Policies and Procedures

Distance Learning at The Sage Colleges


1. General Information and Purpose

The Sage Colleges (TSC) recognize the significance of organizing the distance learning initiatives of the institution so that a well-coordinated program will be delivered. Coordination of distance learning initiatives is required to insure a high level of quality, provide resources and assistance for faculty, provide support services for distance learning students, maximize the use of university resources with a minimum of duplication, and ensure consistent and fair policies and procedures related to faculty and students. Organized and well-coordinated programs facilitate marketing and promotional strategies and strengthen the college's image as an innovative and technologically sound institution.

Rapid advancements in technology will continue to create new methods for providing and delivering distance learning. Sage is committed to ensuring that distance learning programs and courses will be as academically rigorous as their on-campus counterparts, and will result in appropriate and deep learning.  The college also recognizes that emerging methods for delivering educational content bring new and different teaching and learning challenges.  Therefore, policies and procedures that impact distance learning will continuously change and these guidelines will continue to be reviewed and revised to reflect current best practices.  Additionally, as changes occur that are internally developed or are required by the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) or the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), this document will be revised to incorporate those changes.

The following distance learning policies and procedures are intended to assist with planning, coordination, and technological support for participating administrators, faculty members and staff. These policies and procedures are built on The Sage Colleges' current Academic Policy Manuals and the The Sage Road to the Future and shall apply to new distance learning activities as well as to existing courses and programs in which the method of delivery has changed significantly from that approved in the original curriculum proposal.

2. Definitions

Distance learning - For the purposes of this document, distance learning will be defined as instruction delivered through electronic means such as television, interactive video conferencing, or computers.

Distance learning course - an individual course in which the majority of instruction occurs when the student and the instructor are not in the same physical setting. The course is considered distance learning if the student receives a significant portion of their instruction at a distance.

Web-enhanced Course – an individual course in which face to face instruction is supplemented with materials delivered via distance learning, but maintains 100% seat time/Carnegie units in face-to-face delivery.

Hybrid Course – an individual course in which some face to face instruction is replaced with distance learning.

Online Course – an individual course in which the majority of instruction is delivered via distance learning.

Distance learning program - an approved collection of courses or course of study where a student can earn 50% or more credits necessary to qualify for a degree through distance learning.

3. Planning for Distance Learning Activities

The appropriateness and viability of distance learning programs must be carefully considered in the planning process. Distance learning programs should be aligned with the institution's role and mission, consistent with the institution's long range plans, and supportive of its educational strategies. Distance learning programs should be designed and evaluated according to guidelines similar to those utilized for on-campus programs.

The design and development of distance learning courses and programs follow priorities established by the College. These priorities are based on educational requirements, market studies, public demand, community and business needs, and the competitive advantages of TSC. Development of distance learning program maximize university research and educational goals, promote the development of resources unavailable at other institutions, and encourage collaboration with other institutions.

4. Academic Requirements and Quality Standards

The following standards represent important guiding principles for developing, conducting and evaluating distance education instructional activities at TSC.

4.01 The Sage Colleges engage in distance learning courses and programs which are consistent with the institutional role and mission.

4.02 Distance learning conducted at TSC will comply with the "Benchmarks for Success in Internet-based Distance Learning" as presented by The Institute for Higher Education Policy, and in accordance with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education "Interregional Guidelines for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs", in accordance with guidelines published by the New York State Department of Education's Office of College and University Evaluation, and with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

4.03 The course or program that is being proposed as a degree-related distance learning activity shall meet at least the same quality standards applicable to on-campus instruction as well as quality standards specifically applicable to distance learning instruction.

4.04 Distance learning courses will be listed as such in the course schedule.

4.05 Each distance learning course provides for planned interaction and timely feedback between students and faculty member(s) teaching the course.

