FAQ for faculty regarding Online/Hybrid/Blended Learning during COVID-19 and beyond

I have never been certified to teach online or hybrid courses, can I teach online or hybrid courses during fall 2020?

Yes. Although we normally require faculty to be certified to teach online or hybrid courses, we have waived that certification requirement during this COVID-19 crisis. That waiver covers spring, summer and fall 2020. We expect to return to our certification requirement in spring 2021.

I’m scheduled to teach a seated class this fall, but I prefer to teach that as a fully online course.  Can I do that?

That is a decision you need to make with your chair and dean. If you need to move to fully online courses based on medical need, you will need to complete appropriate paperwork for ADA accommodations. If the preference to move online is not based on a documented medical need, then you and your chair and dean can discuss whether it is pedagogically desirable for you to move a particular course to that modality for fall. If you have not previously been certified to teach online courses and the course has not been developed for the fully online modality, but you and your chair and dean all believe it would, none-the-less, be desirable to move that course to a fully online format, we recommend that you use the Blended Model that includes asynchronous and synchronous online elements. Please see the contingency training to help you best prepare. Please note, moving courses online for reasons other than official ADA accommodations may not excuse the faculty member from other in-person campus activities such as service requirements. 

I’m scheduled to teach a seated class this fall, but I prefer to teach that as a hybrid course so that we still have some, but fewer, seated sessions. Can I do that?

Work with your chair and dean to discuss this option and if they agree it is pedagogically appropriate to teach the course as a hybrid course, then please choose your seated meeting dates/times from the originally scheduled class times. If you have not previously been certified to teach hybrid courses, we recommend that you use the Blended Model that includes asynchronous and synchronous seated elements. Please see the contingency training to help you best prepare and note that this model will also easily facilitate a pivot to synchronous online sessions if COVID-19 conditions require further social distancing.

I’m scheduled to teach a fully seated class this fall and I really want to leave my schedule that way. I would only pivot to a reduced seated schedule or online elements if absolutely required by COVID-19 conditions. Is there anything else I need to do?

Please work with your chair and dean to determine whether any changes may be necessary to accommodate social distancing requirements. Also, because of the uncertainties this unprecedented global pandemic has presented, we must be prepared for contingencies. As a result, even if your course is planned as a fully seated course, we encourage you to do the contingency training so you will be well prepared.

At a minimum, you will need to take the following actions in order to be well-prepared for a successful pivot if necessary:

  • Check and update your home computer systems now in preparation for fall. Choose updated operating systems and browsers that are compatible with Blackboard. Speak to the instructional design team (Kate Bohan and Rich McElrath) if you have questions or visit the Getting Started:  Faculty and Staff resources in the New Paltz Knowledge Base.
  • Request technology, if necessary (such as webcam, headset, microphone, Wacom tablet, monitor, or computer), so that you are prepared if we must activate contingency plans again in the fall. You may make a remote teaching technology request, or work with your Chair and Dean as appropriate.
  • Use the Blackboard (Bb) course shell for each of your classes.
  • Post your syllabus in your Bb shell. Ideally, prepare a separate contingency syllabus ready to post later if needed to pivot to online delivery because of recurring COVID-19 disruptions.
  • Post in the Bb shell any PPTs you plan to use in the course, which if already posted will be ready for use either during your seated class or for remote instruction in the event that the semester is disrupted by COVID-19. (Please see Course Design and Management in the New Paltz Knowledge Base for information about posting content in Bb.)
  • Post any and all handouts and assignment instructions in your Bb shell, which will increase efficiencies in your seated classes by ensuring student access and saving photocopying as well as increasing readiness if we must move toward a contingency plan.
  • Look for online media to supplement instruction now, or plan alternatives for online media, in case your class has to switch to remote delivery at some point during the semester.
  • Consider posting assignments and quizzes in Bb. Some faculty already choose to use Bb for quizzes even in seated classes to make more time for other learning activities.

Where can I find the contingency training that is now available to all faculty to help us prepare for the uncertainties COVID-19 presents for the Fall semester?

To access the short continency training course, you will need to log in to Blackboard (Bb) and look for “Training: Developing a Blended Learning Course” in your Course area. The training will be listed in the section of courses where Bb has you enrolled as “students.”

Am I required to do the contingency training?

The training is not mandatory, but we strongly encourage it for all faculty. Faculty who complete this training and follow a common template for course layout will contribute to student continuity in all of their remote learning courses.

  • Faculty who have never been certified are especially encouraged to participate in the training. It will save considerable time, reduce unnecessary stress, and increase the quality of the educational experience both for you and your students.
  • Faculty who are already certified are encouraged to review the training as a refresher or if they have previously only taught fully online courses. Previously certified faculty who complete the training and submit an OSQCR review can be approved for recertification.

What does the contingency training cover?

The contingency training consists of eight (8) self-directed asynchronous modules that cover the following topics:

  1. Planning Your Content
  2. Asynchronous Course Design
  3. Communicating Effectively
  4. Creating Effective and Assessible Content
  5. Adding Content and Information to Your Course
  6. Using Appropriate Learning Tools for Your Activities
  7. Creating Assessments
  8. Building and Organizing the Grade Center

How long does the contingency training take to complete?

The asynchronous nature of the training allows faculty to work at their own pace and focus on applicable elements. We estimate most faculty will complete the training modules in 5 to 10 hours, depending on prior experience levels with the technology. Applying the training to respective courses will, of course, take additional time.

What if I need assistance beyond these training modules?

  • The instructional design team will offer webinars, online drop-in hours, and individual support by phone.
  • You can reach out to the Help Desk
  • 845-257-HELP (4357)
  • servicedesk@newpaltz.edu
  • You can submit a ticket
  • You can explore the wealth of resources archived in the New Paltz Knowledge Base.  The Campus Contingency Guide and Blackboard and Instructional Technology categories in the Knowledge Base would be particularly useful to you.
  • You can explore the plethora of resources Open SUNY has archived:
    • SUNY Resources to help campuses and faculty in transition
    • Resources Guides to support faculty teaching remotely
    • Resource Collection with curated lists of tools and resources to assist faculty
    • Faculty Drop-in Sessions
    • Webinars & Training

I’ve never been certified to teach online/hybrid courses, will I be certified if I do the contingency training?

No. The contingency training is not the same as our Initial Certification training.  The contingency training is designed to provide quick (less than 10 hours) of content to facilitate exigent transitioning to remote learning models. Our Initial Certification training is designed to carefully train faculty to develop an online course that meets all the OSCQR online best practices as well as the WCAG accessibility standards.  Faculty typically spend an entire semester working through that training.

If I’ve never been certified to teach online/hybrid courses and I do the contingency training, will I still be eligible to do the Initial Certification training for online/hybrid teaching?

Yes. Our Initial Certification training is designed to carefully train faculty to develop an online course that meets all the OSCQR online best practices as well as the WCAG accessibility standards. Faculty typically spend an entire semester working through that training. If you have never previously been certified to teach online/hybrid courses, even if you have done the contingency training, you may still apply for Initial Certification at a later date.

I know we’re pausing the certification requirement through the end of 2020, does that mean we are not doing the regular online/hybrid faculty development right now?

No. We have many faculty who were already approved to do online/hybrid development this summer and they are able to complete that work. Other faculty have applied to do development this fall with a plan to offer their online courses in the spring. None of that has changed. The regular faculty development process requires an application with the support of the chair and dean. We are already past the deadline for development for courses to be delivered fall 2020. Although the deadline for spring or summer 2021 delivery was May 1, we might consider late applications with the strong support of the dean.

I was certified under previous certification processes and I understand there’s some sort of recertification that’s required. What is that requirement? And can I use the contingency training to meet that requirement?

Faculty who were certified under prior certification processes are supposed to be recertified every 3 years. We have not had a good process for supporting or tracking that, so no one has been held accountable to those recertification requirements. In March, the Committee on Educational Technology (CET) revised the certification/recertification procedures to better address and support this need for recertification. The new procedures are set to go into effect fall 2020, starting the 3-year clock for all previously certified faculty such that they would need to be recertified by the end of summer 2023. Faculty who need this recertification can use the contingency training as an opportunity to meet that requirement. If previously certified faculty complete the contingency training and, in addition, they fill out an OSCQR rubric and meet with an instructional designer to discuss how the training led to OSCQR improvements in an online course they teach, then they can be recertified.

We’re using terms like online and remote, hybrid and blended, and talking about synchronous and asynchronous elements. I’m not sure I fully understand the differences.

Although “remote” and “online” may sound like they mean the same thing, in the SUNY System and more broadly in the world of online learning, the two words have very different meanings.

Remote Learning 

“Remote” learning is what we did this spring. It is an exigent and quick move to remote learning platforms that uses the best practices appropriate to crisis situations. So, for example, in order to make the rapid transition as smooth as possible, this spring we strongly encouraged faculty to use synchronous elements. Moving a planned lecture to an online synchronous format involved the least amount of change for faculty and students. Because we are uncertain about what might be necessary in the fall semester, we also encourage faculty to prepare for a possible remote pivot this Fall by completing the contingency training that we made available for all faculty. And as a response to COVID 19, some faculty chose to move some of their Fall courses to “online asynchronous” or “online synchronous” formats, designations that the Registrar’s Office made available specifically for the COVID19 situation. Although both of these use the word “online,” they are really “remote” learning formats because they are relying on the abbreviated remote training and remote learning best practices we have provided due to COVID19 rather than the more in-depth online design training we offer with our full online/hybrid faculty development.

Online Learning 

“Online” learning is typically planned 1-2 semesters in advance and uses the full array of OSQCR and WCAG best practices for both online pedagogy and digital accessibility. Online learning uses a particular set of best practices for online pedagogy. Required synchronous elements are not a best practice in traditional online learning. Courses that are designed as online should be fully online and asynchronous. If there are any synchronous components, they must be supplemental, fully optional, or offered with recorded alternatives for students who cannot attend the synchronous event (ex:  review sessions, office hours, drop-in help, etc.). In true online courses or programs, the students might be anywhere in the world. They might be in a significantly different time zone or they might be doing online education because of work or family responsibilities that prohibit a synchronous class schedule.

Hybrid learning 

In contrast with fully online learning, hybrid learning does involve synchronous elements, typically in a seated environment, although a synchronous online format is also possible. Hybrid learning has its own set of best practices and specific pedagogical approaches. The best practice in hybrid learning is to reduce face-to-face time, using online learning for elements of the course that deliver well in an online space and reserving reduced seat time for learning objectives that benefit from real time discussion, feedback or group activity. Hybrid learning, then, uses elements from both online and seated learning formats, but it does so in a carefully planned way that maximizes the effectiveness of each modality.

Note: Our formal certification is only for online or hybrid formats.

By definition, remote learning does not involve the level of training and preparation that our faculty development certification program offers (our contingency training was designed to take 5-10 hours, whereas our formal certification program is designed to take a semester).