Developing an Online Presence: Shifting the Focus From Quantity to Quality

Developing an Online Presence: Shifting the Focus From Quantity to Quality

Stein Brunvand (University of Michigan – Dearborn, USA) and Ilir Miteza (University of Michigan – Dearborn, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7844-4.ch008
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This chapter outlines the process developed at the University of Michigan – Dearborn (UM-Dearborn) to support the development, facilitation, and evaluation of online courses and programs. In addition to the step-by-step account of initiatives and actions, this chapter centers on the guiding principles of enhancing online course quality, investing in faculty support and innovation, and providing robust online support to students. Initiatives and strategies outlined in this chapter are undergirded by these principles and provide guidance to any higher education institution that has a limited and/or disparate catalog of online offerings and is committed to finding a pathway to a more robust array of online educational opportunities.
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UM-Dearborn is a regional campus of the University of Michigan located in southeastern Michigan, adjacent to the city of Detroit, with an enrollment of 9,339 students (2017-18 academic year). This student body consists of 7,141 undergraduates and 2,198 graduate students. The campus has a diverse population of nontraditional students and the majority of students commute to campus. There is a strong commitment to the region and state as evidenced by the fact that 96% of the student body is from the state of Michigan and 80% of the students remain in the area after graduation. The campus is comprised of four colleges that include the College of Business (COB), College of Arts, Sciences and Letters (CASL), College of Education, Health & Human Services (CEHHS) and College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS). Each college, or academic unit, offers an array of undergraduate and graduate degree programs and students enrolled in these programs generally end up taking classes from more than one college in order to complete their degree requirements.

The State of Online Learning

Before looking at the state of online learning specifically on the UM-Dearborn campus, it is helpful to review this topic more broadly as it relates to higher education as a whole. The Online Report Card – Tracking Online Education in the United States (Allen et al., 2016), is the 13th annual report of the state of online learning in U.S. higher education. This survey of online learning, conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and co-sponsored by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), is the leading barometer of online learning in the United States. According to their most recent report, nearly two thirds of academic leaders consider online education “critical to the long-term strategy” of their institution. In fact, according to the Babson report, over 70% of academic leaders believe that learning outcomes in online education are the same or superior to face-to-face instruction. The Distance Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment Report 2017 (Allen, Barak, Deem, Delotell, & Kelly, 2015), also published by OLC, reveals that while overall enrollment in higher education decreased annually from 2012-2015, the percentage of students taking an online or hybrid course over that same period has steadily increased. Needless to say, online education has become ubiquitous, but online learning still suffers from the stigma of being a lower quality and less rigorous educational experience (Bettinger & Loeb, 2017), which could be largely the result of a troubled legacy of the last decade, when many institutions rushed to capture market share without much regard for quality (Smith & Mitry, 2008). Similar to many other higher education institutions, our campus intends to make progress in online learning by pursuing growth that is responsible and responsive to the needs of our learners while maintaining high standards of quality.

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