Spring 2021 Course Standards and Guidelines

Prepared by Ad Hoc Subcommittees
convened by the Faculty Senate Academic Affairs Committee


The following are mandatory standards for all TRAD/UG courses at Champlain College. These standards are based on legal statutes, accreditation requirements, and institutional course standards that have previously been created through shared governance.

Requirement to Use Flex-Hybrid Course Design 

  1. All TRAD/UG courses in Spring 2021 must utilize a flex-hybrid course design.
    • Flex-hybrid design gives faculty and students flexibility and uses a variety of formats to ensure that sound learning can continue while we respond to the uncertainties of place and time that the pandemic has created.
    • The Faculty Senate, with the formal approval of the VPAA, has already defined, by faculty vote, flex-hybrid learning as follows for Spring 2021:
      A course that offers multiple delivery modes of synchronous and asynchronous instruction and allows for blended learning (the integration of classroom and online learning), "flipped classrooms," remote synchronous and asynchronous instruction, intentional community building, one-on-one coaching, and other "value added" options. This definition does not apply to intentionally designed, online traditional courses* or to field courses that are currently delivered asynchronously. (*Academic Affairs notes that these have an -81 section designation.)
    • The fundamental difference between flex-hybrid and online courses is that online courses can be fully asynchronous, while flex-hybrid courses must include regular synchronous (that is, real-time) interactions between students and instructors.
    • Synchronous interactions can take place in-person or fully virtually or in a hybrid format.
    • Flex-hybrid courses should be designed so that both faculty and students can participate in all class activities fully virtually, but may include opportunities to attend class or participate in other activities in person.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Course Standards

  1. Course syllabi must meet the syllabus requirements, including the requirement to have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement (Academic Continuity Standard 1).
  2. Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion must be clearly and consistently considered in content choices, assignments, imagery, and other course components. Credit/Instructional Time Course Standards
  3. Courses must meet federal and NECHE standards for instructional time equivalent to normally-scheduled contact hours: 
    • A 3-credit, 15-week course should have 2.5 hours of instructional time and roughly 5 hours of "out of class" work per week, on average.
    • Instructional time includes anything that replaces what would happen in the classroom, including lecture videos or presentations, film screenings ordinarily conducted in person, quizzes, Canvas or real-time student discussions, labs, and other synchronous and asynchronous activities. 
    • For further information, please see Appendix 1, "Guidelines on Credits and Students' Academic Workload", which includes a link to a helpful course workload calculator.

Other NECHE, Financial Aid, ADA, and FERPA-Related Course Standards

  1. Courses must continue to meet other NECHE, ADA, and FERPA standards. Specifically, courses must:
    • Follow the approved course learning outcomes and description, with equivalent content and assessments.
    • Course outcomes can be found here: https://curriculum.champlain.edu/.
    • Require appropriate student effort and workload.
    • Include both synchronous and asynchronous instruction and opportunities for regular and substantive student-faculty and student-student interaction (except for those courses mentioned as exceptions in the definition above).
    • Again, for further information, please see Appendix 1, "Guidelines on Credits and Students' Academic Workload".
    • Follow FERPA when communicating grades and feedback to students. This means grades and feedback should be securely communicated so that they are only shared with the students receiving those grades. In the case of in-class critiques, recordings of those critiques should only be shared with students in the class section, and only via a secure system. For full information, please see Champlain's FERPA Information Guide.
    • Offer accessible course materials and delivery to any students with documented disability accommodations as needed (Academic Continuity Standard 6).
  2. Enrollment verification for federal aid purposes must be carried out using college processes. (Academic Continuity Standard 2; rationale)

