College, University, and Board levels. The academic units shall provide oversight of a program that is offered via distance education to ensure currency of the program, its courses, and its resources. Each program of study shall be coherent and complete and shall result in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the degree or certificate awarded. Questions and inquiries regarding distance education programs are to be directed to the offering units.
Once implemented, the offering academic units and the University commit to ongoing support and to the continuation of the program for a period sufficient to enable admitted students to complete the program.
Distance Education Courses
Proposals for the development and delivery of distance education courses are to be evaluated at the department and college level. The faculty member, department chair, and dean play a significant role in guiding the development and implementation of distance education courses. These individuals shall evaluate the distance education course proposal for appropriateness, and only those proposals demonstrating suitable content and sufficient quality and rigor should be approved for development. Once approved, a copy of the form will be sent to the office of the Director of the Global Campus, the Dean of the Graduate School, and the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Proposals should be evaluated within four weeks of submission.
Distance education course offerings shall be evaluated according to the course evaluation procedures in effect for campus-based courses. Additional items to be evaluated shall include the effectiveness and efficiency of delivery systems, academic resources, student services, and access to faculty. Records of evaluations and the analyses of the evaluations are kept on file, as well as documentation of the proactive use of the results of the evaluations in the enhancement of course offerings.
Louisiana Tech University is committed to preserving the integrity of all its programs and courses, including those offered through distance learning. For courses offered through electronic media, faculty will ensure security and integrity in the testing process by personally supervising the examinations, enlisting an approved proctor, or other assurances. Proctors must be verified by appropriate University officials and implement all testing and security requirements identified by the instructor.
A number of accessibility issues require accommodation in the design and implementation of distance education courses. The appropriate University offices shall be contacted for consultation regarding access issues.
Library Resources and Support
A wide range of electronic resources are available for faculty and online students. These include electronic access to the Library catalogues, full-text databases, reference resources, and online tutorials related to information and literary skills. Librarians are available by email and telephone. Faculty is encouraged to incorporate the use of library resources in their distance education courses.
Faculty and Faculty Services
All courses offered via distance education shall have a qualified, credentialed faculty member approved and assigned by the appropriate department head, with the approval of the college dean. Faculty assigned to distance education courses and programs shall have the same profile (expertise, experience, rank) as the faculty assigned to resident classes. The assigned faculty member shall have full control of the content of the course. Academic freedom policies apply to both distance education and traditional classroom instruction.
The faculty member retains the authority and the responsibility to produce any revised or supplemental materials in order to maintain or enhance the accuracy and quality of the distance education course. The University policy on Intellectual Property, Patents, and Copyright applies to all distance education programs and courses. The materials created by faculty members for distance education courses will be treated in exactly the same fashion as materials created by faculty members for traditional courses. Joint ownership of online course materials applies only when the faculty member accepts a stipend or credit for initial development or conversion of the course for distance learning.
Faculty will ensure that both the quality and rigor of online courses and programs are equivalent to traditional courses. Each course will be evaluated by the faculty member teaching the course and a trained faculty member identified by the Director of Distance Learning using the Quality Matters rubric.
The University’s distance education infrastructure shall provide development opportunities for faculty that will increase their awareness of distance education methodologies and improve their instructional skills. Faculty shall have appropriate services and resources to assure their effectiveness as distance educators and to assure an effective and efficient teaching and learning environment.
Each faculty member assigned to a distance education course shall receive consultation, training, implementation, and evaluation support from instructional design and delivery staff to ensure the effective and efficient use of the chosen delivery system. The University shall provide appropriate equipment, software, and communications access to faculty to support interaction with students, cooperating institutions, and other faculty for approved programs and courses.
Faculty shall receive appropriate recognition of teaching and scholarly activities related to distance education programs commensurate with their efforts in traditional activities and programs. Faculty may be remunerated for any additional effort in serving distance education students as appropriate for the particular practices set by the individual department, college, or school and in accordance with established University policy.
Courses taught via distance education may be included as part of the faculty member’s regular assigned load or may be recommended by the appropriate Unit Head or Director and submitted for overload compensation approval. If the course is not in-load, the online course will be considered overload subject to the same parameters as defined in Louisiana Tech University Policy 1419 and based on the current approved rate for online teaching.
Class size for distance education courses will be determined through a consultative process that includes faculty, department chairs, deans, and appropriate University administrators.
The Center for Instructional Technology will provide support and training to faculty preparing to teach or teaching online courses, including training in the use of instructional technologies to support teaching and learning, Quality Matters, software, hardware, and the University’s web-based course management system.
Courses will be evaluated through an online evaluation specific for distance education courses. The evaluation will be administered through the University’s web-based course management system during the ninth week of classes.
Students and Student Services
Distance education students are held to the same admissions standards end enrollment processes as campus-based students.
Distance education students shall receive clear, accurate, complete, and timely information, equivalent to that provided to campus-based students, on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, required technological competence and skills, technical equipment requirements, availability of academic resources, availability of student services, program/course costs and payment policies, dates, time frames and deadlines, academic policies and appeals processes, additional charges if necessary, availability of disability accommodations, and procedures for accessing these resources.
Distance education students shall have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services and student rights equivalent to that provided to campus-based students and appropriate to support their learning and successful matriculation. Services should include the following as necessary and appropriate: admissions, BOSS pin and ID, cashier’s office, payment processing (refunds, billing, etc.), bookstore, course catalog, academic advising, technical assistance, registration (Add/Drop), withdrawal from courses, transfers, reinstatements, financial aid information, academic calendar, student records, library services, services for disabled students (American Disabilities Act of 1990 accommodation), policies, procedures, and protocols for taking courses.
Students should consult with their program of study advisor for course requirements, advising, and other curriculum and program-related questions. Advisors can be accessed via the faculty/staff directory and academic program links on the college’s web site. Advisors can be contacted by email or telephone.
Evaluation and Assessment
Each distance education course shall be evaluated by students in the same manner as on-campus course offerings. Additional response items shall include the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery systems, access to academic resources, access to faculty, and access to student services.
Academic unit heads shall review evaluation results with assigned faculty, support staff, and cooperating unit heads to facilitate the continual refinement of distance education course offerings. Consistent with the policies governing on-campus course evaluations, documentation of distance education course evaluations and of the proactive use of the results shall be maintained in the departmental office.
Each distance education program shall be assessed in the same manner and generally at the same frequency as the specific department's assessment of programs offered on campus. Elements covered in the assessment shall include educational effectiveness, student learning outcomes, and retention. The program head shall review assessment results with assigned faculty, distance education and technical staff, and cooperating service unit heads to facilitate the continual refinement of the distance education program. Documentation of this process and of the proactive use of the results shall be maintained in the offering unit office and be available for review.
Student learning in distance education programs shall compare favorably to student learning in campus-based programs. Documentation of outcomes shall be maintained in the offering unit office and be available for review.