Behind the Scenes – Scaling and Growing Online Classes at a Public University

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Demand for online classes exceeds supply at Southeast Missouri State University. Go behind the scenes to learn the strategies and tactics to address demand including part-time instruction, graduate students, SPOC, co-copyright courses and our newest tactics – the Master Template Studio and Adjunct Integrity plan. 

Sponsored By


In Dennis's role as Online Instructional Coordinator at Southeast Missouri State University, he works on hiring online adjunct faculty to teach for Southeast Missouri State University; he also works with online adjunct orientation and training as well. Dennis loves having the ability to improve education for students. He earned his B.S. in Animal Science & Agribusiness here at Southeast Missouri State in 2013, and has just recently earned a M.S. in Agricultural Education and a Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Leadership.

Extended Abstract

Demand for online classes exceeds supply at Southeast Missouri State University. Over a four-year period Southeast doubled enrollment in online programs, and have continued to increase the number of online sections and student credit hours generated.  While business is good, scaling our offerings in a way that is faculty-led and consistent with our brand and culture has proven to be a challenge.  The pursuit of scaling and growth has led the University down several pathways over the years.  In this session, go behind the scenes to learn the strategies and tactics to address demand including part-time instruction, graduate students, SPOCS, co-copyright courses and our newest tactics – the Master Template Studio and Adjunct Integrity plan.  We will not only include conversation about what we did, but how we accomplished it.  From getting buy-in, creating a proposal, developing a plan, implementing and executing, we will discuss several projects from concept to completion. 

While we will explore a variety of topics, the focus of discussion will be on two areas we are currently piloting. The first is the Master Template Studio (MTS) project, which is the program used to develop master template courses. The next component is the Adjunct Integrity plan that focuses on creating support and a sense of community for online adjuncts.

Master Template Studio is a project that has been developed to support full-time faculty in creating master course templates for high-need online courses and programs. Master template courses provide high-quality design and content for online courses, so they can be taught by both adjunct and full-time faculty, as needed. Master template courses provide a consistent look-and-feel across online programs and provide flexibility for departments to open new online sections with greater agility and assurance of quality.

The Master Template Studio (MTS) program aims to support growth in online student enrollments by providing a high-quality way to scale online course offerings. This is accomplished by engaging faculty in the design of master template courses for certain online programs. As well as developing a handbook for all master template courses for the future instructors to reference. Lastly, the MTS program ensures continuous quality improvement (CQI) through a formal review process of master template courses for structure and content relevance.

The different areas of emphasis placed on creating master template courses for the MTS program are: (1) structure/layout in the Learning Management System (LMS), (2) course content from full-time-faculty, (3) the development of a course specific handbook, and (4) a focus on continuous quality improvement. The full-time-faculty creating the master template courses work on a specific course for which they are considered the subject matter expert. Major contribution by faculty include, but are not limited to: helping determine best layout of content in the LMS, creating the syllabi for the course, creating the course schedule, deciding on required reading for the course, developing content as well as assignments/assessments, and providing input on the course handbook.

Faculty spend between 75 – 100 hours working through the MTS program to develop a signal master template course. Faculty start by taking a 20-hour Online Primer Course. Some faculty who teach and create courses online may have never had an experience of being an online student. By having faculty take the Online Primer Course they can experience what it is like to be a student in an online classroom while learning about such topics as copyright, open educational resources (OER’s), design models, and about online education.

After faculty complete the Online Primer Course they attend a 1-day face-to-face workshop where the whole day is spent preparing a storyboard for the master template course they are designing. The storyboard acts as their roadmap for the 8-week design phase of the MTS program. Once the faculty have designed their master template course over the 8-week design phase, then their completed course will go through a peer review before it can complete the MTS process and be considered usable as a master template course.

Once the templates are available they can be used by additional instructors, often part-time adjunct faculty.  In the past at Southeast, adjunct recruitment, hiring and training was decentralized.  Our Adjunct Integrity plan seeks to provide centralized support for adjuncts and academic departments.   Using the online adjunct pool we developed, part-time instructors can be hired on an as need basis using a recruiting tool where interested applicants can submit their information using an online form. Once a need is identified by an academic department the pool of potential adjuncts can be used to locate an instructor. This process allows for the university to create a pool of potential online adjuncts that can be used to quickly meet student demand for a course. Potential applicants will have provided all the necessary information when first submitting their information to the adjunct pool. This allows the university to quickly identify a candidate and expedite the hiring process because all the required information has been submitted.

Once an online adjunct is hired then they will complete a training and orientation that will teach them how to use the universities learning management system, and orient them to the online classroom. Once the adjunct begins teaching there will be support services such as check in’s, a social media page, and access to faculty development opportunities for continuous support and advancement.

In this education session we will 1) identify scale strategies and tactics for instruction and courses, 2) compare and contrast those strategies and tactics with audience participation, 3) guide participants through the process of identifying the goodness of fit of each strategy and tactic within their respective institutions, and 4) generate additional strategies and tactics using experience and knowledge from the group.  This session will include the use of a PowerPoint but will be highly participative.  We will use evidence-based instruction including activities such as brainstorming, concept mapping, think-pair-share and role playing.