Distance Education and NonTraditional Programs

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Research-Effective Online Teaching
Course Definitions
Overview – Course Development Process


Thank you for your interest in online and/or hybrid course development and instruction. Teaching online is not just a way of reaching distant or busy students; it is a new way of teaching. Online and hybrid courses offer new, creative ways of presenting information and a higher level of interactivity between instructor and students.

MTSU faculty members have the opportunity to develop and to teach the following types of alternative delivery courses: online, hybrid, accelerated online, and Regents Online Degree Program (RODP) courses. MTSU also offers alternative delivery courses which do not require approval through the University College process: synchronous online, videoconferencing, off-campus, web-assisted and web-enhanced.

Distance courses are developed by MTSU faculty (including full-time, full-time temporary and adjunct faculty) with the assistance of:

  • Instructional Design Specialist Paula Calahan;
  • Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC) staff; and
  • Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) assigned to each course designer.

Desire2Learn (D2L) is the MTSU-supported learning management system, and all faculty new to online and hybrid course development are required to complete training on this system.

Faculty developing online and hybrid courses receive a fee based on the type of course and the number of credit hours developed. Only existing, MTSU courses (approved by the Curriculum Committee or Graduate Council) may be developed for online or hybrid delivery. Development fees are paid only for courses which have not been previously designed for online or hybrid delivery. Special Topics courses are the exception.

Upon completion, all new MTSU online and hybrid courses are peer reviewed by an assigned Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) and reviewed and approved by the department chair before being placed on a semester schedule. The course developer is also expected to conduct a self-evaluation of the course before submitting it to the OFM for the peer review.

Because department chairs/school directors have the option of assigning online and hybrid courses to other instructors, courses must be developed with that thought in mind. Course designers serve as lead designers of their approved courses and are responsible for updating course content and sharing it with sectional instructors.

At the end of the three-year contract period, course designers may substantially redesign their online and hybrid courses and receive a redesign fee. The peer review/chair approval process also applies to course redesigns.

On this page, and subsequent pages, information is presented to guide you through the MTSU online and hybrid course development process, and helpful development and instructional resources are provided.

Research – Effective Online Teaching

This section provides links to effective teaching and learning resources.

Course Definitions

Definitions of MTSU online and hybrid courses are provided below to help potential course designers determine the type of delivery method best suited for their courses.

Online Courses

All class instruction takes place in an online environment, and frequent interaction with the student is necessary. Responses to student questions should be provided within 24 to 48 hours. Online course instructors cannot require any physical class attendance although "optional" on-campus, face-to-face, or online meetings and proctored exams may be offered.

A development fee is paid for course development, and all courses are peer reviewed and receive final approval by the department chair.

MTSU currently supports learning management system Desire2Learn (D2L) . All online course content is to be developed for and taught using this system. Online courses are usually taught as part of the faculty member's course load.

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid courses offer a significant portion of the instruction and activity online, and frequent interaction with the student is necessary. Responses to student questions should be provided within 24 to 48 hours. Hybrid course instructors can require face-to-face or online meetings up to fifteen (15) hours total for the semester. Instructors typically use the 15 hours (or less) of required meetings to cover material that may be more easily communicated in a face-to-face environment than online.

A development fee is paid for course development, and all courses are peer reviewed and receive final approval by the department chair.

MTSU currently supports learning management system Desire2Learn (D2L). All hybrid course content is to be developed for and taught using this system. Hybrid courses are usually taught as part of the faculty member's course load.

Accelerated Online Courses

All class instruction takes place in an online environment, and frequent interaction with the student is necessary. Courses are offered online in an eight-week schedule each Fall and Spring semester and may include optional meetings such as orientations and proctored exams. Optional meetings do not create time conflicts in the scheduling system.

