Faculty Resources

Faculty FAQ

Arts & Sciences Online Learning works closely with faculty in many disciplines to support the development of new online courses as well as the transitioning of on-campus courses to the online and hybrid experiences. We offer one-on-one consulting and instructional design support, course building in Canvas or other learning platforms, video production, tech support as well as orientation to various tools and platforms.  

General Questions

Teaching in the online environment is different from teaching a traditional face-to-face course, and it may not be the right fit for every topic, faculty member or student. Faculty members must consider carefully when deciding if their course learning objectives could be achieved through online resources and technologies. Faculty members often need to rethink the design of their course and consider a variety of new instructional techniques to enhance student learning. There are great benefits to teaching online, but challenges as well. The Online Learning team is available to discuss needs and propose solutions.

Transforming a course for the online environment often requires redesign effort to clarify learning objectives and organize course content and identify resources. It is estimated that an instructor needs approximately 30 to 40 hours to design a course, 10 to 20 hours of technical support and 6-16 hours of instructional design to reconfigure and support the online course. The Online Learning team offers a stipend toward development to first-time academic course creators.

Benefits to students and faculty members include flexibility, access and convenience since the courses can be taken and delivered from any location. Successful online programs can also lead to increased satisfaction, higher retention and enrollment for students and greater productivity for faculty. Incentives are available for first-time course transitions. These incentives include monetary stipends toward first-time course development and additional TA support during the online course delivery. Department support and approval is required before a curse can be offered online. See the “Propose a Course” tab under Faculty Resources above.

Faculty Education & Resources

The Online Learning team offers individualized training for faculty and technical support during course preparation and delivery. Online orientation sessions are schedule to introduce faculty to new feature and capabilities. Web based documentation, tutorials and resources are also available at the Online Learning web page for faculty review.

SAS Online learning offers a host of services aimed to help faculty transition to teaching online. These services range from providing assistance in the initial phases of course development to hosting individual sessions about best practices for revising existing course content. Oftentimes, members of our team work with faculty to utilize animation, video production, and learning object development in their courses. Ultimately, we aim to assist faculty in creating engaging educational experiences that wed strong course goals with effective instructional tools. This includes providing technical support for the platforms faculty members will use in their courses. Tech support is available during live videoconferencing sessions by phone at 215-898-6274 and via email at online-learning-help@sas.upenn.edu.

There are no classrooms assigned for online courses. However, instructors should be aware that a room may be mistakenly assigned to the online course. Instructors can check the Registrar’s site to see if a room has been assigned in error.

To request removal of the room, please contact Joseph Hallman (halljo@sas.upenn.edu).        

Student Engagement

Penn students come to the university with a variety of experiences and opinions. First-time online students may have reservations about venturing into this new environment. For some students, the online option offers exceptional flexibility and convenience. But just as teaching online requires new and different skills, online learning may not be right for every student. Resources are available to help students determine if online learning is a good choice for them. The Online Learning website also offers a video demonstration of the platform to introduce students to this environment. Additional screencasts and tutorials exist to prepare students for their online classes. In instances where students want to earn credit over the summer term to fulfill course requirements, Online Learning is a terrific choice no matter where students spend the summer. The majority of students enrolled in SAS online courses are Penn undergraduates. Student feedback has been positive with high satisfaction rates.

Students enrolled in online courses have access to daily technical support. Online seminars and resources are also available to orient students to the platform and the live classroom environments. Online students in SAS have unlimited access to the campus bookstore and library, which offers online databases for research. Efforts are underway to ensure that students in an online class have access to all of the same services as traditional students. Services such as advising, tutoring, The Writing Center, and Disabilities Services are all expected to be available for participants in online courses. 

There is a 24-hour “loading” period which exists between students registering and their auto-registration in Canvas. Instructors should be aware of this lag and be sure to communicate including any students not on the Canvas roster.                                                                      

Policy & Guidelines

Each department determines whether they wish to offer courses online and how these will count toward major requirements. Current SAS policy states that a standing faculty member may offer a course once without going before the Curriculum Committee for review. If a faculty member wants to teach the course a second time, it needs to be reviewed by the Curriculum Committee and approved by the SAS faculty.

Penn’s Copyright Policy allows all academic creators of intellectual property to retain ownership of copyright in materials developed as part of teaching duties at Penn. There are exceptions to the general policy. See the "Policies and Procedures Concerning Faculty Research" in the Faculty Handbook. The handbook is available from the Office of Faculty Affairs or online at:

Policy Relating to Copyrights and Commitment of Effort for Faculty

Current SAS policy requires that in-load classes for undergraduates must be delivered face-to-face. Online courses are taught on an overload/additional compensation basis.