Cultivating Quality Change: Growing Online and Hybrid Quality at the Institutional Level
Concurrent Session 1
Struggling to grow online and hybrid quality at your institution? You are not alone. Come hear about Valencia College’s process for improving quality across the institution. We will also share how we paired quality improvement with our strategic plan for online and hybrid learning.
By the end of the presentation, participants will:
- Identify factors that affect quality in online and hybrid courses
- Visualize how Valencia College created work teams to make recommendations and begin implementation of quality improvements
- Recognize how an overall quality improvement process can be integrated with a college-wide strategic plan
Valencia College began offering “alternative delivery” courses in the early 1990’s, and as technology evolved and student demand grew, Valencia continued to increase the number of course and program offerings in both hybrid and online modalities. Throughout the last decade, Valencia’s online and hybrid learning practices evolved organically amongst our academic community. While this evolution was authentic to the teaching practices of Valencia and to our shared governance principles, success gaps for students became apparent between online, hybrid, and face-to-face courses. Additionally, faculty and administrators struggled to prepare and offer quality online and hybrid courses and programs. This led Valencia to commission a consultant to review online and hybrid practices and recommended needed changed. The consultant’s final report indicated inconsistencies in (a) faculty preparation and resources to teach online and hybrid courses, (b) dean and chair preparation to observe courses and evaluate quality, (c) services and support offered to students, (d) student preparation for these courses, (e) perceptions of hybrid courses and their scheduling, and (f) sharing of data and processes across the college. As a means of dealing with these issues, multiple changes were undertaken in order to improve overall quality of online and hybrid courses, improve faculty and administrative preparation for these courses, and reduce any gaps in student success between different modality courses.
Six work teams were commissioned by Valencia’s administration to each deal with a major quality issue. These teams were: (a) Faculty Preparedness, (b) Dean and Chair Development, (c) Course and Curriculum Design, (d) Online Data and Evaluation, (e) Online Student Services and Support, and (f) Online Student Preparedness. All teams had administrative “sponsors” of the work and with whom they communicated their work and results. The teams’ initial charge included a focus on online learning (with a plan to introduce a Hybrid Learning work team later once the online issues had been assessed and recommendations were being put into place). Additional “design principles” for the work teams included:
- A focus on strategies, interventions, or improvements that will increase online student success, decrease the gap in success between instructional modalities, and improve the student experience in online and hybrid courses.
- To analyze Valencia’s current processes, practices, and tools in order to recognize effective strategies and identify areas of improvement as well as explore new opportunities from the literature and other successful models.
- To use data to inform recommendations and seek support from the Online Data and Evaluation Team as necessary.
- To function as short-term design teams. Implementation teams (consisting of a subset of the original design team and other necessary partners) will be formed to implement the approved plans and work with the Online Data and Evaluation Team to assess the strategy.
- To examine the feasibility of recommendations in relation to budget, staffing, technology requirements, and interactions with existing college systems.
- To “fast-track” recommendations that are immediately actionable strategies as necessary.
Each team had membership from relevant areas across the college. This included members from every campus location, from multiple disciplines, and from multiple roles such as deans, chairs/coordinators, faculty members, and staff members. Staff members were solicited from areas across the college and included Advising, Student Services, the Registrar’s Office, the Testing Center, the Library, the Counseling Center, the Office for Students with Disabilities, and Information Technology. Each team had two co-chairs to help lead the work. Among these co-chairs were tenured faculty members, deans, Managers of Student Support, the Director of Institutional Research, and the Associate Director of Online Teaching and Learning. The Associate Director co-chaired two teams (Course and Curriculum Design, and Online Data and Evaluation) as well as being a team member for all of the other teams. In this way, one person could serve as a nexus point for the work and coordinate data requests and dissemination as needed. A co-chair team was also created to share information and to serve as a sounding board for other teams. Work teams and the co-chair team typically met at least once per month while studying their particular issues. Teams also solicited expertise across the college from relevant areas such as the bookstore, the career center, answer centers, etc. Once the issues were studied, work teams were required to create a final set of recommendations that would be presented to administration. The one exception to this process was the Online Data and Evaluation work team. Since turnover on this team would make it more difficult to track and use the relevant data for the quality issues, this team was designated as a long-term team with a two-year time commitment attached to serving on it. The Online Data and Evaluation team also served as a means for other teams to create assessment plans for their recommended changes. Team members on the short-term design teams were expected to serve six to nine months. After recommendations were viewed and approved by the shared governance councils, implementation teams were then created in order to put the recommendations into practice and make the needed changes across the college.
After the design teams had met and created their recommendations, a final quality improvement plan was drafted and submitted to senior college leadership. This plan outlined all of the major steps that needed to be taken to address the quality and consistency issues affecting online learning. The plan incorporated key data to back up all recommendations and planned work. The plan had a five-year timeline that could be adjusted as needed in order to effect the changes needed in each work team area. Senior college leadership approved the plan and agreed to provide the budget for these changes (nearly one million dollars a year for the next five years).
Originally the Hybrid Design work team was supposed to be created once the online work had been launched. Due to multiple audiences (deans, faculty members, and staff members) asking for the hybrid work to be started sooner, the work team was Fall 2015 and began meeting. Their work will culminate in a set of recommendations at the beginning of Fall 2016 which will be presented to the work team sponsor and to the appropriate governance councils. Those recommendations will be interwoven into the existing online quality improvement plan at that time.
While the work teams were meeting and making recommendations, Valencia College began its new strategic planning process. As part of this process, feedback was solicited across the college and from the community to see which areas needed special emphasis. Online Learning was judged to be one of these areas. The strategic planning team for Online Learning was led by the Assistant Vice President for Teaching and Learning as well as a tenured faculty member who had served on multiple work teams. Participation in this group was solicited across the college and group membership contained intentional overlaps with the co-chairs of the work teams as well as some team members. Through multiple sessions and surveys, the Online Learning strategic team constructed a plan which corroborated the work done by the online work teams as well as adding new questions that will need to be addressed as the work continues. These include a model for the way in which online and hybrid learning is conducted at Valencia as well as desired changes in technology and infrastructure. The recognition of the work teams’ recommendations as a necessary step in the achievement of broader institutional strategies provided validation for the overall quality improvement process.
As a part of this presentation, team memberships, reports, and other information will be shared so that participants can get a true sense of the scope and power of this work to improve quality and meet strategic plans.