Distance Learning Evaluation Committee Report


Based on National Community College Benchmark Project (NCCBP) data, Harper College is consistently in the bottom quartile in distance learning measures.  More Harper students drop distance learning courses than students at other community colleges, and fewer students successfully complete distance learning courses at Harper compared to other institutions.

Student success in distance learning courses has been identified as a college weakness in the 2011-2012 College Plan.


Best practices for distance learning require both quality course design and an administrative environment that supports distance learning.  Based on a review of best practices in distance learning and current Harper standards, we recommend that the college:

·         Limit enrollment to no more than 20 students per section

·         Prevent late enrollment

·         Provide for instructor initiated administrative withdrawals during the first week of the course for students who are not prepared to succeed in a distance learning course

·         Implement college-wide distance learning prerequisite skill standards

·         Survey other colleges to determine existing requirements for faculty teaching distance learning courses and for students taking distance learning courses, such as minimum GPA, orientations, or required skills

·         Study what makes other schools more successful in their reported distance learning measures

·         Transition telecourses (effectively independent study offerings) to interactive distance learning courses

·         Encourage faculty to review and consider the following Distance Learning Course Development suggestions

Dave Braunschweig
Karen Patterson
Kimberley Polly
Kimberly Fournier
Kurt Neumann
November 10, 2011

Distance Learning Course Development

Good course design is essential to student success in distance learning courses.  The following suggestions are designed to assist faculty members in developing an effective distance learning course.

Step 1: Preparation Faculty are encouraged to complete one or more of the following prior to developing a distance learning course:

·         Participate in one or more distance learning courses as a student

·         Review distance learning best practices through CII and Merlot

o   http://dept.harpercollege.edu/cii/dist_dev.html

o   http://www.merlot.org/merlot/viewMaterial.htm?id=269928

·         Review course designs from faculty in your department, division, or the college

·         Complete a Distance Course Development form if seeking a stipend

·         Request assistance from CII or a distance learning mentor

·         Allow sufficient time to fully develop your online course prior to delivery

Step 2: Course Design – Faculty are encouraged to consider including some of these suggestions in their course design:

·         Review the Harper College Syllabus Checklist (https://myharper.harpercollege.edu/pls/portal/docs/PAGE/MY_HARPER/ACADEMIC_AFFAIRS_NAV/SYLLABUSCHECKLIST%205-07_UPDATED%208-13-09.PDF)

·         Set the climate for your course by providing an online or on-campus introduction or orientation.  Consider including an assessment of some type that is due prior to the 100% refund date.  Assessment examples include a syllabus review quiz, discussion responses based on the online or in-person orientation, etc.

·         Include a link and references to the Harper College Distance Learning Orientation at http://www.harpercollege.edu/getready

·         Organize your course content, such as by week or by learning unit, to allow students to focus on the tasks at hand.

·         Design assessment methods that accommodate a variety of learning styles and strengths, such as discussions, written assignments, team projects, quizzes, and exams.  Include both summative (graded) and formative (non-graded, immediate feedback) types of assessments.

·         Promote active learning by encouraging students to engage with the course content, to interact with each other, and to communicate with the instructor frequently.

·         Format content so that it is accessible through a wide variety of devices (computers, tablets, smart phones, etc.).  This includes using content pages rather than attached documents wherever possible, and using widely available file formats when necessary (.pdf, .rtf, .txt, etc.).  Include accessibility features such as closed captioning or written summaries of audio and video content.

·         Test your course design from the student perspective.  Also test your design from a variety of devices and/or the Blackboard Mobile Learn application.

·         Evaluate your course using the Illinois Online Network Quality Online Course Initiative recommendations (http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/initiatives/qoci/index.asp)

Step 3: Teaching – While teaching the course, faculty should consider doing the following:

·         Contact students before the course starts to introduce yourself, alert them to the distance learning nature of the course, let them know when Blackboard will be made available, provide orientation information, and indicate when the first activity or assessment is due.

·         Monitor and contribute to course discussions as you would for discussions in a classroom-based delivery.

·         Provide consistent feedback to your students by acknowledging email and discussion board posts in a timely manner.

The information provided on this list is not exhaustive.  Additional suggestions are available from the following:


·         Harper College Center for Innovative Instruction (http://dept.harpercollege.edu/cii)

·         Illinois Online Network Quality Online Course Initiative (http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/initiatives/qoci/index.asp)

·         MERLOT (http://www.merlot.org/)