Distance Learning and Teaching Policies
This document outlines the responsibilities, processes, and resources for developing and offering hybrid and online courses and programs at UTEP and supersedes any previous subject matter guidelines.
The Office of the Provost is responsible for the implementation and oversight of these policies. Clarifying questions can be directed to the Dean of Extended University.
UTEP offers online, hybrid, technology enhanced, and face-to-face courses and programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students taking online and hybrid courses are provided the same services available to students in face-to-face courses. These services include access to the library, financial aid, registrar, advising, technical support, and others.
When registering for courses, students can identify the instructional method of courses on Goldmine according to the following tags:
- ONLIN: Online courses are web-based with no face-to-face contact between students and faculty. Courses are supported by a learning management system (LMS) where instruction occurs through either asynchronous or synchronous interaction. Asynchronous interaction occurs when students and faculty are not required to be online at the same time. Synchronous interaction occurs when students and faculty are required to be present simultaneously using computer or video-based communication media. Students enrolled in online courses are assessed a distance learning fee of $75/SCH at the undergraduate level and $100/SCH at the graduate level. These fees support the costs of online course development, delivery, and continuous improvement. These fees are subject to change per the course fee review process.
- MINF2F: Minimal face-to-face courses are primarily online courses with less than 15% of instruction occurring face-to-face.
- HYBR: Hybrid courses are characterized by having at least 50% of the course activities online with the remaining time in face-to-face classroom meetings.
- TEC: Technology enhanced courses make use of a computer-based learning management system without reducing the number of face-to-face class meetings.
- No code: Face-to-face courses are taught using traditional classroom meetings in physical locations on or off campus between students and instructors.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) does not differentiate between standards for assessment of hybrid, online, and face-to-face courses. Therefore, online and hybrid courses must meet the same standards as an equivalent face-to-face course. If an institution cannot assure that the standards for a hybrid or online course are equivalent or superior to those adopted for the same face-to-face course, the course is inappropriate for online delivery.
UTEP is committed to complying with rules and regulations regarding the operation of higher education institutions in every state in which it enrolls students. This practice, known as State Authorization, relates to all out-of-state activities ranging from fully online programs to experiential learning activities in face-to-face courses and many other “trigger activities” in between. UTEP Connect will review and complete authorizations for all UTEP programs with out-of-state activities. UTEP Connect can only do this with the cooperation of all units with out-of-state activities, including those without UTEP Connect programs. See the Extended University website for more information.
Online student privacy must be maintained at all times by keeping grades secure in the LMS. Grades must not be viewable to other members of the course. No student grades or information may be posted outside of secured systems any time during or after the semester.
If external tools (wikis, blogs, etc.) are used, the faculty member must ensure that Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requirements are met. In most cases, it is acceptable for faculty to assign students to create and comment on wikis and blogs. However, students should not be required to post information that is protected under FERPA (class schedule, for example). Faculty comments and grades on student work should never be made public. As a solution, faculty should inform students that their work may be public and provide students with information on making their wikis and blogs private.
Faculty cannot require students to reveal private information to the class and should respect students’ requests to not post information for class viewing. If a student requests to not share a personal photo or reveal one's identity, for example, faculty should provide an alternative assignment with similar weight.
Section 508 of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) requires instructors to provide equal access to course materials for all students. The Center for Instructional Design assists faculty in making sure their courses are ADA complaint. Online students requiring an accommodation should work with the Center for Accommodations and Support Services.
University rules pertaining to intellectual property can be found in Chapter 4 of the Handbook of Operating Procedures. UT System Board of Regents policies regarding intellectual property can be found in Section 90101.
Copyright of Course Materials
The TEACH Act (Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization) provides guidance for academic institutions relative to copyright regulations. Under the TEACH Act, it may be permissible to make some copyrighted materials available to students if they are:
- Directly related and integral to the course content
- Accessible only by students enrolled in the course
- Retained only for the duration of the class
- Does not exceed the length or amount displayed in a face-to-face class
Students should be made aware of the institution’s copyright policies, specifically that course content may subject to copyright laws and protections.
Online Course Development
Due to the time and effort involved in ensuring course quality and accessibility, faculty should allow for at least four months development timebefore offering a new online course. All courses developed with the support of UTEP instructional designers will be developed under a Joint Creation and Ownership Agreement between UTEP and the responsible faculty member. Approximately two weeks prior to course start, a Quality Matters and Technical Review will be performed by CID, and feedback will be provided to the instructor. After the course is completed, CID staff are removed from the course shell to accommodate FERPA regulations.
Online Course Approval and Routing
The creation of new courses, independent of delivery format, is initiated at the academic department level and is subject to approval by the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee and Faculty Senate or Graduate Council.
The approval process for online courses varies depending on whether the course exists in the UTEP inventory of courses. Any course taught online for the first time cannot be placed on the semester schedule until the approval process is complete. The proposal form can be found HERE.