Communication and Technology Course Standards

  1. Faculty must use Canvas to post the course syllabus, to communicate assignment due dates, and to post assignment grades. All assignment submissions must be recorded in Canvas, either by collecting the assignment itself, asking students to type in a link to the assignment, or noting that the assignment has been submitted via an alternate format or platform. Student feedback must be provided through a platform that can be used in a FERPA-compliant manner; specifically, any Google products must be used using Champlain institutional accounts.
  2. Assignments must be posted in Canvas at least 48 hours before work is due.
  3. Faculty must provide instructions in their syllabi explaining how students can attend virtual office hours and/or make other appointments with the instructor.
  4. Faculty must clearly communicate participation and technology requirements to students in their syllabi. Students who do not have the required equipment should be encouraged to contact Information Systems for help in obtaining it.
  5. Faculty may only encourage, not require or incentivize via a grade, the use of a camera and/or an identifying photo for virtual class meetings.
  6. Faculty may choose between Google Meet, Zoom, and InSpace for virtual class meetings, unless student accommodations warrant the choice of one platform over another. The virtual meeting platform must be clearly communicated to students in the course syllabus.
    • If faculty wish to use virtual meeting platforms other than Meet, Zoom, or InSpace, they must consult with their Dean, who may refer them to the Director of Academic Technology (Josh Blumberg) to check that the platform enables FERPA-compliant use.
    • Except for textbook publishers' platforms or other communication channels that are inherent to the actual course content, faculty may not require students to use a communications platform for which they must pay a license fee or subscription.

Course Preparation Training and Review Standards

  1. Any faculty member who has not taught a flex-hybrid course before (including those who are returning from a sabbatical taken during the Fall 2020 semester) are required to have a check-in meeting with the CLT to review the requirements for flex-hybrid courses and to learn about the technological and pedagogical supports available for flex-hybrid teaching.
  2. All Canvas shells must, and will automatically undergo, a technical review by the Center for Learning and Teaching at the start of Spring 2021. The purpose of this technical review is to help faculty meet the mandatory course standards in this document and to provide information that will help faculty follow, if they wish to do so, some of the highly recommended guidelines.
    • The technical review is meant to be formative, rather than summative. The first stage of the review will be done via an automated script that checks Canvas courses for potential problems. Courses that are flagged by the script will be manually checked by a member of the Center for Teaching and Learning.
    • Any findings will be reported by private email to individual faculty members and will not be cc'd to deans or others.

Grading Standards

  1. Faculty must clearly communicate the grading time for each assignment (either in the syllabus or during the course of the semester).
  2. Faculty must record assignment grades in the Gradebook in Canvas so that students have information about their performance on assignments completed so far (Academic Continuity Standard 7).
  3. Faculty must provide students with accurate feedback about their current performance in Week 4 or Week 5.
    • This feedback can be informal - an email through Canvas or from the instructor's to the student's Champlain Gmail account, and/or verbal communication during a student conference, will suffice - but it must be accurate.

Highly Recommended Course and Practice Guidelines

The following course and practice guidelines emerged from the deliberations of the various Academic Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittees. While it was either inappropropriate and/or impossible to mandate as a standard that all instructors adhere to every item below, the general consensus among the many members of the subcommittees is that following these guidelines is highly desirable.

In particular, it is worth emphasizing that many of these guidelines were specifically requested by the student representatives to the Academic Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittees as means to improve students' educational experiences and outcomes and to promote student mental health and physical wellness.

All faculty members are strongly urged to implement many or all of these guidelines in their Spring 2021 course designs.

1. Communication

Whenever possible, Canvas should be utilized as the primary channel for written communication with students. Specifically, Announcements and Canvas Inbox should be used for communication to the whole class and individual students, respectively (Academic Continuity Standard 5).

However, certain pedagogies may be better supported by other communication technologies, which are also acceptable as long as FERPA is followed. These include textbook publisher platforms, Champlain Gmail, and collaborative G-Suite files.

While due dates must be posted in Canvas for all assignments and discussions at least 48 hours before work is due (Academic Continuity Standard 3), it is highly recommended that assignments and due dates be posted as early as possible, ideally at the beginning of the semester.

Class meetings should be scheduled using Google Calendar, inviting students so that the event shows up in their calendars (Academic Continuity Standard 4 rationale). Instructors are encouraged to use Google Calendar to schedule office hours and other meetings with students as well.

Instructors should reply to student communications promptly on business days.
Faculty should consult Appendix 3, "Faculty Guidance - Technical Platforms and Student Privacy [pending]" if they are considering asking students to include personally-identifiable information in an assignment.

2. Grading

Unless there are extenuating circumstances that are communicated to students, all graded assignments should be graded within two weeks.

At least one assignment should be graded before midterms and all graded assignments should be graded before or at the time of submitting final grades.

