Best Practices in the Implementation of Program Support for Multicampus Collaborative Degree Programs
Concurrent Session 1
During this session, we will focus on the workflows and relationships Penn State University has utilized to support shared programs. We will discuss how we capitalized on existing resources as well as best practices in creating new support structures to fill in the identified gaps.
Higher education institutions and systems have been developing new models to support and enable online/blended program delivery models across multiple campuses or institutions to meet the demands of students who are increasingly seeking flexible program delivery, particularly adult learners. Not all students want to take their programs entirely online. As such, students are enrolling in distance courses while simultaneously taking traditional resident courses. According to the WCET Distance Education Enrollment Report more than one in four students (28%) enrolled in "at Least one" of their courses at a distance in the Fall of 2014. It is projected that this trend will continue and students will prefer to take courses in a variety of delivery formats. Penn State University is leading the way to offer students choices in course delivery methods within Shared Academic Programs. This has been done by leveraging online, blended, and video-conferencing delivery to strengthen student learning opportunities along with supporting program growth and flexibility at campus locations. While doing so, to streamline the process Penn State is leveraging common resources, operations, and technologies. In order to strategically utilize existing resources, Penn State has aligned university services with strategic program development and established a partnership between University College and Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT) to design and deliver faculty development programs to transform courses by leveraging technology-enabled teaching modalities.
Penn State has been delivering shared initiatives for decades and within recent years has increased the number of shared programs to include disciplines such as Administration of Justice, Biology, and Corporate Communication. Multiple iterations of course and program sharing has occurred over the years and with each iteration a different approach has been taken to fit the strategic alignment and changes within higher education at a given time. Due to an increase in programs delivered as shared programs along with a need to further operationalize program support, a university-wide task force was charged to research, interview, and recommend best practices for the support mechanisms necessary to run a successful shared academic program. Prior to the task force, there was not an official definition of a successful shared degree program or essential features that needed to be in place in order for the shared program to be recognized as successful. Implementing the recommendations of the Task Force for Shared Academic Programs presented a challenge due to a minimized dedicated staff and a need to establish new partnerships with other units across the university.
Approach and Results:
Many new programs were coming to fruition each year. To establish best practices early on in these new programs, an emphasis was placed to provide additional support mechanisms to newly proposed or approved shared degree programs. Proposal review and proposal recommendations for revision were quickly and effectively put into place. The results were immediate and included stronger proposals for new shared degree programs. To coincide with this implementation, guidance to assess the readiness of each campus to participate in a shared degree program was offered as a new service. The guidance included the assurance that important conversations were conducted such as those among campus instructional designers, support services. etc. Other support items for new degree programs that were implemented included networking connections to obtain resources between campuses and university provided services, as well as, the facilitation of a kickoff meeting for each program. For each new degree program, dedicated support was provided to help determine how to implement the shared course creation and offerings as described within the approved proposal.
After the initial implementation of critical support mechanisms for new programs, the emphasis changed to support that would assist with both new and existing programs. From the task force report, a program coordinator role was recommend along with guidelines of responsibilities of the role. Direction on creating and implementing this role was conducted and extended to what role/responsibilities should be for other staff members such as the Director of Academic Affairs and campus registrar at each campus location. After initial implementation of these roles and responsibilities, there was an identified need of the shared program to become more of a faculty-driven process. As a result of the recommendations of the Task Force on Shared Academic Programs, the role of a Professor in Charge to serve as a faculty lead for each shared program was developed and a recommended common set of responsibilities for this position was established. Subsequent new shared academic programs will make use of this model and existing programs are expected to meet the responsibilities outlined.
In addition to administrative/academic support for new and existing degree programs, formalization of faculty and discipline support was conducted. In terms of course design and development and revision of shared courses, a formalized timeline and workflow were established. Faculty development was also taken into consideration and a blended professional development program was created to support the design, development, and delivery of shared courses. Special attention was given to the skills and knowledge required to effectively teach in a shared course that is delivered to students via video-conferencing.
Many of Penn State's campuses and colleges share courses or entire degree programs across geographic boundaries. To provide a central resource for sharing, the eLearning Cooperative was established in 2003. As part of the recommendations from the Task Force of Shared Academic Programs, there was a charge to rebuild the eLearning Cooperative in order to streamline course sharing processes and to remove barriers to participation. The eLearning Cooperative was re-envisioned as the Digital Learning Cooperative. With this, the mechanism for sharing courses has improved course tracking and identification via improved data coding. In addition there are redesigned procedures and the new system was created to support course sharing logistics.
As we move into the third year of the official Shared Programs initiative we will be working on a number of investigations and faculty development opportunities as well as assessing student engagement within shared courses. In addition we will be taking the lessons learned form implementing the recommendations for the Task Force Report to focus on new initiatives including:
- Identifying needs, technology, and training to support more synchronous video sessions (identified by program faculty)
- Showcasing innovative faculty approaches to course delivery within programs
- Developing a support plan for multi-campus activities and lab resources
- Creating a review cycle and process for renewing and revisiting ongoing shared programs among campus partners
- Creating an adaptive credentialing, also known as badging, for faculty with prior online teaching experience.
- Developing program coordinator training and on-boarding processes
- Developing a New Instructor Orientation module within Canvas
- Creating a faculty Peer Review process and training program
- Piloting common technologies to build cross-campus support.
- Creating a process for the evaluation and revision of shared courses.
This session will focus on the implementation of new support mechanisms for shared degree programs along with highlighting the lessons learned through implementation.
By the end of this session, attendees will:
- recall the recommendations / best practices support mechanisms necessary to run a successful shared academic program
- evaluate the lessons learned through the implementation of new/revised support mechanisms
- discuss further recommendations / new initiatives of support mechanisms based upon the next steps initially generated