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This is How We Do Things Here: Developing a Policy Manual for CMS Usage - page 5 / 8





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Maintaining Course Sites:  This category is focused on the availability of course sites.  At semester’s end, will “old” course sites be allowed to remain on the server, and if so, for how long?  Whose job is it to remove courses no longer in use?  Will instructors have continuous access to all of their course sites, including those built for courses they’re not currently teaching?  All of these questions, and more, fall into the category of site maintenance, and the policies developed to answer them reflect our perceptions of instructor roles and responsibilities, as well as the reality of storage or server memory limitations.

Re-using Course Sites:  If course sites that have been developed are to be re-used (and this is one of the great advantages of having a CMS in the first place), determining how and when sites will be “recycled,” as well as by whom, will be helpful for faculty and staff to know.  Who will prepare the Web pages for re-use?  What is retained in each site when the recycling occurs?  For example, will discussion postings be automatically saved when sites are copied, or must they be archived in order to avoid deletion?  Must faculty indicate their desire to re-use course sites, or are they all recycled and kept on the server, regardless?  Again, server limitations may govern many of these decisions.

Archiving Course Sites:  It may be a good idea for an institution to keep one archival copy of each of a semester’s course sites in the CMS.  This way, in the event of (for example) a grade challenge, the course site may be retrieved for review, even if the instructor has since left the institution.  Policies related to the retrieval of archived sites (Who may request that a site be “brought back” and for what purposes?) may provide reassurance to faculty regarding the purpose of such archives and to avoid concerns related to intellectual property rights.  Some institutions inform faculty of these policies by including them in a consent form that instructors are expected to sign prior to using the CMS.

Non-instructional Uses:  The tools found in a CMS offer a variety of communication and content presentation options, so it’s not surprising that many users decide to build “course sites” for non-instructional purposes (student advising, research, committee work, etc.).  While this can lead to a greater awareness of the CMS throughout the institution and facilitate user familiarity with the system, it can also lead to questions of how such sites are to be managed and supported.  A clear policy on who may use the software, and for what purposes, may be helpful.  For example, are student groups allowed to create sites?  If so, must they have a faculty sponsor?  At some institutions, those CMS users assigned the role of “instructor” may have access to student information that other students should not see (ID numbers, for example), so limiting the system roles users may have would be an appropriate security move.

Academic Concerns

Quality Standards:  Academic freedom notwithstanding, an institution has the right to expect its faculty to prepare high quality instructional materials and utilize them in an organized fashion.  Attempting to prescribe specific standards of quality in online course sites can be a minefield, however, and caution is recommended.  Instructional support staff may instead prefer to suggest a variety of known “good practices” based on learning

Zvacek, Susan M.

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