Course Quality: Title 5 Language & Explanation

Title 5 Distance Education Guidelines were developed to describe best practices for quality distance education in the California community college system. These include: instructor contact, course design and approval, faculty training and workload and class size caps.

The following sections of Title 5 are most applicable to distance education courses at PCC:

Policy Guidelines

Distance education means instruction in which the instructor and student are separated by distance and interact through the assistance of communication technology. All distance education is subject to the general requirements of this chapter as well as the specific requirements of this article. In addition, instruction provided as distance education is subject to the requirements that may be imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C. s 12100 et seq.) and section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. s 794d).

What This Means at PCC

This section provides a general definition of distance education. At PCC, the term Distance Education applies to online and hybrid but not to web-enhanced courses. Section 55200 also specifies that all distance education content and delivery needs to be accessible to all learners.

Policy Guidelines

The same standards of course quality shall be applied to any portion of a course conducted through distance education as are applied to traditional classroom courses, in regard to the course quality judgment made pursuant to the requirements of section 55002, and in regard to any local course quality determination or review process. Determinations and judgments about the quality of distance education under the course quality standards shall be made with the full involvement of faculty in accordance with the provisions of subchapter 2 (commencing with section 53200) of chapter 2.

What This Means at PCC

Online and hybrid courses should have the same course quality standards as face-to-face instruction. Instructors should use the Rubric for Online Instruction (PDF) to develop, teach, modify and reevaluate their courses to ensure that best practices in instructional design and implementation are followed.

Policy Guidelines

In addition to the requirements of section 55002 and any locally established requirements applicable to all courses, district governing boards shall ensure that: 

  • Any portion of a course conducted through distance education includes regular effective contact between instructor and students, through group or individual meetings, orientation and review sessions, supplemental seminar or study sessions, field trips, library workshops, telephone contact, correspondence, voice mail, e-mail, or other activities. Regular effective contact is an academic and professional matter pursuant to sections 53200 et seq.
  • Any portion of a course provided through distance education is conducted consistent with guidelines issued by the Chancellor pursuant to section 409 of the Procedures and Standing Orders of the Board of Governors.

What This Means at PCC

 Instructors need to make certain that there are measures for instructor-initiated regular effective contact incorporated into online and hybrid course design and delivery. Regular effective contact means that instructors must keep in contact with students on a consistent and timely basis to both ensure the quality of instruction and verify their performance and participation status. Lack of activity in the course such as in the LMS or third party websites indicates a lack of regular effective contact. 

Policy Guidelines

If any portion of the instruction in a proposed or existing course or course section is designed to be provided through distance education in lieu of face-to-face interaction between instructor and student, the course shall be separately reviewed and approved according to the district’s adopted course approval procedures.

What This Means at PCC

All online and hybrid courses need to be approved by the Curriculum & Instruction Committee via a separate approval process. This requires filing Form D, a supplemental document detailing how the course will meet Federal, State, WASC and PCC quality standards, specifically requirements for regular effective contact and accessibility

Policy Guidelines

  • Instructors of course sections delivered via distance education technology shall be selected by the same procedures used to determine all instructional assignments. Instructors shall possess the minimum qualifications for the discipline into which the course’s subject matter most appropriately falls, in accordance with article 2 (commencing with section 53410) of subchapter 4 of chapter 4, and with the list of discipline definitions and requirements adopted by the Board of Governors to implement that article, as such list may be amended from time to time.
  • The number of students assigned to any one course section offered by distance education shall be determined by and be consistent with other district procedures related to faculty assignment. Procedures for determining the number of students assigned to a course section offered in whole or in part by distance education may include a review by the curriculum committee established pursuant to section 55002(a)(1).
  • Nothing in this section shall be construed to impinge upon or detract from any negotiations or negotiated agreements between exclusive representatives and district governing boards.

What This Means at PCC

All faculty teaching distance education courses need to be trained in best practices for online and hybrid instruction. This means that faculty new to distance education need to complete all the requirements for Online or Hybrid Instructor Training.  Please refer to the Course/Teacher Load and Class Cap/Normal Closing Numbers sections of this handbook for the most current recommendations. 

Regular Effective Contact in Detail

Establishing and maintaining regular effective contact is an important aspect of delivering an online and hybrid course. It is not only a Title 5 requirement, but is also a practice that encourages and facilitates student-centered instruction and increases student learning outcomes.

Types of Regular Effective Contact

Interaction in the distance education classroom takes place in four ways:

Instructor-Student Examples:

  • Course announcements
  • Messaging via the LMS
  • Personalized feedback
  • Discussion boards
  • Chat/IM
  • Videoconferencing/Skype
  • Phone/voicemail

Student-Content Examples: 

  • Modules on the LMS
  • Lectures (recorded/streaming)
  • Podcasts/webinars/screencasts
  • Videoconferencing/CCCConfer
  • Discussion boards

Student-Student Examples: 

  • Messaging via the LMS
  • Discussion boards
  • Chat/IM
  • Collaborative projects: group blogs, wikis

Student-Interface Examples: 

  • Computer hardware
  • Internet browsers
  • Software applications
  • Modules on the LMS
  • Discussion boards

Guidelines for Regular Effective Contact

The following are examples of how to implement regular effective contact:

  • Include means for all types of interaction in the course design.
  • Utilize appropriate media for accessibility.
  • Design daily or weekly assignments and projects that promote collaboration among students.
  • Model course netiquette at the beginning of the semester with instructor-guided introductions.
  • Pose questions in the discussion boards which encourage various types of interaction and critical thinking skills among all course participants.
  • Monitor content activity to ensure that students participate fully and discussions remain on topic.
  • Create a specific forum for questions regarding course assignments.
  • Ask students for feedback about the course on a regular basis and revise content as needed.
Frequency &
of Interactions
  • Establish guidelines for frequency of contact that are the same as in the face-to-face classroom.
  • Make known response time for student questions/inquiries and assignment feedback (e.g. 1-2 business days).
  • Maintain an active daily presence, particularly during the beginning weeks of a course.
  • Give frequent and substantive feedback throughout the course.
Expectations for
  • Specify course policy regarding frequency and timeliness of all contact initiated by the instructor in the syllabus.
  • Explain course policy regarding student-initiated contact (where to post questions, assignments, etc.) in the syllabus.
  • Outline and explain netiquette in initial course documents.
  • Clarify important dates, such as assignment and assessment deadlines not only in the beginning but also throughout the course.
Absences from
  • Inform students immediately of course designee should an illness, family emergency or other unexpected event prevent continuing regular effective contact for a prolonged period of time.
  • Let students know when instructor-initiated regular effective contact will continue.