Guidelines for Teaching in the Online Environment

The following guidelines outline the expectations and responsibilities of instructors utilizing distance learning tools. For assistance with implementing the guidelines, please contact your campus Learning Technologist.

Last revised and approved by Faculty Senate: May, 2021.

  1. General Information

    Instructors teaching online or hybrid must utilize the Learning Management System (LMS) provided by Polk State College. Courses may be available to students in Canvas six days before the start date of the course. All course modalities receive a course shell in Canvas. It is encouraged, but not required, content be published six days prior to the start date of the course.

    Courses that meet the criteria for quality course design as specified in the Polk State College Quality Online Course Rubric will be awarded a badge, visible on each course homepage.

  2. Required Training

    Polk State College offers ‘Online Teaching Certification’ via two courses: Getting Started and Teaching Online, for all instructors intending to teach hybrid or online courses. First-time online instructors are required to complete Getting Started and Teaching Online. Training is available to all instructors but is not mandatory for those previously certified. It is, however, recommended that instructors trained prior to Canvas complete the appropriate courses given the rapid and significant changes that occur in online teaching delivery and design.

    Additional online teaching certification information can be found at

  3. Course Content and Organization

    A. Introductory Information

    By the start of the term, the instructor will publish in the LMS:

    1. Link to BCI page (FOOF– 2)
    2. Syllabus (FOOF– 2)

    Syllabus and BCI guidelines can be found in Procedure 1001 .

    At the start of the course, the instructor will provide: (FOOF – 1)

    1. Course Outline/Schedule
    2. Getting Started” message (How to begin the course; appropriate academic support resources; e.g., Tutoring, Infobase)
    3. Navigation” overview of online components of the course
    4. Course specific “Technical Skills Needed” as well as general “Digital Literacy Skills
    5. Instructor Introduction
    6. Opportunity for“Student Introductions”
    7. Accessibility Informationto align with Procedure 5008
    8. Include netiquette guidelines which outline unacceptable behavior in the online environment. Online conduct expectations aligned with Rule 4.01 II(A-D)*

    * Information, examples, and resources can be found at  

    B. Attendance and Participation

    Online instructors are required to state their attendance policy in the course syllabus. Online class attendance begins the first day of the session. The instructor should:

    1. Clearly define academic dates/weeks/time units for which student attendance and participation will be determined.
    2. Explain what constitutes attendance in online courses. Attendance in online courses frequently entails the completion of certain academic tasks such as reading or viewing posted lectures and materials, posting/replying, taking quizzes, or submitting assignments.
    3. Clearly identify due dates and times for all assignments.
    4. Alert students that partial completion of academic tasks may (or may not) satisfy the attendance requirement.

    C. Communication and Feedback

    The College maintains communication with students in a number of ways: e-mail, discussion boards, assignment feedback, web conferencing, social networking, and other forms of contact. This information has been shared with students in the Guidelines for Students in the Online Environment.  Instructors will adhere to the following best practices in online instruction to facilitate positive communication:

    1. E-mail will receive a response within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.
    2. Questions via other communication tools (i.e. discussion boards, text, Canvas inbox, etc.) will receive a response in a reasonable amount of time. Anticipated-response time will be clearly stated in course introductory information.
    3. Assignment feedback will be provided in a reasonable amount of time. The anticipated time for assignment feedback should be clearly expressed to students in course introductory information or in the syllabus. (FOOF– 3)
    4. Course grading policy and rubrics are clearly communicated in the syllabus or course information, including how students can access grade progress information.

    Netiquette refers to a set of rules for proper online behavior and applies to tone in electronic/online communications. Rules for conduct in discussions, e-mail, blogs, chats, online rooms, social networking sites, web conferences and other aspects of communication content, such as quality, style, and grammar expectations, are addressed.

    Polk State College expects students to adhere to specific guidelines in online environments. Student guidelines can be found at the following link: Guidelines for Students in the Online EnvironmentInstructors will adhere to the same netiquette guidelines when communicating with students in the online environment. To promote appropriate and effective communication, the instructor may choose to do the following:

    1. Provide examples of “acceptable” and “not-acceptable” forms of communication
    2. Detail specific guidelines for discussion postings
    3. Provide an environment conducive to learning for all students. (FOOF– 4)
      1. All students are treated with courtesy and respect.
      2. Ideas and comments can be exchanged in a collaborative manner.

    D. Instructional Materials

    Course objectives in any one course number, regardless of delivery mechanism or content, should be the same. However, in the online environment, certain instructional elements should be considered. In example, a traditional lecture may be segmented into smaller “chunks” to create shorter videos which are more likely to promote success for the online learner. The course materials are provided in a timely manner. (FOOF – 5) Polk State College endorses interactivity in its online courses.

