Project Realities: Shifting Course Delivery Method

Project Realities: Shifting Course Delivery Method

Patricia McGee (The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA) and Michael Anderson (The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4237-9.ch007

Abstract

Meeting the demands of students who expect convenience, affordability, and a quality education has required that institutions of higher learning find ways to offer programs in multiple delivery modes. Blended or hybrid course delivery requiring course meetings both on campus and online is a growing model that addresses institutional challenges of classroom availability, technology use in courses, improvement of four-year graduation rates when more courses are offered, and flexibility in attendance through multiple course delivery options. This case study describes an institutional strategic initiative, the Summer Hybrid Academy, which supported faculty members in the transition from campus-based classroom courses to technology-infused hybrid courses. Year One of the Academy was planned without using a project management approach, and Year Two was offered with a project management approach that improved results.
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Setting The Stage

Growth coupled with budget restrictions have resulted in an increased reliance on technology solutions for efficient processes, expedited communication, and instructional support. The UTSA Strategic Plan 2016 specified the addition of alternative delivery methods and the expansion of the use of technology to enhance instruction as two key initiatives to support improved institutional processes. The Office of Information Technology (OIT) provides the vast majority of technology for the campus. The OIT mission is aligned with the academic mission of the University, therefore the unit reports to the Provost’s Office rather than Business Affairs where such a department often resides. The Online Learning unit is a part of the OIT supporting the academic use of technology for teaching and learning. The Online Learning unit was the group responsible for the project described in this case.

Another driver to utilize technology has been a priority by the University of Texas System to lower attrition rates and improve four-year graduation rates. Blended or hybrid courses were identified as a strategy linked with student satisfaction and higher rates of retention. Pontes and Pontes (2012) looked at a nationally representative sample of 113,500 postsecondary undergraduate students and found that first generation students from low-income households were “less likely to have an enrollment gap” if those students were enrolled in distance education courses. There is also evidence that hybrid classes can increase student engagement for all students (Moskal, Dzuiban, & Hartman, 2010). Moreover, a survey of 562 instructors, instructional designers, and administrators (Bonk, Kim, & Zeng, 2005) found that 89% believed that by 2013, blended courses will compose 20%-100% of a student's learning; 66% felt hybrid courses will compose at least a majority of that learning. Thus UTSA’s initiative to meet enrollment targets while serving a non-traditional population fit with the promises of hybrid courses. With projected faculty interest, the Hybrid Academy was initiated in the summer of 2010 in response to these strategic initiatives as well as an institutional imperative to increase available classroom space. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB, 2013), defines a hybrid course as one in which students and the instructor work at a distance between 50% and 85% of the course term. While the terms blended and hybrid are used interchangeably in the literature (McGee & Reis, 2012), for clarity’s sake, the project uses the term hybrid as do the authors in this case.

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