Since the early 1990s when the first courses were delivered on customized learning platforms, online courses have sometimes been received with skepticism and disdain as “easy.” Some academicians and scholars continue to believe online delivery is “less than” face-to-face delivery. Online courses can and should be equally rigorous as face-to-face courses. Technology is available to facilitate and enhance learning; faculty set and maintain the standard.

In 2001, the Duke University School of Nursing compared and contrasted four face-to-face and online courses for learning outcomes, as well as students and faculty satisfaction. The courses were each taught concurrently online and face-to-face. Results showed that online delivery was highly effective and there were no differences in student outcomes. These findings were confirmed by alumni and employer surveys for the School’s first online cohort of Family Nurse Practitioner students.

The following is the published DUSON expectations for online courses that lists what students can expect of faculty and what faculty expect of students.

  1. Scholarly work is expected in the online environment. Writing is to be of high quality with correct spelling and grammar. There should be no text message “chatter” and abbreviations except when these are characteristic of the technology being used (i.e., Twitter).
  2. Students should be held to high standards for participation in the course. “Absent-presence” is unacceptable (e.g., signing in for a synchronous chat and not contributing to the chat).
  3. A standard regarding late work, extensions on assignments, and behaviors of marginal commitment should be set in the syllabus and upheld by faculty.
  4. Students must expect to spend an equal amount on time studying and participating as they would if in a face to face class. The only time saver is the absence of driving to campus and searching for a parking spot. Students sometimes complain, “The professor knows that we all work full time and that’s why we’re taking an online course. There’s just too much work.” Maintain the standard of rigor established within your department and university. Remind students that their degree will not say “Online Master’s Degree”, Duke University.
  5. There are high expectations of both faculty and students.  Faculty must respect copyright laws (it’s so tempting to provide links to copyrighted material that students should be accessing from the library).  All content links should be current and functional, recorded lectures should be updated regularly, and instructional technology should be regularly re-assessed.
  6. Course and faculty evaluations for online courses should be identical to face-to-face course evaluations.
  7. There must be a clear relationship between learning outcomes, evaluation strategies, and course assignments.
  8. Varied teaching methods and learning activities should be of the highest caliber.
  9. Faculty and students should honor all University policies related to student behavior, course integrity, respect for differences, and equity in grading, and all should adhere to the academic calendar.