Friday, September 20, 2013

Strategic Partners for HBCU Online Programs -- Part 2 of 4

Last updated: Wed 9/25/13 @ 8:49 pm
Please read sections A & B, in Part 1 before reading this note ==> Click HERE

C. Producing High Quality Online Programs
In the view from 10,000 feet, three factors loom largest in determining the quality of an HBCU's online programs ==> students, instructors, and courses.

1. Recruiting Off-campus Students for Online Programs
  • The strategic partner conducts an intensive marketing campaign via the Web, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and other media to create and/or raise public awareness of the degree and certificate programs offered by an HBCU.

    -- Potential students signal their interest in a program by completing  online "request for more information" forms on Websites, by calling a toll-free number, by completing and mailing a post card, etc.

    -- The partner's recruitment team begins to recruit interested potential students by establishing contact with them via telephone, email, postal mail, and other media. Recruiters are trained to answer questions about the HBCU's programs by offering answers that are based on information provided by the HBCU.

    -- Recruiters focus on applicants who meet the minimal qualifications specified by the HBCU for admission to its programs.

    -- The recruitment process is completed when the partner delivers a qualified student's completed application for admission to the HBCU.

    All decisions as to which students are actually admitted are (or should be) the exclusive responsibility of the HBCU.
  • Unfortunately, strategic partners may not be able to recruit as many qualified students as anticipated:

    -- Large partners may have the funds to support expensive marketing and recruitment campaigns, but may lack sufficient prior experience recruiting qualified black applicants;

    -- On the other hand, smaller minority firms may have the marketing/recruiting experience but lack sufficient financial resources to support large enough marketing and recruitment campaigns to yield the desired number of qualified black applicants

2. Assigning Qualified Instructors for Online Programs
  • Instructors must not only be subject matter experts; they must also be trained in distance learning pedagogy, i.e., how to teach online courses; and they must be trained to use the HBCU's learning management system (LMS) effectively, i.e., the software package that hosts the HBCU's online courses.
  • Excellent classroom instruction has long been the cherished legacy of HBCUs, the "secret sauce" that enabled them to admit a larger share of academically challenged black students. But just as the star players on a high school's field hockey team won't become star players on its ice hockey team without lots of retraining and practice, so too an HBCU's traditional cadres of excellent classroom instructors will not become excellent online instructors without lots of retraining and practice ... and there are no guarantees that all of its best classroom instructors can or will want to make this transition.
  • HBCUs should assume that the off-campus, part-time students in their online programs will be considerably less tolerant of inferior online instruction than their on-campus students. On-campus, full-time students are unlikely to transfer to another institution just because they encounter one or two badly taught online courses in a semester if only because of the inconvenience and high cost of relocating to another campus. By contrast, the global market for online programs has become so competitive that online colleges and universities have been compelled to make it relatively easy and inexpensive for students to transfer from one online institution to another.
  • Many, if not most of the off-campus students enrolled in an HBCU's online degree & certificate programs will be non-traditional, part-time students, i.e., older students whose jobs and/or family obligations prevent them from taking daytime classes on weekdays on a full-time basis; so they must take classes in the evenings, on weekends, or online. Most of these students will also find it more difficult to commit to semester length courses; they will favor courses that last no more than 7 or 8 weeks.
  • Online programs for off-campus students must start more frequently than programs for on-campus students. Programs for on-campus students have traditionally started in the Fall Semester; but off-campus students want more opportunities to begin their studies. The introductory and other required courses in an HBCU's online programs will therefore have to be offered 3, 4, or 5 times each year depending on demand from the market. An HBCU's regular faculty can cover the first offering; but thereafter the HBCU will have to hire qualified adjuncts to cover the additional sessions.

    For example, if the partner's marketing and recruitment campaign generates enough qualified student applicants for an HBCU to offer Introduction to Accounting I & II in the Fall, Winter, and Summer semesters, its regular faculty could teach Accounting I in the Fall and Accounting II in the Spring. Adjuncts would be hired to teach Accounting I in the Spring and Accounting II in the Summer; and to teach Accounting I in the Summer and Accounting II in the following Fall Semester.
  • It will take time and money to train an HBCU's regular faculty; and it will take more time and more money to recruit (and train) pools of qualified adjuncts. HBCUs may not have access to as many qualified instructors for their online programs as more affluent non-HBCUs. As consequence, HBCUs may be constrained to launch new online programs at a slower pace than more affluent non-HBCUs.
  • Furthermore, the online counterparts to the legacy of hands-on insights that new instructors at HBCUs have learned from their more experienced colleagues as to how to enable academically challenged black students succeed in face-to-face classrooms have yet to be developed for online programs.

    On the other hand, it is well known that success for students in online programs requires stronger motivation, greater capacity to work alone, better study habits, and a firmer grasp of basic language and math skills than success for students in blended and face-to-face courses.

    Taken together, these two sets of factors suggest that, for the foreseeable future, HBCUs should consider admitting a substantially smaller percentage of academically challenged students into their online programs than they have historically admitted into their on-campus programs.

This discussion is continued in ==> Part 3 -- Producing High Quality Courses 

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