UNDERGRADUATE COURSE AND PROGRAM REVIEW COMMITTEE
PROPOSED DISTANCE LEARNING APPROVAL PROCESS
HISTORY At its summer 1998 meeting, Faculty Senate charged the Undergraduate Course and Program Review Committee (UCPRC) with developing a process for approving courses offered by distance learning. UCPRC began considering the issues during the fall 1998 semester. UCPRC solicited the thoughts of faculty through an e-mail message to department chairs in late September 1998. In early October, Drs. Diane Umble (Virtual Univ.), Richard Kerper (GCPRC), Richard Frerichs (TEC), and Robert Wismer (UCPRC) arrived at a tentative process that was blended with the ideas of UCPRC and the responses from faculty chairs. The resulting first version of the DL approval process was circulated through e-mail to faculty senators and department chairs in late November 1998. Their comments were considered by UCPRC in producing a second version, which was also circulated by e-mail in late February 1998. The comments that resulted from that second version suggested changes that are incorporated in this third version, which UCPRC passed by consensus at its regular meeting on 9 March 1999.
This third version of the process now is submitted to Senate for debate and possible adoption.
DEFINITIONS Distance learning (abbreviated DL) is taken to indicate a method of instruction when instructor and student are physically separate from each other. It can include, for instance, video conferencing, web-based learning, and correspondence courses.
CONCERNS There are a number of concerns that have been raised with regard to distance learning. These include, not necessarily in order of importance: (1) Ensuring that the student is academically honest: that s/he is who s/he claims to be, that her/his work is hers/his own, that the work of the course is completed in the prescribed manner, etc.; (2) Maintaining the quality of offerings by Millersville University and not permitting trivial courses to be offered; (3) Assisting faculty in presenting courses in this manner, specifically providing them with the advice and resources they need to present a DL course; (4) Using new technology effectively, not just converting a course to a DL format because it would be different but because the DL format offers advantages that traditional formats do not; (5) Ensuring that faculty do not spend considerable effort developing DL course materials with no recognition; (6) Obtaining compensation--in the form of release time, financial renumeration, additional equipment, etc.--for the faculty member who develops a DL course; and many others.
APPROVAL PROCESS This approval process does not attempt to solve all problems associated with DL. In part, this is because UCPRC does not possess the expertise to solve these problerns. In part, this is because these problems do not fall within the purview of UCPRC. For instance, the ownership of materials developed to offer a DL course is not a curricular matter, but probably a copyright matter. In addition, this process deals with courses that originate at Millersville and does not consider the approval of DL courses offered by other institutions; that is possibly an Academic Policies matter.
Furthermore, this process of approval regards DL as a method of instruction that uses technology to present information. Faculty are presently learning how to use this technology effectively. Eventually it will be incorporated into the repertoire of the effective and efficient instructor, somewhat in the way that an overhead projector has become incorporated into the range of available technologies. When that time arrives, probably within five to ten years, this process of DL approval should fade away.
COURSES TO BE APPROVED
All courses that use distance learning as the principal means of instruction are to be approved by this process. This includes courses that already have been approved to be offered by traditional means and courses that have been provisionally approved on an experimental basis for distance learning. If there is any question whether a particular proposal needs to have its distance learning component approved, one should err on the side of caution and request approval. A new course is to be approved by the traditional course approval process as well as by the distance leaming process.
A course proposed for distance learning will be so designated by its proposer. That individual will state the method of distance learning to be employed (video conferencing, e-mail, etc.), provide references and/or justification supporting the offering of this type of material with this method, and indicate the experience of the proposer with this method of offering a course. The proposer will also include samples of course material specifically prepared for the method proposed. For example, if a web-based approach is contemplated, the proposal. will contain the address of the web page with at least enough material thereon to constitute a week's worth of the course.
The proposal will have been developed in consultation with faculty who have previously offered DL courses successfully and the staff of the New Media Design Center (or its successor). This will enable the proposer to take maximum advantage of the technology and will assist the proposer in confronting questions and difficulties before the course is offered. A memo included with the course proposal will indicate which experienced DL faculty advisors have been consulted in the development of the proposal. and how the New Media Design Center has been involved in developing the course. It is envisioned that this memo will be similar to memos now required when the content of a proposed course closely approaches the subject area of another department (as for example when the Chemistry Department might propose a course in algebraic methods and would consult with the Mathematics Departrnent--in this case to ensure there is no duplication).
DISTANCE LEARNING ADVISORS AND THE NEW MEDIA DESIGN CENTER
It is hoped that consultation at the early developmental stages of the proposal will enable the proposer to anticipate problems, answer questions, and generally produce a DL course that is effective and not needlessly time-consuming.
A roster of DL advisors will be created, consisting of Millersville faculty who have successfully offered courses with a substantial distance learning component and who are willing to give advice and assistance to others. The more faculty who agree to serve, the less the work load on an individual faculty member. It seems reasonable that this roster of advisors will be maintained by the New Media Design Center. [Questions: How do we identify what constitutes a "successful" offering? How do we encourage faculty to serve as advisors, especially in the present climate where many faculty expect release time for substantial contributions to the University?]
A faculty member who is contemplating creating a DL course proposal will consult the roster of DL advisors and chose at least two to assist in the development of the proposal. They may be faculty from within the proposer's department. In consultation with these advisors and the staff of the New Media Design Center, the proposer will create the proposal. These contributions of others will be indicated in the memo attached to the proposal. All advisors and staff members consulted need to agree with the proposal.
DEPARTMENTAL CURRICULUM COMMITTEE
The course proposal is submitted to the departmental curriculum committee. This committee checks to make sure the appropriate memo is included. It may wish to have the DL advisors present when it considers the proposal. If the memo regarding DL is not present, the departmental curriculum committee will not consider the proposal.
Assuming that the departmental curriculum committee has approved the DL proposal, the proposal is considered by the entire department. If the departinent approves of the DL proposal, the course can be presented by that DL method. If an instructor requests that a course be presented by a different DL method (web-based instead of video conferencing, for instance), the new method of offering the course must again be approved by the DL process.
Please communicate your concerns and suggestions regarding this process to the chair of UCPRC: Robert Wismer, Chemistry Department, email@example.com. Thank you.