Approaches to Online Program Design to Achieve High, On-time Graduation Rates: Two Comparative Case-Studies from California State University System

Concurrent Session 6

Session Materials

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Brief Abstract

Join us for a comparative analysis of widely different online degree and certificate programs designed to be engaging, effective, and have high on-time graduation rates. Learn to evaluate critically effective approaches to online and hybrid program design and help inform your own design of online degree and certificate programs.

 

Presenters

As Dean of Regional and Continuing Education at California State University, Chico since 2000, Debra Barger leads an entrepreneurial organization with a variety of multi-faceted, degree and credential programs, including distance and online education throughout northern California and around the globe. She served as Associate Dean from 1998 to 2000 and was formerly Director of Summer Session and Extension Programs. Prior to joining CSU, Chico, Barger resided in Wiesbaden, Germany from 1981 to 1988, serving as Assistant Dean for City Colleges of Chicago-Europe where she administered educational programs to NATO forces and Department of Defense civilians throughout Europe and the Middle East. She is a graduate of Smith College and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin.

Extended Abstract

According to the Online Report Card - Tracking Online Education in the United States, an annual report “of the state of online learning in U.S. Higher Education” published by the Babson Survey Research in 2016, noted “the trend of distance education enrollments continually increasing at rates far in excess of those of overall higher education”(p. 4) with enrollments significantly increasing for public and not-for-profit higher educational institutions. This finding coupled with the finding that faculty in higher education are starting to accept the value and legitimacy of online education, places us at an important junction in time where having that critical faculty buy-in and the knowledge of effective online program design and pedagogy can lead to the creation of effective and engaging online degree and certificate programs.

Therefore, in this presentation, California State University Chico (CSU Chico) and California State University Northridge (CSUN) will partner and present a comparative analysis of how some online program design decisions can help create programs that are engaging, effective, and have high on-time graduation rates. The objective is offer all attendees the opportunity to evaluate, critically, effective approaches to online program design and help inform their own design of online degree and certificate programs to cater to the ever-increasing online student population.
 

This presentation is being submitted for the Education Session in the Pedagogical Innovations track. The goal of the presentation is to encourage a lively discussion on how online programs could be designed in ways that positively impact on-time graduation rates. With that in mind, presenters will be breaking the presentation into topic-specific segments during which the audience member will have the opportunity to ask questions and have a lively discussion. Our approach is to intersperse content presentation with Q&A and open discussion instead of waiting till the end of the presentation to give attendees the opportunity to ask questions.

In this presentation, we will share a few critical design decisions implemented to influence student engagement, graduation rates, as well as overall student learning experience. We will describe in detail approaches to cohorted program design, integrated program design, and online pedagogy to encourage engagement and student community building to influence drop-out rates. We will also be sharing our raw graduates rates data with the audience to encourage further questions and discussions.

  1. Cohorted Program Design

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a cohort as “a group of individuals having a statistical factor (as age or class membership) in common...”. In our case, the common statistical factor is that they enrolled as a group in the same degree program and will be progressing from one class to the next as group and at the same pace.

All of CSUN’s fully online programs are offered in the cohorted model. Chico offers a mix of cohort and open enrollment modes for wholly online and hybrid degree programs. In this segment, representatives from both universities will present the opportunities that a cohorted program design approach affords. We will elaborate on how a cohorted approach to program design also allows faculty and instructional designers ability to design consistent educational experiences targeted to meet the unique needs of the cohort demographic and in-turn affect graduation rates.

  1. Integrated Program Design

In this segment, the university representatives will illustrate and share, due to the cohorted nature of the student body, curriculum design strategies leveraged to create an integrated program and one that graduates students on-time. We will describe how the program is designed such that each course within the program builds on the one before it and consequently scaffolds student learning outcomes.

  1. Online Pedagogy

In this segment, we will share instructional strategies and approaches to the design and development of cohorted, integrated online programs. We will illustrate approaches and strategies for topics such as:

 

  • Instructional design guided by unique needs of a cohorted student profile

  • Alignment learning objectives and assignments

  • Universal access to learning opportunities and resources

  • Multimodal content delivery and instructional interactions

  • Equal access and experience through innovative solutions

  • Evaluation protocols to assess effective design and teaching

  • Learning communities to build critical peer-support networks

The above listed topics will all be elaborated on with an emphasis on how they impact on-time and high graduation rates.

Target Audience: Faculty, Administrators, Instructional Designers and Technologist working on creating online/hybrid degree or certificate programs.

Audience Engagement: presenters will be breaking the presentation into topic-specific segments during which the audience member will have the opportunity to ask questions and have a lively discussion. Our approach is to intersperse content presentation with Q&A and open discussion instead of waiting till the end of the presentation to give attendees the opportunity to ask questions.