4.06 The instructor will be responsible for the delivery of instruction and for evaluating student progress.

4.07 Faculty will be selected and evaluated by the same standards and procedures required to select faculty responsible for on-campus course delivery.  Faculty must demonstrate competence in online instruction, in general and in use of the Learning Management System employed at the time.  Typically this takes the form of completing two of the workshops offered by Sage Online.  The content covered in the workshops includes how to utilize the Learning Management System to achieve course outcomes and objectives, how to manage the course and selected learning activities, and how to meet ADA compliance. The workshops span roughly five weeks each and are graded and transcripted.  Additionally, all first-time online instructors will receive mentoring, for the duration of their first distance learning course, by an instructor who has either gone through the training/mentoring program or has been approved by the Director of Sage Online.

4.08 The Sage Center for Online Learning and Teaching (Sage Online) provides ongoing training and support for faculty providing distance learning.

4.09 For degree-seeking students, the same policies concerning admission requirements, scholastic standards, and other administrative processes apply to distance learning programs as they do for on-campus programs.

4.10 All distance learning courses will be monitored and evaluated on a regular basis by the Department Chair and evaluation results will be used for continuous program improvement.

4.10.a If it is determined that a course should be evaluated due to the following criteria:1. it is a new online course in its first semester; 2. complaints regarding quality or lack of instructor presence; 3. high attrition rate, then the Chairs may be granted access to the course provided they complete the access form provided by the  Sage Online and the instructor is notified. (See section 9.05.)

4.11 Program evaluation procedures include a determination that distance learning programs result in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the TSC's degree or certificate awarded.

4.12 All courses, programs, or academic support services accessed from another institution, will be evaluated for their quality, academic rigor, and suitability for the award of college credit and a degree or certificate from TSC, prior to use by the college. For OCICU courses, this is accomplished through an agreed-upon system of course exchange.

4.13 All distance learning courses will provide for verification of students' work.

4.14 The Provost  in consultation with the dean and department chair, will determine the appropriate enrollment that can be supported in the distance learning program and in individual courses based upon the content and learning activities, the nature of the learners, the technologies used, the support available to faculty, and the economic feasibility of the course.

5. Administrative Approval and Coordination of Distance Learning Courses and Programs

5.01 Distance learning instruction will be offered with the consensus of the Director of Sage Online, the curriculum committee, the respective academic department chair, academic dean, and the Provost.

5.02 The institution shall provide the means for assessing the quality of the distance learning offerings in comparison with traditional instructional approaches.

5.03 Distance learning instruction shall be offered through the academic department that also administers the corresponding on-campus program.

5.04.a Before any currently approved face-to-face (f2f) course can migrate to online delivery, these procedures must be completed:

  • Redesign course for online delivery
  • Course reviewed for best practices in online learning, by the Director of Sage Online, in consultation with the Department Chair.
  • The Director of Sage Online notes approval of the online delivery of the course on the Course Change Form
  • The Course Change Form is submitted and accepted by the designated Curriculum Committee

5.04.b All new online courses must, in addition to established approval processes, be reviewed by the Chair in consultation with the Director of Sage Online for online delivery and approved for such.

5.05 Distance learning program proposals are prepared according to current practices for all program proposals and submitted to the appropriate curriculum committee for review.  The Director of Sage Online reviews approved program proposals for compliance with the NYSED and MSCHE guidelines.

5.07 The  Director of Sage Online seeks the required approval to offer distance learning from the NYSED and MSCHE.

5.08 Expectations regarding compensation will be defined, so that a faculty member teaching a distance learning course understands at the outset whether teaching a specific course will be compensated on or over load.

5.09 Faculty members are expected as a normal condition of employment at the Sage Colleges to develop and keep current the courses they are assigned to teach. Sage retains full rights to course syllabi, including common elements (see TSC Common Elements of Syllabi) such as learning objectives, course descriptions, course requirements and course schedules that are submitted, reviewed and approved as specified by the appropriate academic department and/or curriculum committee. Rights to all other course materials belong to the instructors who create them. The exception to this principle is course materials for which a faculty member receives compensation from Sage beyond the academic year salary, such as course reduction, grant award, paid leave (sabbatical or other), or stipend. In such cases, a written agreement, initiated by the College that specifically spells out the ownership rights of the College and the instructor will be made prior to course or course materials development. In the absence of a written agreement the default is the first sentence of this paragraph. In general, course syllabi, including common elements (see TSC Common Elements of Syllabi) such as learning objectives, course descriptions, course requirements and course schedules created and in use by faculty members of The Sage Colleges as a function of their employment at Sage may not be used within or licensed to other institutions or commercial enterprises in a manner that competes with or diminishes their value to Sage.

