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Evaluating online courses

Posted at 8:39 a.m. Nov. 6, 2014, by in Teaching Online

last updated Jul 5, 2022 @ 1:25 pm

Evaluating online courses

As with any other course taught at Rutgers University–Camden, online courses are observed and evaluated by the chairs of their academic departments.

To request access to an online course in Canvas:

  1. The request can initiate only from an academic department chair or dean, but can designate any faculty member as the “official observer”
  2. Send email to requesting “observer access” to the course. Include instructor name, course number and title, and semester
  3. The requester, the observer, and the instructor will all receive notice when access is granted
  4. Note: if the instructor uses external course systems (such as Pearson MyLabs or another publisher system) as a significant tool in teaching, the instructor must request access to that system, generally via customer service, for the observer

Guidelines for evaluating online courses at RUC:

  • Our online courses should be developed in Canvas.
  • The course should include an introduction page, a syllabus with schedule (see sample syllabus), and weekly modules presenting all student material by unit
    • Organization and consistency is critical to student success; the student should never feel lost (“What am I supposed to be doing now?”)
    • As in classroom courses, the syllabus should include standard text about academic integrity and disability services
    • Explicit communication and grading policies must be available to students
  • In most cases, each weekly unit should include:
    • Explicit, measurable learning goals
    • Readings
    • Original lecture material, generally augmented with external resources (we don’t repackage commercial courses; see Slate article “College in a Box“)
    • Assessments, including regular class discussions, tests and quizzes, writing assignments, projects, homework, etc.—note that due dates and grading policies and criteria should be explicit
  • Ideally, an online course promotes the development of an interactive “community of learners” and motivates student participation with frequent, low-stakes assessments. Look for:
    • Introductions during the first week, shared among students and instructor
    • Regular announcements to the class, from the instructor, with updates, introduction of new units, general class feedback on performance, etc. (generally at least 2 announcements per week)
    • Weekly, interactive, graded discussions among students, with meaningful contributions by instructor (bare minimum: 4 discussions per semester and 3-4 posts by instructor per discussion)
    • Weekly low-stakes assessments with timely feedback. In addition to discussions, these could include computer-graded reading-check quizzes, regular homework assignments, short writing assignments, etc.
    • Grading must be completed quickly so that students receive motivating feedback (for instance, weekly discussions should be graded within 24 hours of close)
    • As always, creative instructors may replace some of these assessments with different types or models, which is encouraged
Do you have other ideas for ensuring quality online instruction at Rutgers University–Camden? This is a living document and will change regularly! Please contribute your ideas to
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