Faculty are required (see Standard #17) to give students accurate feedback about their current performance in the course at some point in Week 4 or Week 5. Configuring the Canvas gradebook so that it accurately reflects students' overall grade in the course is the easiest way to meet this standard. If a student's overall Canvas grade is an accurate reflection of current performance, there is no need for extra communication to students. If, however, the Canvas gradebook for a course cannot be configured to give students an accurate impression of their overall performance in Weeks 4 or 5, then additional communication with students would be required. The most secure, and thus the recommended, way to make this communication is through Canvas, but College provided email accounts can be used in a way that meets FERPA requirements for confidentiality. Faculty should never use personal email addresses (either their own or their students') for such communication.

3. Attendance and Participation

Champlain College does not have a universal attendance policy. Please consider student-specific needs based on their situation before designing syllabus requirements around attendance. In flex-hybrid course design, students have the option of participating remotely with the class. We encourage faculty to build in maximum flexibility around student attendance.

Faculty are free to set participation guidelines for their courses, which may include requiring the use of certain technologies in order to take part in class discussions and activities. Faculty should consult with their program and/or division regarding appropriate technological requirements, and must clearly communicate technical and participation requirements to students in their syllabi.

The only exception to this recommendation is that, as noted in the mandatory course standards, faculty may only encourage, not require or incentivize via a grade, the use of a camera. The camera can introduce equity issues for students lacking cameras or living and working in spaces that reveal things about their lives that they should not be forced to air in a class environment. Similarly, for privacy and security reasons, students may not be required to post photographs and/or their full names.

While camera/photo/name use may not be incentivized via a grade, they may be encouraged by faculty through pedagogical techniques. These include the use of certain virtual meeting platforms, some of which provide meeting hosts more identifying information about participants than others.

Faculty are free to choose the virtual meeting platform for their courses. Again, however, as noted above under "Mandatory Standards", there are limitations to this recommendation:

    • If there are specific documented student accommodations concerns that necessitate the use of a particular virtual meeting platform, faculty must use that platform.
    • The instructor's chosen meeting platform must be clearly indicated in the course syllabus.
    • If faculty wish to use virtual meeting platforms other than Meet, Zoom, or InSpace, they must consult with their Dean, who may refer them to the Director of Academic Technology (Josh Blumberg) to check that the platform enables FERPA-compliant use.
    • Except for textbook publishers' platforms or other communication channels that are inherent to the actual course content, faculty may not require students to use a communications platform for which they must pay a license fee or subscription.

As with their attendance policies, faculty are encouraged to consider student needs and challenges in designing participation requirements and to build in flexibility whenever possible without sacrificing pedagogical integrity. Further, faculty are encouraged to think beyond the traditional measures of attendance and participation and consider other forms of evaluating student engagement with the material, such as page views in Canvas, student utilization of office hours, and the like.

4. Class Recording

Ideal practice is to record class content that will be helpful for students to review at a later time. However, class recording is not mandated, and it is not recommended for parts of class meetings in which sensitive/personal content is discussed.

If a faculty member is notified by the Office of Accessibility that a student requires the provision of recordings that include certain accessibility features such as captioning, recordings with those accessibility features must be provided.

The College's policy on the recording of classes by students is as follows:

Students may use a recording of a class for their own academic purposes. They may not share, replicate, or publish the recording, in whole or in part, or use the recording for any other purpose, without the written approval of the instructor. This includes the dissemination of the recording via private or public email and on social media. This Class Recording policy balances the legitimate uses of classroom recording, the intellectual property of the faculty, and the privacy of individual students and faculty. Failure to adhere to the Class Recording Policy may be regarded as a violation of Champlain College's Standard of Conduct.

5. Canvas Use

These guidelines are recommended because they will promote consistency and reduce extraneous cognitive load for our students, enabling them to focus on learning rather than logistics.

    • Use one of the CLT course templates to provide students with organizational consistency across courses.
    • Include a complete description of each assignment in the relevant Canvas assignment (rather than, or in addition to, separate distribution).
    • Restate discussion post requirements in the instructions for every discussion.
    • Distribute course materials via Canvas whenever possible.
    • Use Roll Call to track attendance to support student wellness efforts (Roll Call can be set to be 0% of students' grades if so desired, while still providing useful information to the SCART team).
    • Be visibly present early and regularly in the course Canvas shell through announcements, feedback, discussion participation and/or other strategies to establish rapport with students (preferably a combination of these).

