Online courses offered through Continuing and Distance Education are designed primarily as a way of expanding access to UNI’s educational offerings for students who live beyond commuting distance and wish to pursue a program of study at a distance and/or update their knowledge in specific content areas. On-campus students may elect to enroll in online courses to solve scheduling conflicts, accelerate academic progress, make use of summer and interim periods and/or to experience learning in a flexible alternative to traditional instruction.
Interest in or questions about developing a distance learning course/program may be directed to Continuing and Distance Education at (319) 273-2121 or ContinuingEd@uni.edu.
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The University of Northern Iowa has adopted the Quality Matters program for quality assurance and continuous improvement for the design of online courses. Quality Matters is a set of standards based upon research, best practices and national standards for course design. These standards are used as a framework to design, revise and improve blended and online courses. Quality Matters includes a peer review process in which internal reviewers provide feedback on blended and online courses according to a set of standards, QM Rubric, for course design.
Questions? Contact UNI’s Quality Matters Institutional Representative Belle Cowden at firstname.lastname@example.org or 319-273-7211.
The Office of Continuing and Distance Education strives to integrate Quality Matters standards throughout all elements of online course design, including:
While design and media elements vary within individual courses, online courses offered through Continuing and Distance Education include two basic formats: semester-based (“paced”) and guided independent study (“open”). Unlike synchronous instruction in which learners and instructor are connected in real time, both semester-based and guided independent study online courses utilize asynchronous instruction in which students determine (within parameters) their instructional time frame and when they access learning materials. Both semester-based and guided independent study courses are designed and delivered using eLearning as a learning management system. Online courses will be conducted almost exclusively via the web, although print and other supporting materials will be incorporated as appropriate.
Semester-based (or “term-based”) courses typically follow a schedule in which the instruction begins and ends within traditional semester time frames, or within a set number of weeks as agreed to by the instructor and Continuing and Distance Education. These courses are “paced” in that a group of students move through a series of modules together in the same general time frame. Students in paced courses have great flexibility in accessing material as they have time, with assignments due at prescribed times. Because students are moving through the material as a cohort group, interaction between learners may be incorporated into the design of the course.
Guided independent study courses are “open” in that students may enroll at any time and take up to one year to complete a course. Students work independently on structured lessons at their own pace, submit assignments online, and communicate directly with the instructor. Interaction in guided independent study courses is primarily between the instructor and student, although courses may incorporate learning activities that involve interaction with others.
Each online course administered through Continuing and Distance Education will be expected to meet the academic standards of the sponsoring department. No course will be offered and no payment will be made until the faculty member authoring the course, the academic department head, the academic dean of the college, and the dean of Continuing and Distance Education have indicated in writing that approval has been granted to offer the course.
The impetus for developing a course or program for distance delivery may come from several directions:
In making a determination whether or not to develop a specific course or program, critical considerations will be the need and the market. Key questions that must be addressed are: “What is the potential audience for the online course or program?” and “Why would students choose to take the course or program at a distance through UNI?” In general, courses that meet Liberal Arts Core requirements, certification requirements, or courses that can be applied to one or more majors tend to have more appeal than electives.
After a need has been identified and the market evaluated, Continuing and Distance Education will contact the appropriate academic department head to establish the willingness of the academic department to sponsor the needed course and to identify a faculty member who is qualified, willing, and able to develop the course.
A meeting will be arranged between the instructional developer and the faculty member who has agreed to explore the possibility of developing the course. At this time, factors such as content, format, time frame, and methodology will be discussed. If the faculty member and the instructional developer agree to proceed with the project, an approval form will be completed.
Faculty members teaching online guided independent study courses agree to maintain and provide instruction for a course for at least three years unless they leave the university. In the event the primary instructor leaves the university, or is unable to correct lessons for any reason, the academic department agrees to identify another faculty member to allow currently enrolled students the opportunity to complete the course. Continuing and Distance Education should be notified of any changes in teaching assignments as soon as they are known. In the event that an instructor leaves the University or chooses not to evaluate student work, Continuing and Distance Education reserves the right to continue using the course materials and to pursue another instructor to evaluate student work.
All online courses will be subject to the following guidelines concerning format and content.
Faculty members are responsible for developing the content of the courses, reviewing course content during development of the course and facilitating instruction. While Continuing and Distance Education provides comprehensive instructional design services, including pedagogical guidance and support with the technical elements of course design and delivery, faculty members are also encouraged to take advantage of the training and resources available through ITS Educational Technology. Specifically, Continuing and Distance Education provides support in the following areas:
Continuing and Distance Education will be responsible for promotion and advertising, the administration and maintenance of course/student records, registration and fee collection and payment of faculty members.
Faculty members are encouraged to review the University of Northern Iowa Policy on Distributed Learning and Intellectual Property Rights.