Year End Report

Date:  April 25, 2007

To:       ASCRC

From: Ad Hoc Online Committee


Subject: Year End Report


Due to the concern of about the rigor of the growing number of courses which are being offered online through The University of Montana, this committee was formed during fall 2006 semester The charge of this committee was to develop guidelines and best practices for online courses. Once the committee had accomplished these two primary goals, it could look at other issues surrounding online courses such as student evaluations, plagiarism, and instructional technologies available for online courses.

After much research and discussion, the committee has drafted the attached standards for online courses. The guiding principle for these standards is that online courses should be the equivalent of face-to-face courses in quality, rigor, and the use of pedagogical best practices. While reflecting upon this task, the committee respectfully suggests that a similar set of standards be developed for face-to-face courses as well.

Although the second goal of developing best practices was not completed, a possible framework for this task was identified based on work done by EduCause Learning Initiative and SLOAN Consortium.  The committee looks forward to reconvening in the fall and continuing its work on developing a set of best practices.

Standards for Online Courses (Draft)


Guiding principle: online courses should be the equivalent of face-to-face courses in quality, rigor, and the use of pedagogical best practices. 

  • Courses should be constructed so that students in a three-credit course spend a minimum of 2.5 hours each week participating in course activities. (This is the equivalent of three 50-minute classroom sessions).
  • As in traditional courses, there is the expectation in online courses that students will spend an additional two hours per week for each credit mastering the material presented in the course.
  • Online courses including syllabi should be made available on or before the first day of class.
  • The syllabus should clarify expectations by offering a course description; identifying learning outcomes, describing tests, assignments, and deadlines; methods of course delivery, communication expectations, and grading; and detailing the sequence of weekly lessons.  Required technology and course materials should also be listed.
  • Active learning should be encouraged through activities such as case studies, journal writing, role playing, problem solving, and class discussions.
  • Students in online courses should receive frequent feedback regarding performance so they know where they stand and can make appropriate adjustments.
  • To ensure a positive online experience for students, courses should be constructed so that they are clear and easy to navigate, lessons proceed in a logical fashion, and procedures for submitting assignments and discussion board responses are clearly explained.
  • The importance of academic integrity should be strongly emphasized. Instructors and students should take reasonable steps to ensure academic integrity with respect to test-taking, deception, and plagiarism.  A link should be provided to UM's Code of Student Conduct.
  • Assignments for each lesson should be supplemented with guidance from the instructor regarding key questions and themes that keep students focused on what is most important in the course.  Guidance may take the form of mini lectures, animations, video, discussions, collaborative learning, -----as appropriate to the nature of the course.