Information Item #3:  Submitted by the Executive Committee (2015/2016- Sept)


Report of the DL Task Force

Contributing Task Force members:
Asai Asaithambi, Candice Carter, Georgette Dumont, Alice Eng, Lakshmi Goel, Saurabh Gupta, Alan Harris, Wanda Hedrick, Julie Ingersoll, Jennifer Kane, Philip Kaplan, Tammie Johnson, Peter Magyari, Lauren Newton, Richard Patterson, Richard Phillips, Zornitza Prodanoff, Katherine Robinson, Diane Tanner, Lance Taylor.  Chair: Scott Hochwald


The following resolution was the raison d’être for the committee. 


Resolution on Distance Learning
Faculty Association has grave concerns about the speed, origin, and direction of recent Distance Learning directives.  Such directives are issued with little (if any) consultation with faculty. The faculty voices on the Distance Learning committee have been side-stepped by having decisions presented to committee members rather than being made by votes at committee meetings.  The directives are being presented to faculty without explanation as to their origination and without explicit votes of support from the Distance Learning committee or other faculty governance body.  In addition, the directives do not seem to be merely the procedural implementation of university policies but rather have implications that affect every faculty member’s right and responsibility to design his or her courses according to his or her disciplinary and pedagogical expertise. More specifically, the directives impose restrictions, to which UNF faculty have never formally agreed, on course delivery models and related pedagogical and curricular decisions.  We are also gravely concerned that a unit whose mission is to support faculty has become a unit that seeks to evaluate faculty outside of evaluative process delineated in the collective bargaining agreement. 


 Now, therefore, be it resolved that the UNF Faculty Association calls for:

  1. a University-wide conversation about the future of Distance Learning at UNF;  
  2. an immediate halt to the unilateral policy decisions being made by the AVP for Academic Technology and director of CIRT regarding distance learning; 
  3. broader faculty decision making authority through explicit votes on Distance Learning policies within Faculty Association committees and the Distance Learning Committee;  
  4. the careful and deliberate development of policies that imply potential restrictions on faculty judgments about their own pedagogical and curricular choices. 
As the Task Force met there were changes in DL at UNF that were in line with the spirit of the resolution.  At this time the report addresses those concerns that remain outstanding. 

 1.       Certification of both faculty and courses. 

  1. Whether a faculty member is qualified to teach an on-line course should be a decision made by the faculty member, his or her department chair, and any faculty body designated by the latter.  The general principle to be followed is that the faculty member is considered qualified to teach on-line if he or she is capable of designing a DL course that meets generally accepted standards by a UNF recognized distance learning quality measure instrument or an equivalent alternative. But of course a chair can take into account other considerations related to that faculty member’s qualifications and standing, including any subsequent evaluation of his or her success in implementing the course. Faculty who have already designed and taught DL courses successfully may be considered qualified to teach other DL courses. In cases in which a faculty member is considered for teaching a DL course designed by someone else, the chair may use other factors to assess his or her qualification (e.g. expertise in the course field, previous experience teaching on-line, general strengths as a teacher).
  2. In deciding whether a proposed DL course meets generally accepted standards, the chair may use a UNF recognized distance learning quality measure instrument as his or her guide (even, if desired, requiring the faculty member to submit the course for evaluation by that instrument). It must be recognized, however, that faculty retain autonomy in deciding which aspects of the specific standards are suitable for a given course and for their teaching style: faculty should be allowed flexibility in the decisions about which course design measures to incorporate, as would be the case for a face-to-face course. The Chair decides whether he or she will use the university measurement tool.

2.       The role of CIRT 

CIRT staff should provide DL advice, support, and training for faculty. As stated in their mission statement, the role of CIRT is ”to offer expertise, resources, and training to assist faculty in ways that enable them to develop greater capacities for using technology for teaching and research. CIRT also disseminates ideas, frameworks, and materials that apply pedagogical knowledge to the teaching and learning process.”   CIRT should also incentivize the use of teaching technology by faculty in all modes of instruction.  We believe this is best accomplished by giving faculty stipends to actively participate in workshops in which they learn how to use teaching technology appropriate to their disciplines. Additionally, CIRT should continue to provide support for faculty in as timely a manner as needed. 


3.       The DL Committee

The DL Committee should consist of two faculty representatives from each College except for the College of Arts and Sciences.  That College will have four faculty representatives.  The Associate VP for Academic Technology and Innovation should be an ex officio non-voting member of the Committee.  The Associate VP for Academic Technology and Innovation can bring advisors to DL Committee meetings.  The Chair of the Committee will be one of the faculty representatives and will be elected by the faculty representatives.  The newly formed DL Committee should draft bylaws that reflect the reality that faculty are at the center of distance learning.


4.       Allocation of the DL Fee.    


The DL fee should be used to fund three categories.  Those categories are: student needs, faculty needs, and infrastructure.  The DL Committee will review on an annual basis DL fee allocations in previous years and solicit input from stakeholders as to current DL needs.  The Committee will then make recommendations for the allocation of the DL fee for the upcoming year.  At the end of each fee year the DL Committee will issue an accountability report detailing how the fees were actually used.   The members of the DL Committee will share all reports with their respective Colleges.   

 5.       DL Office Hours 

DL Office Hours should be held in the medium that is best for students.  This could be in a faculty office or in a remote location where technology is used to conduct synchronous meetings.  The total number of office hours will be determined by the collective bargaining agreement.


6.       DL Class Size


DL class size should be set with the overall quality of the course as a guide.  In many cases DL courses require roughly the same or even more time spent by the instructor per student than face-to-face courses.  In general caps for online and face-to-face courses should be comparable.  If there is a need for online caps to exceed face-to-face caps, then additional teaching credit should be awarded proportional to the class size in an equitable manner. 


7.       Assistants


If assistants (coaches) are needed for DL courses, then the duties of those assistants will be formulated by the instructors of the DL courses.  The instructors requesting assistants will submit their proposals to their Chairs.  The Chairs in turn will prioritize the assistant needs of their Departments and forward those recommendations to their Deans.  The Deans will determine the allocations for assistants.  The DL fee should be used to adequately fund faculty assistant needs as informed by this process.  


8.       Testing


The testing of students is a major concern.  It is imperative that the integrity of the testing process is assured.  Faculty should have the autonomy to decide how their students are tested.  Since a significant number of DL students are in Jacksonville, a Testing Center should be created at UNF using DL fees that will accommodate the projected number of students who could be tested locally.


9.       Student Support


We need a 24-7 site for student support.  This needs to be planned by the DL Committee and funded by the DL fee.