Sac State University Policy Manual
e-Learning Policy
Policy Administrator: Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs
Authority: PM 95-01; FS 01-23; FS 09-78; FS 13/14-16
Effective Date: January 27, 1995; April 26, 2001
Updated: February 19, 2010; October 8, 2013
Index Cross-References:
Policy File Number: FSD00010.htm

e-Learning Policy

Introduction
This policy shall apply to all matriculated e-Learning courses and degree/certificate programs offered by California State University, Sacramento. It is not the intent of this policy to supplant any existing policies set forth by the University, but where necessary, to define new or to expand existing policies and procedures to ensure the most effective implementation and support of hybrid and online courses and programs.

Part of the challenge of all modern universities is to responsibly align information technologies as a positive force for encouraging creative pedagogies for faculty and expanding instructional options for students. The overriding intent of this policy is to enrich the campus teaching and learning environment. By locating academic decision-making within academic departments or divisions, the policy reinforces the belief that those closest to curriculum implementation best understand which courses and programs are suited for conversion to an e-Learning format.

For purposes of this policy, e-Learning is defined as a formal educational process in which instruction takes place in its entirety or partially when the professor and students are not in the same place at the same time.  Instead, the interaction between professor and students is mediated using audio, video and/or computer technologies.

Web-based courses typically use a variety of technologies to deliver instruction and engage students.

e-Learning formats:  online and hybrid.  An online course is a course with no regular face-to-face meetings in a physical classroom. However, at the discretion of the instructor, an online course is permitted to have an occasional orientation, organizational or assessment-related meeting in a classroom.  A hybrid course is a course in which one unit or more of the course, including class meetings, activities, discussion, and assignments, are delivered electronically thus reducing use of physical classroom space.  A hybrid course must have two components; the first component is face-to-face and the second is an online component.  The face-to-face instruction hours per week must be less than the total number of credit hours for the course.  Physical classroom usage is limited to face-to-face instruction time and no physical classroom space must be assigned or used for the online component for the semester. 

Courses that are delivered in a hybrid or online format must be identified in the course schedule during the registration period for semesters in which they are to be offered. e-Learning technology and pedagogy continue to evolve.  In addition, each new student cohort brings a stronger set of information technology skills to the campus and has the expectation that information technology will inform and enrich their educational experience.  This policy allows the University to meet the demands of student expectations as well as continue to provide broad based high quality educational opportunity to all its students.

1. General Guidelines
1.1 Through their respective departments or divisions, the faculty are responsible for deciding which courses as well as which degree/certificate programs will be offered in an e-Learning format.  Programs in which less than 50% of the major course requirements consist of online courses require no special approvals.  Any department or faculty group proposing e-Learning programs in which 50% or more of the major course requirements are “online courses” (as defined below in Section 4) should follow the approval process described in Section 2 below.

1.2 Standard course evaluation processes currently used by academic units to assess face-to-face courses will be used to assess e-Learning courses. If it is not feasible to utilize standard processes to administer student evaluations, then the department or college will develop an alternative process that can be utilized in order to insure that the department or college meets the requirements of existing policies regarding the student evaluation of instruction. Academic Technology and Creative Services, a Division of Academic Affairs, will provide consulting services to those academic units and faculty who wish to develop supplementary course evaluation tools for their e-Learning offerings. Faculty of record for a specific e-Learning course, department chairs, and/or faculty evaluation committees are charged with utilizing student evaluation data in a manner consistent with extant departmental policies and procedures related to the maintenance of quality instruction.

1.3 Departments and divisions have their own distinct method of selecting offerings for each semester. Hybrid and online courses require significant investments of both time and resources to both develop and sustain. In selecting courses to be delivered in these modalities practical factors such as on-going demand, faculty commitment and curricular need, must be considered. However, the overarching reason to offer e-Learning courses is to expand educational opportunities for our students by offering courses with the same quality of education as face-to-face courses, but with greater convenience and flexibility.

1.4  Each semester Academic Technology and Creative Services (ATCS) will compile a list of all courses that are designated in the course schedule as either hybrid or online courses.  This list will be sent to Academic Affairs and department chairs for any corrections, additions, or deletions.  After review and/or revision, this list will be posted on the ATCS web site.  

1.5 Prior approval by the Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs is required for any individual, department or program to contract with any private or public entity to design, transport, and/or produce content for e-Learning courses or programs on behalf of California State University, Sacramento.

1.6 Prior approval by the relevant department or program is required for the University to contract with any private or public entity to design, transport, and/or produce content for e-Learning courses or programs.

1.7 Courses and programs delivered via e-Learning modalities must satisfy current CSU policy dealing with accessibility to information resources and technologies to all students, including individuals with disabilities.

1.8 Departments or colleges are not precluded from adopting additional guidelines relating to the creation or scheduling of online courses that are part of their curriculum. These guidelines must be consistent with existing University curricular polices.

2. Program Approval Guidelines

2.1  Departments or colleges that wish to offer an e-Learning degree/certificate program shall designate a faculty e-Learning curriculum group who will develop a plan that includes the items described in 2.1.1 - 2.1.4. Colleges, Departments, or Divisions shall include a statement in their policy manual regarding any additional guidelines specific to hybrid and online learning that will be incorporated in the course approval process.

2.1.1 The role of full-time faculty in developing and implementing the proposed e-Learning degree program.

2.1.2 Student learning outcomes for the program and the plan for assessing these outcomes. While e-Learning often offers students a different experience from traditional face-to-face instruction, an existing program adapted for e-Learning must be equivalent in terms of learning outcomes to the program offered on campus. The proposal must include a description of course activities that indicate how course objectives for all e-Learning classes will be met.

2.1.3 The means for providing the methodologies/strategies for providing interaction between faculty and students as well as interaction between students.

2.1.4 A faculty development plan for providing pedagogical and technical training to teach through video-based and/or web-based technologies.

2.2  Once the program plan is developed it needs to be approved by both the department/division and the college dean in consultation with the appropriate curriculum committees employing the "Procedures for Submitting Substantive Program Change Proposals" and utilizing Form B. Colleges, Departments, or Divisions should consider including faculty with e-Learning expertise in the course and/or program approval review process.

2.3 The program plan must be reviewed and granted approval by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) prior to implementation. The guidelines for preparing such a proposal are consistent with the guidelines contained in this policy. Academic Affairs will assist departments in the preparation and submittal of such proposals.

3. Hybrid Course Approval

3.1  Courses in which one unit or more of face-to-face instruction scheduled for a traditional section of the same course is replaced by instruction that takes place online when the professor and students are not in the same physical location and no physical classroom space is utilized are termed “hybrid” courses.

3.2   An existing course that is re-designed as a hybrid so that half or less than half of the instruction takes place when the professor and students are not in the same place and no physical classroom space is utilized shall require no additional approvals.

3.3 Hybrid courses in which more than half of the face-to-face instruction scheduled for a traditional section of the same course is replaced by instruction that takes place when the professor and students are not in the same physical location and no physical classroom space is utilized require approval as described below.

3.4  An existing course that is re-designed so that it falls into the hybrid range specified in 3.3 needs to be approved through the curricular process of the department or division offering the course.  As part of this process the faculty member will submit a syllabus that includes the items described in 3.4.1 -  3.4.2.

3.4.1  Student learning outcomes for the course and the plan for assessing these outcomes.  While a course formatted for e-Learning often offers students a different experience from traditional face-to-face instruction, an existing course adapted for e-Learning must be equivalent in terms of learning outcomes to the course offered on campus. The syllabus must include a description of course activities that indicate how course objectives will be met.

3.4.2   The methodologies/strategies for providing interaction between faculty and students as well as interaction between students. This would include the types and forms of interaction expected.

4. Online Course Approval

4.1  An online course is defined as a course in which the entire face-to-face instruction scheduled for a traditional section of the same course is replaced by instruction that takes place when the professor and students are not in the same physical location and no physical classroom space is utilized.

