Online Course Standards for KCC

The following online course standards were adapted from the standards of Lansing Community College, Michigan Virtual University, Michigan Colleges Online (MCO [formerly Michigan Community College Virtual Learning Collaborative]), and the WIDS Learning Design System. Additionally, a quality review rubric has been developed through KCC’s Online Course Development Committee (OCDC). The rubric combines best practices and standards from MCO, Quality Matters, C-RAC, 21st Century Distance Education Guidelines, and the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). These standards provide a baseline against which online courses at KCC can be measured.

Many of these standards are critical for student success in an online course. These critical standards must be met before a course will be approved as “ready to offer.” Deviation from less important standards can provide room for creativity and experimentation. Such deviations must be justified in writing when the course is submitted to the Director of Learning Technologies along with the Online Course Development Rubric for approval as “ready to offer.”

KCC faculty developing courses for online delivery will have appropriate training and technical support, access to appropriate technology, and support of an instructional designer.

There are four main components to KCC’s Online Course Standards:

I. Instructional Standards
II. Communication Standards
III. Assessment Standards
IV. Course Maintenance Standards

I. Instructional Standards

A. Standards – Delivery

1. Moodle is the standard delivery platform for online courses at Kellogg Community College.

  • Students learn best in an environment that has a consistent user interface and is user friendly. By having a single portal for all online courses at Kellogg Community College, students will be less distracted by learning technologies and more able to focus on the course content.
  • Faculty are encouraged to use other technologies such as Sharepoint Designer (for websites), CDs, multimedia (SoftChalk, video, audio, etc.), and publisher websites, but these should be accessed from the Moodle course site whenever possible.

2. A standard online syllabus or information sheet for the course, suitable for MCO usage, is posted on the Online Learning at KCC website.

  • When the course is offered for online delivery, a link to it will be provided from the appropriate semester’s listing of KCC’s offering of online courses. Currently the online course listing can be found at the Online Learning at KCC website. Of particular importance are clearly stating the interaction requirements for the course, accurately and clearly stating the minimum technology requirements, specifying any required trips to KCC campus or proctoring sites, and up-to-date textbook listing that includes the ISBN number.

3. There is a schedule of course activities that matches the course and module objectives and shows the relative timing of instructional events. For most courses, this will be a part of the standard syllabus.

4. Course materials are accessible and in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For KCC specific information, please visit the Center for Student Success: Disability Services.

5. Proposed exceptions to the course delivery standards must be submitted in writing along with the course development checklist for approval from the Dean of Educational Services when the request for approval for an online course offering is made.

B. Standards – Course outcomes consistent with classroom-based course offering

1. Kellogg Community College’s online courses are to be equivalent to classroom-based courses. To ensure this, online courses must have the same course description, course goals, and course objectives or outcomes as classroom-based courses having the same course code.

  • Wherever possible, the syllabus, schedule, textbook and evaluation criteria are to be identical for the online sections of the course and those offered in the classroom-based format.

2. Exceptions to the course outcomes consistency standard should be documented in writing, listing each exception and the reason that the exception is being made. The exception document must be approved by the appropriate director or chair and submitted along with the course development checklist for approval from the Dean when requests for approval of online course offerings are made.

C. Standards – Course outcomes and structure

1. There are course goals that describe what the students will be able to do as a result of completing the course. The goals should provide a concise picture of the overall purpose of the course (i.e., they should answer the question, “What is this course about?”). These goals must be the same as the goals for the classroom-based course.

2. There are course objectives that support the course goals by providing a framework for students to organize their plans for successfully completing the course. Course objectives are the intended outcomes of the course learning experience, and they define major skills, knowledge, or abilities needed to perform a task effectively. These objectives describe the specific tasks or exercises that the students should accomplish, and they must be stated in observable, measurable, and achievable terms.

  • The course objectives are to be closely connected with real world performance objectives. In other word, the skills, knowledge, attitude, or abilities should be easily applied to future learning experiences or workplace requirements.
  • The standards used for these objectives should be identified whenever possible (for example, they may be identified as being from professional requirements, advisory committee recommendations, transfer program requirements, etc.).
  • Any deviation of the course objectives used by the online course compared to the objectives of the classroom-based course must be identified by the instructor or developer and approved by the appropriate director or chair and the appropriate Dean.