5.10 Removal of distance learning programs is accomplished via the same procedures as on-campus programs.

6. Student Support

6.01 Department Chairs/Program Coordinators/Directors will be responsible for ensuring that all distance learning program materials clearly and accurately represent the program, including detailed program completion requirements, the nature of the learning experience, programs and faculty responsibilities, and the nature of faculty-student, student-faculty, and student-student interaction opportunities, techniques, and requirements.

6.02 Department Chairs/Program Coordinators/Directors are responsible for ensuring that all distance learning program materials clearly and accurately define any specific student background, knowledge, or technical skills needed to undertake and successfully complete the distance learning program, and describe in layman's terms any program-specific technical equipment and/or software required or recommended.

6.03 Sage students enrolled in distance learning have access to academic support, library services, advising, and financial aid assistance, appropriate for distance learning students. Technology training/assistance is available through the Library, the Help Desk and the KnowledgeBase.

6.04 Students may obtain academic advisement by phone, e-mail or in-person. Technical support is available via the Help Desk as it is for all other student populations. Program materials clearly describe how students obtain these support services.

6.05 The institution provides adequate library and information resources, services, and support for academic programs, including training in information literacy. These resources and services are accessible at a distance on a timely basis. Through the Sage Colleges Libraries web pages, access is maintained to scholarly databases and to the online catalog of materials owned by the libraries. Interlibrary Loan service is accessible to distance learning students via the web page to borrow materials from our libraries. Resource material is available electronically through this system, and also via postal delivery for items not able to be transmitted electronically.  Personal
assistance is available from the librarians and staff via email and telephone.

Individual librarians may also maintain instant messaging accounts.  Access to resource material is dependent upon students being able to maintain SageNet accounts on the college network and also to possess their student identification numbers for certain resources.  Library instruction is available formally through a credit-bearing online information literacy course as well as informally through the libraries web site.

6.06 Administrative processes such as admissions and registration are readily accessible to distance students via the sage.edu web site and SageAdvisor.  Students will be provided with e-mail accounts and access to the college's portal. Students can register online and access course schedules, grades, degree audits, financial aid and billing information. Tuition payments can be made online.  Additionally, the book store is available via the web, and all books and course materials can be purchased online. Program materials clearly describe how access is obtained.

6.07 The institution provides orientation opportunities and resources for distance learners that are appropriate to the technologies used, the content, and the learners.

7. Outcomes Assessment

7.01 Distance learning programs are expected to produce the same learning outcomes as comparable classroom-based programs. These learning outcomes are clearly identified—in terms of knowledge, skills, or credentials—in course and program materials, and the procedure for assessing and evaluating these outcomes will be similar to the procedures used for other programs at the Sage Colleges.

7.02 All aspects of the distance learning program are consistent with and shaped to achieve demonstrable learning outcomes.  All programs at Sage are designed to be coherent; the components each serve a purpose, and build on one another (whether sequentially or in parallel) to achieve predetermined, measurable learning outcomes.  Sometimes specific courses are identified as the means of achieving specific program goals and objectives (such as writing in the discipline).  It is up to each department to establish a plan for how each course fits into each program, and in particular for how courses build on one another.

7.03 The means chosen for assessing student learning are appropriate to the program content, course learning design, available technologies, and characteristics of the learners.  The instruments used for assessing student learning online may be different from those used for assessing learning in the traditional classroom

Online course activities generate more written records of student thinking (in discussion boards, for example), which distance learning faculty archive and analyze later in detail (looking for timely appearance in discussions of key words and phrases, for example).  In keeping this extensive course "paper trail", security is paramount and student privacy is always protected.

