Lessons Learned Driving Structural Innovation At the University of Kentucky

Concurrent Session 8

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Presentation of initial outcomes and key lessons learned from a major grant project designed to spur eLearning innovation at a flagship state university.

Extended Abstract

In this presentation, we will discuss key lessons learned from a major grant project designed to spur eLearning innovation at a flagship state university. This presentation aims to help academic leaders, faculty, and instructional designers create environments that will drive sustainable innovation. We will focus on faculty and instructional design perspectives of a campus-wide collaboration to increase the quality and quantity of online courses at our institution. We will also discuss the outcomes of that collaborative approach. A faculty member and instructional designers will provide lessons learned from their unique and successful collaboration to transition courses online, focusing on the initiative as a whole, as well as impacts specific to the nursing program.

Moving our curriculum online was necessary to meet the needs of our student population, comprised mostly of working professionals. The face to face classroom and laboratory settings in which nursing curricula have traditionally been delivered are not conducive to the continuing education of the licensed nurses who are employed and expected to pursue higher education. A committee appointed by the Institute of Medicine, focusing on the future of nursing, released recommendations that included positioning the nursing workforce to be able to meet the needs of the complex and rapidly-changing healthcare delivery system by implementing strategies to increase the proportion of baccalaureate-prepared nurses from 50% to 80% by 2020. In order to achieve this goal, nursing leaders have been challenged to transform educational delivery methods to ensure accessibility and successful completion of higher learning programs. This university initiative has made it possible for the College of Nursing to meet this national need.

To drive eLearning innovation, the university set aside $3 million to support faculty over a three-year period. Various units on campus, including the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, the Office of eLearning, Project Management, Advanced Analytics, and other units came together to coordinate this endeavor. The grant focused on four areas: Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), online degree programs, hybrid course redesigns, and faculty skill development. Through this model, the university was able to drive the diffusion of innovation and expertise to a broader segment of the faculty population. This approach spurred collaboration between multiple administrative and academic units, and built relationships and opportunities for interdisciplinary interaction.

In our experience, to begin creating an academic environment that will support innovation an assessment of current culture must occur including: an inventory of resources, faculty attitudes about online teaching and learning, barriers to change, content expertise, skills for online pedagogy, the ability to build and sustain working relationships between faculty, staff, and experts, and the ability of an academic unit to sustain the changes and ongoing development of the delivery model.

We found that a transformative approach to faculty development was key. Responsibilities faculty must consider include: how to meet the same learning outcomes with a different delivery method, gaining buy-in from other faculty who will need to learn new teaching methods and invest in developing new skill sets, motivating colleagues to take the risk of changing to more innovative methods which will require more preparation and work in the beginning, and making wise pedagogical decisions about how much change faculty and students can successfully navigate.

The early results of this collaborative effort are overwhelmingly positive: enrollment in the nursing degree option has tripled, the program's previously high retention rate has remained stable, students report the rigor of the coursework is consistent with face-to-face courses, and that they are acquiring the new competencies they need for their professional practice. Students state that advancing their education was not possible before the online delivery allowed accessibility, developing a sense of community online even though they are more accustomed to being in class face to face. There were some unintended outcomes, especially regarding administrative processes, from which we learned a great deal. However, the results were mostly encouraging. Given these positive outcomes, we plan to build on this approach for future innovation.