6. Course Design

These guidelines are highly recommended as a way to enhance student experience and improve learning.

    • Create opportunities for students to interact not only with the instructor, but with each other in both synchronous and asynchronous settings.
    • Utilize appropriately scaffolded assignments during the first four weeks of the semester to give students meaningful early feedback on their performance in the course.
    • Follow Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines for course materials and delivery (please see Appendix 2, "About Universal Design for Learning (UDL)").

7. Reducing the Impact of Missing Spring Break in Spring 2021

Faculty are encouraged to do one or more of the following to provide their students with a break:

    • Provide opportunities in the schedule throughout the semester to allow catch-up/pressure release.
    • Communicate with students about recreational and wellness options - encourage them to get out of their rooms safely.
    • Incorporate experiential learning and field trips (which can be virtual) into their course plans.
    • "Switch things up" with guest speakers, collaborations with Centers of Experience, etc.
    • Design their courses so that no graded assignments are due for a given week (of instructor choice). Non-graded assignments (reading, etc.) can still be given to students.
    • Consider setting assignment due dates/deadlines so that students can have Wednesdays and weekends as "breathing time" to catch up on work.
    • The community as a whole is strongly encouraged to schedule as few administrative meetings as possible on Wednesdays, and none at all on the Wednesday before midterm grades are due.

8. Faculty Support for Course Preparation

Course Review by Deans

In addition to the automatic CLT technical review, the results of which will be shared only with faculty, the Dean of each division may choose to implement additional quality control mechanisms to ensure that the standards and guidelines in this document are being met. Deans are strongly recommended to emulate the CLT's formative/supportive approach in designing any quality control mechanisms.
Support for Returning Faculty Members

With faculty leadership from the Academic Affairs Committee, the CLT is developing a robust program of optional support for faculty who have already taught at least one flex-hybrid course. This support will include online trainings, peer mentoring, self-service resources on the CLT website, and one-with-one coaching.

Any faculty member who wishes to weigh in on the design and content of the support offered by the CLT is encouraged to do so by contacting Rebecca Mills, Director of Learning and Teaching.

APPENDIX 1. Guidelines on Credits, Instructional Time, and Academic Workload

Flex-hybrid instruction both requires and invites a new level of flexibility and innovation in course design and delivery. It also offers new challenges to faculty in determining appropriate student workload. For both these reasons, it is important for faculty to understand the baseline requirements for instructional time and the type and frequency of faculty-student interactions. This appendix outlines these requirements.

To plan a course that both fulfills accreditation requirements and challenges students with an appropriate, but not excessive, amount of work, there are two basic criteria that must be met:

  1. The course must provide the right amount of "instructional time" and
  2. Instructional time must meet the definition of "regular and substantial interaction".

Instructional Time

Federal regulations - as well as our accreditor, the New England Commission on Higher Education - require that for a 3-credit course, there must be 2.5 actual hours per week of what is referred to as "instructional time."
In face-to-face teaching, "instructional time" is usually synonymous with "classroom time". However, it is not actually a requirement that "instructional time" be either face-to-face or synchronous or both. The term was deliberately chosen to be flexible and to support both on-campus and distance-learning courses. Thus, "instructional time" can include but is not limited to these activities: lecture, studio, laboratory, directed study, seminar, discussion, examination (tests, quizzes), practicum, internship, field experience, clinical, conference, presentation, group work, service learning project, or guided project.

It is worth underscoring this important point: work that is equivalent to classroom instruction can also count toward instructional time. Thus, thoughtful and creative forms of pedagogy are supported by NECHE's policies, as is the use of asynchronous forms of instruction as a replacement for some synchronous instruction. However, it is equally essential to note that Champlain's own flex-hybrid course standards call for a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities.

This chart from Valdosta State lists various "instructional time" activities and tabulates synchronous/asynchronous instructional time equivalents (scroll down to Table 3, which starts on page 8). Faculty are encouraged to consult this table to ensure that their students' workload is appropriate.

