Distance Education Program Examples of Good Practices
Distance learning must be backed by an organizational commitment to quality and effectiveness in all aspects of the learning environment.
Importance of Distance Learning:
Monroe Community College (MCC) demonstrates organizational commitment to alternative instructional delivery systems that is evident by its cross-divisional impact. Both administration and staff are enthusiastically involved in distance learning. The Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs and Educational Technology Services strongly support these initiatives, and over fifty faculty members are interested and involved. The overarching philosophy at MCC is that all courses (on-campus, off-campus or online) are the same in terms of academic rigor and faculty and learner support needs. The college's President, who teaches distance courses himself, is particularly articulate in stating Monroe Community College's commitment to integrating distance learning into the everyday operational activities of the institution.
The State University of New York at Albany has designated the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs as the person responsible for oversight of and quality assurance for distance education across the institution. The following information was provided in a letter to the March 9, 2011sident of Academic Affairs, Carlos E. Santiago.
To support the Provost in this task, the University has:
- Added a person dedicated to the support of courses in distance learning to its Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). This individual has prior experience in online teaching and demonstrated knowledge of pedagogy related to an online environment.
- Institutionalized training and technology support for video-teleconferencing in CETL.
- Added faculty from the School of Education to the CETL Advisory Board.
- Identified funding sources in order to increase CETL's professional development opportunities for those interested in and already involved in distance learning.
- Created a Provost's Advisory Committee consisting of the Directors of CETL and Extended Learning as well as faculty members to provide a mechanism and process to assure the quality of our extended learning offerings and to review programmatic offerings before they are submitted through the standard governance process.
- As a result of the site review, the University has integrated the activities of CETL and the Office of Extended Learning. The Director of CETL and the Director of Extended Learning are members of the Council of Deans and participate in meetings of this body. They will periodically report on progress in their areas to the Council of Deans and work with the deans and Provost's Office to assist in efforts to promote quality distance education.
At New York University, the President sent a memorandum to all Deans establishing a process by which all distance education activity (described as "Internet activity") will be cleared through the Special Assistant to the President who is also the Dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS). This assignment is based in part on the fact that most existing distance education at NYU was developed and administered by SCPS.
"As we develop our potential in this area, it is clear that it has enormous positive applications for us in this world of instant global communication and we must be careful to use this tool effectively to advance our goals and protect our product. Conversely, if we are not careful in our management, the Internet also holds the power to do us harm with misstatements or inaccurate representations of NYU. Therefore, as we move ahead on this important project, I believe it is important to have a process in place that helps each of us develop innovative uses for the Internet while also having the appropriate system of oversight in place to avoid mistakes that could easily have large consequences. I have asked the Special Assistant to the President to coordinate discussions and activities related to how we can most effectively use the Internet to benefit the University."
Under the direction of the Vice President for Educational Technology Services, the Monroe Community College Distance Learning Advisory Committee provides advisory review and guidance for MCC's distance learning initiatives. Comprised of faculty members, department chairs, academic affairs staff, educational technology staff, marketing staff and others, the committee meets regularly to discuss current and future alternative instructional delivery options. Although advisory in nature, the committee reviews distance learning operational details and recommends changes or enhancements as necessary. A core group of members from this committee worked with the VP of Educational Technology Services to develop the materials needed for the SED Distance Learning capacity review process.
At New York University there is not a separate mission for distance education; the University views it only as one of the several tools to help it fulfill its core mission. Academic excellence is the core of NYU's mission and drives the University's entire on site and online activities. NYU also views distance education as a means to help it further its international mission of making NYU's opportunities available to a broader audience.
At the New School University faculty who teach online are provided with an intensive training program and ongoing pedagogical and technical support by the staff of DIAL, the New School's online delivery system. All instruction staff who teach online through the DIAL program are required to complete a specially designed five-week faculty development workshop during the semester before their course is offered online. This online workshop, conducted under the supervision of DIAL's Manager of Academic Services, and with support from other distance learning staff and divisional coordinators is designed both for faculty who are new to Internet communication as well as those who already have a good deal of experience working online. The faculty development workshop engages faculty in a pedagogical discussion of the similarities and differences between teaching online and in the classroom. Successful completion of the workshop requires a commitment of three to five hours a week of online interaction in addition to a set of required readings selected to introduce faculty to the pedagogy of online education.
After the faculty development workshop is successfully completed, faculty enter a two-week "Start-Up" conference in which they bring together all the elements of their online course. In the first week, each faculty member is given a class "shell"-the empty classroom into which the faculty member will post his/her instructional and resource items-and during the second week, which overlaps with the Student Orientation week, students will begin to enter the "classroom" to greet each other and the faculty member. All technical support is offered through the DIAL office for both faculty and students 24-hours a day, seven days a week on a toll-free ("800") telephone number.
Monroe Community College (MCC)utilizes a two-pronged approach to support its faculty members who teach in a totally asynchronous mode via the SUNY Learning Network (SLN). To date, MCC/SLN faculty members have developed over one hundred courses and deliver approximately twenty percent of all SLN courses each semester. SLN provides the course template, server, and help-desk support, three training sessions for faculty and offers a wide variety of online support through their website. The MCC/SLN team (which consists of Instructional Designer, an Academic Coordinator, a Collaborative/Distance Learning Librarian, an Instructional Support coordinator and a Training coordinator) provides operational assistance and on-site wrap around training sessions to supplement SLN’s instruction. All team members have other full-time responsibilities at the College, so a distributed, collaborative team approach was chosen as the best way to operationalize SLN at MCC.
The institution's distance learning programs are designed to fit the specific context for learning.
Verification of Learner's Work:
Pace University, through a grant provided by the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, developed the Pace/NACTEL Proctoring Program. The proctoring system allows designated proctors to supervise and administer any major examinations throughout the distance education course. It is the distance learner's responsibility to choose a proctor in his or her community that meets the criteria outlined by Pace/NACTEL. The proctor must submit an application to the university, and the student will be notified by e-mail once their selection has been approved. Prior to the day of the examination, the student receives a copy of the Proctored Exam Information via e-mail. The student then contacts his or her proctor to arrange to take the exam and prints out a copy of the Student/Proctor Verification Form. The exam is sent to the proctor via mail, fax or computer and administered to the student after a valid photo I.D. is presented and the Student/Proctor Verification Form is completed by both the student and proctor. The exam, with the attached Student/Proctor Verification Form, is then mailed to the university. Once the course instructor receives the examination, the student is notified by e-mail. After the exam has been graded and the grade recorded, the student will receive another e-mail and will have access to the grade through CourseInfo, software developed by Blackboard for online course assessment.
· Cost / Benefits of Distance Education:
The State University of New York Learning Network (SLN) offers a distance learning calculator for students to determine how much they would save by taking an online course rather than commuting to a campus. Variables, such as distance, gas mileage, childcare, commuting time, personal worth, and miscellaneous expenses are calculated and the savings for both classes that meet once a week and classes that meet twice a week over a fifteen week semester are given to the prospective student.
Distance learning activities are effectively supported for learners through fully accessible modes of delivery and resources.
Academic and Administrative Support:
Mercy College offers a method of academic advising to distance learners that helps students identify their academic and career goals, and monitors student's academic performance. This monitoring system is called the Early Alert System. Faculty notify academic advisors when they feel concerned about a students' academic performance so that the advisor may then offer the student assistance or recommendations that would enable the student to successfully complete the course. The advisors are available Monday through Thursday from 9am to 7pm, Friday from 9am to 5pm and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
In addition to offering solid academic advising to distance students, Mercy College also offers online tutorials in writing and math, as well as one-on-one assistance for those needing help with papers related to their courses or specific math problems.
Monroe Community College is developing a video on the Ten Myths of Online Learning from the student's perspective. This video will supplement information already on the web site and will directly address student concerns and misperceptions regarding asynchronous course delivery. MCC is utilizing the collaborative efforts of an English department faculty member and a Counselor from the Counseling Center to develop this product. A completion date of spring, 2001 is anticipated.
Also in development for spring, 2001 release is a module for students on the evaluation of learning styles within the context of distance learning. An MCC Counselor, who also teaches an online Career Orientation seminar, is researching and developing the module. The module will be reviewed by MCC colleagues and will become a part of MCC’s enhanced online Student Services presence.
Distance education programs organize learning activities around demonstrable outcomes (often expressed in learning objectives), assist the learner to achieve these outcomes, and assess learner progress by reference to these outcomes.
- Program Outcomes: The State University of New York at Albany has developed a model, known as the Albany Outcomes Assessment Model, that is used across the institution. This model takes into account factors such as pre-college characteristics, college experiences, both academic and personal outcomes of the educational process, and alumni outcomes. Since programs offered at a distance by the University have the same content and characteristics as those offered on campus, the application of this assessment model to on-campus programs covers their distance education counterparts as well.