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Fort Lewis College Official Seal

Policy identification number: To come...

File: Academic Policies > Curriculum Policies

Distance Education Policy and Process

Policy Summary

This policy applies to all academic programs and departments involved in creating distance education (DE) learning programs and/or courses for students across Fort Lewis College (FLC).

Policy Owner

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Approval Date

August 14, 2020

Effective Date

August 14, 2020

Search Terms

pvpaa, d, distance, education

Scheduled for Review

Spring 2021

I. Policy Statement

The Distance Education Policy and Process is part of a comprehensive approach to faculty support, professional development, and online/hybrid course quality design to support FLC’s mission and commitment to providing high-quality educational opportunities. Inherent in this commitment to quality is a recognition of the responsibility to support, in a systematic way, the professional development needs of faculty relative to teaching and learning at a distance. Any exceptions to this policy should be requested through the appropriate Dean. Final approval of any requested exception rests with the Provost in consultation with the Dean and Teaching and Learning Services, and if approved, must be stated in writing.

II. Scope and Purpose 

  • This policy sets forth DE course definitions, development or revision requirements, intellectual property arrangements, instructor qualification requirements, and relevant support for faculty at Fort Lewis College.
  • This is not a document prescribing the process by which all new courses are added to the FLC catalog. This document only covers the proposal of new DE courses or courses that are changing delivery mode and have already been approved for inclusion in the FLC catalog.

III. Course Delivery

  1. All approved DE courses will adhere to this policy, and if applicable, the pertinen Online Course Development Agreement.
  2. FLC uses Canvas as the learning management system (LMS). All faculty teaching DE courses will use the Canvas platform and FLC will provide technical support for all DE course developers and instructors in Canvas.

IV. Modes of Delivery

“Distance Education” refers to the following modes of delivery:

  • Online: Courses offered via the internet using Canvas (LMS) Hybrid: Combines face-to-face classroom instruction with distance education activities.
  • Hybrid
  • HyFlex

The college schedule of classes indicates what courses are being offered via distance education and the delivery format (online, hybrid).

Distance Education courses are designated as:

  • Online - “O” – 100% of course activity is done online with no required on-campus meetings.  Online courses may include synchronous online meetings or assignments that engage the student in community-based activities.
  • Hybrid - “H” - courses taught partially through synchronous instruction (on campus or distance) and partially online, with 25-85% of instructional contact hours being synchronous. Students must be made aware of the meeting dates, times and locations at the time of registration
  • HyFlex - “Y” – Courses delivered with fully remote option(s) – synchronous or asynchronous – along with regularly scheduled in-person classes, allowing students to transition seamlessly between the two learning environments.

V. Teaching and Learning Services

Teaching and Learning Services works with faculty and departments on the infrastructure, design, development and delivery of distance education courses. Staff work closely with academic departments to ensure the quality of distance education at Fort Lewis College.

Teaching and Learning Services provides support in the area of distance education by providing the following services:

  • Professional development opportunities in the areas of teaching and learning.
  • Workshops, info sessions, discussions, and webinars on a variety of distance education topics.
  • The production of audio, video, photographic and graphic media for instructional use.
  • Facilitation of faculty training for hybrid/online course development.
  • Assistance with the appropriate pedagogical use of technologies.
  • ADA accessible materials for teaching and learning.

VI. Requirements and Expectations for Distance Education Faculty and Courses

As with traditional courses, FLC’s faculty assumes primary responsibility for and exercises oversight over distance education curricula, ensuring both the rigor of courses and the quality of instruction. With noted differences between teaching distance education courses and teaching courses using “traditional” methodologies, the decision to use distance learning must be made on a course-by-course basis, with consideration given to the content of the course, the needs of the learners, and the interest of the faculty member. 

All distance education courses at Fort Lewis College are considered comparable to traditional courses and must adhere to the Credit Hour Policy, Policy on Rigor, the Learning Management System policy, and Course Syllabus Policy.  Furthermore, all DE courses must go through the standard curriculum approval process as established by FLC, requiring course proposal approval from the department supervisor, Dean (or designee) , Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, and the Provost.

FLC’s goal of offering high-quality distance education experiences taught by highly-trained faculty entails additional requirements and expectations. All courses will meet FLC’s quality standards based on the Higher Learning Commission’s Guidelines for Quality Distance Education Programs and the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. Furthermore, course developers will originally develop the majority of the course content (it is acceptable to select online course materials from publisher content, OERs, or other online resources; however, these are considered supplemental to instructor-created content).

Course caps in DE courses should reflect the course caps for traditional courses.  DE course caps may not vary from departmental course caps unless approved by the chair, dean, and provost.

