This article outlines two common ways for online programs or individual faculty to manage the continual improvement of their online courses developed with the eCampus Center. The approaches are not mutually exclusive—any one aspect of an approach can be paired with other approaches to customize a “best fit”.
For program courses, consult with your program coordinator to learn preferred procedures for handling course changes.
Programs with several sections or offerings online and on-campus or a large faculty pool, or programs with several interdependent courses, or programs with strict accreditation or clinical standards, might benefit from a systematic change management approach that necessitates program review and approval of changes.
Course Suggestions Document
To systematize how change requests are tracked, reviewed, and implemented, consider using the Course Suggestions Document (CSD) linked in each Canvas course template (faculty resources section). The same CSD will be present in every teaching site copied from a course template.
The CSD serves as a conduit for
several teaching faculty to suggest changes to the same course template
discussing the merits and implications of implementing a given change or set of changes
programs to review and approve change requests given a course's role in the overall program
tracking changes that are approved and implemented in course templates
Document of Record
To ensure future course offerings include any and all approved changes, consider implementing changes in the course template and requiring teaching faculty to copy the course template into their teaching sites rather than a past teaching site.
Keeping course templates current versus a teaching site ensures
a consistent student experience from course to course and from instructor to instructor
single source of truth for how courses align to program outcomes and assessments
Cycles of Improvement
The majority of issues identified and change request ideas come while a course is being taught so identify a time near the end of every teaching session where you can review and consider the changes requested. Consider scheduling recurring meetings (e.g., look at the Academic Calendar and schedule times at the end of the relevant teaching sessions). If after a course is taught 2-3 times change requests drop off, adjust times/cancel meetings as needed.
When a course is delivered by the same instructor or a limited instructor pool from session to session, a few simple standards can help to ensure courses remain in alignment with program outcomes while at once supporting faculty to implement changes on their own with minimal to no need for approval.
Even though only a couple of considerations are highlighted here, this model can be hybridized to support any faculty or program need.
Teaching Site as Document of Record
When instructors fix typos, tweak assessments, update content, etcetera on the fly, the current teaching site emerges as the source of truth for how the course aligns with program outcomes.
When teaching sites serve as the document of record, support faculty in copying their latest teaching site into the next term’s teaching site rather than using content from a course template.
Because this approach renders course templates out-of-date and an undependable source for information, consider requesting Live Course Admin access to ensure immediate access to the latest version courses.
Effective implementation of this approach requires communication and clear expectations. For example, outlining simple standards such as: “If a course outcome changes or an assignment change impacts the outcomes, talk to me before making a change” can mitigate the risk of a course falling out of alignment with program outcomes.
Course Template as Document of Record
Some programs and faculty prefer course templates to remain the document of record as a risk mitigation strategy (e.g., the faculty of record goes on leave, student enrollment frequently results in multiple sections hence more instructors, etcetera).
A model that supports instructor-implemented changes yet requires course templates to be copied into teaching sites may benefit from some “approval model” practices such as using the Course Suggestions Document (CSD). In this context, faculty may find themselves making updates to their teaching site and also listing changes on the CSD for later implementation in the course template.
Programs can discuss whether teaching faculty should be enrolled in program course templates to implement changes themselves or if a program coordinator or trained student-worker will take on this responsibility. While the resources and time to take on such a responsibility are important considerations, another key aspect worthy of discussion is skill and comfort working in Canvas.
Some faculty prefer to copy past course sites rather than a course template due to the ease of shifting or substituting dates to the current term. If you find this to be the case in your program and you want faculty to copy course templates, consider entering the next session’s dates into the course template prior to each teaching term!