About

Policy 2225 – Distance Learning

Effective Date: 6/13/2014

Responsible Office: Provost


Purpose

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.

Philosophy Statement

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.

Mission Statement

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.

Definition of Distance Education

SACSCOC’s definition for distance education is used in this document:  “distance education
is 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.”

Quality Assurance

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

University Commitment

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 Instructional Policies Committee
and/or the Graduate Council for established procedural review.

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 are 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.  

The University 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.

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, software, hardware, and the University’s
web-based course management system. 

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 website.
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. 

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.