Existing courses are included in the UTEP catalog but have not previously been developed for online delivery. Proposals for the conversion of existing face-to-face or hybrid courses to online must originate from the responsible faculty member and be approved by the department chair and college dean. The proposal is then reviewed by the Center for Instructional Design and Extended University to determine the production schedule.
New courses do not exist in the UTEP catalog and must first be approved through the standard curriculum process. Proposals to develop the new course online must originate from the responsible faculty member and be approved by the department chair and college dean. The proposal is then reviewed by the Center for Instructional Design and Extended University to determine the production schedule. Production will not begin until the course has received its final curricular approval.
Online Program Approval and Routing
The process for online program approvals varies depending on whether the program already exists in the UTEP catalog. Prior to developing an online program, faculty should participate in a course-mapping workshop.
Existing programs are included in the UTEP catalog but have not been developed for online delivery. Proposals for the conversion of an existing program to online delivery must originate from the department chair, through the college dean, and be approved by the Provost in consultation with the Dean of Extended University. If a program requires curricular modifications, it must go through the appropriate approval process at the college and university levels. The UTEP Connect memorandum of understanding must be signed before course development, marketing, or recruitment begins.
New programs do not exist in the UTEP catalog. These must be approved through the standard curriculum process. Once reaching final approval, notice must be sent to Extended University for consultation and scheduling of development. The UTEP Connect memorandum of understanding must be signed before course development, marketing, or recruitment begins.
Please see Curriculum Change Procedures for more information.
Online courses adhere as closely as possible to the traditional academic calendar. Most run for 7, 8, 14, or 16 weeks in the fall and spring semesters with additional parts of term in the summer. The academic calendar is available at the Registration and Records website.
Faculty who teach online courses are appointed and credentialed by their academic program and college/school.
Accreditation agencies require that faculty are well prepared to teach hybrid and online courses. UTEP provides instruction in effective hybrid and online design and teaching that meets SACSCOC accreditation standards. This training includes skill enhancement in instructional design and pedagogy, course management strategies, assessment of hybrid and online course effectiveness, online course management system tools, and policies and guidelines for academic integrity.
To begin course development and be credentialed for online course instruction, faculty members must complete both Blackboard Training and the Teaching Online Academy. Both are offered online. The Blackboard Training may be taken at any time. The Teaching Online Academy is offered three times a year. Additional assistance can be provided by the Center for Instructional Design, the Helpdesk, and/or Blackboard Central as needed. Multiple workshops are also provided throughout the fall and spring semesters.
Faculty members who have been credentialed to teach online through another institution can provide documentation (list of courses taught, learning management systems used, syllabi, certifications) to the Direct of the Center for Instructional Design.
Faculty are responsible for establishing the course learning objectives and the course curriculum, assessing the learning outcomes, and providing timely responses to students, and submitting final grades.
Teaching Load Credits
Teaching a hybrid or online course accounts for the same portion of a faculty member’s teaching load credits (TLC) as a face-to-face course.
Maximum class size is determined by the academic program delivering the course. Student demand may require maximum class size to be flexible, however. Depending on the department, graduate teaching assistants or coaches (via Instructional Connections) may be available to assist with course responsibilities as determined by the instructor. If Instructional Connections coaches are desired, the request should be made through Extended University no fewer than two weeks prior to the course start date. The request for coaches can be found on the UTEP Connect website.
Online Office Hours and Student Expectations for Response
As indicated in the UTEP Handbook of Operating Procedures, faculty should post a schedule of regular office hours that are convenient to students and meet departmental requirements. Faculty are expected to be available at the times indicated. A reasonable guideline for minimum office hours is 0.7 scheduled office hours per each teaching load credit for which the faculty is formally responsible. For online classes, faculty may make themselves available to students via phone, email, chat, video conferencing tools, or other technologies.
Faculty must clearly indicate in their course materials the expectation for response to student requests. Generally speaking, faculty should respond to student emails and questions within 24 to 72 hours.
Academic Integrity of Online Courses
Online and face-to-face courses should have the same learning outcomes, course descriptions, and expectations. Faculty should ensure that the quality and rigor of an online course is no less than that of its face-to-face equivalent.
Students evaluate online courses using the course evaluation procedures in effect for campus-based courses. Student evaluations are completed online for all courses. Results are made available to the instructor via my utep.
Student Grade Inquiries
It is best practice to address grade inquiries via Blackboard's course message or via Blackboard Collaborate Ultra (web conference). To maintain student privacy, discussing grades via email or phone is not recommended.
Student Drops and Withdrawals
Online courses follow the same regulations as face-to-face courses regarding faculty and student initiated course drops and withdrawals. Deadlines for both can be found on academic calendar on the UTEP Registration and Records website.
