BUSINESS STUDIES DIVISION
DISTANCE LEARNING STANDARDS
Established Fall 2009
Business Studies courses offered in a distance
learning format has increased substantially over the past few years
continues to grow.
certificates can now be completed solely through distance learning. Technological
and pedagogical advances in
distance learning are evolving rapidly which has greatly improved the
of distance education from the days of self-paced correspondence
courses that students
completed in isolation from the instructor and other students.
distance learning offerings at colleges
nationwide has led to the development of broad standards by SACS and
Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).
established an administrative rule on distance
learning best practices that is based on the SACS policy statement. The
rule is a formal adoption of the SACS
policy that maintains the primacy of faculty in determining course
a division-wide set of standards that meet
the intent of the administrative rule. Since
business students take courses from multiple business departments they
assured that any distance learning business course taken will meet
standards set forth in this document.
these standards are to:
that the quality of
distance learning courses is acceptable to both students, transfer
universities, and local employers, and that they match the quality of
traditional classroom courses as closely as possible
students with important
information about distance learning courses before registration
a similar level of
interaction between students and between students and instructor that
is achieved in traditional classroom courses
students with a
consistent way to access distance learning course materials through
the privacy and security
of student grades
academic dishonesty by
verifying students’ identities prior to taking exams and by
encouraging faculty to adopt instructional practices that minimize the
possibility of academic dishonesty
between instructor and student
faculty to keep up
with advances in distance education through ongoing professional
were developed by a committee of Business
Studies faculty from various disciplines and revised in a forum
Business Studies faculty.
Care has been
taken not to usurp the primacy of faculty in determining course content. The
standards will be updated periodically to
reflect advances in distance learning instruction.
Studies distance learning courses will be of
the same quality and academic rigor as traditional classroom courses. This
document establishes minimum
standards for distance learning
courses based on input from distance learning faculty, guidelines from
accrediting agencies and THECB, and distance learning best practices. These
standards apply to all distance
learning formats, and to the distance learning component of hybrid
encouraged to adopt additional standards.
Learner Support &
SACS requirement states:
have adequate access to the
range of services appropriate to support the programs, including
financial aid, academic advising, delivery of course materials, and
and counseling. (CR 2.10)
convenient access to ACC distance learning
(DL) resources at http://dl.austincc.edu/. The
following information is included in this
web site: Is DL
Right for You?; DL
Student FAQs; Registering
for a DL
a DL Course; and Succeeding
in a DL Course. Distance
learning instructors will make this
information available to students before enrolling in a course. This
allows students to determine if the
distance learning format is right for them and provides help for
currency of materials, programs,
(CS 3.5.3 and CS
links in distance learning courses should
be easily accessible for students and must be kept current.
learning courses must include
learning materials that are appropriate for electronic delivery. These
materials must have substantial
learning value and be, at a minimum, equivalent to materials used in
The SAC requirement states:
technology used is appropriate to the
nature and objectives of the programs and courses.
concerning the use of such
technology are clearly communicated to students. (CS 126.96.36.199)
distance education course are able to use the technology employed, have
equipment necessary to succeed, and are provided assistance in using
technology employed. (CS 3.4.14)
instructors will utilize technologies that
enhance the learning experience, are appropriate for the course
content, and create
a learning environment that actively engages students.
Development Services can assist
with identifying and implementing appropriate course technology. http://irt.austincc.edu/ids/
components of the course must be communicated
to students before registration via instructor and/or department web
should be advised that they can use
open computer labs at any ACC campus to access online course content.
learning instructors will use the Blackboard
course management system.
content may be maintained on a separate
web site, but Blackboard must be used as the portal for the course. Blackboard
is supported by ACC and is used by
student familiarity, thereby minimizing the need for students to learn
different online systems for each course. It
also places course content and student
information on a secure internal server. http://irt.austincc.edu/blackboard/
Blackboard integration includes:
– The Blackboard grade center is convenient and secure for
students and faculty.
communicate grades to students in compliance with federal privacy laws
the Blackboard server and instructors can easily download grades to
posted on a
– Faculty should post announcements throughout the semester. The
Blackboard announcement feature is an
efficient way to communicate information to all students.
– Frequent communication with distance learning students is
critical to student success. The Blackboard discussion board
students to interact with the instructor and each other.
private listserv may be used in addition to, or in
place of the Blackboard discussion board. If
a listserv is used students must be notified that the email address
they use may be visible to other students. Instructions
should be provided for students who wish to establish a separate email
address for the listserv.
– The Assignment feature and Digital Dropbox allow students
submit assignments that are easily collected and graded by
provide feedback and post the grade in the Blackboard grade center. The
assignment is archived and can be viewed
by students and the instructor. http://irt.austincc.edu/blackboard/assignments.html
– Documents can be loaded from any internet connection. They
are secure because they are not easily
indexed by online search engines such as Google. Course
documents and links must be kept current.
– This is easy to post and convenient for students.
