Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Policies and Practices for Online Teaching

In today's discussion, I want to focus on policies and practices for online teaching. I plan to focus on the award-winning online program at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS).

This is a so-called presentation blog, and each blog posting deals with a separate topic that I would like to cover. Note that anyone can post a comment on any of the individual blog postings.

My goal is to help the CAFDN session participants understand what is needed to develop and to deliver high-quality online courses and programs.

The Sloan-C Quality Pillars

In 1997, Dr. Frank Mayadas (of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation) first spoke about the "Five Pillars" that support quality online education.

The quality pillars are:
  • Access
  • Learning Effectiveness
  • Cost Effectiveness (now Scale)
  • Student Satisfaction
  • Faculty Satisfaction
Dr. Mayadas proposed that institutions develop quantitative metrics to track their progress in each of the quality areas.

In 2008, the Sloan Consortium awarded the Inaugural Ralph E. Gomory Awards for Quality Online Education, to two institutions (UIS, UCF) that best demonstrated, in a quantitative manner, their commitment to continuous improvement of the quality of their online programs using the Sloan-C Pillars.

The Online Program at UIS

UIS has received national recognition for the quality, scale, and breath of its online program.

2007 Sloan-C Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Programming

2007 Two-Part Feature Story about the UIS Online Program on NPR's Morning Edition Show

2008 Sloan-C Gomory Award for Quality Online Education

2008 Society for New Communications Research - Excellence in New Communications Award

The title of this posting is a link to a PowerPoint presentation about the online program at UIS.

Other Online Institutions I Admire

In addition to the University of Illinois at Springfield, I really admire and respect the online programs at:
These institutions are recognized for the quality of their online programs. They all have outstanding instructional design and faculty development programs. And most importantly, they have INTEGRATED online teaching into the mainstream.

The Sloan Consortium

The Sloan Consortium (http://www.sloan-c.org/ ) is an association of 1,500 colleges, universities, and other organizations committed to quality online teach and learning. The founder of the consortium, Dr. Frank Mayadas, is a good friend and colleague who has had an enormous impact on the development of online learning nationwide over the past 15 years. He is the program director for the online and blended learning initiatives at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; the Sloan Foundation has provided nearly $100 million to foster quality online teaching and learning.

Sloan-C publishes a peer-reviewed journal, holds national conferences, conducts online faculty development workshops, and promotes quality online education.

Online Education in the United States, 2008

Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008

The 2008 Sloan Survey of Online Learning reveals that online enrollment rose by more than twelve percent from a year earlier. The survey of more than 2,500 colleges and universities nationwide finds approximately 3.94 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2007.

Rubrics for Quality

The award-winning Quality Matters program now keeps their rubric as a proprietary tool available only to members. But, up until 2006, it was available to the public at large. In eight key areas, the rubric sets best practices standards for the design of online classes.
  1. Course Introduction/Overview
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Assessment and Measurement
  4. Resources and Materials
  5. Learner Interaction
  6. Course Technology
  7. Learner Support
  8. Accessibility

One additional area I encourage users to consider is the less-quantitative aspects of the class. How does the class promote affective learning and changes? Are attitudes and opinions cultivated?

An excellent, less-quantitative, rubric that addresses some of these areas is one developed by Chico State University:


Serving ethnic minorities and low-income students

Are ethnic minorities and low-income students served equally well through online teaching as white middle-class students?

Panelists: Online learning can help minority students

Minority Students Turning to Online Schools for Advanced Degrees

Incorporating the Hybrid Learning Model into Minority Education at a Historically Black University

Minorities and Online Higher Education
Students from minority cultures are particularly vulnerable to feeling isolated from the majority culture on many campuses. Online education has the potential for mitigating this problem, however.

Factors Influencing Faculty Use of Technology in Online Instruction: A Case Study - Elizabeth Reed Osika, et al - Chicago State University
If a large minority-serving institution’s faculty does not adapt well, the students will not be served.

Keeping Current

For daily updates on online learning, educational technology and emerging technologies, I invite you to visit the blogs aggregated in the right column:

Online Learning Update

Educational Technology Blog

Techno-News Blog

New Realities in Higher Education

These blogs are published daily (365 days each year) by my colleague, Prof. Ray Schroeder, at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

Blended Learning

Blended learning has become more and more visible in the past few years. Here is one definition of blended learning:

"Integrates online with traditional face-to-face classroom activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner where 25% - 74% of instruction occurs online."

The University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee has a large blended (hybrid) learning program.

The University of Illinois at Chicago has an initiative on blended learning, and each year hosts a national workshop on blended learning.

Penn State has an initiative for blended learning.

Finally, the Sloan Consortium offers faculty development in the area of blended learning.