VII. Qualifications

The Higher Learning Commission requires all “faculty responsible for delivering the on-line learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the on-line learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported” (Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education (On-line Learning), 2009).

All faculty to develop or teach an existing distance education course in the Fall 2018 and/or subsequent semesters are required to show competence in online instruction by (1) participating in the FLC course development process facilitated by the Instructional Designer (ID), or (2) providing evidence of another online course delivery training (e.g. certificate of completion) deemed equivalent to the FLC course development process as recommended by Teaching & Learning Services and the faculty member’s department chair and as approved by the faculty member’s dean.

Teaching and Learning Services provides professional development regarding course design and implementation and supports the SME (subject matter expert, or instructor) in aspects of course design and delivery. This support is provided through a combination of online activities, onsite workshops, and individual consultations in a format that prepares faculty to develop courses that are in accordance with FLC’s Course Quality Review.

VIII. Course Design Quality Review

Based on national standards of best practice, as well as research and instructional design principles, FLC uses the Quality Matters (QM) rubric to support continuous improvements to distance education courses.

QM is designed to certify the quality and accessibility of distance education courses. QM is used as a guide throughout the course development process, addressing course quality in the following categories:

  • Course Overview and Introduction
  • Learning Outcomes
  • Assessment and Measurement
  • Instructional Materials
  • Learner Activities, Interaction & Support
  • Course Technology and Tools
  • Design and Layout
  • Accessibility
  • Instructor Interaction and Feedback

Each course will be evaluated collaboratively with the QM Rubric by both the SME and the ID.

IX. Evaluation of Faculty Teaching Distance Education Courses

It is the responsibility of department chairs and academic deans to perform annual evaluations of their faculty whether they teach using a traditional format or a distance delivery format. Faculty are evaluated in accordance with the guidelines and procedures outlined in the Faculty Handbook.

In 2019, FLC Faculty Senate approved the inclusion of 7 additional questions to be added to all distance education course evaluations. These questions focus on students’ perceptions of the effectiveness of the online / hybrid learning environment. These responses are used to improve course delivery.

X. Course Load, Compensation, Ownership of Course Materials and Copyright

DE courses are typically part of the faculty member’s regular teaching load, with the same rate of compensation as traditional courses. DE courses may also be taught as an overload, at the same rate of compensation as traditional courses taught as an overload. Any exceptions (e.g., reassigned time for developing courses using new distance technologies) are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and as per current procedure, must be approved by the department chair, the dean, and the provost.

The ownership rights to course materials for DE courses is governed by the pertinent agreement between faculty member and FLC and will be determined, in part, by whether or not the faculty member was paid additional compensation (stipend)  for developing the course materials.  As used in this policy, “course materials” shall include course notes, course descriptions, outlines, syllabi, reading lists, assignments, examinations, instructor guides, content (written, visual, audio) and records of the delivery or presentation of the course in any medium.

  1. Online Course Development Agreement with Stipend:  The College shall have ownership and copyright of online course materials in distance education courses for which faculty member shall receive additional compensation in accordance with the parties’ course development agreement. Faculty member shall have a non-exclusive license to use, update, and market the course materials, provided the College’s name or logo is not used in connection with the materials without written consent and faculty member is not currently teaching the course at the College. In the case that a course is co-developed between two or more faculty, the stipend may be shared at the faculty members’ request, provided that both faculty members have entered into a development agreement authorizing shared payment.
  2. Online Course Development Agreement without Stipend: Faculty members who develop new course material for DE courses pursuant to an Online Course Development Agreement without Stipend will not receive any additional compensation. By mutual agreement with the faculty member, the College assigns to faculty member the copyright to online course materials in distance education courses that were prepared by faculty member without additional compensation. Additionally, in the event that a faculty member assigned to teach a course becomes unavailable to teach that course, the College shall be permitted to use the course materials for the duration of the semester in which the course is scheduled. The College may with the faculty member’s written permission be granted a non-exclusive right to use the course matierlas for educational purposes, including rights of derivative use, regardless of whether to not the faculty member is assigned to teach the course or remains employed by FLC.
  3. Rights of College regardless of whether or not faculty member received additional compensation:  Under both of the Online Course Development Agreements summarized above (with or without Stipend), the College retains the following rights:
    1. The right to use the course materials for purposes of the College’s internally administered programs of teaching, research, and public service.
    2. The right to maintain continuity beyond the original version of the course materials by creating derivative works, to the extent necessary to correct errors, keep the content current and relevant, and to maintain the usefulness and quality of the course material as a College instructional offering.
    3. While the faculty member is an employee of the College, they will be consulted regarding the preparation of any derivative works and will be given first right of refusal to teach any sections of the course that are scheduled to be offered online (Deans can approve requests for exceptions). Once the faculty member is no longer an employee of the College, the College may prepare derivative works without consulting the faculty member.
    4. The College will give credit and attribution to the faculty member in its use of the work, where appropriate.

