What follows is a guide created by the Center for Teaching & Learning for faculty at Baruch College who are interested in creating or finding out more about online and hybrid instruction at Baruch College. It is a living, evolving document, and we welcome your feedback.
Course and Assignment Design for Online and Hybrid Classes
Rigorous instructional design is key to creating effective online and hybrid courses, which often require more intensive planning than traditional classes. Since faculty will have fewer opportunities to gauge student comprehension in-person, creating an organized and well-structured course is of heightened importance. The following sections offer suggestions about how to strengthen course and assignment design to increase the likelihood of a successful, engaging, and rewarding online and hybrid course.
Building Your Course Around Learning Goals
When clear learning goals are communicated to students, not only is assessment easier, but students have a demonstrable map of their learning. Careful planning of online and hybrid courses from the end to the beginning allows for innovation and improvisation within a structure.
- Review Guidelines for Writing Learning Goals from the Baruch College Faculty Handbook. Learning goals are more than just teaching goals. These guidelines can help create strong learning goals (but also be sure to check with your department for discipline-specific goals):
- In formulating learning goals the members of the Joint Committee suggest using the phrase: “will be able to…”
- Vague goals should be reformulated to be as specific as possible.
- If you are going to assess student learning goals separately, then list them separately.
- In writing student learning goals use active verbs. For a suggested list of verbs, see: https://www.baruch.cuny.edu/facultyhandbook/documents/Bloomverbsrevised.pdf (note that the verbs “understand” and “know” are discouraged).
- The learning goals should be informed by the mode of instruction you intend to use.
- For example, here is an excerpt of learning goals from an online Introduction to Psychology course. The goals specific to online instruction are italicized.
- Identify ethical issues in psychology and psychological research.
- Demonstrate critical thinking about behavior and mental processes.
- Demonstrate effective written communication using an online forum.
- Develop time management strategies appropriate for meeting course deadlines.
- Demonstrate ability to use online tools for completing weekly work, managing self-progress, and taking part in virtual dialog and exchange.
- For example, here is an excerpt of learning goals from an online Introduction to Psychology course. The goals specific to online instruction are italicized.
- Here is another example, where the goals are categorized:
- Grammar and Mechanics of Writing: After completing this course, students will be able to observe sentence boundaries, punctuate correctly, vary sentence structures, and employ the conventions of standard English.
- Hybrid-specific: After completing this course, students will be able to change their writing style when writing in different rhetorical modes and social contexts, including online environments, and take audience and occasion into account when writing.
Articulate what skills you assume students have already mastered when they enter your class, including technological skills, by defining what a student needs in terms of both access and knowledge in order to succeed in your class. Create a plan for how students who do not have those skills can catch up.
Scaffolding Your Assignments
Often students are confused about what faculty expect of them. In traditional classes, this confusion becomes readily apparent in the classroom but can be harder to detect online. Careful assignment design clarifies the expectations and effort you expect of students in your online or hybrid course.
- Construct tasks that give students practice before assessment.
- Scaffold low-stakes and high-stakes assignments to build upon each other in a logical progression.
- Consider workflow: ask yourself what assignments from traditional classes would be better accomplished online. For hybrid classes, design online assignments that prepare students to take full advantage of the face-to-face time.
- Articulate for students the reasons for assignments, the method of assessment, and the grading process.
- It is important to be mindful of the personality and usability of the online spaces you deploy.
- Pay attention to information architecture in your online spaces; consider building a site map before developing your course site to get a bird’s eye view of how the content flows.
- Lay out the content of your course in a progression that makes sense and doesn’t attempt to do too much at once.
- Clarify what kinds of communication will happen where and how.
- Give students varied opportunities to be heard.
- Construct opportunities for students to create communities in the online environment.
- Model examples of the intellectual work you expect, through comments on blog or discussion board posts, and by promptly responding to student inquiries.
- Consider having a consistent deliverable due the same time every week. Predictability helps students establish a routine.
