QC Guidance for Hybrid and Online Courses

Adopted by the QC College Personnel & Budget Committee April 22, 2020

Revised June 23, 2020 to be consistent with new CUNY coding for online/hybrid courses

To be revisited for possible revision Spring 2021

Policy on offering a course in hybrid or online mode

When making a decision about mode of instruction, Queens College holds online and hybrid courses to the same high standards that we apply to all of our teaching. In determining what the appropriate mode of delivery is, we should consider learning outcomes, and judge the instruction by the results, not by the method of instruction. Assessment of learning outcomes is critical for any course.

A faculty member’s decision to offer a course in online delivery mode should be approved by the department chair (or by the chair’s designee, such as the program coordinator, or by the department’s Personnel and Budget Committee) and by the department’s curriculum committee (if one exists). Departmental approval may be guided by considering criteria such as the following, among others:

    1. Will the target students benefit from the flexibility that online instruction brings? (Online instruction can be beneficial to non-traditional students, including those who work full-time or have family responsibilities.)
    2. Are the target students online learning “ready”? (Variables that affect online learning readiness include: efficiency with time management, skills in written communication, familiarity with computers and online technologies.)
    3. Is the course appropriate for online delivery? (Some courses might not lend themselves to an online format, because the content is not easily digitized or because sustained face-to-face student-instructor interaction is crucial. A course previously taught as face-to-face will need adaptation for online delivery, to better exploit the unique resources offered by the Internet.)
    4. Has the commitment of time by the instructor, particularly the first time the course is offered, been balanced with aspects of that person’s teaching, research, and service responsibilities? (Teaching online consumes real instructional time, even with a course that has already been extensively developed, time for: interacting with students, updating and grading assignments, updating and creating course material.)
    5. Is offering a specific section of an existing course online consistent with the goals, expectations and standards of the department and/or the program(s) in which it is offered?
    6. Will offering a specific section of a course online be in alignment with the standards imposed upon us by such entities as Specialty Professional Associations, various accreditation agencies, and so on?

Mode of instruction

Beginning fall 2020, CUNY makes a three-way distinction in mode of instruction for courses offered university-wide. A course may be designated as in-person, hybrid, or online. For the complete definitions, see https://provost.qc.cuny.edu/guidance-for-faculty/mode-of-instruction.

Peer observations of teaching in online courses

See Article 18.2 (b) 1 and 3 of the contract. Note that this guidance follows the language in https://www.psc-cuny.org/contract/memorandum-agreement-2019, but has been updated to reflect the new coding scheme.

Regardless of the mode of instruction, at least once during each academic semester, non-tenured and non-certificated members of the teaching staff shall be observed for a full classroom period. One observation shall take place during any scheduled class, except as specified below for classes conducted wholly or in part through online technology, during the first ten weeks of the semester. Except as otherwise provided, the employee shall be given no less than 24 hours of prior notice of observation. Tenured and certificated members of the teaching staff may be observed once each semester.

    1. Teaching observations of online courses, should replicate as closely as possible the longstanding teaching observation practices established in previous contracts. Therefore, the provisions of Article 18.2 (b) 2 shall apply except as specifically modified below.
    2. In an online synchronous course (that is, a course that meets online for 100% of the semester's class meetings with a regularly scheduled class period during which students and the instructor are online at the same time), the designated observer shall be given limited access to the course platform, usually defined as "student" or "guest" access but in no event "instructor" or "administrator'' access, only for the scheduled class period to be observed. Via the method for announcements normally employed by the instructor in the course, the instructor shall inform the students that the teaching observation is occurring. In no event shall the classroom teaching observation memorandum refer to the conduct of course activities outside of the observation period.
    3. In an online asynchronous course (that is, a course conducted entirely online without a scheduled class period), the designated observer shall be given limited access to the course platform, usually defined as "student" or "guest" access but in no event "instructor" or "administrator" access, for no more than a 48-hour period that will commence at a specified time not earlier than seven calendar days after the notice of the teaching observation has been given to the instructor. Within 48 hours of receiving notice of the observation, the instructor shall inform the students of the teaching observation and its beginning and end time via the method for announcements normally employed by the instructor in the course.
    4. In an online mixed course (that is, a course conducted entirely online using both synchronous and asynchronous instruction), the teaching observation shall take place according to the procedures for an online synchronous course, as specified above. At the request of the instructor, and with the consent of the Department Chairperson, the teaching observation may be conducted as it would be for an online asynchronous course, as specified above.
    5. In a hybrid course (that is, a course in which some face-to-face classroom periods are replaced by online instruction or any other modality that is not face-to-face), the following rules shall apply:
        1. If at least 50% of the class sessions are conducted in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting, the observation shall normally take place during a face-to-face classroom period as set forth in Article 18.2(b). At the request of the instructor, and with the consent of the Department Chairperson, the observation may be conducted during an online class session. In such cases, the observation shall be conducted according to the procedures for an online synchronous course or an online asynchronous course, as applicable.
        2. If fewer than 50% of the class sessions are conducted in a traditional face-to-face classroom setting, the observation shall be conducted according to the procedures for an online synchronous course or an online asynchronous course, as applicable.
        3. The Department Chairperson may decide that an instructor teaching a hybrid course who has been observed under this provision may have his or her next observation conducted in the other modality used for the course.
    6. For observations of other than an online synchronous course, the observer shall not review online activity that occurred more than seven calendar days prior to the 48-hour period of access to the course platform, nor shall the post-observation memorandum refer to any course activities that occurred more than seven calendar days prior to the 48-hour period of access.
    7. For an online course, the post-observation conference set forth in Article 18.2.b may be held, at the request of the instructor, in person, by telephone, or by video conference.

