Do faculty members need to be technologically advanced in order to participate in online education?

Faculty teaching online for the first time do not need to be technology experts. They should be comfortable using computers and the Internet. Specialized knowledge outside of the faculty member’s area of expertise is not required. The ODE and a 24/7 technical support team will provide the support faculty members need to be successful in an online program. Faculty will need a reasonably recent-model computer and access to the Internet through a high speed connection. That’s all that is required.

What other resources are available at the Office of Distance Education to support faculty members' work?

ODE staff includes instructional designers; a media producer; a program manager who obtains copyright permissions as needed, coordinates with the BU bookstore and proofreads content; and student services coordinators who work with the assigned program coordinators from the academic departments to ensure student success.

What are the commitments for an Instructor of Record in an online course?

Faculty members run their distance courses through programs established by their departments or colleges. A faculty member whose course has been approved receives a letter of agreement that outlines the procedure and compensation for developing a course. Creating an online course takes a considerable time commitment, and, it may take a semester for planning and implementation. ODE suggests working with a course designer. Course development typically occurs in the six month period prior to launching the course. As the content experts, faculty is encouraged to engage colleagues at ODE in preparing the course they envision. In addition to getting the course up and running from the technical side, the ODE partner will provide input about which kinds of media, course plans, assignments and assessments work best in the online environment. Boston University is encourages collaboration between faculty and ODE professionals to ensure a successful partnership and product.

How are faculty members compensated for teaching an online course?

Faculty members who develop an online course typically have the first option to teach the course. Compensation for this depends on the program. Instructors of Record are responsible for overseeing the course, answering student inquiries, participating in course discussions, and submitting grades for all of the students in the course. Most courses are large enough to include course facilitators, who generally supervise groups of up to 15 students. Instructors of Record interact with the facilitators at least weekly, although they will generally have conversations with the facilitators several times a week, discussing student progress, clarifying assignments, and reviewing course material. Faculty may provide their program coordinator or chair with the names of potential facilitators, or facilitators will be assigned to the course through the efforts of the program coordinator and ODE.

Do faculty members retain the rights to the material they create for online courses, and how does the University protect those rights?

The Trustees of Boston University officially own the rights to BU’s online courses. Faculty members often ask about the rights they maintain as content contributors. In essence, the University owns the course as a whole, but the contributing faculty members retain the rights to the content they contribute. The University restricts the use of this content only to the extent of barring its use in a competitive online program; otherwise the faculty are free to re-use their material as they choose.

Online content is protected through the University Kerberos password system. Only registered students can access course material and they can do so only during the period that they are enrolled in the course.

What are some of the unique challenges of teaching an online course?

One concern faculty members have expresses is whether it is possible to actively engage students in online programs. Faculty who teach in these programs have been quick to report that it is indeed possible to create an intellectual community online that is similar to one in a traditional on campus environment. Faculty do get to know their students, and students do engage with their instructors and with classmates, in many ways: through chats, email, and telephone conversations. Technology enables online students to engage with faculty members and each other through assignments, discussion boards and peer-to-peer learning. Discussion boards encourage full participation by all students without risk of one or a few students monopolizing the conversation. The need for each student to contribute through different channels can be particularly effective for the adult learners that are usually served by online programs.

How are lecturers evaluated for reappointment? Is tenure a factor?

Teaching online “counts” the same as traditional classroom teaching for full time faculty, in terms of promotion, annual evaluation and tenure review.

Is there a code of ethics for faculty and students?

As in BU's traditional classroom courses, online programs have a student conduct code that outlines expectations and standards for online learning. As in the traditional classroom, online program faculty must be vigilant about misconduct, particularly the use of copyrighted materials in assignments. ODE offers training that helps professors with academic conduct issues.

How does online teaching affect teaching in on campus programs?

Nearly all professors state that teaching a course online has helped them to teach their traditional on campus courses more effectively. Designing an online course forces faculty to conceptualize a course in its entirety prior to creating it in the online format. Because faculty must plan the course in detail before the course begins, they must have carefully orchestrated each activity, lecture, and discussion in order to build a successful learning experience. Faculty may add or subtract elements as the course unfolds, but the goals and their expectation for the students must be clearly defined prior to the beginning of the course.

Faculty members have reported that one benefit of teaching online is their increased ability to incorporate technology into their teaching on campus, thus providing an enhanced learning environment and more flexibility for on campus students.

Frequently Asked Questions

We've collected the most common questions and answers regarding Distance Education at Boston University. Visit each section below for more information:

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