Planning and Implementing Online Programs: A Case Study in the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo

Planning and Implementing Online Programs: A Case Study in the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo

Kay Bishop (SUNY Buffalo, USA) and Christine Kroll (SUNY Buffalo, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1655-4.ch006
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This case study reviews the planning, development, and initial implementation of an online Master’s of Library Science (MLS) degree program at a large public research university. The development process will be presented from both a school-based and a department-based perspective. A review of the literature found articles and books that address online programs in education and library science; however, the majority of those publications focus on either the experiences of students or the concerns of faculty members who deliver courses through distance education technologies. Very few of the resources address the full spectrum of planning, developing, and implementing an online program. The authors found that the MLS program development process greatly benefited from existing school-based policies and procedures, while some barriers and challenges were also encountered in the context of customizing those policies and procedures for the Library and Information Studies (LIS) department. The authors believe these experiences will inform practices at other institutions and departments considering initiating online programs.
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Setting The Stage

As one of the 13 professional schools at UB, GSE has access to a number of centralized university information technology services; however, a centralized office for distance education does not exist.

In 2001, a special initiative to develop an online degree program was presented by the UB Provost’s office. This initiative allowed the Dean of GSE, Dr. Mary Gresham, to create a new position, Director of New Media. UB hired Dr. Christine Kroll for this position, and Kroll led the initiative to offer UB’s first fully online degree program: GSE's Master’s of Education in General Education. The program launched in the fall of 2001, with the final student graduating from the program in the summer of 2009. Although the program was very successful, changes in New York State teacher certification requirements necessitated a program phase out as the program no longer met these new requirements.

In 2005, with the general education program phase out in progress, Dean Gresham made the decision to grow online programs within GSE. Specifically, she targeted the launch of five programs fully online within five years. To this end, Kroll who was now overseeing all educational technology initiatives in the school in the role of Assistant Dean for Educational Technology moved to a new position: Assistant Dean for Online Programs. An online programs coordinator was hired to manage the anticipated increase in student enrollment and a full-time instructional designer was assigned to Kroll to coach faculty through the transition from on-campus to online teaching.

Along with these school-based resources, the University has the following support for online initiatives:

  • 1.

    The Graduate School is the liaison to SUNY and the New York State Education Department (NYSED); both agencies must approve UB's requests to offer degree programs online.

  • 2.

    The University at Buffalo Information Technology group provides computing support for students and faculty, as well as video capture of on-campus courses that will eventually be taught online.

  • 3.

    The Teaching Learning Center offers a variety of training workshops utilized primarily by the instructional designer who, in turn, provides one-on-one training to faculty.

  • 4.

    The Student Response Center provides online and phone services for registration, billing, and financial aid.

  • 5.

    The University Libraries provide vast online resources enabling students to complete all assignments, many of which are research-based and require access to peer-reviewed publications.

All aforementioned offices and personnel were in place prior to planning the online MLS program. This allowed the LIS department to interface with one office, the GSE Office of Online Programs (OOP), rather than create independent relationships with each individual University office. The OOP has developed these relationships since 2001 through the development and implementation of the now inactive Master’s in Education in General Education degree program, as well as our current offerings:

  • Master’s of Education in Science and the Public

  • Master’s of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling

  • Advanced Graduate Certificate in Gifted Education

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