SMU has a new Process for Developing Online and Hybrid Programs or Courses with SMU GO

SMU implemented the following Course Modality Definitions, Training Requirements for Online Faculty, and Online Program and Course Development Processes in February 2022. Additional University-wide guidelines and policies around online learning may be implemented in the future.

Course Modality Definitions

Please use the SMU Course Modalities document when planning and offering courses. These definitions were developed and approved by a group of stakeholders representing faculty, academic leadership, registrar, online education, academic technology, libraries, and others, and were approved by the Data Governance Committee and the Provost’s Office. Please refer to the SMU Course Modalities document for contact hours, location, development process, governance, compliance, and quality assurance details on each modality type. The course modality types are:

  • On-Campus
  • Off-Campus
  • Hybrid
  • Online
  • Remote
  • Distance

Training Requirements for Online Faculty

Only faculty certified to teach online by SMU GO may develop or teach a course in the Online or Hybrid modality. To become certified, faculty are expected to complete a two-part training series delivered by SMU Shared Services and the Quality Matters (QM) Consortium.

  • The first training is titled Introduction to Canvas.
  • The second training is a 2-week online course delivered by QM titled Teaching Online: An Introduction to Online Delivery.

Faculty can check if they are currently certified to teach online by looking at their training record in my.SMU. To register for online certification training, please submit your Intention to Teach Online form to SMU GO.

SMU Online Program and Course Development Processes

Please refer to the Online Program and Course Development Processes document in any discussions about launching a fully online or hybrid program or course. These processes, administered by SMU GO, were established with input over the past two years from online learning stakeholders across the University. They ensure that every online program or course launches only after a rigorous evaluation of its business case occurs and University-wide quality standards are met. They also ensure that every development project be allocated the appropriate level of instructional design and multimedia resources throughout the project’s lifecycle.

NOTE: All proposals for new Simmons online and hybrid programs or courses, or for conversion of existing programs/courses to online or hybrid format must follow the SMU Online Program and Course Development Process outlined above, including School and EPC approval.

This process begins with the following Simmons School approvals:

  1. Academic Unit Committee and Department approval
  2. Completion of an online Simmons Concept Form for the Dean’s Office before moving forward with the AAC
  3. AAC approval before moving forward with SMU GO

Simmons AAC Guidelines to Help Faculty Create Online and Hybrid Course Proposals

The Simmons AAC requires all Digital courses to apply a consistent Online/Hybrid Course Syllabus Template to provide the information required for distance learners.

SMU applies the Quality Matters Rubric for all Digital Courses. The Online Syllabus Template includes many of the requirements for QM approval.

The following guidelines are used by the AAC in reviewing Course Proposals and Syllabi for online and hybrid courses:

  1. Details on the digital format for the course (online-asynchronous, online-synchronous, hybrid)
  2. Specific meeting dates and times on campus or online synchronous (if relevant)
  3. Clear Technical Requirements for the course (hardware, software)
  4. Technical Assistance expectations and hours (Help Desk and Faculty/Staff support)
  5. Clear attendance/participation expectations and grading timelines, including course communication and interaction (netiquette, timing and frequency of contributions, etc.)
  6. Time allocation outline to help students plan their time and meet appropriate contact hours and homework hours for digital courses
  7. Online assignments of sufficient rigor, depth, and breadth to meet the goals of the course and appropriate accreditation guidelines
  8. Details and examples of appropriate methods to assess student mastery of learning objectives (including rubrics where appropriate)
  9. Procedure to secure online exams and quizzes with restricted browsers and webcam monitoring (if appropriate)

The Development Plan/Proposal must address:

  1. Accessibility
    • All technology tools meet basic accessibility standards
    • The course provides ALT text for any content in graphical format
    • All pre-recorded and curated content has accurate transcripts or captions
    • Content is readable at the appropriate reading level
  2. Variety of Interactions
    • Faculty-Student interactions for frequent feedback and mentoring
    • Student-Student interactions and/or collaboration to foster mastery and application of the content
    • Student-Content interactions for active

All courses must complete the QM quality review to ensure online materials are ready for students on the first day of the term (modules published according to a predefined class schedule). In addition, procedures must be in place to gather and incorporate student feedback for improvement on digital components of the course design at key points (such as mid-point and end of the course).

Please contact Tony Cuevas ( or Jennifer Culver ( if you have questions about the process or guidelines.

Clarification of Requirements for Online and Hybrid Courses

  1. Training: Faculty must complete appropriate training on Teaching Online before they develop a proposal for an online or hybrid course or are assigned to teach an online or hybrid course in Simmons. CTE tracks training completion.
    1. Quality Matters Training - Please contact Jennifer Culver for details (
    2. Canvas Training (experienced faculty members may test out)
  2. Class hours: SMU requires that three-credit hour courses have 42-45 contact hours, with a minimum of 42 contact hours (50 minutes per hour), and at least TWICE as much time allocated for “out of class” time on homework
  3. Technology Requirements must be communicated up front for all Digital courses so students know what is required before starting a class. This should be noted on course schedules with details provided on the Simmons website.
  4. Technical Support Help Desk hours must be communicated clearly in the Syllabus for all Digital courses so students know when tech support is available through the Help Desk or Faculty/Staff (Note: Ideally schedule major assignment due dates when the Help Desk is available)
  5. SMU Honor Code must be reviewed with students in Digital courses to ensure they understand expectations for online coursework


Simmons’ departments should use consistent definitions and language in identifying distance/online and hybrid courses in the University’s SOC, on the departments’ course description web pages, and on the departments’ semester class-schedule web pages.

Online Courses (asynchronous and synchronous)

Online courses have 50% or more of the instruction delivered digitally (i.e., via computer technology) where the faculty member and students are not physically in the same location. Distance/Online courses may be primarily asynchronous (to be completed at your own pace and schedule) or synchronous (with scheduled online webcam sessions). Although most distance/online courses include both asynchronous and synchronous learning components, the primary mode of instruction should be clearly communicated to students at the time of enrollment.

Hybrid Courses

Hybrid Courses meet primarily in a physical location, but also include significant online learning components. At SMU, hybrid programs and courses are those for which the total student contact time is 30-49% at a distance/online. The distance/online learning content is integrated with the classroom-based content. The majority of a hybrid course’s instruction is delivered in a classroom location.

Hybrid and Online Course Identification Requirements

Department Class Schedule web pages

On your class-schedule web page for a given term, please add one of the following in parentheses after the title of any online or hybrid course offered during the respective term to clearly communicate the expectations for students.


Department Course Description web pages and Official University Course Description

For those courses whose instructional formats vary (between online, hybrid, and physical classroom) depending on the semester, please add a differentiating statement to their descriptions on your department course description web page and to their official University course descriptions. Depending on the formats in which you offer a course, you can state that “this course is sometimes offered in an online [synchronous or asynchronous] format” or “this course is sometimes offered in a hybrid format” or “this course may be offered in a hybrid or online format.”

University SOC

When you officially schedule a 100%-online course for a given term, remember to assign a 401 section number and a location field of “online.” Unique section numbers for hybrid courses do not exist, but if you’ve included a differentiating statement (of the sort given above) to the official description of a course that is sometimes offered in a hybrid format, students should know to inquire with the department about the course’s format for any given term.