This page addresses various aspects of online learning so that Union’s educational values and institutional mission are maintained. Students are expected to review the appropriate section below for expectations and regulations on various aspects of online learning. All participants of online instruction agree to uphold existing Union Theological Seminary policies.
For the purposes of this page, online learning is defined as, “learning that takes place partially or entirely over the Internet.” Methods include but are not limited to message boards, teaching platforms such as Moodle, social media, web conferencing such as Zoom, etc. Union Theological Seminary’s learning environments can exist asynchronously (students and faculty are not necessarily connected at the same time) or synchronously (students and faculty interact live). Online learning does not require students and faculty to be in the same physical location.
Upon successful registration of, and therefore attendance in, an online class, students adhere to the following technology requirements:
- access to reliable internet location of their choice which may be on-or off-campus
- access to audio and video to actively participate in synchronous sessions
- access to a reasonably recent laptop or desktop hardware with web camera capabilities
If technical issues occur, promptly contact firstname.lastname@example.org to troubleshoot and resolve
Cyberbullying is use of technology to physically or emotionally harm or harass an individual that creates an environment not conducive to targeted individual’s learning. Cyberbullying of any kind is not tolerated and any reports are subject to Seminary disciplinary policies.
This is the web conference platform faculty will typically use for synchronous class sessions. Students are expected to be familiar with basic functionality. View video tutorials here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206618765-Zoom-video-tutorials.
Instructors should provide a Zoom class link (via email or Moodle), but you can create a free, personal Zoom account here: https://zoom.us/.
Attend class with the same respect as you would if in-person; arrive early to properly log in and prepare. Remember the environment especially your surroundings. In order to minimize distractions and avoid unintentional disclosure of private spaces and passersby, consider:
- a virtual background – see help here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/210707503-Virtual-Background
- Union branded virtual backgrounds are available for download here: https://utsnyc.edu/zoom-virtual-backgrounds/.
- a profile photo – see help here: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201363203-Customizing-your-Profile
- your display name – this can be changed and should reflect how you prefer to be addressed. Pronouns can also be added. See help here: https://support.palcs.org/hc/en-us/articles/226794367-Changing-Your-Display-Name-in-Zoom-Rooms
- the chat function is not private despite sending a private message; the full transcript is accessible by the host immediately following the meeting; nothing confidential or personal should be chatted.
The intelligent learning platform (ILP) or Learning Management System (LMS) that faculty typically use for asynchronous work including assignments (posting and student submission), discussions, quizzes, etc. Students are expected to regularly log into and review individual course pages accessible here: https://uts.fishersnet.net/. Complete your profile, add your photo, and bookmark your classes each semester as some portion of your learning occurs via Moodle.
This product identifies cases of plagiarism in student papers. See more about the product here: https://www.turnitin.com/solutions/plagiarism-prevention. Once purchased for Union, more information to come.
If you are viewing class lectures or videos on a public video hosting site such as YouTube or Vimeo, mark the videos as do not share so they are not publicly discoverable. Videos should NOT be shared with individuals outside of the course.
Always treat others with respect whether via email or other online communications. Discussion board or other online posts should have clear communication with spelling and grammar; avoid shorthand text and abbreviations. Humor or sarcasm is often lost in email or discussion post and may be taken seriously or offensively. Avoid addressing others with personal/gender-identifying pronouns unless provided directly from the individual.
Do not email any confidential information. Academic matters should only be communicated via @utsnyc accounts. One’s password protects an individual from serious harm (identity theft, etc.) and the following should be practiced:
- Do not share your password with anyone
- Change your password if you think someone else might know it
- Always log out when finished using any platform or system
An online environment requires a particular kind of cooperation and collaborative effort to ensure a meaningful learning experience. Follow the below for Union’s online learning community:
- When on Zoom:
- Mute appropriately; do not stay muted for the entire class.
- Leave video on unless you need to briefly step away; it’s important to engage one another
- Occasionally you might need to be audio only. If so, please notify the instructor before class about the particular situation
- When on Moodle discussion board:
- Address posts only to the focus questions of the assignment.
- Avoid sidetracking and irrelevant posts.
- Be professional and careful with online interaction.
- Review and edit before finalizing and making posts available.
- Capitalizing whole words is generally viewed as SHOUTING and should be avoided unless emphasizing a point.
- Cite or reference when quoting a source with at least author and title. Include a link or URL if possible.
- Do not forward someone else’s post without permission – whether orally, via email, or on social media.
- Ask permission before initiating a conversation (orally or written) about something said or posted by another student. What is discussed in a class context may only be suited for that environment.
- Posts should be substantive and contribute to the class learning experience.
- Avoid short, generic replies (I agree) without rationale or explanation (I agree because…) in order to add to the discussion with new insight.
- Use humor carefully. The absence of face-to-face social cues can cause humor to be misrepresented as criticism; use emoticons to let participants know it’s humor.
- Respect others’ opinions even when different; express differing opinion in a non-critical way.
If there is a need for any reasonable accommodations, contact the Office of Student Affairs. Review the following webpage for more information: https://utsnyc.edu/life/student-affairs/disability-services/.
Union Theological Seminary has confirmed that modifications to instruction with an online delivery conform to accreditation standards from the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and follow Department of Education (DoE) regulations.
All meetings held in Zoom that include course content or student information are protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Generally, faculty should not record student meetings and classes unless necessary. The following should be followed by instructors recording class sessions or meetings in Zoom to protect student privacy.
- Do not share recordings that include student’s personally identifiable information (PII) with anyone not enrolled.
- Asynchronous lectures may be shared with all class sections.
- If a recording is shared for educational use beyond the course, student video should not be visible on screen, mics muted and chat hidden.
- Language should be in the syllabus about the purpose of Zoom recordings and the protection of student information.
- Students are required by law to be informed if being recorded. By default, Zoom notifies meeting participants that a meeting is being recorded. Students must consent to recording.
- If being recorded, you may turn off their camera and microphone using Stop Video and Mute in Zoom and participate via Chat.
Is it permissible to record classes and share the recording of the virtual classes to students?
Yes – assuming the video recording does not disclose personally identifiable information (PII) from student education records during a virtual classroom lesson or appropriate written consent is obtained if PII is disclosed from the education record, FERPA would not prohibit the teacher from making a recording of the lesson available to students enrolled in the class.
Some considerations for a video recording of a virtual classroom lesson that is or will be an education record:
- Rights of access by parents and eligible students to their education records;
- In general, written consent must be obtained prior to disclosing a student’s education record or PII in those records unless an exception applies; and
- Parents and eligible students have the right to seek amendment of their education records.
- If there is PII directly related to multiple students, the above considerations are more complicated in instances where a recording of a virtual classroom maintained by educational agencies or institutions or by a party acting on their behalf.