SEBS Online and Hybrid Course Policy Guidelines
This revised policy was approved by the SEBS Faculty on May 3, 2022 and replaces the old SEBS Online and Hybrid Course Policy.
Rationale for This Document
This Curriculum and Education Policy (CEP) committee document seeks to update policies and provide guidance to faculty and undergraduate program directors (UPDs) who wish to develop and/or implement online and hybrid teaching beginning in 2022-2023. Additionally, this document seeks to build a culture of excellence in online and hybrid undergraduate instruction that will reach our diverse student population.
In 2021, at the request of the Dean of Academic Programs, a CEP sub-committee began a review of the 2014 Online and Hybrid Policy for the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) departments offering undergraduate courses. Updates were required and this document outlines new and updated policies and guidance.
With the pivot to remote teaching during the COVID pandemic, many instructors at SEBS were introduced to teaching using online tools through remote teaching. But remote teaching is not a full replacement for impactful online and hybrid teaching as best practices vary depending upon the mode(s) of delivery and engagement. Online delivery and tools need to be used and deployed with best pedagogical practices in mind.
Additionally, student enrollment and student requests have demonstrated that a demand exists for online and hybrid course options. Therefore, this document also seeks to provide guidance and to lower the barriers to the development of excellent online and hybrid courses.
In alignment with Rutgers Scheduling, the CEP committee defines online instruction as courses offered asynchronously (no fixed meeting time), synchronously (a fixed meeting time via an online platform), or as mixed online (with both asynchronous and synchronous). CEP committee defines hybrid instruction as having a fixed face-to-face component as well as an online instructional component. Convergent instruction is also included under the category of online and hybrid as it combines simultaneous face-to-face and synchronous online instruction. More details on these course formats are provided below.
CEP Committee Policies for Online and Hybrid Courses and Programs
These CEP committee policy updates are effective July 1, 2022, and apply to all new proposals submitted to the CEP.
New Course Proposals
All new proposals for an undergraduate courses offering online and/or hybrid instruction must be reviewed and approved by the department/program, and then by the CEP committee prior to scheduling1. All documentation required by the CEP committee must be completed and submitted for review. Consultation with CEP Chair or Vice-Chair prior to submission is recommended.
Adding an Online and/or Hybrid Option to an Existing Course
Proposals to add an online and/or hybrid instruction to an existing course must submit documentation as outlined by the CEP committee for review and approval by their department/program and CEP committee prior to scheduling.
Revising an Existing Online and/or Hybrid Course
An online and/or hybrid course that is undergoing a major change in the content should be submitted to their department/program and CEP committee for review.
Online Undergraduate Programs
Proposals to add a new fully online undergraduate program must be developed in accordance with university policies, in consultation with the Office of Academic Programs, and must be reviewed and approved by their department/program and CEP committee2.
CEP Committee Approval
Approval of all courses and program proposals with online/hybrid components will include a review of the following information in addition to the syllabus and assessment plan: rationale for online instruction; mode(s) of instruction and student engagement; anticipated course size and section size; instructor expertise/training required for online; mode(s) of student assessment; facilities/equipment needed. Best practices are recommended in all areas of course and curriculum development. Note that in-person exams may not be used for fully online courses.
CEP committee approval for permanently offering a course with online and/or hybrid delivery does not require the department to offer the course online/hybrid only or to always offer this option.
Training for Online and Hybrid Instruction
Mentoring and training for online and/or hybrid instruction and course design are at Rutgers. For example, Teaching and Learning with Technology offer workshops. UPDs are empowered to require faculty/instructors to receive training and mentoring for online and/or hybrid course development and delivery prior to teaching the course or course sections, or prior to developing and offering a fully online program.
Guidance and Guidelines
CEP Committee Websites
- CEP committee guidelines and documents for course and program proposal development and review will be available on its website.
- Guidance and recommendations on best practices on how to organize an SEBS online or hybrid course will be posted and will be reviewed and updated regularly by OAP or CEP committee or both.
Learning Management System and Other Resources
All online and hybrid courses must use the Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) and other technology that is supported and adopted by Rutgers University. Additional information to consider when building a Canvas course are listed below:
- Provide students with clear guidelines about the technology needed to participate in the online and/or hybrid course in Canvas. For example, if microphones and video cameras are needed, say so explicitly. Remember that your students may use different technology to access your course (e.g., smart phones, computers, tablets).
- Browser recommendations should be included if you know of issues.
- Include specific dates rather than week number in modules and in the course syllabus to allow students to navigate easily.
- The course LMS should be updated consistently reflecting any changes as the semester progresses so students can keep track of coursework.
- Use the modules tool to post weekly material. Additionally, feedback from students to make a Canvas course easy to navigate suggests that best practices is to post all course materials (readings, videos, assignments, discussion forums, etc.) sequentially by week in the case of asynchronous classes, or following class meeting, using the Modules tool.
- Post grades regularly. Grades should be posted to the Canvas course site during regular intervals so students can evaluate their learning throughout the semester.
- Exams should not exceed 30% of the grade for fully online courses.
Consult the Teaching and Learning with Technology website for training.
Consult an instructional course designer during the development or updating of an existing course (strongly recommended).
Course Format Options
When selecting an online and/or hybrid option, choose the course format that best meets the pedagogical and learning goals of your course material, activities, and programs. Many courses can work in multiple formats when adapted appropriately.
“Online asynchronous” refers to those courses which are taken solely online and has no fixed meeting times. . Online courses are asynchronous to accommodate student needs and instructional efficacy. Class size and section size along with the workload should be factored into choosing this format. The entirety of the course must be posted on the course LMS so that students can complete the work. It is recommended that deadlines be provided to help students pace themselves. It is also recommended that each course module will open once another is completed. No in-person exams can be scheduled for this format.
“Online synchronous” refers to those courses which are taken solely online but does have fixed meeting times that are scheduled and consistent throughout the semester. Online courses are synchronous to meet the needs of students who wish to learn online but have regular contact and interaction with the faculty members and their peers. This format is suitable for some kinds of classes, not all. Class size and section size should factor in your decision to choose this format. The entirety of the course must be posted on the course LMS so that students can complete the work at a set pace. It is recommended that each course module will open once another is completed. No in-person exams can be scheduled for this format.
“Online mixed” refers to those courses which are taken solely online and has both a synchronous component and an asynchronous component. This format is similar to the hybrid classes where the face-to-face classes are held in the synchronous online format. This format is suitable for some kinds of classes, not all. Class size and section size should factor in your decision to choose this format. The entirety of the course must be posted on the course LMS so that students can complete the work at a set pace. It is recommended that each course module will open once another is completed. No in-person exams can be scheduled for this format.
“Hybrid” refers to those courses with a portion of meetings on-campus, in-person, with the balance of the course completed asynchronously or synchronously through online course work via the course LMS. The most frequent model is for a course to meet for 80 minutes in-person once a week, with the second meeting’s material presented asynchronously online. Some classes may meet less frequently but should meet at least 50% of the semester (less if under 3 credits). In-person components must be scheduled through the scheduling office and online content must be coordinated and posted in advance on course LMS to allow adequate planning for students.
These courses simultaneously offer online and face-to-face options. This format requires technical capabilities in the classroom and often needs additional personnel to manage the online students during classes. This delivery option can be challenging to implement well.
Approximate Course Hours
Estimating student workload for hybrid and online courses can be a challenge. Under federal, state, and university regulations, one college credit requires one hour of classroom time and approximately two additional hours of work outside the classroom per week for a 15-week semester. Since hybrid and online course formats vary widely, the focus should be on total time-on-task for the average student while ensuring adequate instructor-student interaction.
These resources will help you estimate your course hours:
- The results depend on the assumptions you put in (e.g., completion of an assignment). The use of these tools can create the illusion of greater precision than we can really have.
- This should be used as a ballpark estimator and to check your institutions about how much work you are assigning, not to fine-tune until you have exactly 45 hours per credit.
- Remember that the credit-hour-to-time ratio is based on the time the average student would need to invest and these tools provide an estimate of something that is highly variable.
- Assessment of workload through the students should be used and course expectations modified accordingly
To help promote transparency and to help students gauge the amount of time they should be devoted to your course, you can include time-on-task estimates in the information you provide them in Canvas (for example, when posting a reading or graded assignment). Students should also review assignments and the estimated time spent to best refine the anticipated time for each assignment based on the average student.
Interaction and Engagement
Interaction in an online and hybrid course is most successful when it is deliberately built into the course. It helps to think of student interaction in an online course in three forms. Class sizes may vary depending upon the level and type of interactions, engagement, and learning goals. Best practices suggest course section sizes between 20 and 35 work best although the purpose and delivery format of the course should dictate size. The pedagogical literature3 suggests that courses with foundation-level learning (e.g., many 100-level courses) can accommodate larger numbers of students, whereas courses requiring higher-order thinking cannot. When thinking about course or section size, consider the following questions:
How will my students interact with other students? Structure the learning community and make it clear to students how they should interact with others in the class. This is often done using the Discussions tools and other tools within Canvas. Group chats such as GroupMe can also be facilitated to keep an active and casual communication among students.
How will my students interact with me, their instructor? How will you provide multiple forms of substantive interaction? Examples of regular and substantive interaction include direct, synchronous instruction; providing timely feedback on coursework; using expanded commenting and feedback on assignments, discussions, reports, quizzes, exams etc., responding to student questions, posting regular weekly announcements and the opportunity for virtual or in-person office hours.
How will my students interact with the course content? Provide active learning experiences for students. What will the students do with the course content?
These types of interaction and engagement can be achieved in a variety of ways. For more examples of each type of engagement the CEP website and also Student-Centered Remote Teaching: Lessons Learned from Online Education.
Evaluation and Academic Integrity
Ensuring academic integrity in online courses includes both pedagogical strategies and/or technological tools. Some suggestions include developing assignments and exams in an open book/notes format and developing multiple lower-stakes assessments throughout the course that will help students retain what they are learning. Technological and privacy consideration must be taken into account when online exams are included in courses.
Technology, privacy issues, and scholarship contributing to best practices continues to evolve in online and hybrid education. Faculty and instructors are encouraged to pursue scholarly and professional development opportunities in this area.
Direct questions regarding this policy and guidance document to the Dean of Academic Programs and/or the current Chair or Vice-Chair of CEP committee.
1Courses, both new and revised, that are approved by the CEP are then sent to the UEC for review, and then added to the Master Course list before the course may be scheduled.
2Programs approved by the CEP are then sent to the SEBS Faculty for approval, then sent to the UEC for review, and then added to the Master Course list before the course may be scheduled.
3See: Taft, Susan H.; Kesten, Karen; El-Banna, Majeda M.. One Size Does Not Fit All: Toward an Evidence-Based Framework for Determining Online Course Enrollment Sizes in Higher Education. Online Learning, [S.l.], v. 23, n. 3, sep. 2019. ISSN 2472-5730. Available at: https://olj.onlinelearningconsortium.org/index.php/olj/article/view/1534. Date accessed: 27 apr. 2022. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.24059/olj.v23i3.1534.