Next Generation Online Learning: The Road from Periphery to Transformation

Concurrent Session 5 & 6 (combined)
Streamed Session Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This workshop, featuring original reserarch, an expert panel discussion and attendee Q&A, will assess the status of online higher education in the wake of Covid-19, and discuss prospects for online to do more to address core access, cost and quality challenges. 


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.
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 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.

Extended Abstract

For the past two decades, online higher education in the United States has always been in the shadow of the traditional campus. To be understood and to make headway, online has both mimicked and transcended campus norms, depending on the audience and situation. Whether on quality, access, pedagogy, assessment, regulation, or cost, online has had to carve out a reputation and a market niche. But at most schools, online remained peripheral, in status if not significance. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly pushed online into the higher education foreground. The delivery mode, in a basic “remote instruction” format, has afforded precious academic continuity for colleges and universities nationwide, and at least for Spring 2020 became default higher education. As schools wrestle with fall re-opening plans, which will inevitably include major remote components, old online learning debates about method, fit and value are playing out on a scale unimaginable just a few months ago. 

This mainstreaming of online learning will accompany an unprecedented shake-up of the U.S. higher education system, as leaders attempt to navigate looming waves of mass unemployment, cratering state funding, and student ambivalence about the prospect of an online and/or socially-distanced college experience in a global pandemic. Fall 2020 could see record enrollment and/or record deferment, cuts and closures.  

The fundamental question for online higher education leaders is: how can online help truly transform U.S. higher education, addressing systemic weaknesses the pandemic has heightened, not just limp through a crisis?

This session will explore what “transformation” might look like, and the realities and implications of fall 2020. The session will begin with a 20 minute research synthesis by Richard Garrett, Chief Research Officer, followed by a panel discussion. The panelists are:

- Eric Fredericksen, Associate VP for Online Learning, University of Rochester

- Chris LaBelle, Interim Senior Director, Colorado State University Global

- Ron Legon, Executive Director Emeritus, Quality Matters

The panel discussion, moderated by Richard Garrett, will last for 30 minutes. The remainder of the workshop, 40 minutes, will be Q&A with attendees. 

The research portion will draw lessons from three sources:

  • CHLOE: Findings from the fifth annual CHLOE (Changing Landscape of Online Education) survey, a partnership between Quality Matters and Eduventures. The fifth survey, of Chief Online Officers at 300 U.S. colleges and universities, was conducted in May 2020, and focused on the remote instruction-online learning continuum, fall plans, and leaders’ sense of the changing status of online at their institution. 
  • Eduventures Adult Prospect Research findings. Eduventures will update its ongoing adult prospective student market research, with a survey in June 2020 and, given the dynamism of the situation, a follow-up in late summer/early fall. The objective is to gauge how the pandemic and its impact is shaping adult interest in postsecondary enrollment, undergraduate and graduate, credit and noncredit, and how this compares to pre-pandemic benchmarks. Relevant findings from Eduventures Survey of Admitted Students, conducted in June 2020 and focused on high school students, will also be cited.   
  • Eduventures Fall 2020 Enrollment Forecasts Report Series. To help institutions plan for the fall, Eduventures is working on a series of reports weighing mid-pandemic enrollment prospects for different groups of students and institutional types: traditional age undergraduates at 4-year schools, adult undergraduates at 4-year schools, community colleges, graduate students, and international students. Two of these reports are already published, and the remainder will appear over the summer. 

By the time of the OLC Accelerate 2020 conference, in November, the fall semester will be well-underway, and coming to an end for schools that opt to start and finish early. This will be a good time to reflect on events, the standing of online learning, and where online leaders go from there. 

Discussion topics, informed by the above research and panel and attendee experience, will include:

  • Quality: How can online leaders evolve institutional culture to favor team-based course and program design, re-use of high quality third-party content and research-based pedagogy?
  • Access: How can online leaders craft versions of online learning that boost rather than undermine learning success for non-traditional and access populations?
  • Cost: How can online leaders institutionalize processes and norms that drive down and clarify rather than increase and cloud higher education costs?
  • Scope: How can online leaders develop a more expansive idea of online learning that goes beyond academics to also encompass experiential learning and socialization?
  • Model: How can online leaders partner with campus leaders to develop hybrid modalities that embody the best of in-person and online learning

Attendees will leave the workshop with a clearer understanding of how their institution's fall 2020 situation compares to peers and schools generally, the pros and cons of different coordinates on the remote learning-online learning-campus learning landscape from different perspectives, and examples of how online leaders are overcoming access, cost and quality challenges.