Five Questions To Ask Before Centralizing Your Online Education

In an article for Inside Higher Ed, Dr. Joshua Kim opened with a paradox that emerged from a recent survey on distance learning — “online education is both highly concentrated in the U.S., and also highly dispersed.”

Kim — director of digital learning initiatives at the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and a senior fellow for Academic Transformation, Learning, and Design at Georgetown University — was referencing the Babson Survey Research Group’s latest report Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States. The survey found that “a small number of institutions provide online learning for a large proportion of all distance learners — but a large number of schools are involved in some way in teaching online courses.”

Of the 4,717 degree-granting institutions in the country, more than 70 percent say they participate in online education, according to the survey.

“The challenge is that online programs often develop to serve the particular need of a school, unit or department,” Kim writes. “Oftentimes, the growth of low-residency and online learning was not the result of an institutional strategic plan — but rather a local response to particular opportunities.”

Kim concedes that there are benefits to having uncoordinated online and low-residency programs at a university as well as housing them all under a central office. It often depends on the individual institutions and the individual programs.

“There are good reasons to keep online learning efforts separate, local, and specialized,” Kim writes. “There are equally good reasons to bring all of a school’s online learning efforts into a single organization.”

But it’s important for colleges and universities to make an active decision which way to go. Kim recommends that they view their online offerings through a “strategic institutional lens” … and offers these six questions to help focus that lens.

  1. Does your school have a number of online programs scattered throughout the various schools and units?
  2. Can you actually enumerate all the online and low-residency programs — degree and non-degree — that are going on at your school at any given time?
  3. Is online learning at your institution discussed in terms of its impact on residential teaching and learning, classroom design and program development?
  4. If you are at an institution where online education is not run out of a central office, how are new online programs developed and supported?
  5. Who champions online learning at your school?

Go here to read Kim’s entire piece, “Looking at the Future of Online Education Through a Strategic Institutional Lens.”

By Kevin Hyde, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed