Regular and Effective Contact/Online Office Hours in DE

Title 5 - §55202. Course Quality Standards

The same standards of course quality shall be applied to any portion of a course conducted through distance education as are applied to traditional classroom courses, in regard to the course quality judgment made pursuant to the requirements of section 55002, and in regard to any local course quality determination or review process. Determinations and judgments about the quality of distance education under the course quality standards shall be made with the full involvement of faculty in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 2 (commencing with section 53200) of chapter 2.

Title 5 - § 55204. Instructor Contact

In addition to the requirements of section 55002 and any locally established requirements applicable to all courses, district governing boards shall ensure that: (a) Any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and student." In addition, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) requires that Distance Education courses ensure that there is "regular substantive interaction" between instructor and student.

When you design a DE course, keep the following suggestions in mind to established Regular, Effective and Authentic Contact:

Instructors need to make certain that there are measures for instructor-initiated effective regular authentic contact incorporated into online and hybrid course design and delivery.

Regular, effective and authentic contact means that instructors must keep in contact with students on a consistent and timely basis to both ensure the quality of instruction and verify their performance and participation status. Lack of activity in the course, such as in the LMS or third-party websites, indicates a lack of regular and effective contact. 

Establishing and maintaining regular, effective and authentic contact is an important aspect of delivering an online and hybrid course. It is not only a Title 5 requirement, but is also a practice that encourages and facilitates student-centered instruction and increases student-learning outcomes. Therefore DE courses cannot be offered in a self-paced format.

Initiated Interactions

  • Include substance for all types of interaction in the course design.

  • Utilize appropriate media for accessibility.

  • Design daily or weekly assignments and projects that promote collaboration among students.

  • Model course netiquette at the beginning of the semester with instructor-guided introductions. Netiquette – A term derived from ‘network’ and ‘etiquette’ which refers to the appropriate manners and protocol for communication in online interactions.

  • Pose questions in the discussion boards which encourage various types of interaction and critical thinking skills among all course participants.

  • Monitor content activity to ensure that students participate fully and discussions remain on topic.

  • Create a specific forum for questions regarding course assignments.

  • Ask students for feedback about the course on a regular basis and revise content

Frequency & Timeliness of Interactions

  • Establish guidelines for frequency of contact that are the same as in the face-to-face classroom.

  • Make known response time for student questions/inquiries and assignment feedback (e.g. 1-2 business days).

  • Maintain an active daily presence, particularly during the beginning weeks of a course.

  • Give frequent and substantive feedback throughout the course.

Expectations for Interactions

  • Specify course policy regarding frequency and timeliness of all contact initiated by the instructor in the syllabus.

  • Explain course policy regarding student-initiated contact (where to post questions, assignments, etc.) in the syllabus.

  • Outline and explain netiquette in initial course documents.

  • Clarify important dates, such as assignment and assessment deadlines not only in the beginning but also throughout the course.

Absences from Interactions

  • Inform students immediately of course designee should an illness, family emergency or other unexpected event prevent continuing regular effective contact for a prolonged period of time.

  • Let students know when instructor-initiated regular effective contact will continue.

What this means for distance education?

Interaction in the distance education classroom must take place in four ways every week: 1. Instructor-Student 2. Student-Student 3. Student-Content 4. Student-Interface.

The following are examples of how to implement weekly interaction in the distance education classroom:

Instructor-Student Examples:

  • Personalized feedback

  • Interactions in discussion boards

  • Chat/IM

  • Synchronous Sessions / Videoconferencing

  • Flipped Classroom Instruction

Student-Student Examples:

  • Messaging via the LMS

  • Discussion boards

  • Chat/IM

  • Synchronous/Asynchronous Document Editing

  • Collaborative projects: group blogs, wikis

Student-Content Examples:

  • Modules on the LMS

  • Lectures (recorded/streaming)

  • Podcasts/webinars/screencasts

  • Video-conferencing/CCCConfer

  • Discussion boards

Student-Interface Examples (within Canvas):

  • Computer hardware

  • Internet browsers

  • Software applications

  • Modules on the LMS

  • Discussion boards

Online Office Hours:

GCC Collective Bargaining Agreement (July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2018)

Section 3. Office Hours A.

“For online office hours, instructors shall communicate with their students synchronously. It is recommended that the faculty member send a notification to their students at the beginning and end of each office hour period held online...Instructors should offer office hours in blocks no shorter than thirty (30) minutes each.”

Online offices hours will be proportionate to online teaching loads. For example, if an instructor is teaching three of their five classes in a distance education mode (online/hybrid), three online office hours are acceptable. The remainder of two office hours should be offered face-to-face on-campus.

Synchronous contact: Part of weekly effective contact that instructors have with students should be synchronous. Instructors should have synchronous contact with students for at least 30 minutes per standard hour in order to answer questions and offer guidance as a kind of online “office hours.”

The course Syllabus and Welcome Letter should clearly state when and how this contact will occur. Examples include:

  • Opportunity for synchronous questions and answers in a chat room, such as the Chat feature in Canvas

  • Web conferencing through Canvas Conferences, ConferNow, Skype Chat, CCCConfer, CCCZoom, or other virtual meeting platforms