Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Strategic Partners for HBCU Online Programs -- Part 3 of 4

Last updated: Sunday 9/29/13 @ 4:10 pm
Please read Part 2, that contains section C, before reading this note. It will be found ==> HERE 

D. Strategies for Developing Online Courses and Programs
Most of the courses offered by most HBCUs are still in traditional face-to-face formats; a small percentage are blended; and an even smaller percentage are fully online. Therefore most HBCUs have not yet developed most of the online courses they will need to launch an array of online degree and certificate programs for off-campus students. But how should they develop these courses?

Most HBCUs will probably adhere to strategies that fall somewhere in-between the following prototypes:

1. Home Brews ... Faculty develop their own online courses ... multiple steps  
  • Following this strategy, each year an HBCU's faculty would convert more and more of their face-to-face courses for on-campus students into blended courses, i.e., courses that deliver at least 30% of their content via the Internet. (The reader is referred to the note Blended, Flipped, and Hybrid Courses for HBCUs on this blog for a brief discussion of blended courses)
     
  • Some faculty would also decide to convert blended courses into higher blends, then to still higher blends, e.g., 50 percent via the Internet, 70 percent, and eventually 100 percent.

    When a department's faculty converted enough on-campus courses into 100 percent online formats AND if that faculty decided to offer an online degree or a certificate program for off-campus students based on these courses, then the HBCU could proceed to the next step


    -- On the other hand, just as individual faculty might decline to produce 100% online versions of some of the blended courses they teach, a department might decline to offer online degrees or certificates in some disciplines because its faculty might consider face-to-face student/teacher and student/student interactions to be essential components of their students' learning experiences in those fields. Indeed, some departments might not allow its students to take more than 40% or 50% of their courses online. 

     
  • In the last step in the "Home Brew" strategy faculty would convert their online courses for the HBCU's on-campus students into formats more suitable for off-campus students, e.g., breaking semester length courses into pairs of 7 or 8 week sessions, adjusting the sequence of the sessions, etc 
This multi-step strategy could be viewed as "filling a pipeline" -- with an HBCU's traditional face-to-face courses at the beginning of the pipeline, fully online courses at the end of the pipeline, and various levels of blended courses somewhere in-between. Following this strategy, an HBCU would engage its faculty in multi-year efforts to fill the pipeline. A a widening array of 100% online courses for on-campus students would emerge from the pipeline that the HBCU could then package into online degree & certificate programs for off-campus students ... or not. 

Although a small subset of faculty will develop blended and online courses on their own initiative and will use the Internet and other resources to teach themselves how to do so, most HBCUs could accelerate this process by offering training programs and stipends:
  • Training Programs
    Most faculty will require formal training in the fundmentals of online pedagogy and how to best use the HBCU's learning management system(s) for blended and online courses

     
  • Stipends
    The fact that most HBCUs have not yet developed enough online courses to launch an array of online degree & certificate programs for off-campus students strongly suggests HBCUs should consider paying stipends to their faculty for developing blended and online courses, as many other non-HBCUs have done with good results, and as some HBCUs are beginning to do, e.g., Fayetteville State University.
It's important to note that the view from 10,000 feet also provides a radically different perspective on home brews ==> The development of blended and online courses for on-campus students could be regarded as a fundamental objective for HBCUs because it supports every HBCU's primary mission, regardless of whether the HBCU subsequently decides to package its online courses into degree & certficate programs for off-campus students.
  • By now there can be little doubt that the vast majority of traditional face-to-face courses could provide more effective learning environments if they were converted to blended formats that made appropriate use of the Web, social media, and other powerful, Internet-based technologies. Comparable improvements could be achieved for the smaller subset of courses converted to 100 percent blends, i.e., to fully online formats.  
     
  • More effective courses would enable on-campus students to earn higher grades and fewer failures, higher retention rates, higher graduation rates, and shorter times to graduation. Do HBCUs really need additional reasons for blending their courses? 

2. Out-source to a Strategic Partner ... one step
Alternatively, an HBCU could engage its strategic partner's course development team to work with its faculty to convert their faculty's face-to-face and/or blended courses for on-campus students into 100 percent online courses in formats suitable for off-campus students,
e.g., breaking semester length courses into pairs of 7 or 8 week sessions, adjusting the sequence of the sessions, etc.

The  team would also apply its specialized skills in instructional technology to add state-of-the art enhancements to the courses, e.g., interactive quizzes, slick audio/video illustrations, simulations, games, more appealing layouts and color schemes, compatibility with cell phones and other mobile devices, etc, etc, etc.

The partner would train the faculty in the fundamentals of online pedagogy and the use of the learning management system (LMS) that would host the online courses.



E. Some Pros and Cons of Home Brews
  • Speed = Con
    Producing home brewed online courses is a slow, multi-step, multi-year process
     
  • Speed = Pro
    Home brew's multi-step, multi-year processes will provide an HBCU's faculty with the hands-on preparation required for them to learn the new skills required to become effective online teachers.
     
  • Costs = Con
    Training and stipends can become a burdensome addition to the already strained budgets of most HBCUs

     
  • Course Quality = Con
    Most faculty are subject matter experts; they aren't experts in instructional technology and the other skills required to produce state-of-the-art courses that will be regarded as high quality entries into the increasingly competitive global market for online programs

F. Some Pros and Cons of Outsourcing 
  • Speed = Pro
    Engaging a strategic partner's team of course development specialists to work in consultation with an HBCU's faculty is undoubtedly the fastest way for an HBCU to develop the high quality courses required to launch online degree and certificate programs for off-campus students.

     
  • Speed = Con
    To paraphrase a famous quote from Professor Albert Einstein, "An HBCU should develop its online courses as fast as possible ... but no faster." Unfortunately, engaging a strategic partner's team of course development specialists poses an almost irresistible temptation to launch online programs into the highly competitive global academic marketplace before the HBCU's faculty have had sufficient time to learn how to teach online courses effectively via hands-on experience in on-campus courses.

    To be sure, the partner's skilled specialists could convert all of the courses that were offered face-to-face in the Fall Semester of one year into online versions that could be offered in the Fall Semester of the following year. This rapid turn-around would pose no significant challenge to instructors who have taught online courses before, i.e., to instructors who already know how to teach online courses effectively; but for the program's other instructors, i.e., those who have not yet learned how to teach online courses effectively, the challenge might be insurmountable.

    Given how few online courses are offered by most HBCUs, most HBCU faculty would fall into this "other" group. Furthermore, as noted in a previous section, some excellent face-to-face HBCU instructors might never learn how to teach online courses effectively.
     
  • Course Quality = Pro
    The partner's team of professional designers will undoubtedly produce online courses for the HBCU's potential off-campus students that are state-of-the-art
    ... but will leave the courses for the HBCU's existing on-campus students in the same unblended, face-to-face condition, well below the state-of-the-art.
     
  • Course Quality = Con
    Unfortunately, at this time state-of-the-art online course designs aren't good enough to close the persistent achievement gaps between black and white students that are observed in all but the top U.S. colleges and universities; most online courses merely move these achievement gaps into cyberspace.
     

This discussion is continued in ==> Part 4 -- Combined Strategies and Strategic Alliances


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