Ferris Online
Quality of Online Courses

Who is responsible for the quality of online courses?

The quality of online courses is the responsibility of the Colleges, the departments, the programs, and individual faculty members who teach the courses - just as is true for face-to-face and mixed- delivery courses.  The University provides assistance to faculty through the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning to develop higher-quality courses in any mode, including online and face-to-face.  FCTL and Media Services personnel can provide assistance with instructional design, technology implementation, and graphics or media development, among other services.

How are online courses evaluated?

Online courses are evaluated by the same methods as face-to-face courses and in a variety of ways. Some instructors select the online course as one in which they will have the Student Assessment of Instruction or IDEA form administered (or other alternative forms when available) – but for full-time faculty, this choice is at the faculty member’s discretion. Adjunct faculty should have their online section evaluated every semester, at the discretion of the department.

Many faculty are using the new IDEA form that is offered online, but student response rates have been low. Response rates improve when faculty members associate points or other credit with completion of the form, yet some are reluctant to link points to completion of the form. More effort must be directed here to increase response rates.

The best evaluation of the quality of online courses is to assess the extent to which intended learning outcomes have been met.

Are online courses as good as face-to-face courses?

Extensive external research suggests that online courses can be at least as effective as face-to-face courses. The variation between face-to-face and online is no greater than the variation between one face-to-face section and another.

That said, there has been little research done within Ferris to evaluate online course sections to face-to-face course sections in terms of student success.  One study started in 2013 by Elaine McCullough in the Languages and Literature department, looked at all the final grades earned by students in the past four years in ENGL321 and ENGL325, and it found no significant difference between the average final grades earned in the online and face-to-face sections of either course.

Key to developing a quality online course is that one recognizes the important differences between the virtual and on-ground classrooms and adapts the pedagogy to fit these differences. Good instructional design is key to the development of online courses, just as it is important for face-to-face. However, more needs to be well planned in advance for the online environment. At Ferris, professionals in the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and many faculty and faculty trainers are knowledgeable about best practices in online learning. Ferris faculty are encouraged to utilize the Center’s services as they develop and improve online courses

How reliable is the BlackBoard system?

The BlackBoard (BlackBoard) system has been very reliable. Regular monthly maintenance is scheduled and down times are communicated broadly. On occasion, problems with the system are not the BlackBoard platform but are instead either Internet service interruptions, computer incompatibilities,browser issues, MyFSU downtime, or other factors. “Uptime” with the system is thought to be at least 99.5%. Planned outages are done in consultation with faculty to determine the least disruptive times, often resulting in the IT Staff’s being on campus on holidays and other breaks.