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  • My name is Lola Gilbert. Thank you for inviting me to Smalltown State University to discuss the future of your distance learning program. In order to answer the question, where are we going, we must first take a look at where we are today.
  • Your institution currently has three distance learning programs. All programs offer courses online to students. All programs have faculty members that teach these online courses. However, each program operates completely independent of each other.
  • By your own admission, your distance learning program lacks central leadership. This lack of centralized leadership has resulted in an increasing number of online students who have legitimate concerns regarding the lack of adequate support from students services, the varied levels of interaction they receive from online faculty, and the frustration that comes with having to learn and use three separate learning systems that use three different types of technology. Not only must students use three separate course management systems, but they must learn to do so with limited or no technical support.
  • Imagine a distance learning program where the students get to spend their time learning about business, psychology, art history, computer science, or whatever subject they are studying instead of having to spend their time learning numerous learning management systems. Now consider reading discussion posts and assignments that reflect that students are actually engaged and learning? How about a program that retains its students long enough to have them graduate and enter the workforce? Finally, what about a program that actually makes enough money to sustain itself? This is our vision. Our vision can result in a successful distance learning program with a collaborative and supportive environment for both students and faculty. But a vision isn’t enough. A vision needs a plan of action to make it a reality. Identifying the issues that are preventing the vision from happening and replacing those issues with resolutions can be that plan of action. Let’s examine those issues and some potential resolutions.
  • In the current situation, each program operates like a silo, separate from the other programs and not making the most of all available resources. However, the fact of the matter is that our students attend a university. Students should feel like no matter what program they are enrolled in that they are attending the same university. Plus, a centralized leadership is a more efficient use of university resources.
  • A coordinated distance learning program with central leadership will unify the departments, solidify the program, and provide students with a sense of attending one school instead of several. It will also put the responsibility of dealing with technical problems and delivering courses where it belongs, with the university and not with the students.
  • Because of the current lack of support that our online students have to assist them, the program has encountered some unique challenges. Let’s take a look of them one at time, then afterward we can discuss some possible solutions. RESULTS WITH SITUATION Frustrated students Students who spend more time solving problems that should not be their problems Grades that are not reflective of our students’ real capabilities Faculty who spend more time assisting students with support than in planning and teaching their courses Students who leave the program
  • RESULTS OF SITUATION Students frustrated because some faculty interact with them regularly and some faculty who seldom or never have interaction with them. Students who are not receiving much needed feedback and guidance with their assignments. Faculty are frustrated because not all faculty are putting in the same amount of time into students interactions Students who feel they could have obtained better grades with more assistance they feel that they should be receiving for the amount that they pay. Students and faculty who leave the program.
  • It is true that today's, and tomorrow's, learners are quite adept at using multiple platforms or methods, for completing courses. However, while learners should be encouraged and expected to use multiple technologies, learners should not be expected to learn more than one learning management system, and neither should staff.
  • Earlier I showed you a screen with an alternative structure to the structure that is currently is place. As you can see from the proposed team resp
  • The most prevalent and growing technology that has recently emerged is mobile technologies using SmartPhones. While SmartPhones are wonderful tools for accessing and downloading information, they are not the most efficient tool for inputting information. Badge, Johnson, Mosley, and Cann (2011) asserted the following, “The nature of mobile devices means that they score highly for flexibility, but other than for audio and video, are poor input devices. For example, it is challenging to enter large amounts of text (Nielsen Norman Group, 2008).” (p. 91). Simply put, a variety of technologies that are compatible with each other offers faculty and students the optimal environment. While current trends indicate that social media and mobile technologies will be the standard distance education technologies of the future, further learner assessment and collaborations with faculty and other designated departments will need to occur in order to select the most appropriate technologies and a standardized learning management system. I know that we will have to work as a team to make this happen. That will be true for whomever you select for this position. I am all too aware while students are the reason that the program exists, it would not be possible without faculty. Just as students have concerns, faculty have concerns also. In 2005, Kaye Shelton and George Saltsman conveyed that administration must address the following issues for a successful online program, “faculty buy-in, policies that address concerns, selection of faculty, faculty compensation, an understanding of faculty workloads, faculty support, and faculty satisfaction” (p.59). I absolutely believe this to be true and as your administrator would make this happen.
