Boston University Online Education – Our Approach

Forward-thinking, Comprehensive Instructional Design and Media Production

Boston University’s instructional designers (IDs) go far beyond the typical role of faculty technical support that is common across many institutions. When necessary, they perform faculty development. In some instances, this requires teaching new professors how to design courses in a systematic fashion. In other cases, this involves showing professors with face-to-face experience how to adapt their preferred teaching methods for distance education. Our IDs do not write the courses forwhat-we-do the faculty, but they do work with them to ensure andragogical soundness and to guarantee that each course is fully developed before students are enrolled.

IDs also serve as project managers, working with professors to design and build instructional materials, establish deadlines for course content, and schedule video shoots. IDs are responsible for building the course pages in HTML, maintaining a consistent look and feel, and managing the editing process.

At Boston University, we believe usability and universal design are designed from the start and not merely added at the end. Our IDs work to make sure our courses can be experienced by the greatest number of people on the greatest number of devices. Our courses are built as web pages rather than within a specific learning management system (LMS), and we try to avoid proprietary applications and plug-ins, such as Flash, in favor of open standards based on HTML5 and JavaScript. As a result, we have the flexibility to experiment with new systems and tools and move to new platforms should they offer a significant benefit.

Boston University online courses supported by the office of Distance Education are presented in a format designed specifically for online delivery. Our award-winning courses are always custom designed with the online learner in mind, which makes ours among the most highly ranked online degree programs in the world. The BU online experience includes an extensive array of interactive elements to create a fully engaging student experience. Our media-rich design is driven by a strong partnership between Boston University’s world-class faculty and our expert team of instructional designers and media producers. We do not simply capture videos of on-campus lectures— instead our media production team develops video content and multimedia of the highest quality specifically geared to the online student. Our approach to media production starts with the faculty vision of how they would like their content to be delivered and what instructional goals they are trying to achieve. The media production team creates video both in our studio as well as on location. We create context with our video material, filming in classrooms, labs, chapels, music halls—anywhere our faculty feel the environment will help tell their story and get their ideas across in an engaging way.  Because they are developed by BU faculty, our online courses offer the same research-driven, rigorous experience as on-campus courses, according students the knowledge and skills they will need to meet their academic, personal, and professional goals.

Robust Faculty and Student Support

Boston University’s faculty and student support administrators (FSSAs) deliver professional, dedicated, and knowledgeable support to faculty and students teaching and taking online courses at BU. Our goal is to be a familiar and trusted resource for students during their time at BU.

  • We assign dedicated administrators to specific courses and programs, in order to forge long-term connections with students.
  • We establish early contact with new students via welcome letters; emails about important dates and account information; invitations to orientation, webinars, and other onboarding activities; and phone calls to all students taking their first online course early in the term.
  • We evaluate students’ needs and identify potential issues, finding the best solutions to problems.
  • We provide advanced specialized training and support for live classroom delivery and technology to ensure successful student engagement in online courses.
  • We respond to student complaints, concerns, and issues—and escalate these as appropriate.
  • We troubleshoot recurring technical issues not supported by BU’s Information Services & Technology (IS&T).
  • We assist the office of Disability Services with student accommodation requests.
  • We strive to help all students to feel connected to the University via our social media efforts.