4.2 An existing course that is re-designed as an online course needs to be approved through the curricular process of the department or division offering the course. Before the course can be scheduled, the academic unit must demonstrate the demand and academic need to convert the course to an online format. For example, courses that have been traditionally offered in lecture format can be modified to provide greater ease and flexibility for students meeting core degree requirements would generally be seen as strong candidates for conversion to an online format. In addition, faculty must be willing to staff the course and undergo any requisite training necessary to teach an effective online course

As part of the course approval process the faculty member will submit a syllabus that includes the items described in 3.4.1 - 3.4.2 described above.

Many times, faculty must serve as the de facto front-line support resource for online courses. It is because of this that technology-enhanced learning along with its technology-driven delivery more often than not requires an increased skill set to contend with the multitude of challenges that arise. Technological readiness is extremely important to the success of any online course. Inadequate technological readiness disrupts student learning and e-Learning efforts and generally manifests itself in course evaluations. It is therefore highly recommended that Colleges, Departments, or Divisions who are interested in pursuing online education become familiar with the standards and best practices associated with e-Learning. The Sacramento State approved standards are listed below.

  • California State University e-Learning Standards developed by Academic Technology and Creative Services (ATCS).
  • Quality Matters Program Rubric:

The Quality Matters Program created a list of eight broad standards, comprising a total of 40 specific elements that can be used to evaluate the design of online and hybrid courses. The web-based, fully interactive rubric includes annotations that explain the application of the standards and the relationships among them.

5. Credit Hour

Because of the nature of online education, it is often difficult to associate a specific length of online e-learning time to its face-to-face classroom counterpart. Additionally, both hybrid and online learning typically do not separate out the traditional homework-related activities that are a part of the face-to-face learning experience.
Although "seat-time" is still the federal standard for measurement with regard to the credit-hour, built into this standard is an effort to align "time" with "the amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes that is verified through evidence of student achievement." Therefore, since some sort of alignment is necessary the following guidelines should be used:
An online or hybrid course must provide the minimum time (hours) necessary through its synchronous and asynchronous presentations, activities, assignments, and assessments to meet its learning outcomes.
The estimated weekly and semester student workload of synchronous and asynchronous activities, assignments, and assessments should be consistent with equivalent face-to-face courses.

6. Faculty Training and Development

Academic Technology and Creative Services (ATCS) , the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), working in collaboration with Information Resources and Technology (IRT) as well as the University Library regularly offer a wide range of both workshops, discussion groups and other training opportunities in the area of e-Learning. Faculty who teach or plan to teach e-Learning courses are encouraged to attend those training sessions necessary for them to acquire the pedagogical knowledge and technological skill set required for quality e-Learning.

7. Accessibility

"The California State University system, pursuant to Executive Order 926, is committed to ensuring that all of its programs, services, and activities are accessible to students, faculty, staff, and the general public. This extends to all information resources and services including web sites and electronic documents. The CSU is further committed to conforming with all legal requirements set forth in California Government Code 11135, Sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1996, as amended, and the Americans with Disabilities Act." California State University Accessible Technology Initiative.

Faculty shall make every effort to know and make known to students the technological resources needed to be successful in online and hybrid courses including resources targeted to disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

"It is the policy of the CSU to make information technology resources and services accessible to all CSU students, faculty, staff and the general public regardless of disability." California State University Accessible Technology Initiative. 

8. Student Privacy Protection


Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulates what student information can and cannot be released by universities without their consent. It is also the policy of the CSU to recognize the right to privacy, a right protected under the California Constitution. Faculty shall ensure the privacy of a student's protected information in courses that use external web-based "social" software where a student's identification is required and shared.

9. Evaluation and Approval of e-Learning Courses Established Prior to the Approval of this Policy

The Program Review process will be used to review and evaluate courses established prior to the implementation date of this policy.  The course and program approval guidelines specified in this policy will be used to verify compliance commencing with Academic Program Reviews conducted after Fall 2013.

For the purposes of providing technology and pedagogical support, Academic Technology & Creative Services will periodically conduct institutional level e-Learning interactivity and satisfaction surveys of courses designated as online and hybrid. This information will be in aggregative form and used for planning and programmatic consultation, not faculty evaluation. The survey will focus on the students’ and instructors’ practices associated with the online tools themselves (e.g. online discussions with SacCT) as well as their satisfaction and usage level of the tools (e.g. how often students interact with the online tools).

10. Institutional Support

10.1. Basic Student Support Services.  All regularly matriculated University students receiving instruction through e-Learning shall be provided equivalent access to the basic student support services offered on this campus. These shall include admission, course registration services, academic advising and orientation, textbook purchasing, financial aid, career development and other special program accommodations as applicable (for example, EOP, Veteran, and Reentry students).  For departments or colleges that are proposing to offer an existing degree/certificate programs in an e-Learning format in which more than half of the major course requirements are offered online, the University shall provide support so that the following programmatic services are available before the program is implemented.

10.1.1 The means for ensuring the academic integrity of student work.

10.1.2 The means for providing the required academic support services and resources (including library, general advising, financial aid, counseling, social support services, etc.).

10.1.3  The means whereby faculty and students will access needed technical support.

10.2  Library Support. The Library shall provide equivalent support for e-Learning courses and programs.  Effective and appropriate library services and access to library collections for e-Learning may differ from those services offered on campus but they should be designed to meet a wide range of information and research needs. The requirements of academic programs should guide the Library in its response.  Elements of library support available to students taking e-Learning courses may include courier and electronic document delivery, electronic reserves, electronic journals and books, full-text databases, end-user searching, reference assistance and instruction, remote access to networked resources, library resource management services, reciprocal borrowing and interlibrary loan services, cooperative arrangements with other libraries for collection access, and other strategies that emphasize access, evaluation, effective use and  management of resources.

10.3  Technology Support.  In order to facilitate instruction that is appropriate for selected technologies, professional support in the use of the technology is necessary. Such support shall include:

10.3.1 Training in the use of e-Learning tools, applications, and transport systems.

10.3.2  Development and production of online and mediated materials.

10.3.3 Ongoing consultation with Academic Technology and Creative Services, Information Resources and Technology, University Library, and/or College Instructional Technology (IT) staff.

10.4 Pedagogy Support.  In order to facilitate instruction that is pedagogically effective, faculty members teaching e-Learning courses shall have access to pedagogy support from faculty and staff involved in e-Learning.  Such support shall include:

10.4.1 Instructional design.

10.4.2 Effective pedagogical uses of specific technology.

10.4.3  Assessment strategies.

10.4.4 Ongoing consultation Academic Technology and Creative Services ( ATCS) and Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) faculty staff.

10.5 Faculty Support.  The University shall provide appropriate faculty support services specifically related to e-Learning. It is easy to underestimate the effort and skill required of faculty to convert from a conventional classroom format to an e-Learning format.  It is even easier to underestimate the effort and skill required of faculty to change from professor-centered classroom activities to the genuinely learner-centered activities made possible by technology.  Consequently, workload calculations for e-Learning courses should reflect the additional effort and skill required of faculty.  The workload calculations should be uniform and consistent with guidelines currently used to determine assigned time for excess enrollment, for differences in course classification, and for faculty to make use of support available for both technology and pedagogy.

11. Copyright, Patent and Ownership Policy

Ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the utilization of revenue derived from the creation and production of software, telecourses, or other media products shall be agreed upon by the faculty and the University in accordance with the University's Copyright and Patent Policy and guidelines (UMC02750).

"As a university system and creators of intellectual property, the California State University system has a significant interest in ensuring that all copyrighted material is protected and that the rights of copyright holders and creators of intellectual property are respected and maintained." Introduction CSU Executive Order 999

It is the policy of the CSU to use any and all information technologies in a manner consistent with the federal laws governing copyright protection as outlines in California State University Executive Order 999.

12. Review Process

Commencing with the approval of this policy, every three years the Curriculum Policy Committee of the Faculty Senate shall initiate a review process to ascertain the need for updates or modifications to the e-Learning policy. The committee conducting this review, the majority of whom will be faculty, will consist of representatives from Academic Technology and Creative Services (ATCS), the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the faculty who teach hybrid and online courses, the University Library and the Faculty Senate.