Oakley's Online Class at UIS

I teach a fully online course at the University of Illinois at Springfield - CS442 - "Internet and American Life". This course explores the impact that the Internet is having on our society. It promotes critical thinking and uses a constructivist pedagogy.

All undergraduate students are required to take a minimum of 13 hours in the Engaged Citizenship Common Experience (ECCE), a set of courses tied to UIS' heritage, mission, vision, and values. Most of the coursework in this category is interdisciplinary, and these courses provide a distinctive element to the baccalaureate education at UIS.

CS442 is in the ECCE category of U.S. Communities. Courses in this category aim to broaden students' knowledge about substantial, distinctive, and complex aspects of the history, society, politics, and culture of United States communities.

University of Illinois Global Campus

The University of Illinois established the Global Campus in 2007 to offer online degree and certificate programs on a very large scale. The first online classes were offered in January 2008:

Global Campus debut is a dud - Not even 15 enroll in U. of I. project for cyber classes

By the spring of 2009, pressure was being brought on the University to restructure the Global Campus:

Faculty favor restructuring Global Campus (2 May 2009)

Online university founders: University of Illinois’ Global Campus face uncertain future (5 Apr 09)

U. of Illinois Professors Push Alternative Online-Learning Venture (1 Apr 09)

U. of I. sees online campus dream fade (19 May 09)

U. of Illinois Weighs More Humble Version of 'Global Campus' (19 May 09)

U of I expected to reign in Global Campus (21 May 09)

Yesterday, the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois voted to disband the Global Campus and to begin a new online initiative on each campus:

U of I board votes to end online 'campus' (21 May 09)

U. of Illinois Gives Global Campus the (Re)boot (21 May 09)

Global Campus employees got bonuses despite program's struggles
(22 May 09)

And many more articles from Google News (22 May 09)

Faculty Development Programs are Essential

Before teaching online, faculty should participate in a formal faculty development program. There are numerous opportunities in this area:

The Sloan Consortium offers a certificate in the area of online teaching.

The University of Illinois offers the Making the Virtual Classroom a Reality (MVCR) faculty development program through the Illinois Online Network.

The University of Illinois at Springfield offers a number of faculty development opportunities in the area of online teaching through OTEL/COLRS and COPE-L.

The University of Illinois at Springfield is the lead institution in the New Century Learning Consortium (NCLC).

Intellectual Property and Online Course Development

The entire topic of the ownership of intellectual property as it applies to online courses developed by University of Illinois faculty with University funding was studied extensively in the late 1990's. A number of documents on this topic are online at:


Of many possibilities, it seems best if the faculty member owns the intellectual property, but grants the University a royalty-free license in perpetuity to use the IP and to make a derivative work for use in its educational programs.

Alternatively, the University can own the IP and grant the faculty creator a royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use the IP.

Faculty Reasons for Teaching Online

There are a number of reasons that faculty at UIS have for teaching online:
  • UIS has a long tradition of serving non-traditional students (UIS faculty care about providing access to higher education). [Photos] [Videos] [More Photos]
  • Faculty enjoy working with the high-quality students who are attracted to the UIS online degree programs.
  • Faculty get to know their online students really well through multiple weekly interactions; this is something that is valued by faculty.
  • The UIS online programs attract diverse students - not just students from rural towns in central Illinois.
  • Online teaching provides new opportunities for scholarship - many faculty have been able to publish papers about their online teaching experiences (P&T).
  • Online education is now part of the UIS culture - it is expected of all new faculty.
  • Teaching online gives faculty increased flexibility (travel, work from home, etc.).
  • Emeritus faculty report being re-invigorated by online teaching.
  • Faculty report that the new approaches they learn in teaching online can be used to improve their on-campus teaching.

Faculty Incentives for Teaching Online

There are various incentives for UIS faculty to teach online:
  • Course development stipends
  • Flexibility - teach from home, travel to play golf in Ireland
  • Online courses fill first - guarantees summer salary (course doesn't cancel), help to grow overall enrollments (increased tuition revenue)
  • High level of pedagogical support (from OTEL/COLRS) and high level of tech support from Information Technology Services.
  • Assistance analyzing data for publication; assistance with publication of data.
  • Gain experience using new technologies.

The Master Teacher Model

I am a strong proponent of the Master Teacher model, which allows institutions to scale-up their enrollments in a single online course by offering multiple course sections.

The master teacher is often a full-time faculty member (tenured or tenure-track) who developed the course.

Additional sections are taught by "co-instructors", who are supervised (and mentored) by the master teacher.

The co-instructors facilitate the discussions in their own sections, and are able to call on the specific expertise of the master teacher whenever problems arise.

Typically, the various sections have a common syllabus, common assignments, and common assessments. In addition, some online courses have a weekly synchronous session conducted by the master teacher, in which all students participate.