Beyond the Headlines: A Decision-Making Rubric for the Next Phase of Online Program Growth

As the number of online degrees have proliferated in recent years, it is even more important for institutions to take a more thoughtful approach to program selection. Often, a university must consider key issues like course offerings and schedules, degree specialization, and admissions requirements in order to offer a competitive online degree.

In this webinar offered 11/12/2014, academic leaders from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Ohio University discussed the key market forces that are present today, and how universities can best position their prospective degrees in the market. Panelists provided practical insights and recommendations on how to handle the change management for a university to offer competitive degree programs.

The participants in this webinar learned about:

  • How to effectively plan for the online marketplace, validate program expansion, and reduce risk
  • How to influence change across the institution to prepare to take degrees online
  • Key considerations when evaluating online program management services

More details and a copy of the webinar slides, are available here.

NIU’s Customizations and Building Block for Blackboard Enterprise Surveys and Course Evaluations

Since the open discussion at BbWorld where NIU shared that we’ve been working on some system tweaks as well as a custom building block for providing an alternative reporting format for Bb enterprise surveys and course evaluations, we’ve conducted a very small pilot of the tool this summer and continued efforts on an initial draft of a building block that provides an alternate report format.

For those interested in learning more about our efforts, I recorded this screencast demo of the functionality at this point that I can share with those who would like to see the building block deployed within our dev environment. I tried to avoid as much technical-specifics as possible and rather just show the workflows and functionality tweaks that we’ve envisioned.

A decision still hasn’t been made institutionally whether we will continue to pursue a wider pilot of the tool with additional building block enhancements to be requested, or look at other 3rd party tools.

For follow-up on any additional technical details about the tweaks and building block depicted, please contact Ruperto Herrera (rherrera@niu.edu) and Matt Kacskos (mkacskos1@niu.edu) who have done all the technical development work.

2014 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology

Inside Higher Ed’s third annual survey of college and university faculty members and campus leaders in educational technology aims to understand how these groups perceive and practice online learning and other emerging opportunities for delivering course content.
Faculty Attitudes on Technology
Some of the questions addressed in the study are:

  • Can online courses achieve learning outcomes that are equivalent to in- person courses?
  • What are the most important quality indicators of an online education?
  • How does the quality of online courses compare with the quality of in- person courses?
  • To what extent have faculty members and technology administrators experienced online learning themselves, as students?
  • To what extent have faculty taught online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses? For those who have not taught online, why is that?
  • How supportive are institutions of online learning?
  • Which should cost the student more — online degree programs or those delivered face to face?
  • Who should be responsible for creating and marketing online degree programs?
  • Are institutions expanding online learning? Should they do so? To what extent do faculty feel that they are appropriately consulted in this decision- making process?
  • How do faculty use learning management systems (LMS) and early warning systems?

Snapshot of Findings

  • Few faculty members (9 percent) strongly agree that online courses can achieve student learning outcomes that are at least equivalent to those of in- person courses. Academic technology administrators are more likely (36 percent) to strongly agree with this statement.
  • Asked to rate the importance of factors reflecting quality in online education, faculty members and academic technology administrators alike say it is “very important” that an online course or program “provides meaningful interaction between students and instructors” (80 percent for faculty, 89 percent for administrators), “is offered by an accredited institution” (76 vs. 84 percent), “has been independently certified for quality” (66 vs. 52 percent), and “leads to academic credit” (50 vs. 68 percent).
  • While a larger proportion of technology officers than faculty members say online courses are of better quality than in-person courses in a set of eight areas, in neither group did any of the eight areas garner a majority reporting this view. But faculty members thought online courses could be at least as good as in-person
    during class and 77 percent of faculty say the same about the ability to reach “at-risk” students.
  • Very few faculty members (7 percent) believe the tuition for online courses should be higher than for face-to-face degree programs. A much smaller proportion of faculty who have taught online courses believe online courses should have a lower tuition than face- to-face programs (20 percent), while nearly half of their peers who have never taught an online course (48 percent) believe that this should be the case.
  • More technology administrators (53 percent) than faculty members (32 percent) have taken an online course for credit. Nearly half of those who have taught an online course (49 percent) have also taken an online course as a student, compared to less than a quarter (23 percent) of those who have never taught an online course.
  • About one in three professors say they have taught an online course, with some variation across position type. Among those who have never taught an online course, the three main reasons they give are never having been asked, not being interested, and not believing that online classes have educational value.
  • More than 8 in 10 instructors say they have converted a face-to-face course to a hybrid course. The majority report that this conversion decreased face-to-face time.
  • Half (51 percent) of faculty believe improving the educational experience for students by introducing more active learning in the course is a very important reason for converting face-to-face courses to blended or hybrid courses.
  • Nearly three-quarters of faculty believe that professors own the online course content and material they create.
  • Less than half of faculty and technology administrators strongly agree that their institution offer instructors strong support for online learning, as measured by eight indicators.
  • Nearly all professors (96 percent) agree that institutions should produce their own online degree programs and be responsible for marketing them (85 percent).
  • About one-third of faculty strongly agree that their institution is planning to expand online course offerings, though only about one-sixth strongly agree that their institution should do so. A larger proportion of those who have taught an online course than their peers who have never done so strongly agree to the above two statements. Most faculty do not feel that they have been appropriately involved with decision making surrounding the expansion of online course offerings.
  • A small fraction of faculty believe that spending on IT infrastructure (8 percent) and digital initiatives (7 percent) is too high. Faculty are split on whether spending in these areas are too low or just about right.
  • The majority of faculty always use learning management systems (LMS) to share syllabus information with students (78 percent), record grades (58 percent), and communicate with students (52 percent). Only 20 percent of faculty members always use the LMS for lecture capture.
  • Only 15 percent of faculty strongly agree that digital humanities has improved their teaching, 14 percent strongly agree that it has improved their institution, and 23 percent strongly agree that digital humanities has improved their research.
  • The vast majority of faculty (89 percent) say their institution uses an early warning system, and 81 percent believe that those warning systems help students make significant learning gains.

The full report can be downloaded here.

The History of Online Education Infographic

History of Online Education

Courtesy Affordable Online Colleges

Opening the Curriculum: Open Education Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2014

This report, funded by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation with additional support from Pearson, examines the attitudes, opinions, and use of Open Educational Resources (OER) among teaching faculty in U.S. higher education. Some of the key findings:

Opening the Curriculum

  • Faculty are not very aware of open educational resources. Depending on the strictness of the awareness measure, between two-thirds and three-quarters of all faculty classify themselves as unaware on OER.
  • Faculty appreciate the concepts of OER. When presented with the concept of OER, most faculty say that they are willing to give it a try.
  • Awareness of OER is not a requirement for adoption of OER. More faculty are using OER than report that they were aware of the term OER. Resource adoption decisions are often made without any awareness of the specific licensing of the material, or its OER status.
  • Faculty judge the quality of OER to be roughly equivalent to that of traditional educational resources. Among faculty who do offer an opinion, three-quarters rank OER quality as the same as or better than traditional resources.
    The most significant barrier to wider adoption of OER remains a faculty perception of the time and effort required to find and evaluate it. The top three cited barriers among faculty members for OER adoption all concern the discovery and evalua- tion of OER materials.
  • Faculty are the key decision makers for OER adoption. Faculty are almost always involved in an adoption decision and — except for rare instances — have the primary role. The only exceptions are in a minority of two-year and for-profit institutions, where the administration takes the lead.

The report is available for download:

Opening the Curriculum: Open Educational Resources in U.S. Higher Education, 2014 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

A listing of all conducted studies by the Babson Survey Research Group is available here.