- Faculty presence in online and hybrid courses helps students succeed. Be involved in the online environment.
Creating Accessible Online and Hybrid Classes
In traditional classes, students with physical, psychological, or learning disabilities receive reasonable accommodations. The legal requirement and ethical imperative to create accessible classes holds for all online and hybrid classes at Baruch College.
Applying Universal Design Principles
Universal design helps instructors create courses that are accessible for all students through flexible, varied, and thoughtful curriculum development.
Faculty can practice Universal Design principles by:
- Presenting key information and knowledge in multiple ways,
- Providing students with varied ways to access the information,
- Creating multiple options for assessment of knowledge, and
- Maintaining student interest using varied pedagogical methods.
For more on universal design, see: http://www.udlcenter.org/.
Creating Accessible Course Materials and Websites
Assistive technology helps many students with disabilities achieve their educational goals. The following list offers guidelines for creating materials that these technologies recognize.
- Software applications for visually impaired students can read course materials aloud. However, screen readers cannot recognize PDF files which contain text that is an image.
- Whenever possible, create course materials in Word, then, if desired, create a PDF from the Word document.
- When creating documents in Word, use styles in Word to organize materials in a course document hierarchically. For example, apply the style “Heading 1” to first level headings, “Heading 2” to sub-headings, etc. This way, screen readers understand the most important information and convey it to visually impaired users.
- Use the Navigation Pane under the View tab in Word to review the outline of your document and make sure that the headings organize information in the best way.
- Use Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana fonts, which are easily recognized by screen magnifying applications for visually-impaired students.
- Use high contrast colors. For example, instead of bright yellow text on a kelly green background, use white text on a dark green background.
- Use alt tags to describe images.
- Word makes it easy to create an alt tag for an image. Right or Ctrl+click on the image, select format image, then type a short descriptive phrase under the “alt text” option.
- This link to Adobe Reader’s accessibility guidelines offers more advice on creating accessible PDF files.
- When adding links in your document or website, rather than writing “click here” offer a description of the link.
- When using multimedia, offer alternatives for students who might not be able to view or hear the media.
- When creating videos for class, create a script that you follow so that a transcript can easily accompany the video. If possible, add captions to the video.
- Be aware that some software and applications are not easily accessible for students with disabilities. For example:
- Google Docs, while an excellent collaborative writing tool, is not as accessible as other programs. When using Google Docs, consider possible alternative assignments that could be offered for students with visual and hearing impairments.
- Many online course materials from textbook companies and Massive Open Online Courses from well-known providers, while compliant with federal guidelines, may not be readily accessible for students with disabilities.
While faculty cannot anticipate every potential learning alternative for students, creating course materials easily recognized by widely-used software programs for students with disabilities and utilizing universal design principles increases the likelihood that the online and hybrid course will be accessible to all students.
Also contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities if you would like more information about creating accessible classes at Baruch College. They are located in Room 2-271, Newman Vertical Campus and can be reached at 646-312-4590.
The federal government has published a brochure detailing educational institutions’ responsibilities to their students with disabilities: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/news/section-504.pdf.
The syllabus lays out the schedule, establishes policy, clarifies the contract of expectation between faculty and student, offers assessment criteria, and provides a map to the class. Certain details need to be on online and hybrid syllabuses.
- When and where your hybrid class will meet for its face-to-face sessions.
- How the online time will be structured.
- What technologies will be used, and what additional fees or skills these technologies require.
- What your expectations are for students in terms of participation and technology.
- Learning goals (see above section for more details).
- Contact information that includes at least one way for students to communicate with you asynchronously and digitally.
- Guidelines for interacting with peers.
- Where to find the online space.
- Detailed assessment criteria.
- Accessibility statement. Include on your syllabus a statement about reasonable accommodation.
- For example: “If you have a learning, sensory, or physical reason for special accommodation in this class, contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities in Room 2-271, Newman Vertical Campus (646-312-4590) and please inform me of the accommodation.”