3. There is a capstone activity or “test” that demonstrates and documents that the student has reached mastery of the course objectives. The capstone activity or ‘test” should provide reasonable assurance that the demonstration of mastery is the work of the student.

  • The capstone activity should include the test condition, behavior, standard and lower limits.
  • An evaluation rubric should be developed to clearly show what is meant by mastery.
  • All objectives should be measured either during the module examinations or directly in the capstone activity (or activities).
  • Assessment methods must be appropriate to the outcomes, activities, and technologies used.
  • Authentication of student worked is determined by having at least 30% of the student’s grade based on proctored or identifiable activities.

4. The course information (or syllabus) provides clear instructions and definitions including

  • Prerequisite skills and knowledge
  • Expectations of activities
  • Level of participation
  • Time commitments
  • How to proceed and learn the material

5. The course information should include a visual diagram and explanation of course organization that presents a clear and simple organization of the course objectives and required activities that accompany each objective.

  • Most often this is presented as a schedule matrix or table that visually displays the modular breakdown of the course material, required readings, activities, assessments, and due dates.

D. Standards – Module development plan

1. There are clearly stated module outcomes

  • There is a clear overview statement describing the module content in general terms.
  • There is a module goal that describe what the students will be able to do as a result of completing the module. The goal should provide a concise picture of the overall purpose of the module.
  • There are module objectives that support the module goal by providing a framework for students to organize their plans for successfully completing the module. Module objectives are the intended outcomes of the module, and they define skills, knowledge, attitudes, or abilities needed to perform the module activities. These objectives describe the specific tasks or exercises that the students should accomplish, and they must be stated in observable, measurable, and achievable terms.
  • All module objectives are a subset or detailed application of the course objectives. This is to ensure there is consistency among content, objectives, practice, and assessment.
    • All activities, including assessment, must be directly related to the course objectives.

2. The content for each module is organized, complete, appropriate and limited to the essential.

  • The content is complete for the module purpose – that is, all of the content the students have to learn to reach the objectives is presented.
  • The content is appropriate for the type of knowledge or material presented in the course. Instructional research has shown that most course content can be categorized under one of the following content types:
    • Facts to recall: Facts provide students with “information about” particular topics. Course content would include an organized outline of facts and support of facts as needed.
    • Concepts to identify relations: Concepts help students determine “kinds of” and “types of” information. Course content would include definitions of categories, primary examples and non-examples.
    • Principles to apply: Principles answer the questions “how does” or “why did” events occur. Course content would include information about the relation among variables and evidence.
    • Tasks: Tasks explain “how to” do exercises/work. Course content would provide steps, including sub-steps for each major step, and demonstration of the skill.
    • Elements of the whole: Elements help students to identify the “parts of” systems, devices, structures, or events in relation to its whole. Course content would inform students how to identify, locate, and/or describe elements in relation to its whole.
  • The content is reduced to the essentials.
    • It is in its simplest form:
      • Facts – Primary facts
      • Concepts – Present distinguishing characteristics
      • Principles – Explanation of cause and effect relations.
      • Tasks – Present step-by-step information
      • Elements – Breakdown of whole concept into individual elements
    • The “nice to know” material has been abbreviated or made a part of optional further study.
    • The content has been chunked and divided into sub-objectives.
    • The content leads to sub-assessments or exercises that ultimately lead to the module assessments.
      • Module assessments should be comprised of the same type and level of assessment as the sub-assessments.
      • When application (or performance) assessment is required, examples and practice items must be presented and feedback provided before the application assessment is administered.
  • Use of multimedia enhances, supports, and is pedagogically appropriate for course content.

3. There are consistent module instructional design components

Quality instructional design requires that there are components such as motivational techniques, objectives or overview of lessons, information presentation or demonstration, practice or exploration, feedback, and assessment. These components can be presented early in the course to provide orientation for the students. Other components make up the central course material that is presented to the students, whereas remaining components provide students with reorientation or concluding material.