    Considerations unique to the online learning environment necessitate the following:

    1. Modules are in a logical order. (FOOF– 6)
    2. The course designed facilitates readability and ease of course navigation to meet the needs of diverse learners. (FOOF– 7)
    3. Materials are professional in appearance and text is clear of spelling and grammatical errors. (FOOF– 8)
    4. Clear explanations regarding which materials, assignments and resources are required vs. optional, in order for the student to complete course activities and assignments.
    5. Each module/unit of content should explain the purpose, learning objectives, and align with the assessment measures. (FOOF– 1)
    6. For each assignment, the instructor’s expectations should be clearly expressed. Assignments and tasks should be distributed over the term with regular deadlines. (FOOF– 1)
    7. Source materials used in the course must be clearly identified and appropriately cited. all Instructors will adhere to appropriate copyright guidelines as explained in Procedure 4004.
    8. Proficiency is demonstrated in the subject matter through the utilization of appropriate instructional materials and feedback provided to students. (FOOF– 9)
    9. There are opportunities for interaction and tools for learner engagement that support student learning outcomes (i.e. discussion boards, chat, simulations, games, etc.). (FOOF– 10)

    E. Course Technology

    The course technologies are readily obtainable, hyperlinks and multimedia are updated (non-functional items are removed/replaced). External tools (i.e. Infobase (Hoonuit), Films on Demand, VidGrid, Merlot) are available to embed into online courses.  Appropriate information on using any required tools will be included in the course.

    When publisher materials are integrated into a course, the following information must be provided:

    • Technical requirements (Hardware and Browser Requirements)
    • Instructions for access
    • Login instructions (if not directly linked in Canvas)
    • Technical support information and PSC Bookstore contact

    Web Conferences shown on the Canvas course navigation menu as “Conferences” offers instructors an additional mode of online communication with students. Polk State College also offers access to the following web conference tools: Zoom, Teams, Lifesize and Big Blue Button Personal Rooms. When web conferencing is required in a course, the Live Online course designation should be used. Instructors should communicate the following anytime web conferencing is used:

    • Participation requirements: mandatory optional
    • Meeting schedule (dates, times)
    • Connection information
    • Microphone, speakers, camera requirements
    • Technical requirements (hardware and browser requirements)
    • Technical support
    • Expected participation behaviors (as appropriate)

    F. Assessment and Measurement

    Faculty must inform students of their progress throughout the duration of the course. Canvas includes a Grades Tool. It is recommended for fully online and hybrid courses that the grades tool be used to inform students of their course progress. For those using grading tools outside Canvas, clear instructions on how to access student progress should be provided.

    1. The course has appropriate instructions, evaluative criteria, and due dates for activities or assignments. (FOOF– 12)
    2. The course includes diverse learning activities and assessment instruments that align to course learning outcomes to support instruction and enable students to track progress. (FOOF– 12)

    Proctored and/or In-Person Exams: Faculty who require students to take proctored exams, in-person, through a campus testing center must provide advance written notice of date(s) and include links to institution-specific academic support services and how to access these services (e.g., location of testing center and/or proctored test sites, hours of operation, phone numbers, and email addresses for key personnel). Instructors may also make available the option for remote proctoring.

    For local in-person testing, instructions and test materials must be provided to the appropriate TLCCs. For at-a distance students who are unable to test at a TLCC, faculty may offer proctored exams via the remote proctored testing service or at a non-Polk testing center. Students are responsible for identifying a testing center in their location and for providing the necessary information to the instructor so materials and instructions can be submitted to that site. Students may access the National College Testing Association for help identifying a testing center in their area. The instructor will provide the necessary test materials and instructions to the approved test location along with instructions for the return of the materials.

    For more information on remote proctoring please visit:

    • Syllabus statement for instructors using Remote Proctoring via Honorlock:

    Polk State College instructors are given the discretion to require proctored exams, providing three options for students to test: on campus via the TLCC, at a designated testing center, or through remote proctoring. Polk State College provides one option for remotely proctored exams through Honorlock. Remote proctoring requires a room scan as part of the test session. The room scan provides an opportunity for students to display their testing space, free of any unauthorized materials or persons, to ensure the integrity of the test session. The entire testing session will be recorded. A Google Chrome extension plug-in must be installed to use this proctoring service.  Unusual behavior is flagged and an Honorlock specialist reviews and makes notes about the behavior. Additionally, Honorlock uses Integrity Analytics, which means that while the exam is live, Honorlock is monitoring for attempts by the test taker to find answers to the questions on the Internet using any device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or additional computer. Honorlock also monitors attempts to leave the test session, open a new browser, and copy/paste questions. The instructor receives the report from Honorlock to review and ensure academic integrity. Some instructors may require specific elements be included as part of the remote proctoring session, such as a mirror. Students have the option to test at a TLCC or certified testing center. Contact your instructor for specific guidance.


    Document Originality Checking: One of the following statements below should be included in the syllabus if an originality checking service is being utilized per Procedure 1001.

    This section shall contain a statement regarding the use of a plagiarism detection service and/or the Originality Check feature in Canvas.

    • If students are required to submit their paper to a plagiarism detection service via the Canvas Assignment:

    This course utilizes an automatic plagiarism detection service. Your paper will be submitted to the service upon submission to selected Canvas Assignment. Please remove your name from your paper prior to submission. For more information about this service, please visit

    • If the instructor will submit only select papers to a plagiarism checking service/software:

    This course utilizes an automatic plagiarism detection service. Your paper may be submitted to this service to check for originality. For more information about this service, please visit