These guidelines are to improve the structure, quality, content and communication of all online courses at the Economics Department, and give the students a better learning experience. In this context, the following guidelines are framed for all online courses of the Economics Department.

Course Overview & Introduction:

An online course MUST include:

  • explicit instructions for students on where and how to get started, prominently placed on the course home page
  • an introduction page
  • include information about the instructor, how to navigate the course
  • a syllabus including:
    • measurable course learning goals/objectives
    • academic integrity and disability services information
    • how to contact tech support (OIT, Sakai/eCollege/Canvas support)
    • explicit communication policies, including email and discussion expectations
    • grading policies (including rubrics where appropriate)
  • a specific course schedule including all assignment due dates and times
  • a course-wide forum topic for General Course Questions, open from the first day of class or earlier (sometimes labeled “virtual office”)
  • consistently-organized “modules” for each week (or shorter units for condensed courses) presenting all student materials
  • General Education courses must be identified and include course learning objectives and theme.
  • High-stakes assessments should not take the form of machine-gradable exams in online courses.

Course Structure:

Organization and consistency is critical to student success; the student should never feel lost (“What am I supposed to be doing now?”).

Weekly module tab should contain Chapter / Unit learning goals, reading lists, and weekly activities. Depending on the week, the weekly activities should be comprised of homework, assignments, quizzes, discussion forum, etc. with their due dates and how they have to be submitted. In most cases, the course syllabus and each course and weekly unit should include:

  • explicit measurable learning goals that are consistent with course learning objectives
  • readings (clearly designated as required or recommended)
  • original lecture material, generally augmented with external resources that are appropriately cited (including images, videos, etc.)
  • assessments, including class discussions, tests and quizzes, homework, writing assignments, projects, etc.

Tackling large assignments in an online class can be a challenge. Large projects should be chunked into smaller pieces; each piece should give the student an opportunity to receive feedback from the instructor and receive an appropriately weighted score.

Example: a large research paper might be broken down as such:

  • research topic due Sept. 20 by 11:59pm (5 points)
  • annotated bibliography due Nov. 1 by 11:59pm (15 points)
  • rough draft due Nov. 21 by 11:59pm (20 points)
  • final draft due Dec. 14 by 11:59pm (60 points)


  • Power points pertaining to each week should be attached. If possible, please provide narration (voice) to the power point slides.
  • Additional materials with web links to be provided
  • If some videos are relevant, they should be embedded.

Course interaction & Engagement:

Weekly announcements

Every week at least two announcements are to be sent to all students, one at the beginning of the week and the other at the end of the week. At the beginning of the week, under ‘Things-To-Do’, an introduction of new units should be sent.  At the end of the week, what students should have done / accomplished during that week to be reminded with the due dates.

When you send an announcement, please use ‘announcements’ tab in Sakai. Please make sure that under ‘email notification’ you have selected ‘High – All participants’ from the dropdown menu. Most importantly, please type your name at the end of the announcement, and DO NOT delete any of the announcements for the entire semester. 

Ideally, an online course promotes the development of an interactive “community of learners” and motivates student participation with frequent, assessments, including:

  • introductions during the first week, shared among students and instructor
  • regular announcements to the class, from the instructor, with updates, introduction of new units, general class feedback on performance, etc. (minimum: 2 announcements per week)
  • weekly, interactive, graded discussions among students, with meaningful contributions by instructor 
  • weekly, low-stakes assessments with timely feedback. In addition to discussions, these could include computer-graded reading-check quizzes, regular homework assignments, short writing assignments, etc.
  • grading must be completed quickly so that students receive motivating feedback (for instance, weekly discussions should be graded within 24 hours of close)
  • the General Course Questions forum should be monitored regularly by the instructor (check and respond to questions every day or at least 4 times per week)
  • Every online course should contain at least 10 original video lectures by the instructor of 5-minute duration each [or 5 original video lectures by the instructor of 10-minute duration each].

Discussion forums

Every online course requires at least 5 robust discussion forums per semester. Besides this, the instructor should engage the class in a meaningful discussion through his 3 – 4 posts per week.

Once a “Discussion Forum” is past due, it should be graded in 24 to 48 hours and a detailed “Discussion Forum Wrap-up” announcement should be sent to the entire class.

Commitment to student e-mails

Every e-mail received from the student should be replied to within 48 hours or less. This has to be stated in the syllabus.

Grading and Feedback:

Any Quiz, Assignment, Discussion Forum and Group Activity given during the course should be graded with detailed feedback within 48 hours. This commitment from the instructor has to be specified in the syllabus.

Reminders to Student Instructional Rating Surveys (SIRS):

There is generally less response rate of online students who participate in ‘Student Instructional Rating Survey’ (SIRS) in comparison to site courses. Once the SIRS is open, it is a good idea for the instructor to send at least 3 friendly reminders about completing SIRS and their importance.

You may want to provide incentives to the entire class if the response rate of completion of the surveys is greater than 80 percent. The incentives can be adding 3 to 5 percentage points to final exam for the entire class if response rate is greater than 80 percent. Please make sure that this incentive does not exceed 1 percent of the course grade given the weight attached to the final exam as per your syllabus.  


For all technical support regarding various methods / options of making video lectures, an instructor should contact Christie DeCarolis (, Instructional Designer 245 Armitage Hall 311 N. 5th Street Camden NJ 08102-1405.