420 Oak Street PRK 120
Big Rapids, MI 49307
Have questions about Online Learning at Ferris? Check out one of the topic areas below! If you have a question and it's not listed here, feel free to email [email protected] for more information.
My Tech Support has great information provided on requesting course shells, opening your course, and technology integrated with Blackboard such as Tegrity. Check out their webpages here: Blackboard Support
American Disabilities Act guidelines for online courses. Find out what simple things you can do in your online course to make it more accessible for students with hearing and/or sight impairments.
The quality of online courses is the responsibility of the Colleges, the departments, the programs, and individual faculty members who teach the courses - just as is true for face-to-face and mixed- delivery courses. The University provides assistance to faculty through the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning to develop high quality courses in any mode, including online and face-to-face. FCTL and Media Services personnel can provide assistance with instructional design, technology implementation, and graphics or media development, among other services.
Online courses are evaluated by the same methods as face-to-face courses and in a variety of ways. Some instructors select the online course as one in which they will have the Student Assessment of Instruction or IDEA form administered (or other alternative forms when available) – but for full-time faculty, this choice is at the faculty member’s discretion. Adjunct faculty should have their online section evaluated every semester, at the discretion of the department.
Many faculty are using the new IDEA form that is offered online, but student response rates have been low. Response rates improve when faculty members associate points or other credit with completion of the form, yet some are reluctant to link points to completion of the form. More effort must be directed here to increase response rates.
The best evaluation of the quality of online courses is to assess the extent to which intended learning outcomes have been met.
Extensive external research suggests that online courses can be at least as effective as face-to-face courses. The variation between face-to-face and online is no greater than the variation between one face-to-face section and another.
Key to developing a quality online course is that one recognizes the important differences between the virtual and on-ground classrooms and adapts the pedagogy to fit these differences. Good instructional design is key to the development of online courses, just as it is important for face-to-face. However, more needs to be well planned in advance for the online environment. At Ferris, professionals in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and many faculty and faculty trainers are knowledgeable about best practices in online learning. Ferris faculty are encouraged to utilize the Center’s services as they develop and improve online courses.
The Blackboard system has been very reliable. Regular monthly maintenance is scheduled and down times are communicated broadly. On occasion, problems with the system are not the Blackboard platform but are instead either internet service interruptions, computer incompatibilities,browser issues, MyFSU downtime, or other factors. “Uptime” with the system is generally at least 99.5%. Planned outages are done in consultation with faculty to determine the least disruptive times, often resulting in the IT Staff’s being on campus on holidays and other breaks
Decisions about which courses will be offered online are made at the Department and College level. The decision to offer a course online may be prompted by a number of variables. Sometimes an individual faculty member will want to offer a course online and will develop the course for this delivery method. Sometimes students will request that a course be offered online, and the department may respond to this interest. Sometimes EIO or the College identifies courses that would assist off-campus or online students to complete their degrees and/or provide greater efficiency for the university (such as combining students at two or more sites to make a full class). When these needs/desires become known, it is the responsibility of the department leadership to determine whether they will offer the course online, whether the course should be developed if it has not previously been developed, etc. It is widely understood that not all classes lend themselves equally well to online delivery; nevertheless, across the country, an increasing number of colleges are successfully taking advantage of technology and online delivery.
Class sizes are determined by the department and college offering the courses, with consideration given to the type of course, interactions between faculty and students, etc. Additional consideration should also be given to teaching techniques which would allow for high quality online instruction but without increasing the time and effort in teaching these courses.
As Ferris has become more and more strategic with regard to online programs and online course delivery, we have also created several long range planning documents to assist both students and departments in their planning. At this time, these exist as separate documents for each college. As these become more reliable in terms of consistency, we will begin to share these in a broader sense with students so they can better plan their course selections for upcoming semesters.
When there is interest in developing a program (or degree completion program) for online delivery, both EIO and the offering college will work in collaboration to determine feasibility. In general terms, we need to determine if there is sufficient interest to successfully launch and sustain a program fully online. In addition, a close review should be conducted of: costs for development; advising needs; student support services needed; courses required from other colleges, such as Arts, Sciences and Education; technology needed, etc. This is of course in addition to basic program feasibility such as industry needs, faculty availability, etc.
