Virtual Learning Policy
The purpose of this policy is to ensure that virtual-education courses offered by Washington and Lee University meet the same rigorous standards offered through traditional means, meet the needs of enrolled students, and comply with all external regulations, including those of the University's institutional accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
This policy applies to all of Washington and Lee University's:
- programs offering a course or courses via virtual-learning modes;
- faculty and staff responsible for the instruction and/or administration of a course or courses offered via virtual-learning modes; and
- students enrolled in a course or courses taught via virtual-learning modes.
The policy may not address additional virtual learning requirements that may be mandated by the American Bar Association (ABA) or other accrediting bodies in which the University or its programs maintains specialized accreditation. Those programs should consider additional language as necessary.
Responsible Institutional Officer: Provost
Responsible Institutional Coordinator: Academic Deans
- Virtual Education
- For the purposes of this policy, virtual education is a formal educational process in which the majority of the instruction (interaction between students and instructors and among students) in a course occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place. Virtual education is a synonymous with distance education.
- Virtual Education Program
- An educational program where 50% or more of the instruction to earn a credential (e.g., degree) is delivered via virtual-education modes.
- Virtual Learning
- For the purposes of this policy, virtual learning is a formal educational process that uses virtual-education modes and in which the majority of the learning occurs when students and instructors are not in the same place.
- Virtual-Learning Modes
- Instruction that may be synchronous or asynchronous and may use one or more of the following: the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open-broadcast, closed-circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, if used as part of the distance-learning course or activity; or any other means to augment learning when the instructor and students are not in the same place. Courses may be hybrid or online.
- Hybrid Course
- For the purpose of this policy, a hybrid course is synonymous with a blended course. A hybrid course is credit-bearing with approximately 50% - 75% of the course content, activities, and assessments using virtual-learning modes.
- Online Course
- For the purpose of this policy, an online course is credit-bearing with at least 76% of the course content, activities, and assessments using virtual-learning modes.
Policy and Procedures
Washington and Lee University uses the underlying concepts of the University's accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), to structure its virtual learning policy. These standards are specified in the Principles of Accreditation: Foundation for Quality Enhancement (2018) and the SACSCOC Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement.
I. Curriculum and Instruction
Virtual-education courses will adhere to the same academic standards, policies, copyrights, and rigor as those offered on campus. The courses offered via virtual education will be approved through the same curriculum-approval processes as campus‐based courses and programs, being comparable in quality, content, assessment, and credit.
All virtual-education courses will be taught by qualified, credentialed faculty approved and assigned by a department or program head. Evaluation of faculty shall be consistent with that described in the Faculty Handbook, with no distinction made between courses taught in-person versus those taught via virtual-education modes.
The Academic Technologies Staff shall provide training and support to all faculty engaged in the instruction of virtual-education courses. Likewise, the administration shall provide adequate support to faculty for the development of each course that may be offered via virtual education.
III. Library and Learning Resources
Equivalent library and learning resources will be available to students enrolled in virtual-education courses. Elements of library support and learning resources available to students will include electronic document delivery, electronic journals, full‐text databases, end‐user searching, reference assistance and instruction, reciprocal borrowing and interlibrary loan services, and cooperative arrangements with other libraries for collection access. The library will regularly evaluate learning resources provided to virtual-education students and make improvements as necessary.
IV. Student Services
Students enrolled in virtual-education courses will have adequate access to a range of student-support services comparable to those offered to traditional, on‐campus users. The Provost oversees departments and staff who provide academic-affairs services, including academic advising, tutoring, registration, course withdrawal, and the academic calendar. The Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, the Vice President of Admissions and Financial Aid, and the Vice President for Finance oversee departments and staff which provide other student services that include admissions, payment processing, financial aid information, and student-health, disability, and counseling services.
V. Technology and Technical Support
Appropriate technical expertise, technological infrastructure and support will be available to meet the needs of faculty, staff, and students engaged in virtual-education programs and courses. Additionally, students' privacy and identity will be secured using an array of techniques, including secure login and password.
Technical support services for faculty, staff, and students are provided through the Washington and Lee University Office of Information Technology Services (ITS) and the ITS Help Desk. The Academic Technologies staff administer the learning management system; maintain the users, courses, and enrollments in the system; provides technical assistance and training; and provide instructional design support for the development of quality, accessible online, and hybrid courses. The ITS Help Desk provides user-account and log-in support as needed. All technology services shall be routinely assessed for performance and opportunities to improve.
VI. Access, Privacy and Costs
Washington and Lee University:
A. Takes measures to ensure that a student who registers in a virtual-education course is the same student who academic credit.
Policy and Practice: All students enrolled at Wasington and Lee must provide proof of identity at enrollment and in order to receive their University Cards with personal photo. Once proof od identiy is established, students are provided a unique, secure user login and password to which they alone have access. User credentials provide access to all of the University's software and systems, within the limits of student-specific permissions, through Single Sign-on (SSO) authorization services. Users are instructed not to share their passwords with anyone. Access and use are governed by the University's Computing Resources, Network, Website and Email Use Policy. Access to the University's resources are available both on- and off-campus using users' secure logins.
Additionally, the University maintains an Honor System and pledge, an institutional hallmark, signed by all students enrolled in the University. At Washington and Lee, dishonorable conduct is not codified; rather, the Honor System is based upon the principle that any action deemed a breach of the community's trust will be considered an Honor Violation. (The White Book). Students enrolled in a virtual-education course are held to the same academic-integrity policies as those enrolled in courses delivered face-to-face and traditional formats.
B. Has a written procedure for protecting the privacy of studentsenrolled in virtual courses.
Policy and Practice: Washington and Lee University is committed to protecting student privacy for students enrolled in all courses regardless of the mode of instruction. All University policies regarding student privacy and information security apply to virtual-education courses. Faculty teaching virtual-education courses are expected to uphold these policies, as they would in the traditional learning environments, and follow these procedures:
- Teach using the University's approved learning-management systems in order to ensure the security of student work and grades;
- Use the University's secure enterprise system for the reporting of student grades;
- Use the University's email and learning-management systems for all official and confidential communications, providing feedback on student work, releasing grade information to students, etc.;
- Keep student work, scores or grades confidential. Students in the course shall not have access to other student's work except as part of an integral group-learning experience;
- Keep the approved learning-management account and email account information secure; and,
- Follow all University privacy and confidentiality policies regarding the Sharing of Student Information with Parents and University Officials and FERPA - Student Education Records Policy.
C. Ensures that students are notified in writing at the time of registration or enrollment in a virtual-education course of any projected additional student charge associated with verification of student identity.
Policy and Practice: There shall be no additional fee associated with the verification of student identity for any enrollment in a W&L virtual-education course. However, students enrolled in virtual-education courses may be required to present a valid photo ID and have access to a computer with internet access and webcam capabilities. This may result in direct costs to the student not imposed by the University.
VII. Virtual Education Scope
The University shall provide virtual-education courses on a limited basis unless exigent circumstances compel more extensive virtual programming.
VIII. Policy Amendments
The policy shall be amended as necessary to align with institutional mission and external requirements.
This policy has not yet been revised