Rubric for peer observations

We strongly suggest that departments and programs use the recommended online course evaluation rubric for peer evaluation, or use it as the basis for a departmental online course evaluation form that might also incorporate elements from a current department evaluation form.

Equivalent course content and workload

According to the New York State Education Department, a “semester hour means a credit, point, or other unit granted for the satisfactory completion of a course which requires at least 15 hours (of 50 minutes each) of instruction and at least 30 hours of supplementary assignments (...). This basic measure shall be adjusted proportionately to translate the value of other academic calendars and formats of study in relation to the credit granted for study during the two semesters that comprise an academic year.” This definition was adopted by the CUNY Board of Trustees in 1978. (Credit hour requirements also apply during Intersession and Summer Session.) In addition, the academic calendar at Queens College calls for a fourteen-week term, with the fifteenth week reserved for final examinations.

It is expected that an online or hybrid course will follow the relevant CUNY term (fifteen weeks during Fall and Spring, compressed during Winter and Summer).

An online or hybrid course should seek to achieve the same learning outcomes as an in-person course with the same number of credit hours.

In an online course (or in the online portion of a hybrid course), it is expected that for each credit hour the instructor will be involved online with students and student work in ways equivalent to the in-person hour of instruction that takes place in an in-person class. Thus for a 3 credit online course, involvement with students and student work would be equivalent to the 3 hours of classroom contact time and instruction in an in-person course. It is also expected that online equivalents will be found for the mandated hours of supplementary student assignments that accompany each credit hour of in-class work.

Workload credit should be the same for online and hybrid courses as for the equivalent in-person courses. All online lectures, synchronous and asynchronous discussions, as well as anything else described as online class participation by the course syllabus and requiring the regular involvement of the instructor would constitute “instruction”, thereby constituting contact hours for workload.

If a final exam is required in an online course, it should take place during the regular exam period, that is, the fifteenth week of the semester. Also, if a final exam is administered in an online course, it is expected that the online exam will take place at a specified time and for a specified duration announced in the syllabus.

Full-time faculty should not normally be assigned a completely online schedule; where one is approved by the department chair and Dean, it should be clear that they will be expected to be physically on campus on a regular basis to fulfill departmental and College service requirements. (An exception will be made during the COVID19 move to distance learning.) Faculty teaching all their courses as part of a fully online program may be assigned a fully online schedule with the approval of the department chair and Dean and with the understanding that they will still be physically on campus to fulfill departmental and College service requirements.

Training of instructors for online courses

New instructors of online courses (both adjunct and full-time faculty) should have taken the QC CTL course (or its equivalent if approved by the provost) on online instruction before teaching an online course. (If this is not possible during the COVID 19 move to online teaching, training should be completed as early as possible during the semester that the course is taught.) Previous online teaching experience may be substituted for this requirement with approval of the Chair and Dean. Teaching online in Spring 2020 following the move to online necessitated by the COVID19 crisis shall not automatically constitute previous online experience. The need for further training should be evaluated on a case by case basis and approved by the Chair and Dean. If an adjunct instructor is taking the CTL or other course at the formal request of a department and in order to teach a course they have been assigned in the near future, this should be compensated for, by the department, by using the office hours allocated for training and other administrative needs. Successful completion of an approved online instruction course, however, should never be considered as automatic permission from the Department or Provost to be able to teach courses online. Each instructor should confirm with the Department Chair that teaching online is an acceptable option for a given course each term.

Mentoring: New instructors of an online course may be assigned a faculty mentor experienced in online instruction. Mentors will observe a course for its design and effect, teaching new faculty the value of certain tools (grade histories, time on task reports, estimation of student engagement, writing of effective search criteria), and provide pedagogical conversation points. We note that this mentoring is meant as a support system and not as an evaluation process.

