2.5 Web-based and Online Courses

(last updated 11/15/13)


COCI working groups, in 2002 and 2004, considered the issue of online instruction, the broader issues involved, and how to reflect online instruction in instructional formats. The groups focused on “hybrid” courses, in which “technologically mediated activities” subsume online instruction and participation in computer-based activities in a lab setting—as opposed to face-to-face interaction between instructors and students. In spring 2006, COCI further considered the issues and took action to implement the recommendations of the working groups.

Criteria for Review

Face-to-face time vs. Web time

COCI established a threshold at which departments must justify substitutions of face-to-face contact with the instructor with web-based or technologically mediated work. Any course in which face-to-face contact with an instructor represents less than one-third of the total hours of required work per week must justify the substitution by answering a set of questions (see below), the course should be designated as having a web-based instructional format (see below), and will normally carry a W prefix (see below). This standard is based on Senate Regulation 760, which states that the value of a course in units shall be reckoned at the rate of one unit for three hours’ work per week per term. This means that, essentially, for a three-unit course in which students and instructor do not meet in person for three hours per week (one-third of the total work hours required), and technologically mediated (web-based) activities substitute for this meeting time, special justification would be required.

Final Exams

If the instructor does not wish to conduct a final exam in accordance with SR 772, the instructor must follow procedures for final exams as outlined in section 2.1.3. Instructors will need to coordinate with the Office of Scheduling to offer a final exam if a regular classroom has not been assigned for the semester.

Supplemental Questions

Instructors proposing courses in which face-to-face contact is proposed for less than one-third of the total work hours must answer supplementary questions to assess whether the course will preserve student-instructor interaction and not decrease student accountability or otherwise negatively affect learning. In addition to replying to these questions, instructors should carefully consider how much time they expect a typical student will need to work each week to complete requirements for the course, taking into account changed formats, in setting the required estimate of student work. SR 760 applies for web-based courses.

While union contracts govern workload for GSIs, COCI has a responsibility to monitor contact hours for proposed courses. Consequently, COCI needs to be sure that in cases in which GSIs are to be used to deliver instruction and advice asynchronously, the department involved has taken care to structure work assignments in ways that can meet the required number of contact hours with the proposed FTE devoted to GSIs for the course.

When submitting a proposal for a new web-based course or a web-based version of an existing course, the instructor must submit answers to the following questions for COCI’s review. The list of questions is also provided on the Course Management System (CMS) and on COCI’s website (http://academic-senate.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/onlinecoursequestions_11-12-10_1.doc).

Overview questions:

1. What modes of instruction will be used, particularly those specific to technologically-mediated instruction (e.g., webcast lectures, moderated discussion lists, synchronous or asynchronous web-based discussion sections, email, chat rooms)?

2. What specific pedagogical advantages and disadvantages will the technologically-mediated format offer?

3. How will this way of delivering the course change modes of learning (e.g., auditory or tactile) and affect learning experiences? If this course has a corresponding face-to-face version, please compare the two and explain the differences.

4. Is specific technical or pedagogical expertise (on the part of the student or instructor) necessary for this course? If so, what? If using GSIs, are there needs or plans for specialized training to enable them to work successfully in an online environment to elicit/follow/stimulate discussion?

5. What specific technical support does the department have available for instructors and students? What plans are there for malfunction, disruption, or unavailability of technical support?

6. How many students are expected to take this course? If there is a face-to-face equivalent on campus, please indicate the semester(s) taught and typical enrollment(s) and whether the face-to-face version will continue to be taught after development of an online version.

7. Is there a specific problem or set of problems that online delivery is intended to address (e.g., increasing access, relieving impacted courses, reducing costs)? If so, please explain.

8. Will this course satisfy major/degree requirements? If so, are there face-to-face courses that meet the same requirements? Will both the face-to-face and online options be treated the same when determining if students have met these requirements? For instance, does your department intend to limit the number of online courses that students may take to meet requirements? Please explain.

