Creating Official College Procedures and Guidelines Based on Best Practices in Online Learning

Concurrent Session 1

Brief Abstract

Come see how Florida SouthWestern State College was able to get buy in from faculty to create formal policies for teaching online.


I have worked at Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College) for the past 6 years. I began as an instructional designer, later became the Director of Academic Review and Improvement, and now currently am the Director of Online Learning. I earned my MA in Philosophy at LSU. In addition to my full time duties at the College I have also taught Ethics online for the past 6 years here. I developed my own course which does not require a textbook.

Extended Abstract

Over the past two years our online department has worked with our administration and faculty to create College Operating Procedures (COPs) for teaching online.   We began this process by researching best practices and innovations in online learning pedagogy.  After gathering and vetting the research we worked with our college’s administration to form a standing e-Learning Committee.   This committee was primarily composed of faculty from various disciplines that had taught online for at least two years and had demonstrated proficiency and innovation in their teaching practices.  It also included the Dean of our department (Teaching Innovation, Faculty Development, and Online Learning or TIFDOL), as well as the Director of Online Learning. 

The first charge of the e-Learning committee was to take the research that was compiled and to translate that research into policies, procedures, and guidelines that we felt were crucial to successful online teaching and learning.  Due to the amount of work required to change a COP at our college, as well as the fact that online learning is a rapidly changing modality, we decided upon a strategy of having the COPs be general in nature and primarily refer to a separate set of guidelines.  This strategy allows our e-Learning committee to update the guidelines as needed based on new innovations and best practices in online learning.

The four COPs that were created were: 1) FSW Online, Initial Faculty Certification; 2) FSW Online Renewal Certification; 3) FSW Online Course Development; and 4) TIFDOL General Course Operating Procedures.

The first COP (FSW Online, Initial Faculty Certification) refers to guidelines that outline what is required for a professor to be certified to teach online – no one is allowed to do so without it.  This involves approval from the academic dean and then three courses, Tech 101, Canvas 101, and Teach 101.  Tech 101, a self-paced course verifies that the instructor has the necessary technical skills to handle the logistics of teaching online.  After completing Tech 101, the professor is enrolled in a cohort for Canvas 101.  This course runs every other month and is designed to make the professor proficient in our Learning Management System.  The final course, Teach 101, goes over best practices in online pedagogy.
The second COP (FSW Online Renewal Certification) outlines what is required for a professor to cont

inue to teach after being certified.  This includes providing documentation of professional development relating to online pedagogies or online technologies, adherence to the COP regarding general course operating procedures, and any and all departmental or college-wide academic requirements.

The third COP (FSW Online Course Development) outlines the process to initiate course development, including the selection of the course developer(s), and external reviewer and instructional designer who are charged with vetting the completed course before it is allowed to go “live”.

Finally, the fourth COP (TIFDOL General Course Operating Procedures) refers to guidelines for:  1) Syllabi and Attendance Verification procedures; 2) The requirement for a course introduction; 3) Course Communication and Grading timelines; and 3) Finally Grade Submission and Course Completion procedures.  Some of the more notable components of these guidelines is the requirement that an online instructor must provide an introductory video or presentation outlining their expectations for their students, they must reply to all student communications within one business day, and that the instructor must maintain a “presence” in the course by some form of communication to the entire class no less than on a weekly basis throughout the semester.

During this presentation the process of codifying these procedures and guidelines will be explained and then the participants will be broken into groups to discuss the COPs and guidelines presented.  They will also be asked to discuss what types of policies their schools have in place and/or how they might work on developing similar polices at their own institutions.
The goal of this presentation is for attendees to see if there are ways at their institution to do more than just suggest best practices in online learning, but to put standards in place that insist on following them – in a way that is always open to new ideas and innovations in online learning.