What a school may not have, however, are policies regarding student-created materials that are posted online. Most systems enable faculty to retain discussion postings after the course ends, and instructors may expect students to post assignments and group work within the course site, as well. Are faculty expected to inform students of this, or must they receive written permission to display student work to those outside the course? Additionally, a statement regarding ownership of system performance or usage data may be included in this section.
Access: This may be the area that most obviously requires the establishment of policy. Issues related to who will have access to course sites (and for how long) can have implications for copyright, privacy, network security, and instructional planning. Questions these policies might answer could include, “Will students have access to the CMS if they’re not enrolled in a course using the system?” or “How soon before a semester’s start date will course sites be made available to students?” or “How many days/weeks past the semester’s end will the course site remain available to students?” Additionally, decisions regarding whether individuals from outside the institution (mentors, guest discussants, consultants, etc.) will be able to view course sites and/or participate in discussions or chats should be covered, including who has the authority to approve special system accounts.
Creating Course Sites: Here the first decision, on a procedural level, is whether a course shell will be established for every course offered at the institution, whether a site was requested or not. The timesavings of automatically “batch creating” course shells must be balanced against the server space taken up by sites that will remain unused the entire semester. Additionally, if the system is configured to allow public browsing, the institution’s image may suffer if their catalog of online course sites resembles a virtual ghost town.
If course sites are not batch-created from the semester’s offerings, the next consideration is who is able (or allowed) to create a site. Most CMS packages enable system administrators to determine whether faculty may create their own course shells, or whether sites will be built upon request. If they must be requested, who can request a site? (Only faculty members? What about teaching assistants or departmental support staff?) If a site is requested, how quickly will it be made available for faculty use?
Finally, once a site is created, policies related to the default configuration of the empty shell may be helpful. For example, how will course sites be named and/or numbered within the system? Some CMS administrators utilize a course numbering plan that enables them to search within the system database by department, course number, section number, semester offered, or home campus, for example. Will there be areas within each site that remain off-limits to public browsing? School or departmental policies may influence some of these decisions, while others must be aligned with federal mandates related to copyright and privacy.
Zvacek, Susan M.