Students may take only 9 hours in each part of term (A1 or A2), and they may mix accelerated courses with full-term courses - not to exceed 18 hours total. Students must register for A2 courses during regular registration, and they are not permitted to add the A2 courses after late registration ends except by special permission. Five seats each course/semester are restricted to students in the B.S., Liberal Studies degree. A "D" section number is attached, and the MTSU Distance learning fee applies ($10 ug/$15 grad per credit hour). Accelerated Online Courses are developed and approved through Distance Education Faculty Services in the University College.

Overview - Course Development Process

A brief overview of the MTSU online/hybrid course development process is outlined below.

  • Course designer completes Course Proposal Form which starts the course development process with Distance Education Faculty Services.
  • Department chair approves Course Proposal Form.
  • Online/Hybrid Course Development Agreement is sent to course designer.
  • An Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) is assigned to course designer by Faculty Services.
  • Course designer requests D2L Development shell, if needed.
  • Course designer completes required Desire2Learn (D2L) training conducted by FITC.
  • Course designer reviews Peer Review Form and uses form as a development guide.
  • Course designer meets with Instructional Design Specialist to plan course.
  • Course designer develops course (according to Online/Hybrid Course Guidelines) with assistance of FITC staff, Instructional Design Specialist and assigned Online Faculty Mentor, as needed.
  • When the course is complete, course designer conducts a self-evaluation.
  • A peer review is conducted by the assigned OFM.
  • The course is reviewed and approved by the department chair or school director.
  • The Scheduling Center is notified of course approval by Faculty Services.
  • Department schedules new course.
  • Payment of course development fees to course designer by Faculty Services.
  • Instruction of new course during targeted semester.


As you make decisions about converting your course to an online or hybrid format, it will be helpful to understand the roles of each of the following: Course Designers; Department Chairs; Distance Education Faculty Services; Distance Education Student Services; Instructional Technology Division (ITD); and Online Faculty Mentors (OFMs).

Faculty Course Designers

  • Review Online/Hybrid Course Guidelines and the Peer Review Form prior to course development.
  • Determine the best delivery method for their course based on content and according to MTSU distance course definitions.
  • Propose only existing MTSU courses approved by the Curriculum Committee and/or Graduate Council which have not previously been developed for distance delivery.
  • Complete and submit for approval all course design and review/approval documents (Online/Hybrid Course Proposal Form, Syllabus, Online/Hybrid Course Development Agreement).
  • Develop course syllabus using required Syllabus Template.
  • Request a Desire2Learn (D2L) development shell from ITD in which to create and post original content, if needed.
  • Use development shells for course creation as opposed to semester shells. Content will be lost if a semester shell is deleted.
  • Development of original course content in D2L is required. Publisher content, or other pre-produced content, may be utilized but should be thoughtfully integrated into the original course content produced by the developer.
  • Develop the course so it can continue to successfully run in D2L if a publisher's website or external, supplemental site is unavailable. (MTSU's ITD does not support nor provide archival capabilities for content posted to external sites.)
  • Design course requiring use of D2L email for archival purposes and to satisfy FERPA regulations.
  • Design appropriate D2L grade books for posting all grades. For security reasons, student grades, and other personally identifiable information, must be posted only within D2L.
  • Review and follow the Peer Review Form as a guide during course design.
  • Complete D2L training at the Faculty Instructional Technology Center.
  • Forward the signed FITC Confirmation Form to Distance Education Faculty Services, Box 54 following completion of D2L training.
  • Contact the Instructional Design Specialist at the Learning, Teaching and Innovative Technology Center (LT&ITC)  for assistance with planning and course design.
  • Work with assigned Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) as needed during course development.
  • Design the course so that other instructors may teach it
  • Build interactivity into the course content.
  • Consider posted university holidays and breaks when scheduling exams, meetings and assignment due dates.
  • Provide students with detailed information on all assignments and course requirements.
  • Conduct a self-evaluation (using the Peer Review Form) when the course is complete, and submit to assigned OFM.
  • Add OFM and department chair to course for peer review and chair review/approval, respectively.
  • Take into consideration changes recommended by OFM.
  • Serve as lead designer of the approved course for the three-year contract period, which includes:
    • updating the master shell each semester as necessary;
    • familiarizing other professors with instruction of the course and assisting in updating welcome page, contact information, and calendar;
    • sharing and uploading course for sectional instructors;
    • working with department to obtain textbooks and other course materials;
    • working with the department to schedule the course.
  • Follow these instructional recommendations/best practices each semester and share with sectional instructors:
    • Login to class the day classes begin;
    • Login to class at least three times per week;
    • Respond to student e-mails and discussion postings within 48 hours;
    • Grade assignments, discussions, quizzes, etc., and post the grades within two weeks of the assignment's posted due date;
    • Follow the University posted holiday schedule during all terms.

