Revisiting Distance Education Questions from the 2005 Curriculum Institute

Technology Committee Chair

The ASCCC Curriculum institute held this July was an amazing event, to be sure! I was fortunate to have been able to present with several knowledgeable folks regarding distance education and the curriculum process. In the beginning of a session on this topic, we asked the participants to write their questions down and then to give them to us to respond to. While I think we hit most of them, I did bring them home and found several great questions that I wasn't sure we answered that day. This article, then, is an effort to do just that.

Q. If you are teaching math as a DE course, can you require x number of hours per week for student time in the math center?
A. If this is a fully online course, then you will need to check to see how your college defines "fully online". At some colleges a "fully online" course indicates that students never need to come to campus. If that is the case, then you may want to offer some alternative to students who can't get to your math center, but can get to another college center, or provide some online tutoring service. If you have no policy about fully online courses, then you may do whatever you decide locally to do. In the end, this is a question that is answered at the local level-there is no ASCCC policy or legislated answer.
Q. How does the review of hybrid (partially online) classes work?
A. This is the question of the year! At the 2005 Spring Plenary Session, a resolution, referred to the ASCCC Executive Committee encouraged senates to require for hybrid courses the same type of separate approval required by Title 5 for distance education courses when any amount of classroom time is regularly replaced by some form of distance education. The Technology Committee has been given the task to research this issue this year, and we will get back to you on that! System Office Distance Education Guidelines contain an interpretation that goes beyond Title 5 regulation by defining a distance education course/section to be one where technology is used to deliver 51% or more of instruction and the student and instructor are separated by distance. This definition has been used for reporting purposes and the creation of the distance education report. It has never been clear how this interpretation should apply to the requirement for separate curriculum review. We are of the opinion that a separate review by the Curriculum Committee is educationally desirable in any circumstances where classroom based education is replaced by any distance education methodology. This "hot topic" will be addressed at the fall plenary session in pasadena in November.
Q. Do you have a separate committee that reviews de material prior to the curriculum committee getting it?
A. Again, that is a local choice. Many colleges do have DE Committees or educational technology Committees that address DE addenda and recommend action on them to the Curriculum Committees. This type of committee also serves to provide assistance to the faculty member developing the curriculum and the course, so it's a formative process.
Q. Are Academic Senates or Curriculum Committees evaluating the quality of the new distance learning courses?
A. It's different everywhere you look! My answer is that both bodies should be concerned with this along with department chairs, if you have them. The peer evaluation process is tricky, to say the least. We published an article in the last Rostrum on this topic. Take a look-it is available under publications on the ASCCC website.
Q. Is there a good way to verify instructor qualifications to teach via DE? Does anyone have a good system or checklist for this?
A. Isn't diversity wonderful?! There are several, but mt. San Antonio and hartnell Colleges have good procedures available on their websites. Many academic senates have set standards in cooperation with their unions, which is always a good idea. At Mt. San Jacinto a memorandum of understanding was developed saying that you have to complete our training or a qualified DE instructor training program (such as exists at Cerro Coso College) or have demonstrated competence in teaching online previously. While not perfect, it's a start. The regulations say that the instructor, at a minimum, must be qualified in the discipline, just as an on-campus instructor should be.
Q. should DE courses have separate course outline of record, if the course is taught in a traditional format? Or.should it merely have a notation on the regular Course outline of record (COR)?
A. DE courses should not have a separate course outline, as defined in Title 5. Most colleges have an addendum for DE that goes through a separate approval process. Some form of separate approval must be accomplished, but does not affect the COR. Methods of instruction and methods of evaluation usually change to accommodate the mandate of the regulation that requires that we ensure that "regular effective" communication take place between the instructor and the students.
Q. should we list online courses as such on our transcripts or catalog?
A. No. Title 5 explicitly states in 55207 and 55209 that course quality standards and determinations are the same for distance education and face-to-face sections. Moreover, the whole curriculum approval process for distance education courses/sections implies that there should be no distinction in content between what we teach face-to-face and what we teach via DE. Therefore, there is a single course outline of record and no differential notation on the transcript. If the courses, in fact, have different content then there should be a separate COR and subsequent, separate articulation. You may want to list the DE sections separately in your schedule for convenience for students, but not designate them as separate courses in the catalog .
Q. How do you address courses that are offered as DE that have not received separate curriculum committee review and approval?
A. If this is happening, your local processes are in need of CPR-seek professional assistance immediately. No course should find its way into your schedule that had not had the required review.
Q. As a new curriculum chair, what are the major points about DE that I should know?
A. There is a powerpoint presentation on the ASCCC website from the curriculum institute in 2004 at that covers this in detail. Briefly, know what your school is using for a course management system (CMS)-Blackboard, webCt, etudes, web based-and what features are available in that CMS so that you know both what is possible and what teachers are talking about. Look for ideas that make sense when you are reading the DE addendum submitted. For example, if the in-class group work is being done in the CMS through setting up group discussion forum areas, that's a good adaptation, or that films shown in the face-to-face class will be ones that are readily available at local video rental stores and are new enough to have captioning available. Be sure the author understands that there are Section 508 accessibility guidelines that must be met. Above all, ask questions. If the addendum doesn't make sense or you don't understand what the teacher is talking about, ask them to explain. That will benefit you in learning about DE and clarify for the instructor what they need to do.
Q. Do you have some good models for DE addenda forms?
A. Yes we do! Please visit… for information! there is also a good practices paper that contains information about the addendum process (this paper will be updated this year, but has some very valuable information) at…
Q. The OSCAR system for CSU asks if a course is taught online. If we aren't supposed to distinguish courses as online, how come the question is asked?
A. According the eric taggart, ASSIST director, that item will be removed.
Q. What is the difference between a 1.0 credit lecture that meets online "1 hour" a week and a face to face 1.0 credit lab that meets 3 hrs. A week?
A. For the answer to this question, I consulted Ken Nather from the System Office. It's tricky; here is his response (thanks, Ken!):
Tt depends on how the course is scheduled. If either course is scheduled using the positive attendance method, the result would be-you get one contact hour for the online lecture and three contact hours for the face to face. However, if the courses are independent study, then the FTES is calculated based on the number of units being offered for the course. In which case, the one hour online lecture would generate one unit toward the ftes calculation and the one credit face to face would generate the same one unit toward the ftes calculation resulting in the same level of FTES generated if all other factors are equal (i.e., number of students and length of course). So, again it depends on how the course is scheduled. All things being equal, if the campus chooses the positive, weekly or daily attendance methods, each course would be calculated based on the total number of hours of course content delivery regardless of the mode of delivery as opposed to independent study which is calculated solely on the number of units and not the number of hours for the course. Clear as mud? I thought so. If you would like further clarification on this item, the DE guidelines attempt to provide a few calculation scenarios that might be helpful. The guidelines are on the System Office DE web page. Go to Section 58003.1 found on page 11 for the text of the regulation, guideline and sample calculations for the various scenarios here's the link:…
FAQ Summary
We want to thank those of you who attended the Curriculum Institute and provided us with these questions. We also know there are many more questions out there! The ASCCC Technology Committee will be working closely with the ASCCC Curriculum Committee to provide you with the information you need to make sure your DE program offerings are of high quality. The goals of the Technology Committee for 2005-06 include review and update of all the ASCCC technology position papers, researching the issue of hybrid courses and approval policies for them, and providing you with meaningful plenary session breakouts that address using technology in all areas of instruction. Please contact the chair, Pat James Hanz at pjames [at] with questions or ideas for breakout sessions that you would like to see at ASCCC events.