Does Structure Matter? Aggregate findings of the CORAL study into the evolving nature of organizational structures of online units at colleges and universities
Concurrent Session 3
In response to the ongoing dialog in the online community about where online programming “lives” in an institution of higher education, CORAL research collaborative launched a study to investigate the intersection of organizational structure and academic functions of colleges and universities throughout the United States. All the results are in!
In response to the ongoing dialog in the online community about where online programming “lives” in an institution of higher education, CORAL (Collegiate Online Research Leaders) research collaborative launched a qualitative study to investigate and determine a typology of the structures of online education units in U.S-based colleges and universities. Moreover, the study intended to make sense of the potential trend identified in the CHLOE 3 Report (2019) that indicates more institutions are now identifying with a more centralized online operation; as well as address the gaps in the literature around online organizational structure and its implications on important student lifecycle functional areas (e.g., Student Onboarding, Student Support, Academic Functions, and Administration).
Specifically, we talked to 30 different Chief Online Officers (COLOs) at institutions across the United States about their online organizations. We asked about the precedent conditions and decisions that lead to the current structure of the online unit within the institution in regards to the five areas of organizational design. We also asked them to indicate what the implications of the current structure of the online unit within the institution is/was and/or if any changes are planned. Each quarter interviews were conducted with these Chief Online Officers covering one of the four dimensions designed by the CORAL team as important student lifecycle functional areas within an institution:
1) Student Onboarding – marketing, enrollment, admissions, financial aid, entrance evaluations, and new student matriculation services.
2) Student Support Services – student retention services, student engagement, student well-being, and learning support.
3) Academic Functions – curriculum, programmatic oversight, instructional design, quality assessment, and faculty professional development and support.
4) Administration – online program manager (if applicable), institutional research, information technology, finance, and facilities.
We even had the opportunity to interview COLOs before, during, and after the Pandemic of 2020 swept the nation. During this session we will present our preliminary findings across the four dimensions and audience members will have the opportunity to discuss the findings within the context of their own institutions, to ask the following questions:
Do the findings align with our experiences?
What are the implications of alignment or misalignment?
Should our institutions think through upcoming change in light of the findings and/or learnings from the Pandemic of 2020?
Audience members should leave with an understanding of different organizational structures that existed in the sample, how their institution fits within these findings and a framework for asking questions and/or making changes at their own institutions in the coming year.