Best Practices

Here are some resources and reminders to help as you prepare your course materials. 

OEI Course Design Rubric

The OEI developed the Course Design Rubric for online courses as a self-evaluation tool for faculty and course designers. The use of the rubric has been integrated into COM's DE policies and Stategic Plan. We encourage you to download the rubric and use it as a guide to creating and updating your online and hybrid courses: OEI Course Design Rubric

We had the pleasure of working with OEI Representative, Michelle Pilati, during Flex Week, Spring 2016.  Michelle addressed the "State-of-the-State," provided an overview of the OEI and the Course Evaluation Rubric, and discussed important accreditation issues in Distance Education. If you missed this informative session, view her PowerPoint presentation.

Regular, Effective, and Subtantive Contact 5 best practices for regular effective contact inforgraphic

Five Best Practices for maintaining regular, effective, and substantive 


1.Start with your Syllabus

Specify your policies on instructor and student-initiated contact methods, frequency, and response times.

2.Clarify Important Dates

Be clear about assignment and assessment deadlines, not only in the beginning but also throughout the course. Send reminders via announcements and news forums.

3.Maintain an Online Presence

Participate regularly and actively in discussion forums. Pose questions that encourage critical thinking and interaction among all course participants.

4.Promote Collaboration

Assign and monitor weekly assignments and projects that promote collaboration among students.

5.Provide Feedback

Give frequent and substantive feedback throughout the course.

Download our infographic

ADA Best Practices Reminders: Hints and Tips

Is your syllabus ADA compliant? Do you have Word documents that you use routinely in your online classroom? Download the following document for information on preparing Word and Adobe PDF documents using universal design practices: Accessible Course Documents

Does your Moodle course meet ADA compliance? To learn how to create accessible Moodle content pages, download these helpful tips: Accessible Moodle Courses

If you have questions about your online course content and ADA compliance, feel free to contact COM's Instructional Technologist, Stacey Lince at or Elle Dimopoulos, Assistive Technology Specialist at With your permission, Stacey and Elle will evaluate your course documents to make sure they are user-friendly for students who may require special accommodations. 

FERPA Compliance in Combined LMS Courses 

Faculty may wish to combine multiple learning management system (LMS) course sections to save time distributing the same course content to students. In Canvas, this is referred to as cross-listing. However, combining course sections presents a challenge for compliance with FERPA and related laws, regulations, and policies. For more information on COMs student privacy policies, see BP 5040

According to FERPA, students can only have access to other students’ information in a course in which they are enrolled or those that are cross-listed according to COM's class schedule. In terms of online course content, this also means students cannot interact with students from another course in discussions or group activities and cannot have access to each other's online profiles which may have identifiable information. 

To comply with FERPA when distributing course content in combined courses, only Canvas administrators can cross-list courses. To request that your sections be merged faculty must complete the Combined Course Request Form.

Once the courses are cross-listed in Canvas, the faculty member must take the following actions to ensure FERPA compliance:

1. The course syllabus should mention that students from multiple sections will be in one Canvas course shell. You may also consider adding a Canvas Announcement in your class so students are aware that two sections have been merged.

Here is a sample statement:

This course may be taught in a format that combines multiple sections into one online course environment, or that allows students in one section to view or comment on the work of students in another section of the same course being taught by the same instructor. If you have any concerns about this, please contact your instructor for more details.

You might also consider adding a Canvas Announcement in your class so students are aware that two sections have been merged.

2. Canvas course navigational links that allow for student interaction must be hidden from student view including People, Chat, Collaboration & Conferences links.

3. Course settings should be adjusted to not allow students to create their own groups or discussion topics, and comments on Announcements should be disabled.

4. When sending messages using the Canvas Inbox –check the box that says “send an individual message to each recipient” to prevent students from sending a “reply all” response or seeing to whom the message was sent.

5. AssignmentsDiscussions, Peer Reviews, and other group work should be facilitated and assigned by section. Here are links to the Canvas Guides on how to assign graded items to sections: