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Center for Instruction and Research Technology

Instructional Design Frequently Asked Questions

  • How is distance learning different from a traditional course offered at UNF?
    The primary difference is in the delivery of the course (online versus in the classroom) and not in the course content. Distance learning provides flexibility and convenience for students to access course content from any location and at any time of the day.Although similar materials can be used the online learning process differs from face to face instruction. It requires that both the instructor and students take active participation throughout the length of the course. The instructor at times will play the role of a facilitator overseeing and directing students in achieving the learning objectives for the course.
  • What is the difference between a DL course and a Hybrid (a.k.a Blended Learning) course?
    It is related to the amount of instruction that is delivered via technology when the student and instructor are separated by time or space, or both. For more information, refer to the Definitions of Course Delivery Methods.
  • Does teaching an online class take more time?
    Developing an online or hybrid class can be quite time consuming, you may also find that communicating with students may take up more of your time than in the face-to-face class environment. Once you have developed your online class you can continue to use those materials; your Canvas course "shell" can be migrated to each new semester.
  • How will my individual student contact time change in an online or hybrid course?
    Generally speaking you will spend more time communicating with students via email or using discussion tools than you do in a face-to-face class. It will be important to develop a plan for how you are going to conduct communication with students, for example how long should students expect to wait to hear back from you if they send you an email, how long they should wait before expecting assignments to be graded, etc. This information should be available for students in your syllabus.
  • How will teaching a distance learning course affect me personally?
    Once the course is designed, you may find that you spend more time emailing students, or interacting with them in discussion boards, than you would in a regular face-to-face class. However, most faculty report increased satisfaction with the interaction between themselves and students and an increased interest by students in taking responsibility for their own learning.
  • What are instructional designers and how can they help?
    The primary role of the instructional designer is to assist faculty with the development and delivery of online learning courses. The ID Team regularly consults with faculty on online teaching and learning best practices, assists faculty in the conversion of traditional course materials to the online format, and provides faculty with training and development related to the practical and pedagogical skills necessary for developing and delivering interactive and engaging instruction.
  • How often should I meet with an instructional designer?
    If you are already familiar with the course development process i.e., have developed an online course before, you might meet with the ID to discuss the inital plans for development and then occasionally thereafter for support with course development challenges. If you are developing an online course for the first time or anticipate needing more hands-on assistance from an ID then in an initial meeting, the ID will develop a Course Development Plan for you that contains benchmarks and future meeting dates.
  • I am interested in developing a course for online delivery. Where do I start?
    The conversation about course development begins with your Department Chair. Once you and your Chair have come to an agreement about the goals of the project, and your Chair approves the development of the online course, you can submit an application for the Teaching Online Foundation Course, an 8-week blended format that covers pedagogy, course design, instructional strategies, communication strategies, and online assessment involved in the development and delivery of high-quality blended and fully online courses.
  • What do I need to know about copyright, fair use and works in the public domain for use in an online class?
    You may be familiar with using copyrighted works in the classroom setting, and many of the rules of fair use do apply to online materials providing that your materials are in a password-protected space such as Canvas. You may want to consult with the librarians at the Carpenter Library for specific cases if you have doubts. For more information, refer to the Library’s Copyright Information page.
  • Will my distance education course be evaluated by the university?
    Courses that are developed as part of CIRT's Distance Learning Course Development and Quality Certification program can participate in a course design review using the Quality Matters rubric.
  • What are some best practices for a successful online teaching experience?
    • Design course content requiring frequent interaction between you and your students, as well as frequent interaction among your students.
    • Design an introductory wiki, and include your photo along with some of your interests, and have your students add their photos and some of their interests. This helps to bridge gaps students may feel from not communicating face-to-face and helps everyone get to know each other better.
    • The online course should be updated and available to your students on the first day of the semester.
    • The course syllabus should reflect the current semester information and your expectations of the students.
    • Communicate with your students often. At the beginning of the semester, and in the syllabus, let them know how and when they can expect to hear from you.
    • Respond to students’ inquiries within 24 hours.
    • Arrange optional or required "real-time" online meetings giving students the opportunity to "meet" you in person.

    Visit our CIRT Knowledge Base for additional inspiration and ideas.

  • How can I handle group work in online courses?
    There are several ways in which group work can be handled in your online course, including but not limited to assignments, blogs, wikis, and using Canvas Conferences. CIRT’s instructional designers can help you determine which tool would be the best fit for your course. Schedule an appointment to consult with an instructional designer if you have any questions and/or require assistance with setting up group work in your online course.
  • Can I show videos in an online course?
    Yes. And not only can you show them, you can make them and have your students make them, too. Just as in a face-to-face course, there are special rights (as outlined in the TEACH Act and through fair use guidelines, for example) for the use of video in an online educational setting. We recommend using smaller clips and integrating video into the curriculum (for example making specific activities for students based on viewing short to medium size clips), both as an instructional strategy and as a way to honor the copyrights of both content creators and users in the spirit of sharing and spreading knowledge. Additionally, there are many tools that allow instructors to integrate video right in their courses, whether it is from YouTube, NBC Archives, or other video depositories.
  • How can I make sure that my online course is accessible to students with disabilities?

