Online-Hybrid Course Sharing in Native American Studies: A Consortial Approach

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

Growing out of research on an online-hybrid course sharing consortium's project, this presentation considers the project's sustainability and impact alongside its learning outcomes.


I am a Professor of English and Associate Dean (Research) at my faculty, which is a member of COPLAC. I research and teach American Literature, including Indigenous and Children's Literatures, and American Popular Culture.
Kevin Whalen is an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, Morris. His research focuses on American Indian education and labor, and his book, Native Students at Work: American Indian Labor and Sherman Institute's Outing System, 1900-1945, is forthcoming in June from the University of Washington Press.

Extended Abstract

Online-Hybrid Course Sharing in Native American Studies: A Consortial Approach

Abstract: Growing out of research on an online-hybrid course sharing consortiumÕs project, this presentation considers the projectÕs sustainability and impact alongside its learning outcomes.

Proposal: Five member campuses of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) are piloting an innovative online-hybrid learning project to share undergraduate courses in Native American Studies. The goal of the project, supported by a grant from the Teagle Foundation, is to build a multi-campus community of faculty expertise, share undergraduate courses that expand curricular options on each campus, and offer students (many of whom are Native American) the opportunity to study under faculty from other public liberal arts institutions. Two hybrid models are being developed. The first includes the pairing of shared online courses with an on-site campus mentor who provides advising and support to students taking courses from another institution. The second combines a spring semester online seminar or seminars with a distinctive summer field experience (taught partially online) in Native American Studies, led in person by the online instructors and hosted by one of the participating campuses. 

At the project level, our questions center on its long-term sustainability and import. Can we attract enough instructors and students to make this new program model viable administratively and keep it low cost, even as we expand course offerings and enroll students from most, if not all, of the consortiumÕs campuses? If the answer is yes, then how will the project enhance Native American Studies on these campuses, in terms of both curriculum and programming?

At the pedagogical level, our questions concern assessment of teaching, mentoring, and learning. Given that the majority of COPLAC students expect quality instruction in the liberal arts and sciences from professors in small classrooms and labs, how do our online-hybrid offerings measure up? What is the quality of student learning and engagement? What role did their on-site mentors play in their learning, and how effective was the mentorship? Did their instructors, most of whom do not regularly teach online, perform to their expectations and meet their needs?

As the project concludes its second year, the principal investigators are surveying all member institutions to gauge both interest in and commitment to its growth. Questions about recruitment of instructors, mentors, and students; about programming and curricular needs; and about modest financial contributions will be asked. All twenty-nine COPLAC institutions will be consulted.

Since the projectÕs first set of course offerings in the spring term of 2015, the COPLAC office has conducted entrance and exit surveys of students, mentors, and instructors. The project leads are now expanding those surveys to include a more rigorous student rating of instruction and engagement, along the lines of USRIs and NESSEs. By the time of this presentation, we will have results from eight courses and one field school. 

A panel comprised of one of the project leads, who also teaches in the pilot, one of the first online and field instructors, and an on-campus mentor will discuss the consortiumÕs work on the project thus far. We will disseminate both sets of results, offering both quantitative and qualitative data. Our particular focus will be on how well these hybrid models achieve each hybrid-online courseÕs projected learning outcomes and thus offer distance students a transformative learning experience in an important area of study.

Panel members: Roxanne Harde, Professor of English and Associate Dean (Research), University of Alberta, Augustana Campus; Sarah Baires, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Eastern Connecticut State University; and Brittany Johnson, Mentor, University of Alberta, Augustana Campus.