  • There are adequate orienting components
    • There is an overview which provides the structure of the ideas in the component (both main and supportive ideas), with main ideas in the component mapped to the module objective from which they are derived.
    • There are clear descriptions of the component objectives:
      • Corresponds to the assessment at the end of each component.
      • Corresponds to possible real world application of each component objectives.
    • There is a motivational segment at the start (and throughout) each component communicating the benefits of learning this material, including where this content will be used (for example, on the job) and the real world consequences of its use.
    • There is either a review or pretest of prerequisites so that students possess or are alerted to the knowledge or skill needed to successfully learn the presented material.
    • There is an agenda (or a schedule) unless the module agenda (schedule) is clearly indicated on the overall course schedule.
    • Clear and consistent navigational information is provided. The importance of being able to navigate through an online course cannot be overstated. Provide appropriate navigational information so that students are not hindered or frustrated when attempting to access course material.
    • There are complete lists of equipment/tool and time requirements.
  • There are central components to promote learning
    • There is explanation or discovery of needed information:
      • Essential – Only relevant information is provided.
      • Organized – Course material is clearly labeled. Chunking (or subsets) of course material relate logically to the entire body of course material.
      • Accurate – Provide precise definitions and facts.
      • Up-to-date – Material should be as recent as possible (i.e. latest known).
      • Concrete – Real experiences, examples, experiments, cases, demonstrations related to students’ needs and interests should be provided.
      • Additional related information may be offered for learning as a part of group projects or student research opportunities to add value to the course information if students are given sufficient guidance and time in selecting or expanding on the related information.
    • There is a demonstration of the exercise and assessment performance.
      • Provide example on how to do the practice so attention is directed to the critical aspects of the behavior.
      • Assessment environment is simulated in practice activities.
    • There is objective-oriented practice with prompting.
      • Each objective will be practiced the way that it will be assessed and, wherever possible, should also occur in the manner the objective is applied to real world activities.
      • Prompts are minimal but are sufficient to prompt the student to act.
    • There is timely and complete feedback.
      • Feedback should be provided and based on objective and comprehensive criteria from multiple sources (for example, instructor, peers, self-evaluation).
      • Feedback should be complete. In other words, the student should have an idea as to where to improve and where learning has been successful.
      • For critically important components, there should be remediation for inadequate performance beyond going back to earlier material.
  • There are concluding components to reorient learners
    • There is a summary for each module where the main ideas are summarized.
    • There is an integration of information where the relationship between the current module and course objectives is communicated.
    • There is a reorienting assessment that links the module objective to the students’ performance or demonstration of understanding of module material.
      • Assessment can be self-assessments.
      • Module assessments should be similar to the capstone assessments in measuring mastery.

4. There are suitable methods.

  • The methods are appropriate for learning
    • The methods used for disseminating information should be:
      • Easy to locate – clear navigation to locate where is the information is to be found.
      • Clear – easy to comprehend (i.e. tone and vocabulary should be consistent).
      • Emphasized – “need to know” ideas emphasized and “nice to know” is minimized.
      • Chunked – whole concepts should be broken down into subcomponents.
      • Modeled – sample work should be provided to orient students to the central aspects of the material, exercise, or assessment.
    • The methods used for practicing or engaging with learned material should include full objective-oriented practice for each student.
  • The methods are appropriate for the student audience
    • The methods are engaging.
      • Aesthetically pleasing – course material is usable, attractive, and has a consistent look and feel.
      • Appropriately interactive – there should be frequent opportunities for evaluation of understanding that provides orientation and feedback.
      • Course learning activities foster instructor-student, student-content and, where appropriate, student-student interaction.
      • Instructor personalized – instructor-provided information should enhance text-based information.
      • Varied – rich course content includes a variety of instructional techniques (e.g., graphics. interaction, humor, surprise, suspense, puzzles, questions, games, aids, analogies, metaphors, and/or charts).
      • Challenging – students’ growing level of skills are matched with increasing challenges (e.g. exercises that are just above students’ comfort and skill).
    • The methods are acceptable to the students.
      • Method desired – students are receptive to this method and have the skill and resources to use method.
      • Student controlled – within confines of the structure and schedule established for the course, students have choice of content, pacing, and mode of learning.
      • Relevant – the material relates to students’ goals/jobs.
      • Conversational – the tone and vocabulary of the course material are appropriate for students.
      • Unbiased – course material avoids stereotypes and biased language.
  • The methods are appropriate for college support staff
    • The college support staff can carry out and are willing to support delivery methods used in the course.
    • If a development team is utilized,
      • The team should be able to develop for the methods as designed.
      • An instructional designer will oversee structure and design before content is developed.
  • The methods are appropriate for the college system
    • The chosen delivery method (i.e. course management system) should be tested and found reliable for system use.
    • College facilities, equipment, and staff are sufficient to support the delivery of the course.
    • Sufficient funding should be available to fund and maintain the delivery of the course.
    • Delivery of the course fits within college system time constraints (for example, college calendar and semester structure).
    • The demand for course management by the college should be minimal.

