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

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