Texas Tech University

For Faculty

Accountability When Teaching Online

by Angela Lumpkin, Department of Kinesiology and Sport Management

Accountability means accepting responsibility for what a person agrees to do and then does. With TTU's Worldwide eLearning offerings expanding rapidly, where is the accountability for online courses, especially since potential instructors may perceive that teaching online courses offers the ultimate flexibility—no long lectures to prepare, no scheduled classes to teach, and maybe few assignments to grade. Lest you quickly agree with this misperception, let me challenge your thinking. Teaching an online course is not easier; in fact, it may be more difficult because it requires hundreds of hours to design, develop, deliver, and assess a rich learning environment where most, if not all, communication is in written form. Yet, accountability requires regular and substantive interaction between you and your students while facilitating robust interactions among your students.

Probably we all have heard about or maybe even experienced correspondence courses (i.e., written materials provided electronically or in hard copy; self-paced course completion; and little to no instructor-to-student interaction). Such courses do not reflect best practices for online instruction; they fail to comply with federal law, too. Online courses and programs must be comparable in rigor, breadth, coherence, and comprehensiveness to the student learning opportunities available in on-campus courses, with both taught by qualified instructors.

The University requires each faculty member at TTU to use a rubric when developing, delivering, and assessing the effectiveness of every online course taught. To ensure accountability, each Department Chair must ensure compliance with at least the minimum standard for each category on this rubric.

  1. Course entry—course and instructor information; instructor welcome message; syllabus; and student learner support resources
  2. Instructional design—learning objectives for each module and unit; instructional materials to support student learning; provision of an inclusive learning environment for a broad range of abilities and disabilities; logical organization for ease of navigation with links to essential information; clearly stated expectations and deadlines; technology requirements needed for course completion; and best practices in displaying content
  3. Evaluation and assessment of student progress and learning—clear and explicit assignments; provision of timely feedback; and matched assessments with learning outcomes
  4. Interaction and communication—course activities and assignments that facilitate interactions among students and with the instructor; and encouragement of questions and other types of communication
  5. Accessibility—ensuring easy access to all files including graphics and closed-captioned videos
  6. Copyright compliance for written and digital content

As a Department Chair, it is my responsibility to require each faculty to submit a completed rubric for each online course taught each term. While holding the instructor accountable for scrutinizing and reporting on each course, the Department Chair encourages continuing self-evaluation in meeting the minimum standards as well as nudging the faculty member's advance toward the effective and exemplary level of instruction described on the rubric.