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Expectations for Creating a Complete Online Course

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Recent events required an immediate response to move courses online as quickly as possible. As we refine our processes moving forward, our aim as a college is to provide a polished, consistent, and accessible educational experience for students across all their online courses. Online courses must meet stringent criteria for accreditation purposes and accessibility requirements --  they should be educationally equivalent to the in-person experience.


The SACS-COC Distance Education Guidelines (PDF) detail expectations our courses must meet. The Quality Matters Rubric may help in formatting your course: QMRubric 6th Ed. Offering courses online offers new challenges and opportunities for accessible learning for all students.


You may refer to Virginia Tech policy No. 7215 Information Technology Accessibility  for requirements.


  • Asynchronous delivery must be available for diverse audience:
    • International students & those in different time zones.
    • Students working at distance or cannot attend live.
    • Students with SSD accessibility needs.
  • Equivalent recorded versions by Zoom of any live sessions.
  • Equitable participation for asynchronous learners.
  • Contact Engineering Online staff for appropriate accessibility guidelines where applicable.
  • All courses have a Canvas shell created automatically to serve as a central location for all course materials and Zoom recordings.
  • All course materials and recordings must be contained within the Canvas shell or clearly referenced or routed through the shell.
  • Use for delivery of written content, downloadable files, video, quiz-taking, discussion boards, etc.
  • Clear navigation and instructions should be provided to students throughout
  • Available in Canvas course shell. Minimally - download in ‘files.’
  • Preferred – Canvas syllabus page.
  • State purpose and structure of course
  • Explain method and frequency of instructor communication
  • Explain communication expected of students.
  • Set expectations for frequency with which student should engage with the instructor and the course content.
  • Explain technology and digital literacy requirements.
  • Identify prerequisites for course.
  • Introduce the instructor(s) to students.
  • Clearly describe grading policies
  • Syllabus includes all required university elements, e.g., Honor Code statement.

Learning Objectives:

  • Concrete measurable outcomes
  • Course activities directly related to objectives.
  • Assignments listed and detailed in Canvas.  Assignments and tests assigned in Canvas, and students submit through Canvas.
  • Clear expectations, requirements, tool needs. Grading policy stated.
  • Support attainment of stated learning objectives.
  • Promote engagement and active learning.

Canvas quiz tool is preferred.  No emailing of exams by instructor.

  • Grading Criteria clearly explained.
  • Equitable grading for all students, synchronous or asynchronous.
  • Assessments measure achievement of learning objectives
  • While asynchronous delivery must be available, any synchronous lectures must only be offered during the officially scheduled class time.
  • Office hours and exams will accommodate multiple time zones of students.
  • Record and post spoken lecture materials within 24 hours.
  • Upon student request in advance, subtitle all video or spoken materials using Canvas tool.
  • Provide lecture slides to students and in advance if possible
  • Provide Audio-Only version of recorded lectures
  • Take into account time required to process and access online materials when setting assessment policies.
  • Give clear instructions for all assignments, assessments, and expectations of students.
  • Use tools provided by Virginia Tech – Canvas, Zoom, Kaltura, etc.
  • Hold online office hours
  • Contact VTEO to assist in any way.
  • Consider using digital ink (active stylus to write on screen)
  • Do provide students with a typewritten or otherwise legible version of any handwritten notes.
  • Do not scan handwritten documents, without confirming with students that the transcripts are legible to them
  • Do not email PDF’s to students as a method of content delivery.
  • Do not require or assess performance based on ability to be at a specific physical location or in real time (synchronous learning).
  • Do not use multiple platforms within the same course. Ex: Some assignments in Canvas, some in Google docs, some in email. Be consistent.
  • Do not experiment with tools you have not become comfortable with, or that there is no support for at the university.
  • Do not use unlicensed tools Unless otherwise free to the user, software and tools not licensed for use at the university should not be required.
  • Do not give an exam that requires all or nearly all of the available time for a student to complete it.
COE Expectations for Online Course Development.pdf If you wish to have a printable document containing the information on this page, download this file.

For a complete online course development walkthrough, vist our Canvas site: Online Course Development Walkthrough

The university provides tutorials, training, and assistance in meeting these requirements, contact any of the following: