Notes from “Trial & Error in Accelerated Online Programs” #slate14

These are my notes from “Trial & Error in Accelerated Online Programs” at the 2014 SLATE conference, presented by Amanda Ladig & Lisa Runda from the Indiana Institute of Technology.

Indiana Tech has 65 degree programs, including face-to-face programs at 14 regional campuses and online programs.

All undergraduate courses are 5 weeks, and it is possible to complete a degree in 2 years. Graduate courses are 6 weeks.

The Distance Education office manages all aspects of online courses, from managing Blackboard, hiring developers, hiring instructors, supporting online students, and implementing course evaluations.

Managing Courses

  • Schedule of course development & preparation
    • Development begins 3 months before a course will be offered
    • Preparation for an upcoming session begins 5 weeks prior to the start of the course
      • Sessions run year-round
      • Prepare one course while another is running
    • Courses must be complete prepared for students 10 days before the official start date
  • Course development
    • Identify course to be developed and SME (faculty (often adjunct) who will develop the course and teach it the first time it is offered)
    • SME works with a Distance Education Specialist (DES) for instructional design guidance
    • Developer has 1 month to develop the syllabus and first module
    • Check course syllabus (description, learning objectives, grading scheme, and textbook) and first module (lecture PPT with notes, which becomes Adobe Presenter presentation, assessments, external links/resources) once developed and send to an academic reviewer (identified by Dean of the school, checks the module for rigor and alignment with objectives)
    • Developer has 2-3 months to complete the additional modules
    • Check the entire course after the deadline has elapsed (by a DES) and send to an academic reviewer
    • Developer makes final changes
    • Developer creates an instructor manual for others who will be teaching the same course)
    • Every instructor teaches the course with the same content
  • Course preparation & management
    • DES Update the development site (source course) with dates, textbook, etc.
    • DES Copy content from the source course into the instructional course site
    • DES Add instructors to the Faculty Lounge course (contains information & tutorials about Blackboard)
    • DES Add instructors to Jenzabar – student information system (instructors are automatically notified)
    • Instructors notify Office of Distance Education (ODE) through the Faculty Lounge (by taking a survey in the course) that their courses are prepared (instructor mostly updates course schedule)
    • ODE checks the course a final time
    • Course is opened to students 6 days prior to the official start date (preview week so they can view the syllabus & schedule)

Managing Instructors

  • Instructors are paid a flat rate per course based on the number of students and how many courses the instructor has taught in the past
  • Instructors must use the official content, posted to them by the Distance Education Specialist
  • Initial Contact & Acceptance
    • Selection starts 5 weeks before a session begins
    • Look for 12 students in an undergraduate and 15 in a graduate course, never more than 25
    • If more than 25, split into 2 and contact another instructor
    • Deans establish a matrix of people who are qualified to teach, ODE sends requests for someone to teach
    • New instructor orientation for instructors who haven’t taught online for Indiana Tech
      • Delivered via phone & remote access to the instructor’s computer for anyone who does not live in the Fort Wayne area
      • Takes ~1 hour
      • Covers using Blackboard & institute policies
    • Contact known instructors first before contacting someone new
    • Usually no more than 2 courses per session, but exceptions for reliable and known instructors (never more than 4)
    • Some of their policies:
      • Return an email in 1 business day
      • Grade assignments within 3 days of the due date
      • Must use Indiana Tech email address for communication with students
  • Management During a Session
    • Spot checking during a session
      • Access (daily is preferred)
      • Grading (timely, includes feedback)
    • Resolve complaints
    • Resolve technical issues
    • Ensure grade submission is completed
    • ODE has some authority to enforce the requirements of the instructor contract
  • Payment handled by operations at Indiana Tech

Course Copying

  • ODE copies all online courses from development course to live course
  • Prior to 2014, they allowed instructors to copy content from a previously taught section
  • Huge problems
    • Incorrect/varying content
    • Duplicate copies
    • Too much room for error
  • ODE controlling the copies allows them to manage content and reduce errors

Course Confirmation

  • Prior to 2012, instructors would email ODE with confirmation of course preparation
  • As the program continued to grow, email confirmation was too overwhelming
  • ODE created the Faculty Lounge within Blackboard where instructors submit a survey indicating their course is prepared

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