A Online Program Evaluation and Planning Guide was developed by EIO to assist colleges and departments in answering some of the common questions
Historically, Extended and International Operations paid for the development of online courses that were designed to meet the off-campus and online audience needs. In the academic year 2009-10, the development rate was $1,857.64 per credit.The Course Development Agreement and process that was in use at the time is part of the FFA contract. In that process, EIO in consultation with the Office of Academic Affairs determined whether funds were available to develop the course, and whether it served our distant students. Not all requests were honored. Each course was only paid once, and then it was to be available for other faculty members to use when the developing instructor chose not to offer it or there were more sections that need to be covered.
Several changes occurred since this process was implemented which impact the ability to pay for course development. EIO no longer receives funding for online courses, and as a result does not have 'venture capital' to spend on course development. In addition, the eLearning Management Advisory Team, also faced with scarce resources, did not recommend budgeting funding for online development. Instead, they proposed a system for development of modules and strategies that would have broader appeal for online and blended courses. Paying for course development has not resulted in the sharing of full courses that was originally envisioned and seems counter to the Ferris and academic cultures, where individual faculty want the freedom to create their own instructional materials.
At this time, faculty interested in expanding their program to broader (online) audiences have participated in course development as a part of their faculty position. Reassigned time is occasionally utilized for development, but has the added complication about course ownership that we encountered with direct payment for course development.
If course development has been paid for by the University, the University owns the course. If the faculty member has developed it independently, it is owned by the individual faculty member, except as noted below. When a faculty member’s course is used by another faculty member, the faculty member may request to be paid a royalty for the use of the course for a limited time, as long as the faculty member keeps the course updated.
The University's Intellectual Property policy is included in Appendix C in the FFA contract and explains the ownership provisions.
Cutting through the legalese, the University owns all of its courses and has the right to review the content of them. However, course materials used exclusively by the faculty member are considered to be owned by the faculty member, according to the “academic exception.” If substantial university resources have been used in the development, or if the faculty member has been paid or given re-assigned time for development, the University owns the course materials.
Many online courses are scheduled to meet the specific needs of our place-bound students who are studying at a distance. In the Summer 15 - Spring 2016 academic year, there were over 1300 unduplicated students enrolled in online programs, ranging from degree completion programs like Automotive Management and Dental Hygiene to master's degrees in Nursing and Business.
Our online courses also serve our off campus and main campus students. In the same academic year approximately 32% of the online student credit hours from online courses were from students admitted to fully online programs or certificates. 20% were from students admitted to an off campus location, and 48% were students admitted to a program on the main campus
Online faculty were surveyed in 2011 about a range of topics regarding online education at Ferris. In response to that survey, almost 82% of the faculty who responded indicated that a student orientation should be required before students could take an online course. As a result, the EMAT team began work on a student assessment to be used for any student before they took an online course. The resulting orientation was implemented in the Summer 2013 semester. To provide flexibility for various faculty and for specific courses, faculty are able to select whether or not they would like the Online Readiness Orientation (ORO) required for their course or not. If it should be required, then it is added as a pre-requisite requirement for that particular online section.
Full time faculty who are interested in teaching an online course typically work with their department during the class scheduling process to be assigned to one or more online sections as they would with any course sections.
Adjunct faculty are reviewed and appointed by the College through which the course is offered. Faculty who teach online are screened in the same ways as faculty who teach face-to-face, except that online faculty typically have one additional requirement. Many departments have a faculty review process that includes faculty who teach in the department who decide whether a prospective faculty member has the proper experience to teach selected courses. Sometimes it is a department head who reviews. In all cases, similar qualifications are expected. Individuals are identified as having been approved for particular courses within the program, department, or college.
The one additional consideration given to online faculty credentials is whether they have been trained in the use of the Blackboard system. Any online faculty must have worked with FCTL to demonstrate their skills with online technology before they can receive a course shell for development of their course.
Yes. To be provided with a course shell for building or importing an online course, faculty members must be on the list of individuals who have been trained. Department heads/chairs may make exceptions to this for individuals who have other appropriate training or experience. Blackboard training is available in an online format, through individualized instruction, and through group training programs. All are announced regularly. Contact the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning for options that fit your schedule.
Some Colleges are providing peer mentors for new online faculty.
While there remain plenty of options for instructors to teach classes in the traditional methods, there should be no requirement for faculty to teach online unless they are willing and have completed the Blackboard training. The EMAT team has strongly encouraged the use of volunteers first when staffing online courses, and the faculty contract supports that use of volunteers.
The Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs has overall responsibility for online courses and programs. In addition, responsibilities for online learning are distributed across several areas on campus:
420 Oak Street PRK 120
Big Rapids, MI 49307