Sign In
Back To Top

 Online Instruction Policy FAQ

 Content Editor

​COS Academic Senate Guidance for Instructors

Revised 12/10/20 

What counts as attendance/participation in an online course?  

There is not one definitive answer, so this FAQ attempts to answer specific questions that might arise regarding policies and procedures in a remote class.

​What aspects of ed code and Title 5 might be relevant to my online course policies? 

According to Title 5 Section 5524, Any portion of a course conducted through distance education will include demonstrable and documented regular effective contact between instructor and students.  Recent changes to Title 5 also require the teacher to include opportunities for regular student to student interaction.

​Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction?

  • “Traditional Online" is a 24/7 asynchronous instruction where students work independently (and instructors are qualified/certified), while the “Temporary Remote" teaching has led many instructors to teach synchronously.  
  • Many institutions are urging their instructors to use an entirely asynchronous modality, mostly to avoid the numerous issues with access and equity, but there may be some advantages to supplementing your instruction with synchronous elements.  Here are some of the qualities of each to consider:
    • Asynchronous
      • Flexibility for students and faculty
      • Established research on best practices and training
      • Requires of students self-discipline and self-management
      • Good design is time-consuming (but imperative to quality)
      • Students may struggle with technology and/or expectations
      • Faculty must maintain “regular and effective contact"
    • Synchronous
      • Allows for instant communication/interaction
      • May resemble face2face more than asynchronous
      • Set time students and faculty must commit to
      • Lack of established best practices and lack of training
      • Students may have technical issues with bandwidth, etc.
      • Students may have difficulties with required dedicated space, mic, etc.
      • Students (and faculty) may suffer Zoom fatigue
  • Equity Issues
    • Disproportionately impacted populations may feel more comfortable with synchronous, but also may not be able to access the technology at the necessary time.
    • The best option may be to offer optional Zoom sessions for students that know they learn better than way and are able to attend.  If you make the Zoom optional, how will you make that same material available asynchronously? Record and post the session? Provide the same information in another format, such as typed?
  • Communication to Student:
    • Students are confused! Whatever modality you decide to use, make multiple efforts to communicate to students exactly how the class will be conducted, how content will be communicated, and how participation will be accounted for.
    • Don't do the switcheroo once you've committed to a modality
  • (“Equity and Distance Education--Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction," Julie Bruno and Jennifer Paris, ASCCC Academic Academy 2020)

Can attendance be graded? Can I drop a student for non-attendance? 

  • On the whole, Title 5 emphasizes that attendance is not in itself a substantive basis for student evaluation. Title 5 §55002(a)(2)(A) states, “The grade is based on demonstrated proficiency in subject matter and the ability to demonstrate that proficiency." 
  • However, Title 5 §55002(a)(2)(B) states, “The course grants units of credit based upon a relationship specified by the governing board between the number of units assigned to the course and the number of lecture and/or laboratory hours or performance criteria specified in the course outline." Since college credit units are calculated in part based on a given number of hours spent in class, students who miss an excessive amount of class time cannot be said to have fulfilled the course requirements and may be dropped from the course. The manner and criteria by which excessive absences are calculated is not stated in Title 5 and is therefore generally determined by local policy. 
  • In addition, one can reasonably argue that non-attendance, particularly during periods of proficiency demonstration, is legitimate grounds for a reduced or failing evaluation. Because class participation is one of the ways in which students demonstrate their proficiency with class material, and students who have not attended class have therefore not participated in class discussion, many instructors include “attendance and participation" as a factor in determining a course grade. This aspect of the grading criteria cannot be used to override all others, but it can be factored into a grade, especially if the participation is in part demonstrated by students through the completion of specific in-class activities, assignments, and quizzes. (Source: ASCCC/s “The Course Outline of Record: A Curriculum Reference Guide Revisited" 2017)

Is captioning required for any video I may include in my course?  What resources can I use for captioning my videos?

If videos are shown, they must be closed-captioned. You can run any video through Canvas Studio (or other programs with auto-captioning) to add the subtitles but they must be edited to fix errors.

Is real-time captioning required in live synchronous online classes?

“An auxiliary aid or service is required if the class includes deaf or hearing impaired students." (Chancellor Office's “legal opinion" 10/20)If live Zooms are planned, live captioning should be prearranged by completing our form (or request it for any student who is authorized for it (per our AA form). This form has been updated for the spring term to include synchronous online lectures (COS Access and Ability)

Is it permissible for faculty to require students to keep their cameras on during live synchronous instruction?

  •  “While there is no express prohibition against faculty requiring students to attend live online synchronous classes with their cameras on, an indiscriminate cameras-on requirement risks violation of student privacy rights...and potentially implicates other federal and state privacy and civil rights laws. However, if there are circumstances where full audio and visual student participation is essential to instruction, a carefully tailored cameras-on requirement might be appropriate" (Chancellor Office's “legal opinion" 10/20)

Are there other requirements or obligations I should be aware of?

  • Pregnancy and Title IX: Under Title IX (the federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex), you are required to provide accommodation for students requiring it due to pregnancy or childbirth. ( See State Center Community College District, Title IX and “Your Rights under Title IX regarding Pregnancy and Childbirth.") These accommodations might include excused absences for as long as a doctor prescribes, making up missed work, and providing the same special services as is provided for a temporary medical leave.  If this situation arises, you “should contact the College's Title IX coordinator to consult on the appropriate accommodation."  COS's Title IX coordinator is John Bratsch (
  • If uncertain how to extend testing times to accommodate students who are eligible for this, check the Canvas guide, which provides this instruction. Note our recent communication regarding the provision of extra time: extending your time limits for all students does not eliminate the need to make adjustments for students eligible for AAC accommodations (COS Access and Ability)
  • Wherever possible, include multiple methods of engagement (visual and auditory) as well as multiple methods of assessment. These principles of Universal Design for access taught in Deborah Nolan's course represent best practice for facilitating access.  Our COS website has helpful Faculty Resources , our updated Faculty Handbook, and Accessibility and UDL info (COS Access and Ability)

What issues/difficulties are our students running into?

Students have said they have been dropped from classes without their knowledge--are we clearly communicating requirements, policies, and expectations?

What resources are available to students regarding technology access and help? What links might I include on my syllabus for students?

  • Ask a Librarian by email, chat, phone, or Zoom for support with:
    • MyGiant password reset
    • Navigating Canvas
    • Research help,
    • Locating textbooks, eBooks and articles online for free (including scanning and email chapters from our collection if needed)
    • Accessing email
    • Using Office 365
    • Hotspot & Laptop checkout

Other considerations and resources?

  • What are my assessments really testing? Whenever possible, tests that require application of information (as opposed to regurgitation) may reduce concerns about academic integrity (Access and Ability)
  • The Peralta Rubric can be used to self-assess your online course design with an eye to equity:

Best practices from other institutions that might be helpful to consult?

  • Beginning and​ End of Course Checklists on using Canvas (College of the Desert)
  • “Regular and Effective Contact" from Laney College:
  • From Mira Costa:"Examples of acceptable evidence of academic attendance and attendance at an academically-related activity in a distance education program include:
    • student submission of an academic assignment,
    • student submission of an exam,
    • documented student participation in an interactive tutorial or computer-assisted instruction,
    • a posting by the student showing the student's participation in an online study group that is assigned by the institution,
    • a posting by the student in a discussion forum showing the student's participation in an online discussion about academic matters, and 
    • an email from the student or other documentation showing that the student-initiated contact with a faculty member to ask a question about the academic subject studied in the course.    
  • ​​To establish attendance early in the semester, many instructors require participation in an introductory discussion forum or completion of a syllabus quiz within the first few days of class,and drop students who do not participate.
  • Upon withdrawal of a student, you'll likely use Canvas to determine the last time a student completed an activity such as those listed above - NOT the last time the student simply logged into Canvas and accessed your class. You'll report this information in SURF. [Banner, in our case].
  • Faculty may also wish to set an attendance policy for their online classes. There is no hard and fast rule about this; however, faculty are encouraged to establish (and provide in their syllabi) a clear policy about this. Policies should be crafted keeping in mind the relevant regulations about what constitutes attendance, regular effective contact requirements, and equity-mindedness (e.g., positive and personal rather than cold and punitive language)."