Spring 2021 Quality Standards

In the transition to Spring 2021 online courses, faculty have the opportunity to continue to enhance online teaching and learning.  Fortunately, faculty governance has developed and approved the Review of Online Courses (ROC) rubric/checklist that contain guidance and standards for online courses.  For the purposes of Spring 2021 course development, the following three categories within the rubric/checklist have been identified as quality standards.

The Faculty Center is here to support you as you develop your courses. Additional help with organization, interaction, and student assessment in online courses can be obtained by:

  • Submitting a service desk ticket (select the Instructional Design category)
  • Pairing up with an experienced online instructor in your program/department.
  • Utilizing the instructional materials on the “Creating and Maintaining Online Courses” Blackboard shell
  • Visiting the Faculty Center’s Tutorial Site at http://lewistutorials.weebly.com/.


Interaction between faculty and the class as well as between students create community in online and hybrid courses.  Students want to connect with their professors and other students.  Without interactivity, students may feel as though they are teaching themselves, which can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration. A well-designed online course fosters many types of interaction not only the interaction between the student and course material. There is a direct connection between interactivity in an online or hybrid courses and student academic success. 

Instructor Presence
For expanded criteria please see section 2) Instruction, Contact, and Engagement with Students in the rubric/checklist.

Instructor presence is a hallmark of a successful online course. Instructors can show their social presence in a variety of ways.  Consider using a variety of technological tools when interacting with the class as a whole, including video and audio introductions and announcements, as well as text-based communication.

Instructions about how and when to reach instructor for help are clear and easy to find, including instructor's phone number, email address, and (if used) instructions for how to contact instructor by text.
Instructor's contact information should be included in the syllabus as well as inside the Blackboard shell (e.g. “Instructor” tab in the left vertical course navigation bar, inside the welcome announcement).

Announcements that remind students of upcoming deadlines, and offer guidance, or encourage students are posted every week.
The instructor can use announcements to summarize material covered in a learning unit, provide whole class feedback, preview new course material, and make connections between the existing and new content. Regular announcements keep students on track and make online learning feel less solitary.  Try using audio or video announcements, so that students can form a connection with you as the instructor.

Instructor participates in student-to-student interactions in strategic, substantive and instructive ways that impact entire class.
When an instructor participates in discussions and other activities with students, they can facilitate learning by offering further explanations, providing new insights, moving the conversation forward, and offering feedback and summary. Students gain the most from discussions and class interactions that require not only initial posts but also follow-up (peer) responses and include clear instructions, specific prompts (questions) to answer, set deadlines, and pre-specified grading criteria (e.g. in a rubric).

Student-Student interaction
For expanded criteria please see section 3) Active Student Learning in the rubric/checklist.

The instructor is not the only source of knowledge in an online course; students can learn from their peers as much as from the instructor. Student-student interaction can be achieved via whole class, small group, and pair activities. There are many types of assignments that are well suited for cooperative work such as discussions, peer reviews, peer feedback, and projects. Meaningful student-student interaction in each learning unit of the course is a part of the ROC rubric/checklist.

Varying the technological tools that foster interactivity also promotes student engagement and academic success.
There are multiple ways to facilitate student-to-student interaction.  Discussion boards are excellent tools for student interaction, but they are not the only type of assignment that facilitates interactivity.  Other tools, such as Voice Thread and Panopto can create opportunities for students to record audio or video posts. Utilize groups in Blackboard to create infrastructure for collaboration.

Instructions for student cooperative assignments are clear and thorough, including information about planning, implementing, presenting, and self-evaluating.
The success of collaborative projects depends on instructor's careful planning and structuring instructions. Breaking projects up into steps that needs to be completed throughout the course scaffolds the learning process and improves the quality of the final product.


For expanded criteria please see section 1) Design and Organization of LMS in the rubric/checklist.

Course organization is pivotal and tied direction to student success.  The course should be well-organized and easy to navigate so students can start learning the moment they enter the virtual classroom and not lose valuable time trying to find their way around.  It is highly recommended that faculty use the Faculty Center's template for online courses.  It provides an outline and structure for the creation and delivery of the content of your class.

The course section home page provides a welcome announcement message, with instructor introduction, course section number, section, credit hours, and a brief overview of the course section goals.
A welcome announcement introduces the instructor, previews course topics, and orients students to the structure of the course to help them get a better understanding of the learning environment and work ahead.

Syllabus is a prominent menu tab.
Syllabus is uploaded to the Blackboard shell and there is a tab in the left vertical course navigation bar that links to the Syllabus area.

Learning units are labeled and presented in a logical manner.
Course content is organized by learning units (e.g. weeks, modules, topics) so it is easy for students to understand the structure of the course. The vertical left course navigation bar lists learning units. In order to help with the organization, the Faculty Center's website contains a Blackboard template organized by weeks that can be imported into any Blackboard shell.

List of instructional materials for each learning unit is provided, organized in the order students will use them.
All learning resources (e.g. PowerPoints, documents, links to external videos and websites) are included within the learning unit. Additionally, one of the best practices is to create an assignment folder and build all assignments inside the folder.


For expanded criteria please see section 4) Grading in the rubric/checklist.

A variety of assessments types allow students to demonstrate the progress and mastery of course content in different ways. Quizzes, tests, projects, essays, discussion boards, blogs, and journals are some of the assessment tools within Blackboard.

Grading and feedback are ongoing throughout the course section, and the Blackboard Grade Center is used.
The instructor should use the Grade Center to enter grades and provide feedback to students. It is the most secure and efficient way of storing and disseminating grading information. The Grade Center allows in-line grading (inside the web browser) and text, audio, and video feedback.

Grading/scoring criteria for each assignment is clearly described to students before they begin work on assignments – rubrics are highly recommended.
Pre-specified grading criteria (with levels of achievement and values) help students know what exactly is expected of them. Rubrics can be attached to assignment instructions and even built inside Blackboard. Built-in rubrics expediate grading and delivery of feedback.

Deadlines are provided for each assignment.
Deadlines should be added to assignment instructions and built into assignment settings so they appear on the course calendar. A “Due Dates” tab can be added to the left vertical course navigation bar to help students with time management.

Online Course Self-Assessment Rubric

A self-assessment tool has been created to support you as you develop your courses.

Download Self-Assessment >>