Achieving Online Learning Success; Contrasting Institutional Models

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

We know what constitutes student success in online education, but can we define institutional success online? This session compares different institutional models, based on the CHLOE surveys of chief online officers, and contrasts the organizational structures, goals, policies and practices of online enterprise-level, community-based, regional, and specialized programs.

Sponsored By


Dr. Ron Legon served as Executive Director of Quality Matters from 2006 until early 2016. While President of MarylandOnline in 2005-2006, Dr. Legon led the evolution of QM from grant support to self-support. Subsequently, he led the growth of QM from its MarylandOnline base to the more than one thousand member institutions it has today. Currently, Dr. Legon Executive Director Emeritus, Senior Adviser for Knowledge Initiatives, and co-director of the CHLOE (Changing Landscape of Online Education) Project. In his 10 years as Executive Director of Quality Matters, Dr. Legon broadened QM’s focus on quality online course design in higher education by leading the development of online design rubrics for secondary school, continuing and professional education, MOOCs, and publisher provided courses. Under his guidance, QM began to spread internationally, and QM’s scope in quality assurance grew to include program design, online teaching, learner outcomes, and support for the online learner. In 2008, the U. S. Distance Learning Association recognized Dr. Legon for Outstanding Leadership in Distance Education. In the past several years, he represented QM as a Thought Partner in the CBE Landscape Project sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Legon also holds the title of Provost Emeritus from the University of Baltimore (UB), where he was Provost from 1992 to 2003. At UB he also served as Director of the Helen P. Denit Honors Program and Director of the MBNA e-Learning Center, where, in 1998, he led the development of the first AACSB accredited fully online MBA program.
Eric E. Fredericksen is the associate vice president of online learning at the University of Rochester and associate professor in educational leadership at the Warner School of Education. A national leader in online education, Fredericksen provides leadership for the exploration of online learning initiatives across the University. Previously, he was the associate vice provost at the University, where he provided leadership and services that supported the academic and research missions of the University. Prior to the University of Rochester, Fredericksen served as the director of academic technology and media services at Cornell University. As a senior manager in Cornell Information Technologies, he helped craft Cornell's presence and direction in the use of contemporary technologies to support research, outreach, and teaching & learning both in and out of the classroom. Before Cornell, Fredericksen was the assistant provost for advanced learning technology in the Office of the Provost in the State University of New York System Administration, where he provided leadership and direction for all of SUNY's system-wide programs focused on the innovative use of technology to support teaching and learning. This included the nationally-recognized SUNY Learning Network - winner of the EDUCAUSE Award for Systemic Progress in Teaching and Learning and Sloan-C Awards for Excellence in Faculty Development and Excellence in Institution-wide Online Programming. It also included the SUNY Teaching Learning and Technology Program and Project MERLOT, which were designed to complement the classroom with technology-supported instruction. Fredericksen was also a co-principal investigator and administrative officer for three multi-year, multi-million dollar grants on Asynchronous Learning Networks (ALN) from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He was responsible for the fiscal management, strategic planning, policy development, faculty development, marketing & promotion, a technical support center for faculty and students, and operations and technology infrastructure. He managed a distributed statewide staff of IT, administrative, instructional design, and faculty support professionals. Under his leadership, the program grew from two campuses offering eight courses to 119 enrollments to 53 campuses offering 2,500 courses to more than 40,000 enrollments in just seven years. He has also designed, developed, and taught online courses for the Department of Educational Theory and Practice in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Albany for the past 12 years. Fredericksen is active in national efforts, including EDUCAUSE, the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, and the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan-C). He was chair of the Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning and previously served as chair of the Sloan-C Awards Program for Excellence in Online Teaching and Learning. He also served on the advisory board for Enterprise Learning at NYU. In 2012, Fredericksen was elected to the board of directors for the Sloan Consortium and served as the President of the Board of OLC in 2018 and 2019. He was honored as a Sloan-C Fellow in 2013.

Additional Authors

Richard Garrett is Chief Research Officer of Eduventures Research, an NRCCUA company. Richard has 20+ years experience in higher education research, consulting, and policy. Richard is co-director of the CHLOE Project, a survey of online learning leaders conducted in partnership with Quality Matters. He combines his work at Eduventures with heading up the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a think tank focused on global developments in online learning and cross-border higher education. The Observatory is part of i-graduate and Tribal Group.

Extended Abstract

Though sometimes hard to measure, there is little disagreement as to what constitutes student success in online education, but can we define institutional success and, if so, what are its characteristics? This session will identify and compare different institutional models emerging from the ongoing series of CHLOE surveys of chief online officers and contrast their organizational structures, goals, policies and practices. Models described will include the enterprise-level program, 2-year community-based program, the regional program, and the specialized program.

The CHLOE Survey, The Changing Landscape of Online Education, a joint effort of Quality Matters and Eduventures Research, is focused on tracking the management of online learning through the insights and experience of online learning leaders at the institution level, whom we call Chief Online Officers. Reports based on the survey identify patterns of online learning management on organizational structure, online learning formats, course and program development, technology choices, innovation, quality assurance, and accountability. In addition to discerning overall trends and dominant practices in each of these areas, CHLOE looks at institutions by control – 2-year and 4-year public institutions, 4-year private nonprofits, and 4-year for-profits – and by the size of their online student enrollment – large (more than 7,500 students taking some or all their courses online; mid sized (1,000 – 7,500 students) and small (under 1,000 students).

From these breakouts of the data, a number of different online learning models are becoming apparent. Institutions falling within each general model are naturally not entirely consistent over the range of choices they make in building and running their online programs, but each model exhibits prevailing practices that relate to goals, mandates, and resources. Since these choices are usually rational responses, adjusted over time to adapt to changing market conditions, resource constraints and the lessons of experience, they can be used to construct alternative models for success in shaping online learning to serve particular missions and make best use of resources. As CHLOE refines this typology, we believe that institutions wrestling with the challenges of developing and sustaining their particular brand of online learning will find them helpful in aligning their practices with those of like institutions.

This session will compare and contrast four institutional models, based on their distinct approaches to online learning: 1) The community-based program typical of most community and 2-year technical colleges and some private non-profit institutions; 2) The regional program typical of many 4-year public and private institutions with regional reputations and ambitions; 3) The specialized program in which institutions focus their online program on one or several areas of competence, e.g., nursing, business, engineering, etc.; and 4) The large, enterprise-level program, public or private, seeking a national online student body, across a wide array of program areas. For each model, the session will compare their management, budgeting, course and program development, and commitment to innovation to each other and to the CHLOE sample as a whole.

Attendees will be able to determine where their institution might fit and to compare their policies and practices to those exhibited in the relevant model or models. Informal polling during the session will seek to identify the relevance of these models to the participants.