Closing the Success Rate Gap in Online Courses

Concurrent Session 3

Brief Abstract

The primary goal of Ivy Tech Community College’s online academic unit, IvyOnline, was to close the success rate gap between face-to-face and online classes. Ivyonline has made significant strides in closing the success rate gap from over 10% to less than 5% on average in recent terms over the past three years.

Additional Authors

Madisen Gunkel is an instructional designer at Ivy Tech Community College. Her diverse background in instructional technology systems spans learning management systems, to coaching and assisting in the development of virtual curriculum & content, to developing alternative learning options for students. Her areas of interest include active learning, communities of learning, accessibility, and adaptive learning.

Extended Abstract

Ivy Tech Community College created the online academic unit, IvyOnline, in 2019 with the primary goal of closing the success rate gap between face-to-face and online courses. A gap that had been prominent for years with little change. 

The change to a state-wide online academic unit created opportunities for efficiency and standardization of practices that were missing with the previous structure of online courses across 18 campuses. The creation of IvyOnline allowed us as an institution to examine our practices, data, and outcomes to determine the best way to collaboratively approach this systemic problem. 

The functional areas of IvyOnline, which include Instructional Design, Education Technology, and Academic Operations, identified key areas where we could collectively influence outcomes. 

Outcomes Reviews

Each semester IvyOnline reviews course success rates and withdrawal rates from the previous term to identify courses that need further investigation and possible improvement. If a course is identified as a concern we look at information like individual assignment completion rates, individual assignment “pass” rates of a score of 60% or higher, instructor feedback and engagement, and how students access and interact with the learning materials. By reviewing these aspects of the course we can determine if there are concerns with the course content, its alignment to course objectives or other learning activities, how instructor presence and feedback are influencing student outcomes and retention, and if there are any access barriers to learning materials that would impede access and thus affect their ability to complete course work. 

Course Audits & Instructor Engagement

All IvyOnline courses are audited at the start of each term to ensure faculty are in compliance with academic policy and that there are no major issues with the setup of courses that would adversely affect student success. IvyOnline Faculty Leads (Online Deans) are also provided tools that allow them to obtain data on basic instructor engagement like total course activity time and the last time they logged in to their course.

Online Faculty Certification Course

All faculty teaching for IvyOnline are required to complete a certification course. The course is designed to provide faculty with a strong pedagogical and technological foundation to provide quality online instruction. It is an introductory exposure framed around what new instructors need to know to be successful teaching for IvyOnline.

Adjunct Evaluations

Performance evaluations for IvyOnline adjunct faculty occur year-round so that we can manage our large number of adjunct faculty. The process is managed through an electronic HR system, which involves a faculty self-evaluation, the development of faculty goals, a supervisor review, online course observation, and a 1:1 meeting for each adjunct faculty member. During the 1:1 meeting, adjunct faculty and AFLs go through the evaluation item by item, discussing teaching strategies, and rating differences. The goal of this performance evaluation process is to evaluate online teaching and to be transparent about the expectations IvyOnline has for its instructors. We also believe that unevaluated work is unrecognized work--and we want to recognize and celebrate the work that our online instructors do. Ultimately, the evaluation process is intended to be a formative assessment, emphasizing ways to grow as an instructor. 

Key Adjunct Faculty

The Key Adjunct Faculty Program began as a pilot in the School of Business, Logistics, and Supply Chain during the 2020-2021 academic year.  Key Adjunct Faculty were selected through an interview process.  These adjunct faculty members were given a full adjunct load each semester.  They agreed to best teaching practices, a 48-grading turnaround, meaningful feedback on assignments, and reaching out to students with missing assignments within 24 hours.  Key Adjunct Faculty courses had a 3.3% higher success rate compared to full-time faculty and a 2.1% higher success rate compared to other adjunct faculty.  Key Adjunct Faculty courses also had lower withdrawal rates.  Based on the pilots' success, the program continued in BLSC and expanded to the School of Public Administration and Social Services and the School of Health Sciences for the Fall 2023 semester.  

Performance input Forms

Due to the structure of IvyOnline as a course delivery center rather than an online campus, our full-time instructors get first choice of courses, however, the IvyOnline supervisors, Faculty Leads and Assistant Faculty Leads, do not have automatic input on their annual performance evaluations. In order to better communicate with campus supervisors about the performance of the full-time faculty that teach for us, we have started a Performance Input Form process to communicate with campuses how their instructors are performing in online courses. This has lead to some coaching to improve instruction and better communication with the campuses about the caliber of the instructors that they are sending to us. 

Quality Matters & Course Design

Ivy Tech subscribes to Quality Matters and IvyOnline uses our custom Quality Matters rubric to inform our development process. This creates a standardized development process that ensures quality and consistency across all online courses and programs.