  • Creation of a collaborative distance learning program that supports students needs through the by addressing specific areas of online learning and instruction that will motivate faculty to teach online courses and support faculty through the implementation of policies and procedures, a technological infrastructure equipped to handle online instruction, support staff and resources, training, and professional development will be our path to a successful program that retains students.

Transcript

  • 1. Where Are We Going? Lola Gilbert Smalltown State University Distance Program Director Selection Committee June 4, 2011
  • 2. Existing Programs:   Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree, College of Business College of Arts & Sciences Information Systems Department   WHERE ARE WE NOW?
  • 3. Distance Program Issues:   1. Uncoordinated distance learning program with no central leadership. 2. Concerned student perspective A. Lack of support for online students from student services B. Varied levels of interaction from online faculty C. Multiple learning management systems 1. Open source learning management system 2. Commercially available learning management system 3. Custom web pages functioning as a learning management system WHERE ARE WE NOW?
  • 4. A successful distance learning program with a collaborative and supportive environment for both students and faculty. VISION
  • 5. ISSUE 1: UNCOORDINATED DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAM WITH NO CENTRAL LEADERSHIP.
  • 6. ISSUE 1 ALTERNATIVE: COORDINATED DISTANCE LEARNING PROGRAM WITH CENTRAL LEADERSHIP. Leadership Technical Support Student Services Instructional Design Team CB CA&S IS Students Smalltown State University Course Management System
  • 7. RESULTS WITH SITUATION • Frustrated students • Students who spend more time solving problems that should not be their problems • Grades that are not reflective of our students’ real capabilities • Faculty who spend more time assisting students with support than in planning and teaching their courses • Students who leave the program ISSUE 2: CONCERNED STUDENT PERSPECTIVE A. LACK OF SUPPORT FOR ONLINE STUDENTS FROM STUDENT SERVICES
  • 8. RESULTS OF SITUATION • Students frustrated because some faculty interact with them regularly and some faculty who seldom or never have interaction with them. • Students who are not receiving much needed feedback and guidance with their assignments. • Faculty are frustrated because not all faculty are putting in the same amount of time into students interactions • Students who feel they could have obtained better grades with more assistance they feel that they should be receiving for the amount that they pay. • Students and faculty who leave the program. ISSUE 2: CONCERNED STUDENT PERSPECTIVE B. VARIED LEVELS OF INTERACTION FROM ONLINE FACULTY
  • 9. 1. Open source LMS 2. Commercially available LMS 3. Custom web pages functioning as a LMS ISSUE 2: CONCERNED STUDENT PERSPECTIVE C. MULTIPLE LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
  • 10. • Organize a “Distance Education Program of the Future” team with at least the following members (Future Situation, 1): • Program Administrator (leader) • Faculty members from the applicable programs • Instructional Designer • Student representatives from applicable programs • Information Technologies representative • Student Services representative PROPOSAL: ISSUE ONE (1)
  • 11. • Develop coordinate distance learning program with central leadership – Develop time-line for future program – Design structure – Define member roles – Develop necessary policies and procedures to administer program including, but not limited to, faculty expectations and learner expectations. • Investigate and select learner management system • Design, develop, and integrate modules into learning management system • Implement technology support for faculty, support staff, and students • Implement training program and develop training tools necessary to adequately prepare faculty, support staff, and learners to use learning management system. PROPOSAL: ISSUE TWO (2)
  • 12. We have a collaborative distance learning program that: supports students addresses specific areas of online learning and instruction motivates faculty and supports faculty a successful program that retains students. AT THE END OF THE DAY…
  • 13. Badge, J., Johnson, S., Mosley, A., and Cann, A. (2011). Observing emerging student networks on a microblogging service. Journal of Online Teaching, 7(1), 90-98.   Shelton, K., & Saltsman, G. (2005). An administrator's guide to online education. Greenwich, CT: IAP-Information Age Pub. REFERENCES