Reimagining Institutional Models for Online Program Development and Support

Reimagining Institutional Models for Online Program Development and Support

When is it time to reevaluate the models for distance learning administration and support at your institution and how do you successfully implement recommendations for change? During this session at OLC Accelerate 2017, learn from the experience of Northern Illinois University (NIU) reimagining its distance learning support model as a result of a recent institution-wide program prioritization process.

In Fall 2015, NIU began a program prioritization initiative with the goal of building a strong foundation for maintaining and improving the quality of academic and administrative programs across the institution, by assuring that programs reflect the institution’s mission and strategic goals. As a result, an institutional task force recommended reimagining the structure for supporting online and off-campus programs, specifically noting:

While the delivery of online or adult for-credit courses was once seen as an ancillary task, this has changed over time…It is critical that all students receive a consistent NIU experience, whether traditional/on-campus, online, regional, or adult learner. Efficiencies could be created by limiting the duplication of functions. The task force recommends moving online programs to Academic Affairs.

In Fall 2016 a working group of senior leaders at NIU was formed and charged by NIU’s president with developing a plan for a revamped service model for online & off-campus programs. The working group was asked to formulate a model for supporting and growing online and off-campus programs that would identify what activities/services are needed, how those services are provided, and by whom. In response to that charge, the working group examined the literature, considered national best practices, surveyed effective models of peers and aspirational institutions, identified gaps between the current and new systems, and recommend bridging strategies. The working group made their best effort to continue the “trustee mentality” of program prioritization, with a focus upon developing the best options for serving adult learners in terms of both online and off-campus environments.

The working group delivered a comprehensive set of recommendations for action steps that would improve support for NIU online and off-campus students and programs. Key recommendations involved:

  • creating strategic leadership for NIU’s online/off-campus programs in Academic Affairs
  • reconfiguring the core course development, program development, faculty development and logistical support functions, and housing them centrally in Academic Affairs
  • strengthening the services provided to online/off-campus students
  • improving centralized marketing and recruiting efforts for these audiences

With the central responsibility for online/off-campus programs being located within Academic Affairs, NIU’s provost was charged in May 2017 with creating an implementation plan based on the working group’s recommendations.

During this session, experience and lessons learned by NIU were shared for other online education leaders seeking to engage in a comprehensive review of institutional online program development and support models.

Session Resources

Essentials for Preparing to Teach an Existing Online Course on Short Notice

Presentation Title Slide

In this presentation at the 2017 Distance Teaching & Learning Conference at UW-Madison, we explored questions to consider when preparing faculty to teach a developed online course at the last minute. Through our presentation, paper, and resources we shared a diagnostic framework for identifying the key elements of online teaching readiness, including technology proficiency, to fast-track preparedness to successfully facilitate an online course.


Rhode, J., & Miller, T. (2017, July). Essentials for preparing to teach an existing online course on short-notice. Paper published in the proceedings of the 33rd Annual Distance Teaching & Learning Conference, Madison, WI.

Promise and Perils of Mobile Streaming Video Using Periscope

Jason Rhode, Ph.D. @jasonrhode

During this presentation at OLC Accelerate 2016, learn about one online instructor’s quest to implement live online video presentations and discussion using the mobile video streaming app Periscope. An overview of the opportunities, lessons learned, and tips for other educators interested in implementing similar online video streaming apps in their online teaching will be shared. Slides area available here and links to additional resources and samples mentioned during the session are provided below.

Resource Links

Educators / Academics to Follow on Periscope

Designing Personalized Online Teaching Professional Development Through Self-Assessment – POD 2016 Poster

2016 POD Innovation Award Poster

My colleagues and I were honored to have been selected as finalists for the 2016 POD Innovation Award in recognition for implementing creative ideas for educational development and shared this poster at the 2016 POD Network Conference.

#BbWorld16 The Blackboard Portfolio tool: Features, uses, and campus-wide implementation process

Bb Portfolio Tool

Thu, 7/14/16, 9:35AM-10:25AM
Titian 2205
Presenters: Jason Rhode (@jasonrhode) & Stephanie Richter (@slrichter)

The new Blackboard Portfolio tool released with Blackboard learn in April 2014 is much-improved and provides an easy-to-use platform for students to demonstrate and reflect upon what they have learned throughout their university career. Northern Illinois University (NIU) implemented the portfolios campus-wide during 2015, and it was used by thousands of students in a relatively short time. This presentation at BbWorld16 will provide an overview of the portfolio tool, strategies for developing portfolios that serve different purposes, and best practices for institutional adoption. Sample portfolios and exemplars from faculty who are using Blackboard portfolios in their classes will be shared, along with NIU’s campus-wide implementation process. Opportunities and challenges will be discussed to provide insights for others planning to roll-out portfolios at their institutions. Accompanying slides are available here and links included in slides shared below.

Resource Links