E. Course is reviewed

A formative evaluation will be conducted to evaluate the course’s effectiveness and to influence immediate decisions about how it might be improved.

  • During the first semester the course is offered online, an evaluation of the course will be conducted to determine which areas of the course are in need of improvement:
  • The first semester evaluation uses several methods for evidence (for example, observation, interview, questionnaire, materials analysis, and assessment results).

A summative evaluation will be conducted to evaluate the continued offering of the course.

  • A summative evaluation will be conducted to decide continued use of the course.
    • Is the course effective (i.e. can students demonstrate understanding and improved learning of course material)?
    • An end-of-the-course evaluation should demonstrate that the course actually produces the intended outcomes.

II. Communication Standards

Instructor-with-students interaction
Learning community: Students-with-students interaction

A. Instructor-with-students interaction

  • Instructor-to-student interaction must occur often.
    • Instructor should contact students at the startup of class. [Please view the Communication Tips sheet for examples]
    • Instructor should monitor all class discussion boards frequently (at least three times a week) and appropriately respond to enough discussion messages so the students know the instructor is participating.
    • Instructor should send a weekly message to the class.
    • Instructor should manage the communication expectations of the students by specifying timelines for responses and feedback. This includes informing students what they can expect from the instructor for response time to communication, availability on weekends or holidays, and any planned absences during the semester.
    • Instructor should encourage students to ask questions in the discussion boards, so students can get help and feedback from fellow students as well as the instructor. This helps establish a learning community environment necessary to have a positive learning environment.
    • Quality and improved learning requires that feedback be provided quickly. As a general rule,
      • Answers to routine questions should be provided within 48 hours.
      • Graded materials should be returned within one week of date due. (Feedback on assignments does not need to include individual evaluation of answers.)
      • Instructor should inform students of evaluation criteria standards.
  • Instructor may choose whether to release course materials and content all at the beginning of the semester or to periodically release it during the semester. When it is released periodically during the semester, the instructor must communicate in advance to students the timeline of its release. Any variance from expectations must be communicated to the students as soon as it is identified.
  • Instructors should provide multiple methods of communication for when a student may be unable to contact the instructor online. The course should contain a telephone number and a mailing address. Office location and office hours should be published when appropriate (and a statement as to whether online students are welcome to meet with you during office hours).
  • The instructor should discourage student-to-instructor e-mail contact for general class business to avoid burdensome and repetitive e-mail.

B. Learning community: Students-with-students interaction

  • An instructor should establish an environment where students interact/communicate with other students to increase the level of learning and to expose them to other students’ learning experiences and communication styles.
    • For literacy level courses this might occur as general discussion questions.
    • For modular training courses, this might occur as a “frequently asked questions” (FAQ) discussion forum, plus forums for asking questions about each project or assignment.
    • For most courses, there should be meaningful discussion questions requiring both thoughtful and personal sharing of information.
    • Wherever possible, group activities should be established, so students can practice forming working relationships with others and develop skills in working in a team environment. Group and student-to-student interaction reinforces much of the instructional information.

III. Assessment Standards

  • Every assessment measure is based directly and exclusively on stated module objectives that are directly and exclusively related to the course objectives.
  • Assessment questions or exercises are appropriate for the level of outcome specified in the course objectives.
  • Assessment questions or exercises are based on practice activities that provide performance feedback.
  • Clearly-stated criteria for the evaluation of the assessment or performance is provided for each student’s work/performance.

IV. Course Maintenance Standards

  • A plan is in place for continual review and improvement of the course.
  • The learning design is evaluated regularly for effectiveness.

These standards were approved by KCC Academic Cabinet on February 20, 2002.