Basic Development Standards

Start Here

Every distance education course must begin with a Start Here module that contain information set forth in the Quality Matters rubric. The Instructional Designers have already created this module with all of the necessary components, which are editable by Instructors so that you may personalize your information. Contact if you need to have the Start Here module placed in one of your courses.

Course Syllabus

Every distance education course at Marshall University must use the Accessible Syllabus template. The accessible template file is located on the University Assessment website under the Syllabus and Documents header. 

Student Course Orientation

Information must be included on your online course homepage to orient the students as to (1) how your course is structured and (2) how online tools are used in the course. We suggest building in a clearly labeled set of course orientation instructions in the Start Here module. Our instructional designers can help you modify the Start Here module to include a course overview as well.

If you need course design help, please contact our instructional designers at

Student Interaction

Online courses must utilize tools in Blackboard for students to interact with each other and you. Course discussion, blogs, chat, and holding virtual office hours or meeting spaces are some of the ways to accomplish this. Online courses will not pass the review process unless there are ways for students and the professor(s) to interact with each other.

PLEASE NOTE: For courses taught completely online, mandatory face-to-face activities and meetings cannot be scheduled.

Student Deadlines & Instructor Feedback

We highly recommend that you set up regular deadlines for assignment submission and exams, much like the deadlines you may use in a traditional class. This helps students maintain a consistent pace for completing course work. It is especially important for students to receive a message from you when they login to the course, and for the student to complete a low stakes assignment or discussion post upon starting the course. The sooner students start their work, the more likely they are to finish.

Online students expect quick response. Please be sure to be very clear on when students may expect feedback. Please maintain frequent and regular communication online with students throughout the semester, and alert them if you will be temporarily unavailable. For example, if you are typically unavailable to answer questions on a weekend, consider making your due dates in the middle of the week so you can be available for last minute questions.

Multiple peer-reviewed studies indicate that the first three weeks of the course are the most crucial to developing good working course habits and relationships between faculty and students. Most online learning students are working adults with families, who find some flexibility in course due dates as integral in their successful completion of the course. Whatever your approach is to student deadlines, you may want to consider providing at least partial credit for late assignments, and make sure that your late policy is clear on your Syllabus, as well as in the Start Here module.

Note: The University does not provide university-excused absences for distance education courses, except for in extreme circumstances, such as a prolonged illness, catastrophic event, or event involving an immediate family member. Distance education instructors are expected to use their own sound judgment when working with students on late work.

Use Appropriate Online Materials

We encourage faculty to take advantage of all electronic media that is available and appropriate for your course content. Since web pages often change, faculty need to monitor the links you use regularly. All the links that you use for instruction must be in good working order. All of the content and resources provided in the course should be meaningful, updated, provide academic support for the course outcomes and assessments.

As you plan the content for an online course, please consider:

  • Are the file sizes appropriate (not too large) and download times worth the wait?
  • Are audio clips and video clips supported by text for the disabled?
  • Copyright issues are extremely important. As the course instructor, it is your legal responsibility to identify copyrighted materials used in your courses and to cite it appropriately or obtain written permission to use it–before the beginning of the course. The course must be in compliance with Copyright provisions pertaining to Education outlined in Title 17 of the US Code. Access the university copyright site for more information.

Student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction is required: 

  • Within the first week of the term, students should have been provided with an opportunity to interact with each other and with the instructor. This could happen via a Discussion Board or Blog post, for example, where the instructor provides their own introduction and asks students to respond and interact with the posts.
  • Continuing throughout the course, students should be able to make meaningful connections to each other through the course content and assessments.

Course Equivalence

An online course is equivalent to a traditional class except in the delivery format. Courses offered through Blackboard are the same as traditional courses, with equivalent objectives and outcomes. However, course planning, preparation, and practice with educational technology takes practice and time. Instructors should be aware that there are significant difference in f2f and online pedagogy. Instructional Designers and the Center for Teaching and Learning can assist with working through the pedagogical considerations for a distance education course.

High Quality Course

Posting material to the Internet is a form of publication that reflects not only your own work but that of Marshall University. Our goal is that every course offered on Blackboard meet the highest professional publishing standards of each faculty member’s discipline. In closing, please be sure that your course materials are professional in appearance and error-free.

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