Further Professional Development: CTL should be provided with the fiscal and personnel resources to run required training courses, and to develop optional workshops and an online library of point-of-need resources for online instructors.

Class size for online courses

Class size and enrollment caps for online courses should not be smaller than those for in-person versions of the same course. During the COVID19 move to distance learning, jumbo online classes will be permitted. This decision will be re-evaluated when outcomes from the jumbo courses taught during the COVID19 crisis can be evaluated.


Students enrolled in fully online programs are exempt from the NY State immunization requirements laid out in the QC Graduate Bulletin 2019-2020, p. 20. However, if they were to take an in-person course here or at another NY state college, they would need to provide proof of immunization. Students who are likely to engage with field work, who may access QC facilities in person, or who may take an in-person or hybrid course should therefore submit immunization, even if enrolled in a fully online program.

Tuition and fees for out-of-state students in fully online programs

Out-of-state students will be charged at in-state tuition rates. All students registered in fully online degree programs will be charged a $75 Online Infrastructure Fee each term in lieu of the following QC student activity fees: Student Union Fee, Shuttle Bus Fee, Sports Fee, PIRG Fee, Child Care Fee. Other fees charged to in-person students—the Consolidated Services Fee, Technology Fee, College Government Fee, Disabled Students Fee, and University Government Fee—will also be charged to students registered in fully online degree programs [See QC Graduate Bulletin 2019-2020, p. 23]. Note: This has not yet been approved by the Board of Trustees and will not take effect until that time.


Student identity in online courses should be verified following the same procedures already instituted at Queens College and CUNY (see http://ctl.qc.cuny.edu/online/guidance/ for discussion and examples of good practice). When developing an online course, instructors should bear in mind that:

    1. The learning management system should require CUNY or QC login. These systems use IDs and passwords that authenticate the users (both instructors and students) against name, date of birth, and social security number.
    2. The use of computerized means for monitoring student use should be supplemented with high levels of interaction through methods like frequent discussion posts, blogs,, collaboratively authored documents, and shared chat spaces.
    3. Assignments such as e-portfolios and other forms of project-based work are preferable to exams, to discourage academic dishonesty.
    4. Online exams should be structured to avoid cheating. If an outside online proctoring system is used, the cost should be borne by the department and not by the students. In the case of a hybrid course, the syllabus should specify whether the exam will be held in person or online.


Students in fully online programs will not normally be issued student ID cards, but will be given online access to Queens College library resources when the professor provides the names and CUNY First ID numbers of students to a designated Library online resource person.


All online courses should have clearly stated learning outcomes. In addition, syllabi should state the nature of the online component for a course by addressing items such as the following:

    1. Which parts of online and hybrid learning accomplish which learning objectives.
    2. For a hybrid course only: The proportion of in-person class meetings that will be replaced with online activities.
    3. For a hybrid course only: The proportion of required and optional work that will be completed or submitted electronically.
    4. The technologies that students will need for successful participation (for example: required or recommended accounts, hardware, software, download bandwidths) and whether alternatives will be available for students without access to such technology (e.g., laboratory and media production spaces).
    5. The course’s policy on late submissions, erroneous submissions (e.g., submitting blank documents), missed work, etc., due to technological challenges should be clearly laid out, so as to ensure that students have a proper understanding of the consequences of not securing the required technology access.
    6. The levels of technological proficiency students will be expected to have: 1) Accessing course content, both static and dynamic; 2) Participation in online activities, both synchronous and asynchronous; 3) Online assignment submissions; 4) Creation of online websites, portfolios, blogs, if any.
    7. Clear and accurate information on available student technical support, whether departmental or college-wide, including the frequency and level of technical support the instructor (and/or fellow students) will be able to provide, and the availability of alternative sources of support (e.g., Help Desk staff).

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance

Online materials in a course (whether that course be in-person, hybrid, or online) need to be designed in a way that is ADA compliant. ADA compliant courses use well-structured layouts, provide structured formatting for all online content, contain descriptions for links and images, avoid using image-based PDFs, use high-contrast color combinations, use navigation that will work with screen readers, and provide captions for all video and audio content. The instructional method should also be accessible to different kinds of learners: prompts for assignments need to be detailed but clear, and all students will benefit from opportunities for practice, good feedback, and variable options for communication. For discussion, see: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/1/ada-compliance-for-online-course-design. For CUNY policies and accessibility features of available technologies: http://www.cuny.edu/accessibility/students/.

Other CUNY policies

As with in-person courses, online courses are subject to the same CUNY policies regarding academic integrity, the acceptable use of computer resources, equal opportunity and non-discrimination, sexual misconduct, workplace violence, domestic violence, and reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.

See https://provost.qc.cuny.edu/guidance-for-faculty/policies for links to the relevant policies.