Full-time-faculty teaching online courses receive no additional compensation for courses taught as part of their regular load. In the case of a full-time faculty teaching the course as an overload, additional payment within university policy may be requested. Part-time faculty teaching an online class will be compensated at the same rate as a face-to-face course. Faculty developing a course for a fully online degree program may be eligible for a course development stipend upon completion and approval of the program chair.
Use of Student Work
When faculty wish to use student work—whether for research or for pedagogical purposes—they must request the students' permission. To use student work used in any research-related project (presentations, publications, posters, etc.), faculty should follow the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process for human subject research including requesting that students complete an IRB approved consent form. When seeking to use student work for publication or pedagogical reasons (e.g., examples of effective projects), the “Student Authorization and Waiver for Release of Education Records for Publication of Student Authored Materials” form should be completed. The form is available HERE.
Ownership of Educational Materials
Generally speaking, materials developed using university funds and/or resources belong to the university. The Joint Creation and Authorship Agreement, signed by the faculty member developing the course and a representative of the university, provides the faculty member with certain protections for the materials they develop.
Students enrolled in online courses and programs are provided access to student services available at UTEP. This includes, but is not limited to: the library, the University Writing Center, the UTEP Bookstore, the Center for Accommodations and Support Services, Career Services, and the Miner Learning Center.
Questions regarding Blackboard, UTEP email, and other technological issues can be sent to the UTEP Helpdesk via phone, email, or chat.
Academic Integrity and Scholastic Dishonesty
Online students are held to the same academic integrity policies as face-to-face students. Scholastic dishonesty includes cheating, plagiarism, and collusion. Faculty should take measures to deter cheating as much as possible (unique assignments, proctored exams, random test or quiz questions, plagiarism checkers, etc.).UTEP’s judicial process will be followed when academic dishonesty is suspected. In this case, faculty are to collect evidence and submit it to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution (OSCCR). Faculty may not assign penalties (in the form of reduced points or grades) for inappropriate online behavior. OSCCR will investigate the charge, determine appropriate course of action and notify the student and faculty.
An online student orientation is made available to students enrolled in an online course. While not required, it is strongly recommended that students complete the orientation within the first semester of coursework.
Students are expected to attend their online class regularly by participating in activities such as submitting assignments, engaging in discussion boards, completing exams, attending online chats, and so on. Simply logging into the course does not count as attendance.
Other Course Providers
Online courses offered by other UT System institutions are available to students through the University of Texas System Online Consortium (UTOC). To enroll in one of these courses, students must complete an online Registration Request using the Texas Information System (TIS). Students who enroll in these courses are subject to the host university’s deadlines, tuition rates, and policies.
Online Student Complaints
UTEP’s policies and procedures for handling student academic and non-academic complaints are applicable to all students, including those enrolled in distance education programs and courses. Students with complaints about distance education delivered by UTEP Connect should follow the process described in the UTEP Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs and HOOP.
If an issue cannot be resolved internally/locally, a student may also file a complaint with the designated agency in the state where he or she is receiving instruction. A complaint may also be filed with UTEP's accrediting agency. Students located within a state with a State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) may file a complaint through the Texas SARA portal. More information including information about various state agencies can be found on the UTEP Connect website.
Learning Management System
All hybrid and online courses must be delivered via Blackboard, the learning management system (LMS) supported by UTEP. To ensure integrity of the courses, at least 90% of the course content must reside within the LMS and be accessible only via secure login and password unique to each UTEP student and employee.
In accordance with SACSCOC accreditation standards, the academic department delivering hybrid and online courses and programs has final responsibility for ensuring pedagogical quality.
The SACSCOC Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement requires that “institutions demonstrate that the student who registers in a distance or correspondence course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the credit by verifying the identity of a student who participates in class or coursework by using, at the option of the institution, methods such as 1) a secure login and pass code 2) proctored examinations and 3) new or other technologies and practices that are effective in verifying student identification.”
Students gain access to Blackboard, through which all online courses are conducted, by entering their UTEP username and password. Faculty are thus encouraged to use at least one additional process to verify that students participating in online courses are the same as the students enrolled in the course. The faculty and/or academic program should identify this process. The verification requirement must be clearly stated in the syllabus or other course documents, and according to SACSCOC, if faculty members require a student verification process that incurs a monetary charge, that information must be conveyed to students at the time of registration or enrollment (i.e. posted in a syllabus made available prior to enrollment).
Options for student verification include:
- Verification of approved photo ID through a web cam
- Proctoring of exams or other projects through a web cam
- Synchronous or asynchronous activities requiring an approved photo ID
- Field or clinical activities requiring a photo ID at arrival
- Other process defined by the faculty or program
Photo IDs may include driver’s license, military ID, passport, government-issued identification, or a Miner Gold Card for on-campus students.
The Center for Instructional Design is available to assist faculty with the selection of the verification tool and the implementation of the process.
- Office of the Provost
- Dean of Extended University
- Faculty Senate Executive Committee
- Annually on or before June 30th for an effective date of 09/01.