(including ACC mailing address and fax number, if available), office
location, office hours, and a link to the instructor’s web
must be included along with additional information at the discretion of
the instructor or department.
a web site to provide course
instructor contact information to potential students. Students
cannot access content in Blackboard until they register for a course. A
web site allows potential students to
review a distance learning course before registration to determine if
appropriate for them. A
web site can
also answer questions that distance learning students frequently have
the semester begins. Beginning
2010, the State of Texas via the THECB will require all instructors at
colleges and universities to have instructional web sites.
guidelines meet the THECB criteria for
faculty web sites.
information for web site:
information as defined in the section above (Vita and a personal photo
detailed synopsis for each course
- A list
textbooks (including ISBN) and course materials for each course
department web pages, ACC homepage http://www.austincc.edu/,
and distance learning information for students http://dl.austincc.edu/students/
the schedule (printed and on-line) must
include the instructors email address and/or phone number.
must respond to student inquiries
about upcoming courses before the beginning of the semester.
information must be kept up-to-date. A
link to the online office hour system should
be incorporated into the instructor’s web site and Blackboard
This ensures that
consistent and readily available to students and ACC personnel. https://www3.austincc.edu/it/fachours/edit.asp
Course notes in the
schedule (printed and on-line) must clearly
communicate the method and deadline for the
not completing the orientation or completing the orientation after the
materials can either
be given to students during a required
orientation or made available on Blackboard.
instructors may use the Early Intervention
Request Form to track students who do not complete the orientation and
assist students who require additional support. http://dl.austincc.edu/forms/EIRF.php
to student e-mails, discussion board
messages, and phone messages within two business days of their receipt. If
this time frame cannot be met, the
instructor must notify the students. If
the instructor does not respond to inquiries on weekends or holidays,
be stated in the syllabus so students know when to expect replies from
Students have an adequate procedure
for resolving their complaints. (CS 4.5)
must include information about how to resolve
student complaints, grievances, and grade disputes. This
can be accomplished most easily by
including a link to the student handbook. http://www.austincc.edu/handbook/
instructor evaluation procedures must be
adequately communicated to students.
The SAC requirement
and courses provide for timely
and appropriate interaction between students and faculty and among
between students and between students and the
instructor is essential for quality education. Distance
be designed to ensure that the level of interaction is at least
that in a traditional course.
can be used to automate much of the one way
that occurs in a traditional classroom course (e.g., lectures). Distance
learning and interactive technologies
make it possible to greatly exceed the amount of interaction in a
students should be considered when designing the interactive and
requirements of a course.
be appropriate and
clearly communicated to students. Instructors
are encouraged to use grading rubrics to help
communicate effectively and allow for consistent grading.
of the Distance
The SAC requirement states:
of distance education
programs to campus-based programs and course is ensured by the
educational effectiveness, including assessments
students retention, and student satisfaction.
responsibility for and exercises oversight of distance education,
the rigor of programs and the quality of instruction. (CA 3.4.1 and CS
discipline Task Force will determine the
content and effectiveness measures for each course.
learning faculty will be evaluated
using the procedures established by the college, the standards in this
and additional procedures or standards that may be developed by the
faculty member appointed by the Department Chair to assist with faculty
evaluations, may review an instructor’s courses in Blackboard
platform if Blackboard is used only as a portal). This
is equivalent to conducting a classroom
observation in a traditional classroom course. New
distance learning courses and distance learning
courses taught by
instructors for the first time should be carefully reviewed
meet the standards established by the department and this document.
required to master the same course objectives, at the same level, as
in the on-campus course.
teaching/learning activities need not be the same, effective and
must be used.
provide students with the same expertise and support they would receive
on-campus class experience.
minimum, distance learning students must complete an equivalent amount
quizzes, papers, exams, and other learning activities as on-campus
department-wide student assessments are conducted for a
course (e.g., student assessments required by ACBSP or SACS [ULEAD])
assessment must be administered to students in distance learning and
sections of the course.
should be segregated by course delivery method for more effective
The SACS requirement
integrity of student work and the
credibility of degrees and credits are ensured. (Pl
1.1, CS 3.4.6, CS 3.5.3 and CS 3.6.4)
aware of the possibility of students getting help from others on work
outside of monitored exams.
quizzes may be used as learning tools and papers/projects may be
outside of a monitored environment, a substantial proportion
of the course grade should be earned on monitored activities such as
administered by ACC testing centers. Projects
and papers should have different focuses to ensure that students are
in unauthorized collaboration or other academic dishonesty. Students
may be asked to submit progress
reports and/or follow-up reports to help ensure that the student
prepared the assignment.
incorporate a variety of tools to ensure that students are doing their
take exams at ACC testing centers or approved
off-site testing areas so that the identity of the student can be
to assist with secure testing.
SACS requirement states:
who teach in distance education
programs and courses receive appropriate training. (CS 3.7.3)
services are appropriate and specifically related to distance education. (CS
teaching methodologies and technology
their distance learning teaching skills current in order to ensure the
will assign new distance learning instructors
a mentor and provide them with a copy of these standards.
instructors must attend at least one
distance learning workshop each academic year.
learning training and
Business Studies training opportunities are
encouraged to contact their Department Chair or the office of
Studies Dean with training requests.
Studies Division also maintains a Blackboard site
for distance learning faculty to communicate and collaborate on
learning teaching strategies.
Updated January 2010