9. Have you considered how this course will relate to other courses, both online and face-to-face, that your department may offer, or that may be offered by other departments? For example, will this course serve as a prerequisite for other courses? Please explain.

Course Mechanics and Logistics Questions:

10. What is the nature of instructor involvement in the proposed alternative mode of instruction? What are the means by which the instructor will foster learning, and how will the instructor be available for consultation?

11. In the case of distance learning courses offered collaboratively between campuses, what are the specific responsibilities of instructors on this campus? How will coordination be maintained between campuses, and who will be responsible on this campus for consultation with students?

12. How will student progress be monitored? Describe graded activities mediated through technology and how materials will be handled to verify student identities and to ensure that students only receive credit for their own work.

13. What are the plans for evaluating student learning outcomes, both at the end of the term and as students move through subsequent courses in a sequence of courses or curricula?

14. How will course material that is archival in nature (e.g., recorded webcasts, voiceover slides) be updated for future offerings? Can it be easily moved to other platforms or adopted by other instructors?

15. COCI will be reviewing approved online courses after four years, consistent with the recommendations in the Berkeley Division's Final Report of the Online Graduate Degree Working Group (which can be found at http://academic-senate.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/final_report_online_graduate_degrees_working_group.pdf) and COCI's current practice of seeking input from the instructors of new online courses on their teaching experiences--a practice which has been in place since COCI's first provisional approval of online courses in 2003. If you believe your proposed course would benefit from review before the four-year mark, what is the alternative time-scale for review that you would prefer and the reasoning behind it?

Four-Year Re-Review

To fulfill the requirement to review approved online courses after four years, as specified in question #15 of the Supplemental Questions, COCI will collect the following information from three sources.

1. From the instructor(s) of the course:

  • A written assessment of how the course has developed over the four years that it has been approved, with particular attention paid to the effectiveness of various aspects of the online design.

2. From the chair of the department in which the course is offered:

  • The chair’s views on how well the course has fit into the department’s offerings.
  • A brief summary of student evaluations of instructors and GSIs for the course over the four-year span.
  • An account of any difficulties that may have arisen related to GSI working hours. 

3. From the Registrar:

  • Which semesters the course has been taught since it has been approved.
  • How many students have enrolled in the course each semester.

Letters will be sent out four years after the effective term of the original approval, and responses will be requested within a few months (at the discretion of the COCI chair). Instructors and chairs will be informed that if the course has changed substantially from its original form, COCI may require submission of a new course proposal for review.

Instructional Formats

In spring 2006 COCI endorsed two new instructional formats, which have been available for scheduling beginning fall 2006. The formats are defined as follows:

WBL: Web-Based Lecture. Courses in which web-based or technologically mediated activities replace standard lectures. This includes courses ranging from fully-integrated online courses with interactive text, graphics, and/or executable programs, online student access to the instructors, and measures to assure compliance with copyright laws; to hybrids in which lectures are technologically mediated (by broadcast or webcast, for example) while other activities and access to instructors may not be mediated by technology. Grades may be based in part on electronically submitted materials such as homework, research papers, and participation. Required final examinations must be administered in a classroom setting unless an exception is granted, in accordance with COCI procedures.

WBD: Web-Based Discussion: Courses in which web-based or technologically mediated activities replace standard discussion sections. Web-Based Discussions may use such modes of instruction as online discussion groups, chat rooms, blogs, and the like. Students may have online access to instructors through these and other means such as email office hours. Measures must be taken to ensure student privacy and civility in these activities. Grades will normally be based on material submitted electronically, such as homework, research papers, and participation.

W Prefix

As of spring 2011, a prefix of W will be used for fully and predominantly online courses, as determined by COCI on a course-by-course basis. The Berkeley Academic Guide listings for online courses will also include the explanatory phrase “This course is web-based” at the end of the course description.