With this message, we are going to do a quick check-in on the transfer of your classroom teaching to an online venue and offer an additional helpful reminder.

Quickly checking in

First, let’s check on how you are doing with the basics of offering a course through the online delivery method. There may be some of us who are using email to deliver a course (the earliest type of online communication used) and there are others who are using a Learning Management System (LMS).

  1. If you are using email to deliver your course, then you have been able to get your course up pretty quickly; e.g., send links to resources, upload information and attach to an email, access your university library resources for your course, etc.
  2. If you are teaching through a Learning Management System on a platform such as Blackboard, Canvas, etc. there are widely-accepted features used in delivering your course online:
    • Did you create a home page that introduces the course?
    • Is there a place for announcements?
    • Did you post your syllabus and other course resources?
    • Have you put content, assignments, tests etc. in folders that represent the sequence of the course?

For a quick resource on moving your course online using either a non-LMS source or an LMS, take a look here. You will also find some useful tips for preserving the learning of your face-to-face classroom to the online learning modality using a range of digital tools at that site. If you are interested in detailed information on transitioning a classroom course to an online course, you will find this “survival guide” to be a comprehensive resource. Make sure you plan on setting aside sufficient time for review!

Helpful reminders

The US Department of Education has extended temporary flexibility to institutions for the early stages of implementing distance learning solutions to prevent interruption in the learning during the move from campus-based to online learning. For example, broad approval was provided to institutions to use online technologies on a temporary basis and without having to go through the standard approval process required for the use of expansion of distance learning. In this communication, the Department offered clarification that the flexibility allowed is tied to specific dates and, after the expiration of those dates, approval for the use of distance education under the normal process will be necessary.

Accreditation policies

In addition, the accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education are working closely with the Department of Education regarding the use of flexibility in accreditation-related matters during the COVID-19 Pandemic. For example, one agency has temporarily waived the substantive change requirements for distance education and contractual agreements that will be completed during this time. However, information related to temporary distance education operations or agreements with other institutions, along with any impact on the academic calendar, is required.

Another regional accrediting agency has determined that institutions that are initiating distance education program due to COVID-19 are not required to seek approval or notify the agency. However, when normal operations resume, any continuation of distance education delivery initiated for on-site programs will be required to request approval.

Keeping records

All of the above underscores the importance of recordkeeping of distance education programs of instruction during the COVID-19 time period. Examples of records that should be maintained for your online courses:

  • Academic calendar
  • Syllabus reflecting expected student outcomes and academic standards
  • Rubrics used to evaluate student learning expectations
  • Instructor-student contact hours.

One best practice for recordkeeping is to only collect data sets that you will use or that your university requires. Some faculty expect students to log on every day and track that through the LMS “people” tab, or more thoroughly by using course analytics, where activity can be tracked; submissions are recorded as on time, late, or missing; and communication between student and instructors is noted. If some type of analytics is not available, faculty can create a simple spreadsheet to follow student work and participation. Summative and formative data are easily accessible in the LMS gradebook.

The overarching goal of data collection is to use findings to track progress and support changing or improving instruction and/or communication. Whichever system you use for data collection, you want it to be the most efficient and effective in order to maximize your students’ success. This is the recordkeeping that will benefit both students and any reporting that is required.

Dr. Mary Jane Pearson is the Chief Academic Advisor for HotChalk. One of her notable accomplishments is the design of the highly successful model of support and mentoring for online higher education faculty, which has resulted in over 90% retention rate for online faculty, and an overall average of 4.5/5 faculty rating from student end-of-course evaluations. Dr. Pearson’s unique credentials as a teacher educator include chairing the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC), the largest educator licensing agency in the U.S., during which she co-authored the research on California’s beginning teacher support that has become the worldwide standard for the induction, mentoring and support of new teachers. In addition, Dr. Pearson was appointed by the U.S. President to serve as the Regional Representative for the U.S. Department of Education. In recognition of her service to education, Dr. Pearson was named California Teacher Educator of the Year. Dr. Pearson earned her PhD from the University of Kansas.

Dr. Gail Kirby is the Online Instructional Mentor for HotChalk and is a published subject matter expert in online higher education faculty support & mentoring. In addition, she is an Associate Professor of Special Education at Western Kentucky University. Dr. Kirby has 33 years of experience teaching P-12; over 25 years in higher education, including community college, and both private and public college and university settings. She earned her EdD from the University of San Francisco.