An Internet/web-based course1 is defined as any course in which students complete 80% or more of the requirements through Internet access to the course web site. Integrity of student work in distance education courses should be ensured by using multiple assessment methods such as participation in discussion boards and chat rooms, on-line group projects, progress reports, peer assessments or other interactive assessment techniques. Distance education is defined as a formal educational process whereby the majority of instruction in a course occurs when the student(s) and instructor(s) are not in the same place. Instruction may be synchronous or asynchronous but in either case, more than 49% of the course is offered with the instructor and student not in the same place.
Additionally, students may take no more than 49% of the semester hour credits for the degree through distance education. For example, for a bachelor’s degree requiring 128 semester hours, no more than 62 semester hours may be completed through distance education courses.
Courses taught in an internet/web-based format must be equivalent to the same courses taught in the traditional format. Courses developed specifically for web-based delivery must be approved through the curriculum process in the same way as new traditional courses. The processes and procedures for offering web-based courses are the same as all WIT courses. Departments offering courses in a web-based format should be prepared to document that the courses have student-learning outcomes that are equivalent to those for courses taught in the traditional format.
At Wentworth Institute of Technology, regardless of the delivery method, credit hours awarded must be determined by sound practice2. For Internet/web-based courses, credit hours in synchronous online environments may be recorded in the same manner as for traditional classes. However, contact hours in asynchronous learning environments are more difficult to monitor. Therefore, the definition of contact hours in asynchronous learning environments at WIT is based on the following guidelines:
- The course syllabus should clearly document that the course covers the same amount of material or course content that would normally be expected if the class were in the traditional format. Clear documentation includes the course objectives covered, the course topics covered, and the stated expectations for readings, projects, and other assignments as well as the stated learning outcomes. It is the responsibility of faculty teaching in an asynchronous environment to determine if the course content delivered in an asynchronous environment is of sufficient scope and rigor to ensure the amount of material delivered is comparable to the same campus-based course.
- During the planning and development of an asynchronous learning environment, faculty should estimate the time a typical student will take interacting with the course content. This should be equivalent to the number of contact hours normally expected in a face-to-face course, and should be documented in the course syllabus. Hours for completing homework assignments, working on projects, studying for examinations, etc., should be considered outside the contact hour requirements for the course.
- Attendance policies can be determined by the evaluation of student participation in scheduled online discussions, required interaction with the faculty as well as other classmates, and the timely submission of class assignments rather than simply by the number of logins provided in the statistics measured by the learning management system.
- In order to accommodate the needs of online students, office hours may also be held online in order to address student concerns and consult with students making use of technology.
- Online classes should never substitute for planned face-to-face classes unless the faculty member is confident his/her students have access to the technology and can be reasonably successful in meeting expectations of the course. Faculty members should notify his/her department chairs of the absence and how the lost time will be made up as with any missed class.
1Allen, I.E. & Seaman, J. (2008). Staying the course: Online education in the United States. Sloan-C Publishing
2Federal Credit Hour Definition: A credit hour is the amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally-established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:
(1) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
(2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours.
(CIHE Policy 111)