Department Chairs

  • Approve development of distance courses proposed by faculty within their departments (Course Proposal Form and Online or Hybrid Course Development Agreement).
  • Examine the Peer Review Forms and completed courses in order to approve online and hybrid courses for delivery.
  • Email course delivery approval to Distance Education Faculty Services, and send signed approval form, via campus mail, to MTSU Box 54.
  • Schedule the approved courses (and meeting facilities, as needed) for delivery according to Scheduling Center deadlines and target delivery semester noted in development agreement.
  • Offer and staff additional sections of online courses when possible.
  • Appoint new lead designers when original course designers are no longer available.

Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) Program

  • Mentor assigned course designer during online and hybrid course development.
  • Conducts preliminary peer review of the course and recommends improvements.
  • Conducts final peer review of the completed course and makes recommendations for improvement, if needed.
  • OFM emails complete and signed (electronic signature) Peer Review Form to Distance Education Faculty Services.
  • Be available to answer questions during the initial instruction of the new course.

Distance Education Faculty Services Office

  • Coordinate the development and delivery of MTSU distance courses (online, hybrid, accelerated online).
  • Maintain the Distance Education Faculty Services website.
  • Provide course designers with development and instructional resources (such as ElluminateLive!) and direct them to these resources.
  • Assign an Online Faculty Mentor (OFM) to each course designer to serve as a development/instructional mentor.
  • Provide "Meet Your Mentor" information on the D2L Learning Community for review by new designers.
  • At the beginning of the development process, provide the course designer with the Peer Review Form to use as a design guide.
  • Facilitate the approval of, and maintain on file, all course design, review, and approval documents.
  • Complete pay documents to compensate faculty for course design, redesign, and peer reviews.
  • Track design, review, and approval processes for each new/redesigned course.
  • Work with Scheduling Center and academic departments to list approved distance courses on appropriate semester schedules.
  • Update distance educators on current and pertinent distance learning news.
  • Survey distance faculty annually regarding services provided and other issues/concerns.
  • After the first week of each semester, contact distance students who are non-participating to offer course access and other assistance.
  • Provide Podcasting audio/video equipment, located in 122 Kirksey Old Main (KOM), for all distance educators.
  • Serve as point of contact for all faculty distance course designers/instructors.

Distance Education Student Services

  • Coordinate a Distance Education Test Center to assist faculty with on-campus and off-campus test proctoring requirements.
  • Facilitate the evaluation of all distance course instructors in Fall and Spring Semesters.
  • Provide Smarthinking online tutorial for distance students.
  • Email course access instructions to distance students at the beginning of each semester.
  • Coordinate offering of existing MTSU correspondence courses.

MTSU Information Technology Division (ITD)

  • Provide students and faculty with accounts on appropriate academic systems.
  • Support student and faculty use of an online learning environment system, electronic communications, email, and the World Wide Web.
  • Operate the Faculty Instructional Technology Center (FITC) which supports multimedia resource development, digital cameras and scanners, graphic and video production and editing, instructional design consultation and training on software applications.
  • Support faculty use and development of instructional technologies by providing one-on-one consultations, reassigned-time, summer fellowships and workshops.
  • Staff a 24/7 Help Desk for students and faculty (615-898-5345).
  • Provide instructional and course development resources such as Turnitin.com accounts for all faculty and SoftChalk.


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