Improving efficiency in higher education presents significant challenges to a college’s leadership, particularly when considering ways to improve the efficiency of the teaching/learning process. For example, consider online distance learning. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 25.8 percent of students at Title IV colleges and universities were enrolled in at least one online distance learning course in fall 2012. More than one out of every ten were enrolled exclusively in online distance learning programs, with one out of every five graduate students taking online distance courses exclusively.
Why are so many students taking online courses? Because they offer tremendous convenience and flexibility. They also provide great efficiency and flexibility for administrators and faculty. Online courses require no management of physical classroom space, and faculty who might not be available during a specific day or time for an in-person class can now be scheduled to teach. In addition, adjunct faculty can reside in a different state, providing a broader pool of faculty candidates.
While online distance learning programs will surely grow in the coming years, there are many challenges in moving from on-ground instruction to online learning. These challenges can be intimidating to campuses and prevent them from taking advantage of this significant trend in learning modality.
However, the following six strategies can help your campus ensure a smooth launch of its online efforts, a launch that’s beneficial to your institution, instructors, and students.
1. Establish a clear vision for online distance learning. One of the greatest obstacles to online learning is fear that the culture, mission, and purpose of the institution will change. This fear can be felt from faculty, alumni, staff, students, and board members. By establishing a clear vision for online learning, you reassure constituents that convenience in learning does not automatically lessen the quality of the educational experience or outcomes. Sufficient research on the efficacy of online learning now exists and can be used to assuage fears. Researching other colleges with successful online distance learning programs can also be helpful in demonstrating the many positive benefits of online learning. [Read more…]