Going the Distance: Evaluating Institutional Capacity for Delivering Online Programs

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session Leadership

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

While institutions moved toward remote learning in response to the unprecedented pandemic, many institutions found the transition fraught with unexpected challenges. This timely session provides administrators and leaders with a model for evaluating institutional readiness for the development of successful distance education programming and offers practical suggestions for implementation.

Extended Abstract

TOPIC:

With an unprecedented shift toward remote learning in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions found and continue to find the transition fraught with unexpected challenges. These challenges were perhaps most demanding for rural institutions and community colleges. Already fighting an uphill digital battle, rural communities throughout the nation continue to lag their urban and suburban peers in access to high-speed internet service, a reduction of resources, and declining enrollments. This digital divide affects rural populations in a myriad of ways, but access to higher educational opportunities may be most problematic.

Additionally, recent surveys (Lederman, 2020, April) of faculty perceptions of their experiences with remote learning laid bare the difficulties of transitioning traditional on-campus programs to an online modality. Moreover, student perceptions of the shift also exposed the challenges of shifting expectations, diminished interaction, and reduced quality (Lederman, 2020, May).

For some colleges, however, this shift toward distance education and remote learning may prove to be less onerous. A recent case study of how one exceptional rural community college in the Great Plains developed the capacity to deliver distance education programming prompted the development of a model for online capacity useful for institutions to evaluate their existing institutional readiness for the development of successful distance education programming. This Modified Basic Online Capacity Model expands upon the work initiated by Cox (2005) in identifying the components necessary for online capacity at the institutional level. The three-tiered model describes the Foundational Support components of administrative commitment, technical, and financial resources; the Creation and Delivery components of adequate faculty participation, dedicated online leadership, online student support services, and professional development; and the Continuous Improvement components of quality assurance and universal design.

REFERENCES:

Cox, R. D. (2005). Online education as institutional myth: Rituals and realities at community colleges. Teachers College Record, 107(8), 1754–1787. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9620.2005.00541.x

Lederman, D. (2020, April 22). How Teaching Changed in the (Forced) Shift to Remote Learning. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/04/22/how-p...

Lederman, D. (2020, May 20). How College Students Viewed This Spring’s Remote Learning. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2020/05/20/stude...

RELEVANCE:

This timely session provides administrators and leaders with an opportunity to discover and understand the Modified Basic Online Capacity model and offers practical suggestions for implementation. With many institutions still unsure of how to deliver effective distance education programming in these uncertain times, understanding how administrators and faculty leaders might evaluate their existing online capacity to deliver successful distance education programming is particularly relevant. Moreover, institutions with fledgling online and distance programs may find the model particularly helpful for organizing new efforts to provide successful online programming rather than simple remote learning.

INTERACTIVITY PLAN:

The presentation includes multiple methods of engagement for participants. The use of these methods is not delivery mode-dependent; each can be implemented in either a face-to-face or virtual presentation. The basic outline for the proposed 45-minute session is as follows:

  1. Introductions and discussion of the model [10 min]
  2. Polling – Participants will be asked to respond to two rank-order questions gauging levels of experience with developing online programs and the perceived importance of various model components [5 min including review]
  3. Live Survey – Participants will be asked to respond to a question regarding their institution's capacity to deliver online programming [5 min]
  4. Break-out Groups – Participants will be split into small break-out groups to discuss potential plans of action and report back to the larger group [10 min small group, 10 min large group]
  5. Q&A – a Final Q&A session provides attendees with an opportunity to delve deeper into issues or seek additional clarification of presented material [5 min]

OBJECTIVES:

The objectives of this presentation are three-fold:

  1. Explain the Modified Basic Online Capacity Model and its component parts
  2. Analyze and evaluate the MBOC components at their institution noting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats
  3. Create a Plan of Action framework for self-identified next steps

ATTENDEE OUTCOMES:

Upon completion of the educational session, attendees should be able to:

  1. Identify the components of the Modified Basic Online Capacity model and the current state of those components at their institution
  2. Completion of a preliminary SWOT analysis grid related to the status of the basic online capacity present at their institution
  3. Creation of a Plan of Action framework for implementation at their institution