Understanding what makes an online course work
Our Team helps guide you through our Quality Checks along the entire lifespan of a course so you can be successful for your students.
Course Quality Rubrics
The VCU Online Course Quality Rubrics are based on the open access rubric developed by Open SUNY called the Online Course Quality Review (or OSCQR) rubric. OSCQR is based on years of research and best practices in online teaching and learning. VCU Online has altered this rubric based on our experience with the needs and preferences of VCU faculty and students.
Various regulations and policies influence online courses. This section covers the definition of distance education, regular and substantive interaction, and direct and indirect learning.
Defining Distance Education
The Code of Federal Regulations (34 CFR 600.2) defines distance education as:
Education that uses one or more of the technologies listed below “…to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor or instructors, and to support regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor or instructors, either synchronously or asynchronously.”
The technologies that may be used for distance education are:
- the internet
- one-way and two-way transmissions (open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices)
- audio conferencing
- other media used alongside the technologies previously listed
Regular and Substantive Interaction
The distance education definition in 34 CFR 600.2 identifies regular and substantive interaction between the student and the instructor as a key component.
Regular instructional interactions are predictable and scheduled (meeting on XYZ day, quiz/test on XYZ date, etc.). Additionally, regular interactions require that the instructor monitor the student’s academic engagement and be timely and proactive in those interactions (whether based on their monitoring of the student or the student’s request).
Substantive interactions engage students in teaching, learning, and assessment that is aligned with the content of the course. Furthermore, substantive interactions must provide at least two of the following:
- feedback on coursework
- information or responses to course content questions
- facilitation of group discussion
- other activities approved by the institutional or programmatic accreditor
- direct instruction (which is defined by the Department of Education as “live, synchronous instruction where both the instructor and the student are online and in communication at the same time”)
Institutions of higher education have an obligation under Section 504 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide auxiliary aids and services to students with disabilities. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights specifies that it is the institution’s responsibility to provide “auxiliary aids and services in a timely manner to ensure effective participation by students with disabilities.” (para. 6). Auxiliary aids, according to the OCR, include closed captioning among other things.
Furthermore, VCU’s university captioning guidelines state that “Websites containing audio/visual media provided by instructors for students must provide appropriate captioning or transcriptions for these materials.” Compliance with those captioning guidelines is a requirement of VCU’s Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation for Individuals with Disabilities Policy (see page 5).
In order to ensure all students, including those with a disability, can effectively participate in online courses, audio and visual media should provide accurate closed captioning or a transcription.