DISTANCE EDUCATION POLICIES
Every semester Five Towns College offers online courses in most of its degree programs. The College, therefore, has a number of policies for its online courses and each of these policies, although limited in number, is extremely important for maintaining the integrity of the online classes. It should also be pointed out that the College offers no degree program entirely online, or even 50% of a degree program online. The skills, knowledge and abilities taught at the College currently are viewed as requiring face-to-face and/or hands-on-hands instruction.
Assuring that the student taking an online course is in fact the actual person registered for the course is of critical importance to the College. No foolproof method has yet been developed to guarantee the “authenticity” of individuals taking online courses, nor for guaranteeing that, during test taking, an online student does not utilize unauthorized materials and resources.
The College therefore requires students taking online courses to meet three times on-campus with their instructor. The first meeting is termed an “Orientation Session” in which the instructor reviews the class roster with the enrolled students, provides an overview to the particular online course, indicates the expectations for online course performance, and demonstrates the features of the course platform, Blackboard, that will be necessary for the course. The second meeting, “The Midsemester Examination,” and the third meeting, “The Final Examination,” are to ensure that the students enrolled in the course are also the actual individuals taking the mandatory tests. These examinations are often administered in a regular classroom on campus. If an instructor prefers to give an online examination, then she or he must proctor that examination in one of the College’s computer labs.
Every student taking an online course must sign a statement in the Registrar’s Office when they register to indicate that she or he is aware of the three required on-campus meetings and that she or he will attend those three on-campus meetings. Instructors have the right to impose penalties upon students failing to attend one or more of the required on-campus meetings and failing to provide in advance verifiable and appropriate cause for their absence.
Computer Hardware and Software
All students registering for online courses must have their own computers or have dependable access to computers for the duration of an online course In addition, all students not living on campus and enrolled in online classes must provide at their own expense their own Internet access, anti-virus software, Internet security software, and Internet browser software. The College provides the online course platform, Blackboard, but because Blackboard is hosted solely by Blackboard, the College cannot be held responsible for down times in course access students might experience from Blackboard. Almost all instructors utilize one or more of the software packages in Microsoft Office. Students lacking MS Office should have access to plug-and-play versions available from Microsoft.
Required Use of a Five Towns Email Address
All students taking online courses must use their Five Towns College email address when communicating with instructors or their fellow students. Instructors are neither required nor encouraged to respond to communications from students using non-Five Towns College email addresses, e.g. @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, @hotmail.com. Insistence on student use of College email addresses assures instructors and students that those communicating online are in fact properly affiliated with the College.
Limitations on the Number of Online Courses Student Take in a Semester
College policy limits the number of online courses enrolled students may take in one semester to one online course. Only when a clear, substantial and demonstrable need is provided by a student can an additional may a student register for an additional online course. The reasons for this limitation on courses are many, including the enrollment caps required for online courses, the popularity of many online courses, and the limited availability of certain required online courses.