In the pages to follow, this case study describes the organization, policy development, strategic initiatives, implementation, and assessment of establishing online learning initiatives at an urban land-grant historically black college university (HBCU). The chapter describes a collaborative effort by university administration and faculty to facilitate a strategically measured approach to online learning. In addition to institutional collaboration, this chapter discusses how an external partnership with Quality Matters provided structure and a best practices model. The chapter lays a blueprint for thought and action for establishing online learning at a small- to medium-size college or university. The case describes a strategic approach that spanned a period of four years (2009-2013), whereby online learning grew incrementally in a measured fashion through a collaborative approach among faculty, administrators, and external partners. The outcome provides a strong foundation upon which online learning may flourish, while at the same time describes complications of sustainability.
Setting The Stage
The impetus for online learning grew organically from a small number of professors who began experimentation in 2001. At the urging of faculty, the University purchased a license for Blackboard as a learning/course management system (L/CMS) in 2001. The L/CMS was hosted by Blackboard Hosting Services and administered by a faculty member in the Learning Resources Division (a unit of the library). The faculty who served as its first system administrator was supported by one technician, but neither had previous experience in systems administration or L/CMS tools.
In 2001, a small number of professors began holding meetings and workshops that focused around online teaching and learning. By 2005, the institution’s Provost charged a taskforce of faculty and deans to explore and devise a plan for online learning. The Dean of the library secured a Title III grant and established a competitive summer initiative to include stipends for faculty to explore innovative approaches to instruction and gain certification to teach online. From this summer initiative several courses were conceived and curricular development got underway. The Provost further directed a task-force to work collectively from 2005 to 2007 to devise a detailed strategic plan for online learning and a policy statement for intellectual property. The plan was compiled and presented to the administration. One of the key first steps in the strategic plan called for the establishment of a centralized office and the hiring of a director to facilitate and oversee online learning at the University.