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Frequently Asked Questions for Distance Instructors

Am I allowed to permit students into my class?

Students and members of the University community outside of the English Department (other advisors, etc.) may request that you permit a student into your class. Because it is important to our instructors and to our program to keep class sizes small and focused on meeting the needs of part-time students, it is CWE policy that distance instructors not permit students into courses. You may use the following as a response to a student or other query (with adaptation for audience):

"I can not issue any permits for this course. If you are a part-time learner who is constrained by time and/or distance, you may qualify for this web-based course. To find out, you may contact the Office of Extended Learning at 1(800)2LEARN2 or 1-800-253-2762 and one of their staff will verify your eligibility and, if you are eligible, help you with the registration process.

If you are not eligible for registration through Extended Learning, you can ask Mary Vasquez (304-293-4988 or mary.vasquez@mail.wvu.edu) in the English Department to add your name to a wait list. Starting two weeks before each term, we will look at the wait list and start filling empty slots with qualified students. PWE minors or English majors will be given priority, as will students with most credit hours completed."

is eligible to take online courses in English?

The web-based writing courses we offer through the English Department are designed and offered for part-time students who are not able to take on-site courses. Students who are enrolled for more than 12 hours at the start of the term will be administratively dropped from an online writing course. These web-based courses are not meant to replace their on-site counterparts for students who can attend class on campus. You can help be sure that your section is meeting the needs of part-time learners by checking your own students’ schedules.  If you see someone with more than 12 credit hours before class starts, check with Mary.

Online writing courses are particularly challenging and, in order to succeed in them, students must have strong communication skills, a high degree of motivation, and an ability to work independently. Students can be referred to this questionnaire (designed by the University of Illinois) to determine their potential for online coursework: http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/selfEval.asp

Can I give a student an “Incomplete”?

No. You may extend deadlines during the term at your discretion and you may advise a student to withdraw from the course before the deadlines for doing so have expired, but you must assign student a grade at the end of the term if a student has not withdrawn from the course. Students who do not withdraw and who earn a “D” of “F” can repeat the class during another term if they need a higher grade for graduation, but no student will be given an “Incomplete” in an online writing course.

What do I do if a student’s parent or spouse contacts me to discuss the student’s status in my course or to negotiate an issue on the student’s behalf?

In accordance with FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974), a federal law which protects the confidentiality of student education records, you may not speak with anyone other than relevant WVU administrators and the involved student about any issue (grades, admission, withdrawal, incompletes, anything) involving a student in your class.

If you are contacted by the spouse or parent of one of your current, past, or future students, you may send the following reply. Please cc: me so that I am aware you have been contacted for information and have replied.

“As the instructor of [insert course name], I would be happy to communicate with [insert student’s name] regarding his/her situation. It is our policy, however, in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, a federal law which protects the confidentiality of student education records, not to speak with anyone other than the involved student about course-related student issues.

[Insert student name] may contact me via email if s/he wishes, and I will make every effort to respond with 24 working hours, Monday through Friday.”

Who do I contact if I have questions about WVU eCampus?

You may contact the OIT help desk if you have technical trouble with WVU eCampus. OIT also has a number of workshops that you can take to learn how to use more of the features of WVU eCampus and other related programs, like Dreamweaver, Excell, Respondus, etc: http://oit.wvu.edu/training/.

If you or a student trouble-shoot a technical issue, please also contact me (via email or face to face) so that I can keep track of any technical difficulties (even if it was user error) our DW instructors are coming up against:

OIT Help Desk
(304) 293-4444

You can also look at the Instructional Technology Resource Center (ITRC) web site for their updated set of technical FAQs and online tutorials: https://ecampus.wvu.edu.

What kind of attendance policy should I enforce in my class?

University policy allows instructors to establish specific attendance policies appropriate to the goals of the course and to use attendance records in determining a final grade. Because these courses are online, the guidelines define attendance as checking in with and reading materials on the course site regularly (at least a few days a week) and participating in course activities.

If a student has not "attended class" (contacted you or shown up on the WVU eCampus course site) during the first week of class, you may administratively drop them from the course since that is the web-based equivalent of not showing up during drop/add. If a student contacts you after that time because they see they have been denied access, you may make decisions about admitting them on a case-per-case basis.

How many office hours should I have?

All English instructors must hold at least 1 office hour per class taught. Distance instructors should plan on having at least some office hours online (in a chat room) or by phone in case off-campus students are unable to come to your regular office hours. Note your on-campus and online office hours on your course site, and turn your office hours in to Cindy in the main office.

How should I handle plagiarism?

All of our writing courses are invested in helping students understand and engage the appropriate citation conventions for their documents. Learning to use source material is an important part of the writing process. As instructors, it is our job to support students in this learning, even and especially when they make mistakes.

The CWE supports the educational concerns, strategies, and recommendations described in Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices (http://wpacouncil.org/files/WPAplagiarism.pdf). Please refer to your copy of this document to help you think of ways you and your students can effectively negotiate concerns related to the use and documentation of sources.

Nonetheless, students do commit acts of academic dishonesty for which they must be held accountable according to University guidelines. To make formal charges of plagiarism, please see the West Virginia University Undergraduate Catalog. The CWE has models of the plagiarism allegation and imposition letters that can help you draft appropriate responses. Please see the Distance Writing Coordinator or another CWE faculty member for additional assistance.

How should I handle student complaints?

Everyone gets complaints from time to time. Here is the procedure for handling a complaint:

1. First, talk to the student about their complaint. Many complaints are the result of miscommunication and can be resolved fairly easily.

2. Should the student want to register a course complaint or a grade appeal, the student may get a Writing Course Complaint form from Mary in the main office by either stopping by the front desk in Colson or sending an e-mail request for the form to Mary.Vasquez@mail.wvu.edu. This form asks students to identify in writing the nature of their complaint and the resolution they hope for to provide CWE staff with an organized means to research and respond to student concerns.

The CWE is committed to supporting our instructors. We can best do this when instructors keep careful records of assignments, grades, absences, and other issues with individual students.

What guidelines are there for me to follow if I want to modify the course template?

To help students navigate DWP courses and understand course vocabulary as seemlessly as possible, we try to maintain a degree of consistency among certain style, vocab, and course design features. To this end, there is a Distance Writing Course Style Guide that you should follow if you want to make changes to your course. Please feel free to ask the coordinator if you have any questions.

What do I need to know about getting ready for the start of the term?

All Distance Writing Instuctors will need to prepare their courses for the start of the term. To help you understand what you will need to do, you may use these Pre-Term Guidelines.

© 2013, Center for Writing Excellence, WVU Department of English

Questions about registration? Visit the Office of Extended Learning web page for more information, contact the Office of Extended Learning by phone (1-800-2LEARN2), or submit a question to the Office of Extended Learning via web form. Questions about specific online writing courses or the online PWE sequence? Email Jill Woods, the Coordinator of the Distance Writing Program at WVU