- For online and hybrid classes, consider creating an accessible syllabus using the guidelines described in this guide.
Also consider including on your syllabus the skills and knowledge that you expect students to have mastered in order to succeed in your class.
Examples of syllabi from online and hybrid classes at Baruch can be viewed on the CTL site, under Resources: http://ctl.baruch.cuny.edu/hybrid-and-online-syllabi/.
Minimum Technology Requirements
Students are told that the following bullet points are the minimum technological requirements necessary to participate in an online or hybrid course. If the technological requirements of your course differ from these, you should clarify this via your course description on CUNYFirst and on your syllabus. You may even want to email students soon after they have registered for your course to ensure they are aware of the technology requirements.
All online, hybrid, partially online, and web-enhanced classes at Baruch College assume that students have:
- A reliable Internet connection.
- Regular access to a laptop or desktop computer with an updated operating system.
- Working knowledge of how to use word processing software and web browsers.
- An active Baruch College webmail account that is checked daily (or forwarded to an email that is checked daily).
- A CUNY Portal account.
- Access to Blackboard.
- A Blogs@Baruch account.
- A CUNYFirst account.
- Off-campus access to the library’s online databases.
Some online or hybrid classes will require students to:
- Have access to a web camera.
- Use social networking sites (including but not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and social bookmarking sites).
- Purchase or learn additional applications.
The Center for Teaching and Learning will provide guidance for faculty and students who are interested in integrating a range of technologies into their work at Baruch College. Here’s a brief overview of the technologies supported at the College, which the CTL can help faculty members integrate into their courses.
Blogs@Baruch is a WordPress platform maintained by the College and used by students, faculty, and staff members to meet a wide range of publishing needs. The system hosts course sites/blogs, sites for special projects or clubs, and student and staff publications. Blogs@Baruch is also running BuddyPress, a social networking suite that allows every member of the community to maintain a profile page where content they’ve publish across the system accrues. Blogs@Baruch also offers a “groups” functionality that can facilitate communication and collaborative document editing.
Vocat is a web application managed by the Center for Teaching and Learning that helps Baruch students become confident, dynamic public speakers. Both a teaching tool and an assessment instrument, VOCAT enables faculty members to document quantitative and qualitative feedback on video recorded student performances. Vocat gives students easy access to their videos and scores from across their academic career, and provides a space to engage in online conversations with instructors about their progress over time.
Blackboard is CUNY’s course management system, and a familiar presence in the lives of all Baruch students. It allows for the posting of course materials, the structuring of assignments, and ease of communication between participants in a course. If you choose to use Blackboard, consider how best to design your Blackboard site to increase learning opportunities for students. Consult the Blackboard Guide for Faculty Teaching Online, http://www.cuny.edu/about/administration/offices/CIS/functions/bb/userguides/faculty.html
Kevin Wolff of BCTC is Baruch’s resident Blackboard expert, and can answer all questions pertaining to the system.
Synchronous/Web Conferencing Tools
The College currently supports Blackboard Collaborate as its synchronous web communication tool. More options will be available for synchronous online teaching and learning in Fall 2015 (interested faculty should contact BCTC for details).
The CTL helps faculty members who are teaching online and hybrid courses build video lectures that integrate other media. Baruch has several licenses for Camtasia, a powerful screenrecording and video editing software package, but there are a variety of ways to go about this. The CTL will work with faculty members to determine the best solution for creating, hosting, and serving asynchronous instructional media.
For more details on available technology, see http://ctl.baruch.cuny.edu/educational-technology/
Back-up your work
- Just as students can’t always get to campus on time due to events beyond their control, course websites might be unexpectedly unavailable, internet connections might be weak, and computers might crash. When working online, back work up frequently.
- Save files: When composing blog, social media, or discussion board responses, save them in a word processing file or text file (Text Edit on a Mac or NotePad on Windows).