8. Program Evaluation

8.01 The institution has a process in place to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of all aspects of its distance learning programs on a regular basis.  Each course or program has assessment activities embedded within it that allow the instructor and the student to compare actual learning outcomes to expected outcomes.   Such assessment activities are designed and run by faculty members in the course or program rather than administrators or technical support staff.  Examples of assessment activities employed in distance learning at Sage include surveys of current and former students (on Moodle, LiveText or Zoomerang), electronic portfolios (on Mahara or LiveText), standardized tests (in-house or externally administered), and the Student Opinion Surveys (discussed below).  In addition, resource usage by distance learning students (e.g. library materials) is monitored by Library faculty and compared against faculty expectations, using both login records for the databases and library usage surveys.

Periodic program reviews examine all programs, including distance-learning programs, for their effectiveness in accordance with item 4.10, outlined in this document.

8.01.a. Student Opinion Surveys will be made available in the LMS two weeks prior to the conclusion of a course.  Students and faculty will be notified via email, when the surveys have been deployed. Survey results will be anonymous.

8.01.b. Student Opinion Surveys will be reviewed in a timely manner by the Program Coordinators/Directors, and will be shared with the Department Chairs and Deans as per item 4.10.

8.02 The evaluation results are used for continuous program improvement.  Program Coordinators/Directors and instructors monitor student progress and student complaints, and develop intervention strategies, utilizing academic support staff (e.g. Academic Advisement, tutors, the Writing Studio) where needed.

8.03 Program evaluation procedures include a determination that distance learning programs result in learning outcomes appropriate to the rigor and breadth of the college degree or certificate awarded.  All graduate and undergraduate programs (traditional and online) demonstrate that students achieve deep learning (active learning reinforced over an extended time). 

9. Learning Management System

9.01 All distance learning courses will use the Learning Management System provided by the college.

9.02 All courses offered at TSC will have a presence on the LMS. Each course, by default, will be made unavailable to students.  Instructors using the LMS for instruction, are responsible for making their course(s) available to students, prior to the first day of class. Those wishing to offer courses in an online or hybrid format, must comply with the policies and procedures outlined elsewhere in this document.

9.03 The members and instructors of each particular offering are added via a direct feed from Colleague. Each business day, updates are prepared by MIS and uploaded by Sage Online staff.

9.03 All particular instances of a course are held on the LMS for 1.5 years, at which time they will be removed.  Instructors are responsible for exporting any of the course materials they wish to archive.  The Sage Colleges are not responsible for archiving courses, including course statistics.

9.04  All instructors for and students of The Sage Colleges receive a Sage email account, accessible via MySage, the campus intranet.  Sage considers MySage to be (username@sage.edu) the exclusive vehicle for official college e-mail communication.  As such, username@sage.edu will be considered the official e-mail address for writing and forwarding electronic correspondence.  All users are expected to regularly check their Sage e-mail account and to acknowledge messages in a timely manner. In addition, all users are responsible for managing their disk quota such that there is room for new mail to arrive. Any electronic business conducted with the College must be done via a Sage.edu account.

9.05 Accessibility to a course will be limited to the assigned instructor(s), registered students, the Department Chair, Director and staff of Sage Online (for the purpose of assisting students or instructors with various issues), and those individuals who have been given written permission to access a course (see sections 4.10 and 4.10a).

9.06 The LMS role of System Administrator will be limited to the Director and staff of Sage Online and the Network Administrator.  Individuals in MIS and Academic Technologies who serve in system support roles—such as the creation of accounts and courses, and the modification of passwords—shall be given a level of LMS access by the System Administrator necessary to accomplish such functions.  System Support Personnel, however, shall not be authorized to enter any courses for any other purpose than those stated above.  Individual instructors may authorize a system support person permission to enter his/her course.


Document approved May, 2007

Updated March, 2011