    As you design your online course there are several basic things to keep in mind:

    • Any audio or video files must have a transcription
    • Any graphics must have alternative text
    • Stick with predetermined fonts and font colors
    • Try to have a consistent look and feel throughout your site and make site organization as clean and clear as possible

    For more information, visit our Accessibility and Universal Design page.

    It is also essential to develop a structured, navigable course to ensure an effective online learning environment. CIRT’s online course templates are available to guide your efforts in constructing high-quality DL courses.

  • What can I do to prevent academic misconduct in my online course.
    There are a few ways to circumvent academic misconduct in your online course, including online proctoring exams, adjusting the test question settings, etc. Contact CIRT for help determining the best method for your needs.
  • What faculty development opportunities are available to me?
    CIRT is committed to working with faculty to enhance their knowledge of best practices related to online course design, development, and delivery. To fulfill this commitment, CIRT provides a four-tier faculty development model that includes a foundation course with separate learning tracks for part-time and full-time faculty, a suite of mastery modules covering a range of topics, support for online course development and quality certification, and participation in a master online teacher certification. In addition, CIRT provides ongoing professional development through scheduled and on-demand workshops. For more information, visit CIRT's Faculty Development Model page.
  • How do I enroll in the Teaching Online courses?

    Visit CIRT's Faculty Development Model page to decide which course and track best suites your needs. Then, submit an application.

  • What workshops does CIRT offer?
    CIRT hosts events on a variety of tools and strategies each semester. Recent topics include social media, online learning, clicker integration, 3D printing, and Canvas. Check out the CIRT Events page for current and past events.
  • What library services are available for online courses?
    Sometimes students (and faculty) forget that the library serves the online campus community in addition to those who visit in person. The Thomas G. Carpenter Library at UNF strives to provide equal access and services to all students, faculty, & staff regardless of location. The Library offers millions of resources in electronic format (ebooks, journal, news, & magazine articles, streaming video & music, reports, images, etc.) and basic services (searching, requesting materials, etc.) that are available any time, anywhere, and on multiple devices. Also, library staff are available live in real time during regular operating hours. Users may submit questions after hours - between 3am and 7am most days during Fall & Spring semesters – and get a response within 24 hours. Options to connect include IM/chat, phone, email, and video call. For more information, visit the Library Resources for Faculty Teaching Online page.
  • How do I acquire an online course template?
    Send email to and identify which template you would like to acquire. You also need to provide the Course ID of the 'Sandbox' course where you would like to have the template copied. Caution: Requesting to have the template copied into a course that already contains other content could result in that content being overwritten or deleted.
  • How will a template help me in developing my online course?
    To streamline online course development, the ID Team at CIRT uses course templates to develop online courses for programs transitioning to fully-online. These templates exhibit best practices in course navigation, accessibility, and technology. One of these templates (Template A) has already been widely adopted by faculty members campus-wide, which is notable because when faculty members adopt these templates it supports the effort to ensure that online courses at UNF will be accessible to all learners through the implementation of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) priniciples. For more information, visit our Online Course Templates page.
  • How are entire degree programs moved to a distance learning format?
    Each academic year, up to two certificate or degree programs will be provided significant support and resources to either (a) convert the entire program to fully online or (b) develop a new certificate or degree program as one delivered fully online. This will be accomplished by providing a full instructional design model. Support for selected faculty and departments will include but may not be limited to seats in the TOL Foundation Course for program faculty, the dedicated assistance of an instructional designer to develop the courses (working in conjunction with an identified faculty Course Developer), and stipends to the faculty Course Developers in each program. If you are interested in submitting a letter of interest for program transition, please contact Dr. Deb Miller, CIRT. For more information, visit the Program Transition page.
  • Why should I have my online course reviewed?
    Once you have finished designing and developing your online or hybrid course, it is important to reflect upon its quality. Is your course design usable and accessible? Will your course effectively promote student learning? Quality Matters is a substantial review process based on research-supported and published best practices that aims to improve online student learning.
  • What is a QM review, and how does it work?
    UNF has adopted Quality Matters (QM) to better develop, maintain, and review our online course offerings. QM is a nationally recognized faculty-centered process that focuses on research-based best practices to ensure quality in distance learning. The Quality Matters approach to quality assurance in online courses is unique in that it emphasizes a collegial, peer-based review process in which the faculty course designer is a part of the review team. A course is never described as having "failed" a review; it is always "in the process of meeting standards" and is described as such until it meets the QM rubric standards at a rate of 85% or better. The QM rubric and process is also unique in that it is diagnostic (not evaluative or judgmental) and focuses solely on online course design and not on course delivery. For more information, visit UNF's Quality Course Review page.
  • Who reviews online courses at UNF?
    All distance learning courses submitted for QM review are reviewed and certified internally, and some are selected to be submitted for national QM certification. The primary difference between 'Internal' and 'National' certification is the review team. For national certifcation, the review team includes four members: Master Reviewer (Team Chair), Subject Matter Expert (SME), External Reviewer, and the Course Representative i.e., faculty member who developed the course. National certification uses reviewers from outside of UNF. For internal certification, there are only two team members: Reviewer and Course Representative. Internal reviews are conducted by UNF faculty and/or staff who have completed training to become QM Certified Peer Reviewers.