- Keep consistent track of student work. Save important assignments to a local drive. This also helps with assessment, targeting struggling students, and maintaining engagement.
- Keep your files organized in folders by class, and within those folders by units of the class. Your work will quickly pile up, and establishing a system for easily locating materials you’ve produced for your coursework is immensely valuable.
- Regularly backup your files to an external drive or cloud storage.
- Encourage student support networks
- Try to spend some time at the beginning of the semester helping students build networks and contacts among others in the class.
- Encourage students to exchange contact information with a few classmates who share their schedules. Ideally, these contacts will have the same schedule (for example, if Jane Doe does most of her work after midnight, then she should try to find peers who will be up at this hour, too).
Practicing Defensive Teaching
While we can’t always divine when there will be “traffic problems in Fort Lee,” we can reasonably expect congestion when driving over the George Washington bridge during rush hour. Try to anticipate when things may go wrong in your online learning environment and circumvent crises before they happen. The following bullet points offer some suggestions for how to do this.
For example, imagine a major assignment is due on Blackboard the Friday before a holiday weekend. If the server experiences glitches, or dozens of students submit their work at the same time, the site may crash, causing anxiety in students and a headache for faculty.
- Encourage students to submit their work early. You may even consider offering some incentives for doing this, or staggering due dates by group or individual.
- Have an alternate plan for collecting such assignments in case of tech problems.
- Give students time to learn new technologies.
- Pay attention to emails from BCTC about scheduled server and site maintenance so that you can work around them.
- Try to be available online when assignments are due to troubleshoot problems. Encourage students to communicate with you via a forum online about difficulties they encounter. Chances are, other students have experienced the same challenges.
What to Do When Things Go Wrong
- The BCTC help desk offers student support for Baruch email, Blackboard, Baruch’s wireless network, CUNYFirst, and printing.
- In-person requests: BCTC is located on the 6th floor of the Library and Technology Building at 151 East 25th Street. Have your student ID handy.
- Phone requests: (646) 312-1010. Be prepared to state your Baruch username.
- Email requests: email@example.com. Send it from your Baruch email and detail the problem.
- For help with Blogs@Baruch: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/contact/, and for help with Vocat email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identifying Modes of Instruction
CUNY has designated the following codes that define how much online time you can allocate in a class. Students will see these codes in CUNYFirst when they register for classes.
P = In-Person. No course assignments and no required activities delivered online. Note: this designation does not mean that digital tools won’t be required in the course.
This is the default mode of instruction used when no other information is given to CUNYFirst about the course. If you have a significant amount of work delivered online or digitally, or if you plan to augment or replace any class sessions or out of class work with digital or online tools, then you should list your class as Web-Enhanced (“W”, see below)
W = Web-Enhanced. No scheduled class meetings are replaced, but some of the course content and assignments, as well as required or optional activities, are online.
In practice, most courses probably fall under this category, but this needs to be clarified to your department and the registrar so that it can be listed properly in CUNYFirst.
PO = Partially online. Up to 32% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings. Between twenty minutes to fifteen hours of required online work per semester could replace time spent in the classroom.
H = Hybrid. Between 33% and 80% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings. Between twelve to thirty-seven hours of required online work per semester will replace time spent in the classroom.
O = Online. More than 80% but less than 100% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings. Between twenty-eight to forty-six hours per semester will replace time spent in the classroom.
FO = Fully online. 100% of scheduled class meetings are replaced with online activities or virtual meetings. All of the class work, including exams, is online.
Note that a major difference between O and FO is that in an Online class, the final exam can be given in person, but in a Fully Online class, the exam must be given online.
Clarifying Modes of Instruction in CUNYFirst
Each academic department is responsible for sending course descriptions, with mode of instruction clarified, to the appropriate dean’s office, which forwards them to the registrar. The registrar then inputs the information into CUNYFirst. However, students might not realize what taking an online or hybrid course involves, and they probably do not know what the “modes of instruction” mean or where to look for the codes when they register for courses on CUNYFirst.