 XI. Course Development and Delivery Process

Departments or individual faculty members (with department approval) may propose new DE courses for development. To encourage high quality course offerings, proposals for creating new DE courses and programs and proposals for converting existing courses to a distance format are given careful review by Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, and Academic Affairs. Courses that align with new program development, and/or with a high-demand (fulfilling a GT Pathway requirement) will be given priority.

DE courses should be approved at least one semester prior to the semester of delivery to allow for sufficient instructor training and course development. The process for developing and delivering existing DE courses is outlined below:

  1. Faculty member obtains approval from department chair and respective dean or designee to propose and offer the distance education course.
  2. Faculty member (sometimes referred to as SME, or Subject Matter Expert) submits the Distance Education Course Proposal Form via Curriculog.
  3. The proposal goes to the department chair, dean or designee, Teaching and Learning Services , Registrar, Curriculum Committee, Faculty Senate, and Provost for review and approval.
  4. Meeting times and dates for hybrid and hyflex courses must be available to the Registrar at the time of scheduling in WebOpus.
  5. SME meets with Teaching and Learning Services to review requirements and expectations outlined in Distance Education Policy.
  6. For their first development experience, the SME works with Teaching and Learning Services and other course developers through the training and the course development process. For subsequent DE course developments, the SME will work directly with the Teaching and Learning Services to set up a collaborative development plan.
  7. Prior to the course being made available to students, the course is reviewed collaboratively by the Teaching and Learning Services and the SME using the QM Rubric.
  8. Students will be made aware of course delivery mode at time of registration. Students must be made aware of meeting dates, times and locations of hybrid and hyflex courses at time of registration.
  9. In accordance with FLC’s LMS policy, the course is made available to students two weeks before the start of the term.
  10. Upon successful completion of the course development process, if the faculty member entered into a Course Development Agreement with Stipend, the stipend may be released and paid to faculty member as soon as practicable.
  11. The course is delivered with continued support, as needed, by Teaching and Learning Services staff.

XII. Course and Program Review


After three years, all DE courses will participate in a course review process using course data as well as data from the DE-specific questions in the course evaluations.  This is a collaborative revision process based on feedback from the instructor, the assessment coordinator, and Teaching and Learning Services.  Review consists of completing DE course development training if faculty has not already done so and working with the Teaching and Learning Services to explore new instructional techniques to revise and improve the course.  Courses will be reviewed using the following three areas:

  • Enhancing student learning
  • Course design and management
  • Increasing student satisfaction (classroom community, feedback, etc.)


All DE courses and programs are subject to the program review as required by state statute.  In addition to the requirements of the Academic Program Review, programs with significant online presence (over 75%) need to provide evidence of the following four criteria:

  • Digital accessibility & student access to learning
  • Frequency and effectiveness of student-student and student-instructor interaction
  • Effective student assessments and instructor feedback
  • Providing technological support and transparency for students

XIII. Definitions

  1. Distance Education (DE) includes the transmission and exchange via the Internet of any outcomes-based learning and instructional material to an audience that is physically separated from the source of the instruction. DE may include fully online courses, asynchronous or synchronous, and hybrid courses.  Distance education requires special techniques of course design, instructional techniques, assessment, and methods of communication by electronic and other technologies.

  2. Online Courses are those courses delivered wholly online with no location requirements. These courses are generally considered to be asynchronous, but some may have synchronous components.

  3. Hybrid courses are those courses intentionally designed with a combination of face-to-face and online learning, although it could refer to a blending of other modalities (such as interactive video and online). This can apply to courses or programs.  Hybrid courses require between 25-85% of the instructional contact hours to be synchronous.

  4. HyFlex courses are delivered with fully remote option(s) – synchronous or asynchronous – along with regularly scheduled in-person classes, allowing students to transition seamlessly between the two learning environments.

 XIV. Contacts

  1. Director of Teaching and Learning Services, Jen Rider: email or 970-247-7404
  2. Instructional Technology, Faculty Support Manager, Clint Jacobsen: email or 970-247-7683
  3. Instructional Technologist and Multimedia Developer, Islay Frazier: email or 970-247-6776
  4. Instructional Designer, Ayla Moore: email or 970-247-7615

XV. Related Resources

XVI. Responsibilities 

For following the policy: Fort Lewis College Faculty and Deans

For enforcement of the policy: Director of Teaching and Learning Services

For oversight of the policy: Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

For notification of policy: Policy Librarian

For procedures implementing the policy: Director of Teaching and Learning Services