In this context, it is worth noting that according to NECHE's own Credits and Degrees policy, the credit system was created here in New England "to support academic innovation" by enabling electives to be added to college curricula that had previously consisted purely of required courses. Similarly, the authors of this document believe that the credit system should be used now not to restrict faculty creativity, but instead to support flexible pedagogical approaches and teaching methods that will allow our innovative New England college to respond dynamically to the disruptions and challenges created by the pandemic.

Regular and Substantive Interaction

Online or remote/distance learning is differentiated from "correspondence learning" by the (virtual) presence of the instructor. The Department of Education has set regulations for "regular and substantive interaction" between students and instructors. These regulations ensure federal financial aid funds are used appropriately.

Regular and substantive interaction is defined by four elements:

  • Interaction is initiated and guided by the instructor: While in flex-hybrid courses students have a heightened responsibility to take ownership of their learning, the faculty presence, guidance, and initiation of contact is critical. In a flex-hybrid course, the flow, sequence, and deadlines of the course must be directed by the instructor and the timing of the course set through use of learning activities, online discussion, lectures, etc. In contrast, in true "correspondence courses" students submit work when they finish it and initiate questions when they have them with little or no guidance from the instructor.
  • Initiation of interaction must be regular and frequent: This element is probably the least defined of the four. Essentially, interaction with students should happen fairly frequently and regularly so that students are likely to grow to expect it. A weekly interaction is a good baseline.
  • Interaction must be meaningful and/or of an academic nature: Essentially, the interaction should lead toward increased learning and might consist of things like:
    • Regularly scheduled synchronous activities.
    • Facilitating a study group or online discussion forum.
    • Facilitating faculty-guided independent study.
    • Announcements, email, or other check-ins initiated by the instructor about aspects of the course, the need for additional guidance, etc.
  • Interaction must be initiated by academic personnel who meet accrediting body standards: Interaction should be initiated by someone who is qualified to do so as it relates to the subject matter.

These elements are outlined in more depth in the article Interpreting what is Required for Regular and Substantive Interaction).

Academic Workload

Faculty are strongly encouraged to be mindful of student workload when preparing their classes, as student workload has strong and direct impacts on student mental health and physical well-being.

NECHE guidelines call for 5 hours of student preparation time in addition to the 2.5 hours per week of "instructional time", which is defined above. In flex-hybrid teaching, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between asynchronous instructional time activities and student preparation activities. The essential difference between the two is that "instructional time" activities have a strong element of instructor guidance, while preparation time activities may be more student-directed.

Here are links to two academic workload calculators that may be helpful in assessing the appropriateness of student workload:

APPENDIX 2. About Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

The Universal Design for Learning guidelines are best summarized by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). CAST has been around since the 1980's and has developed a comprehensive strategic plan to promote Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

The key guiding principles of UDL are as follows:

  1. Provide multiple means of engagement
  2. Provide multiple means of representation
  3. Provide multiple means of action and expression

Recognizing that all students are unique, educators are encouraged to focus on accessibility, options or choice, and support.

Accessibility. Accessible content and systems are free from distractions or interruptions. They are organized in a logical way, decoded and clear, and have directly stated connections to outcomes and pathways to success.

Options/Choice. UDL courses are designed to allow students to meet objectives and fulfill assignments in ways that motivate them and build on their strengths. Providing students with more than one way to learn content, or show their mastery of a skill, honors their uniqueness. Faculty members can set high expectations to meet outcomes, but still give students agency over their learning experiences.

Support. Whether a student has disclosed a necessary accommodation or not, providing meaningful support recognizes that for most students, doing college work is more than simply understanding and synthesizing content or developing skills. It is also about learning to manage college work. This is a challenge for all students. To help all students meet this challenge, faculty are encouraged to be explicit about their course, unit, and assignment goals; manage communication; guide project planning and student reflection or self-assessment; promote regulation; capitalize on patterns and routines; and provide resources for additional help.

A longer document, drafted by the members of the Champlain College UDL Faculty/Staff Learning Community, contains a comprehensive list of links to further information, training, tips, and support.

Here is the link to the extended document about Universal Design for Learning.

APPENDIX 3. Faculty Guidance - Technical Platforms and Student Privacy

Currently being drafted by the AAC - this will be developed for Fall 2021.


Currently being drafted by the AAC - this will be developed for Fall 2021.