In surveys the CTL conducted in Spring 2015, over half of students enrolled in hybrid/online classes at Baruch in Spring 2015 did not realize that they had registered for a hybrid/online class. For more details about the surveys, visit https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/hybridization/.
Faculty can and should clarify the requirements of their online and hybrid courses by including with the course description on CUNYFirst a brief note that tells students what technology they will be required to use, how much class time will be replaced with online instruction, and how the online format will be different from in-person instruction. Faculty might also include any special software or skills that the course requires.
Example 1: This section is a hybrid course, with 50% of the class happening face-to-face in the classroom and 50% taking place via online learning activities. Questions? Email the instructor: email@example.com
Example 2: Please note that approximately 33% of this course will consist of online video lectures. You will need a solid internet connection either at home, or to take the time to watch the video lectures in the computer labs at Baruch.
Faculty should be sure to check on CUNYFirst after the course has been listed to make sure that the information is correct. If there is a problem, contact the scheduler in the appropriate dean’s office. Faculty may also consider sending registered students an explanatory email well before the start of the semester.
Hybrid and online classes that have been developed with the support of the Center for Teaching and Learning
Course: ART 3041 – Special Topics in Art (Studio), 3-D Digital Design
Zoe Sheehan Saldana, firstname.lastname@example.org
CIS 2200 – Introduction to Information Systems and Technologies
Raquel Benbunan-Fich, email@example.com
Radhika Jain, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nanda Kumar, email@example.com
Kannan Mohan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Isak Taksa, email@example.com
CIS 3700 – Green IT
Kannan Mohan, firstname.lastname@example.org
CMP 3075 – Italian Cinema
Antonietta D’Amelio, email@example.com
COM 3068 – Managerial Communication Within Organizations
Caryn Medved, firstname.lastname@example.org
ENG 2100 and 2150 – Writing I and II
Lisa Blankenship, email@example.com
Allison Curseen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean O’Toole, email@example.com
ENG 2800 and 2850 – Great Works of Literature I and II
Christina Christoforauto, firstname.lastname@example.org
Allison Curseen, email@example.com
Allison Deutermann, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matthew Eatough, email@example.com
Michael Healy, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie Hershinow, email@example.com
Meechal Hoffman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Miciah Hussey, email@example.com
Jessica Lang, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanne Merle, email@example.com
Linda Neiberg, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kelly Nims, email@example.com
Harold Ramdass, firstname.lastname@example.org
Zohra Saed, email@example.com
Ely Shipley, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Smith, email@example.com
Jennifer Sylvor, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Zeftel, email@example.com
FIN 3000 – Principles of Finance
Sonali Hazarika, firstname.lastname@example.org
HIS 1003 – Global Themes in History
Elizabeth Heath, email@example.com
JRN 2500 – The Individual and the News in the Information Age
Vera Haller, firstname.lastname@example.org
JRN 3600 – Creative Nonfiction
Christopher Hallowell, email@example.com
LAW 1101 – Fundamentals of Business Law
Sandra Mullings, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alan Rosenbloom, email@example.com
MGT 9300 – Management: A Behavioral Approach
Cynthia Thompson, firstname.lastname@example.org
MKT 4561 – Marketing Analytics
Mahima Hada, email@example.com
MKT 9702 Marketing Research
Kapil Bawa, firstname.lastname@example.org
PAF 9103 – Communication in Public Settings
David Hoffman, email@example.com
PHI 1600 – Logic and Moral Reasoning
Eric Mandelbaum, Eric.Mandelbaum@baruch.cuny.edu
PSY 1001 – General Psychology
Erin Eatough Cooley, firstname.lastname@example.org
David Sitt, david.Sitt@baruch.cuny.edu
THE 1041-Introduction to the Theatre Arts
Debra Caplan, email@example.com