State regulations for online courses

A recent article (October 20, 2012) in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus entitled “Facing Backlash, Minnesota Decides to Allow Free Online Courses After All” describes an issue that is being discussed by the federal government and state legislatures around the country. Do universities that offer online courses (for free or for a fee) have an obligation to register (and pay fees) with the states where their online students reside? The issue is being presented as a matter of concern for the quality of the content being offered by online course providers.

An August 7, 2012 article in The Chronicle noted that states were moving ahead with requirements in spite of the failure of the federal government to require compliance in this area:

“The federal government tried to strengthen states’ roles with a 2011 regulation known as the state-authorization rule. That rule, which was opposed by lobbyists for colleges, required institutions to be authorized in each state where they were operating as a condition of being eligible to accept federal student aid for students in that state.

A court blocked the rule almost as soon as it took effect, however, and a federal appeals court upheld that decision in June, finding that the U.S. Education Department had not followed proper procedures in issuing the rule. The department has the right to set such a rule, the appellate court’s opinion states, but it will have to reissue the rule under the proper procedures before it can enforce the provisions that apply to online programs.

More recently, the Education Department released a letter saying that it would not enforce the state-authorization requirement, leading to speculation that it would not reissue the rule but perhaps would try instead to insert such a regulation into the next renewal of the federal Higher Education Act.”

The University System of Georgia maintains a web site that tracks states’ regulations for online course providers USFSP’s Division of Academic Affairs, under the leadership of Regional Vice Chancellor Dr. Norine Noonan, is monitoring this situation closely for how it might affect the online courses and programs being developed at USFSP.

Canvas Update Schedule

If you’ve been to one of our Canvas Overviews or Great Migrations you have heard us comment that Canvas is on a two week update cycle. This meant that every two weeks Canvas would release an update that would do things like fix bugs or add new features. However, as of a few days ago they have changed their policy. A quote from a recent update:

“As some of you may have heard, we’re now moving to a three-week development cycle followed by two-weeks of beta testing before we release code to production. We’ll release features and bug fixes every three weeks, but the full release process for a sprint will be five weeks (three weeks of development and two weeks of beta testing).

One of our major goals is to make sure you’re aware of new features two weeks before their release or when they hit beta. That way, you’ll have enough time to test features in beta and to give the client services and product teams your feedback.”

The full article can be found here.

We will do our best to keep you updated on any major updates that Canvas has. If you would like to do some research on your own, or have your own questions, you can also visit the Canvas Community forums.

Bitten by the Online Bug

An article that was posted in the Chronicle’s Wired Campus today provides the perspective of a lecturer new to online teaching. Her comment that “For me, online teaching has opened up new possibilities. It has challenged me to develop my teaching skills in an innovative way, and to get better at something I thought I was already pretty good at. Online education has implications for access, global reach, and new types of teaching and learning experiences that may be more in line with what students face in the world of work” echoes what I have heard here at USFSP from some faculty.

Check out the full article:

Last Chance for Canvas Workshops this Fall

The Library still has training sessions available for Canvas, the new learning management system. The following sessions and dates are still available. Click on the session title to register. All workshops meet in the Library’s classroom, POY 218. Stay tuned for more training opportunities in the Spring.

Canvas Overview

An introduction to the interface and  it’s features, with plenty of time for questions.

Dates available:

Tue Oct 23, 2012    10am – 11:30am
Wed Nov 7, 2012    10am – 11:30am

The Great Migration

Learn tips for beginning to move your courses from Blackboard to Canvas.

Dates available:

Tue Oct 30, 2012    10am – 11:30am
Wed Nov 14, 2012    10am – 11:30am

Open Lab

Come in and work on migrating your classes. DL staff will be available to work with you and answer your questions.

Dates available:

Fri Oct 19, 2012    1:30pm – 3:30pm
Fri Nov 2, 2012    2pm – 3:30pm
Fri Nov 16, 2012    1:30pm – 3pm

Online Learners Bill of Rights

Quality Matters, the organization that promotes quality in online courses by means of peer review and training for faculty and instructional designers, has produced a video and a Bill of Rights for Online Learners that is worth taking a look at:

Quality Matters™ Bill of Rights for Online Learners

Whereas, the online learner is expected to:

  • Communicate regularly with faculty
  • Be an active course participant
  • Seek out campus resources to resolve any technical difficulties
  • Meet course deadlines, and
  • Act with academic integrity.

Therefore, the online learner in a fully online or blended course should expect:

  • A course designed with logical, consistent, and efficient navigation.
  • Clean and readable screen design.
  • Clear and sufficient instructions on how to
  • get started in the course,
  • find various course components,
  • access online resources, and
  • meet the course learning objectives.
  • An instructor who honors clearly stated response times and availability (office hours, etc.).
  • A grading policy including clearly stated, descriptive, and specific criteria for how work and participation will be evaluated.
  • Clear explanation of the requirements for interaction with the instructor, content and other students.
  • Learning objectives that are appropriate for the level of the course.
  • Instructional materials that
  • contribute to the achievement of the course and module/unit learning objectives
  • are clearly related to learning activities, and
  • have the breadth, depth, and currency to enable him or her to learn the subject.
  • Required course components, technologies, tools and media that are
  • web-based or easily downloaded,
  • readily available, and
  • appropriate for the content delivered.
  • A variety of assessments distributed throughout the course, that are
  • appropriate to the content being assessed,
  • consistent with course activities and resources, and
  • focused on the stated learning objectives.