Course Environment and Facilitation

Use the resources on this page to explore:

Delivery Modalities

Butler Definitions

  • Traditional courses at Butler are taught face-to-face (F2F) in-person on campus. Up to 24% of the course may be delivered online and still be deemed a traditional course.
  • Hybrid courses involve blending online and face-to-face environments for course content and activities. The amount of time required to complete coursework online and attend campus-based classroom sessions varies from course to course. Instructors determine how much time is spent in each learning environment. A hybrid course at Butler delivers 25-89% of the course online and requires some campus-based meetings.
  • Online courses at Butler require a minimum of 90% of course instruction to occur in an online environment. They can be synchronous, asynchronous, or a combination of both.

Trending Terms

Minimum Engagement Hours

Whether delivered face-to-face, online, or hybrid, all courses share the same credit hour requirements for students. The Higher Learning Commission requires a minimum of 45 hours of instructional activity for each credit hour.

Review the chart on the Course Mapping page to verify your course aligns to credit hour requirements.

Regular and Substantive Interaction

In order for your course to be considered online or hybrid education, it must have significant “regular and substantive interaction between the students and the instructor” based on guidelines provided by the US Department of Education and the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). If interaction is limited or primarily initiated by the student, it’s considered a correspondence course, NOT a distance education/online course. Students may NOT use federal financial aid to pay for correspondence education. Simply posting recorded lectures or textual materials, along with exams or quizzes, does not meet these federal guidelines. How do I include Substantive Interaction in my course?

Facilitation based on modalities

Use Butler’s Online Course Implementation Rubric to guide and review course delivery methods. While it is specifically designed for online courses, it can be applied across modalities. The Rubric concentrates on the application of the Community of Inquiry framework and adherence to federal regulations related to online education.

Synchronous/Live Zoom

Synchronous online instructional formats often afford many of the same evaluation techniques as those used in the classroom. Spontaneous quizzing, reading facial cues, conducting quick polls, encouraging question and answer sessions, small group collaboration with breakout rooms, and completing “one minute essays” are some of the practices used in the classroom that can work well with online synchronous learners. Synchronous sessions can also provide a schedule and sense of community for socially isolated learners. At times, the limits of technology (small video windows, imperfect audio, bandwidth concerns, etc.) may hinder this process. Keep in mind, some students may not be able to use their video in Zoom because their internet access is too spotty to make the video option work, or they may feel uncomfortable sharing their work space at home.

Zoom is Butler’s supported tool for synchronous video communication. Those who have the meeting URL can attend a Zoom meeting even if they aren’t affiliated with Butler, allowing guest speakers to easily join a class meeting. Any member of the Butler community (students, faculty, staff) can use their Butler username and password to create Zoom meetings. Zoom has integration tools for Outlook, Chrome and more, and Zoom integrates into Canvas as an external tool. See the Academic Partnerships Training page, Butler’s Zoom Help Index, or Zoom Support for help with the tool. For more tips, check out Best Practices for Synchronous/Live Zoom Sessions.

The Question of Cameras

In synchronous, live Zoom classes, educators may wonder if they should require all students to keep cameras on during a meeting. While there are benefits of leaving cameras on (e.g. building community), educators should not ignore equity issues with this topic. As you consider your classroom environment expectations, we encourage you to read the pro/con list from Oregon State University: Should you require your students to turn on their Zoom cameras?

Facilitating Breakout Rooms

To create cohesion among groups, it is important to facilitate collaborative and interpersonal interactions so groups create a sense of trust amongst themselves while completing assigned tasks. Small groups support building intimacy. Use the following resources for facilitating breakout rooms:

Socially Distant In-Person Facilitation

Please reference the SOCIAL DISTANCE MAXIMUM OCCUPANCY rates for campus classrooms and spaces. Butler faculty found creative ways to teach while social distancing; for example, Dr. Fritz Ettl uses pool noodles in some of his courses.

Use the following resources for facilitating socially distant in-person courses:

Building Community

Building and maintaining community is an important aspect of a Butler University learning environment. Creating a community for a face-to-face course typically occurs without much effort. Students meet before or after class to study or chat; they ask you questions after class or during office hours; and they participate in class discussions or group activities within the class. This creates opportunities for individuals to work collaboratively to support critical discourse, reflection, and opportunities to build personal meaning as well as mutual understanding with others in the class.

For Online and Hybrid Courses

Developing an online learning community is more difficult since learners may never meet each other in person. Some students may need very specific guidance about how and when to interact online with you, the content, and each other. Plan to have a detailed explanation of protocols and expectations available for those students.

Community of Inquiry Framework

The Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework emphasizes the importance of three overlapping and interacting elements – social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence – to design and facilitate successful educational experiences in online learning environments.

Use the following resources to learn more about The Community of Inquiry Framework:

Community-Building Activities

Incorporating daily or weekly icebreakers, Warm-Ups and Check-Ins reinforce community-building efforts you implement at the start of the course. Students will enjoy the chance to decompress and come together for a laugh with their peers. These activities should be limited to just a few minutes at a time and can often be tied to the topic being discussed in that lesson.

Communicating Throughout the Course

It is important to stay present throughout the course—not just at the beginning of the semester. Maintaining continual presence during the course, particularly during natural activity lulls, keeps students motivated and engaged.


Post a “welcome” announcement prior to the start of the course or for the first day of the course. Provide a brief overview of the course and any pertinent information you want students to know about the course and yourself.

It is important to create a supportive environment where all students feel comfortable participating. The suggestions below support Butler’s diversity and inclusion efforts.

  • Invite your students to edit their profile in Canvas and choose how they would like to be addressed.
  • Students can add a preferred pronoun and/or a pronunciation guide via NameCoach.


Sending personalized emails to your students is a small step that can make a huge impact.

You have the option to use either your Butler email or the Canvas Inbox feature. Make sure to communicate to your students which format(s) you will be using so they know which format(s) to check.

Students may email you questions via their Butler email, the Canvas Inbox, or their personal/work email. When responding to student emails, double-check that you are responding to a Butler email. All university communications (including those for coursework) should occur through Butler University platforms.


Announcements should provide guidance about what is happening in the course, updates, and schedule changes in addition to offering feedback and encouragement to the entire class. Consider using audio and/or videos to make your announcements more engaging.

Course Question Board

For common or frequently asked questions, use a Course Question Board Discussion Forum. Students will be able to see their classmates’ questions and your responses. This may reduce the number of times you answer the same question. Students could also help answer each other’s questions or pose follow-up questions in the Course Question Board.

It’s critical to check the Course Question Board regularly. The easiest way to do this is to ‘subscribe’ to the Discussion Forum.

Classroom Tech

Butler’s IT department monitors and maintains technology in the classroom. To find what technology is in your classroom, view IT’s Mediated Spaces page. If necessary, contact IT to request additional software for your classroom.

For help with classroom technology, visit the Classroom Technology Help Index or submit an IT ticket.