Best Practices for Distance Education
This best practices checklist for online courses was developed as a guide for instructors to
build online courses that will promote student success. The Mat-Su College Distance
Education Committee recommends that instructors teaching online complete this checklist
prior to the start of the semester. Distance education mentors are available to help with this
checklist or for help with online teaching in general (see end of document).
This checklist is a slightly modified version of the Course Design Checklist made by Academic Innovations &
eLearning at the University of Alaska Anchorage and released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license at We release our derivative under the same license.
Course information
Instructor name:
Course title and Number:
I. Welcome
Instructor welcomes students to the course
✔ Comments:
Welcome includes contact info, contact policies, required
first assignment, expected deadlines, explanation of early
withdrawals, and information on any course prerequisites,
possibly shared in one of the following locations/methods:
__ welcome email identifying what campus course is from
__ Blackboard announcement
__ other location _____________
Instructor provides clear directions for getting started
Instructions include course navigation introduction and any
assignments or resources for the first day of class.
__ in Blackboard announcement
__ in welcome email
__ in Getting Started menu item in Blackboard
__ other location _____________
Regularly scheduled office hours are available (phone,
audio/web conference, IM, etc.) if fulltime faculty member.
Adjuncts provide clear contact information/availability.
Instructor provides brief biographic information and
photo/video to establish presence as instructor.
II. Syllabus
Includes description of course:
✔ Comments:
__ course title, number, credits, prerequisites, times
__ instructor name, office hours, phone, email
__ student learning outcomes from Course Content Guide
__ course goals
__ course description
__ description of instructional methods
__ complete list of course materials
__ pacing expectations (instructor-paced vs. self-paced)
__ schedule of class topics and assignments
__ checklist/due dates for assessments
Includes policies:
__ instructor response times
__ grading turnaround time
__ instructions on checking grades
__ policies on grades, incomplete, and instructor-initiated
__ course policies, including participation and late work
__ address plagiarism and academic integrity for course
__ proficiencies required for course
__ evaluation criteria
__ expectations for student participation
__ etiquette/netiquette for communication with peers
__ add/drop date
__ other
Includes student support:
__ Information on student support services
__ Information on disability services
__ List of technical requirements (e.g., connection speed,
software needed) and a list of expected technical
competencies (e.g., email, word-processing)
__ Instructions for students who have technology trouble
Course calendar or assignment due dates are available in a
location in addition to the syllabus (e.g., repeated in lesson
folders or as a separate document in Blackboard)
III. Course Content
An explanation of course navigation and arrangement is
available to students.
Where is this located?
✔ Comments
Learning outcomes for the course are available and clear.
Each lesson or module provides:
__ learning objectives
__ introduction to the materials
__ clear directions
__ learning activities
__ instructor insights (e.g., lecture notes or material)
__ clearly defined assignments
Making contact assignment (i.e., an assignment due in the
first week, such as a mandatory introduction post)
First content-based assignment due at least two or more
weeks prior to add/drop date
Lecture materials are sequenced and “chunked” to improve
All web links are currently functioning.
Date evaluated:
Material has been checked for spelling and grammar
Course materials reviewed for accessibility for students with
disabilities (e.g., videos contain captions or transcripts)
Instructor connects course content to the student's current
and/or future context (e.g., cultural context, career paths).
Additional resources are available for students who want
more information
IV. Interaction and Collaboration
Explanation of how feedback on assignments will be given
to students
Identify the collaboration methods used in this course:
✔ Comments
What is the channel?
If other, please specify:
__ discussion
__ chat
__ student presentation
__ peer evaluation
__ role playing
__ web conferencing
__ email
__ blog
__ wiki
__ other
Explicit instructions for using communications are provided
(e.g., screen shots or a link to help)
Where is this located?
An open collaboration area for students is provided (e.g., a
Blackboard Collaborate room or a discussion board)
What is used?
Students are introduced to the larger professional or
learning community in the field.
Group projects/activities are assigned to encourage peer-topeer interaction and teamwork.
V. Assessment
A mechanism is in place for instructor to provide specific,
detailed feedback to students on each assessment.
✔ Comments
What is it?
Students are periodically informed of their grades (e.g., by
way of an online gradebook).
Exams correspond with the stated learning objectives for the
course. (Not all courses use exams for assessment. If
exams will be used, they must match course content and
Students are given varied opportunities for reflection, such
__ student's own learning experience
__ real world relevance and application
__ meta-reflection on the course itself: learning materials,
strategies, and structure
Cultural and contextual considerations are woven into
assignments when appropriate.
Give examples:
Assignments vary in performance types. Ex. Create,
publish, present, etc.
Please explain:
Assignments encourage critical thinking and problem
solving (analyze, adapt, apply, and evaluate)
A student self- and/or peer-review is included in graded
Assessments give students the opportunity to demonstrate
real world applications of knowledge and skills (e.g., roleplaying, modeling, etc).
Assignment expectations are clearly communicated
including deliverables, due dates, and instructions for
VI. Technical support considerations
Instructions for technical support are provided to the
students (e.g., UAA IT Call Center information, Blackboard
video tutorials, etc.)
Required tools such as plug-ins and players are clearly
defined and links are provided for acquiring those tools.
✔ Comments
Please list:
All technologies to be used in the course are tested with
students in the first week to ensure that the students have
the technology resources to complete the course.
A technology outage plan or “Plan B” is included with explicit
What is it?
A mechanism is in place for instructor to identify and contact
students who are falling behind (e.g., Blackboard
Performance Dashboard or Blackboard Retention Center)
What is it?
VII. Additional Comments
Distance education mentors
The following people serve as a distance education mentors.
Discipline area
Heather Allen
[email protected]
Harry Banks
Computer science
[email protected]
Felicia Desimini
[email protected]
Rachel Graham
[email protected] 907-746-9348
Micah Muer
[email protected]

MSC Best Practices Online Checklist - Mat