Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Some Challenges for HBCUs and Virtual HBCUs Launching Blended & Online Courses and Programs -- Part 3

Last updated: Tuesday 1/7/14 @ 11:43 am
This note concludes the discussion begun in Part 1 and continued in Part 2. It presents the author's personal perspectives on some of the most significant challenges faced by HBCUs and Virtual HBCUS when launching blended and online courses and programs for their on-campus and off-campus students

C. Students
  • Identity Management ... online courses
    When students are taking courses that are 100 percent online, how do we know who's really doing their homework, writing their papers, taking their exams? Information technology enabled online courses, but it also facilitated online cheating. Hopefully, information technology will eventually produce identity management procedures that are at least as good as the proctoring procedures used in traditional face-to-face courses ... but we're not there yet.

    A recent article in the New York Times (Anne Eisenberg, "Keeping an Eye on Test-Takers", NY Times, 3/3/13) provides a succinct overview of some of the most effective anti-cheating technologies that have emerged in recent years. The article notes that companies like ProctorU and Software Secure are using webcams and shared screens over high speed Internet connections to provide closer, more invasive scrutiny of test takers than was possible in traditional in-person proctored test facilities.

    Considerable progress is being made. But just as anti-malware apps from Symantec, Kaspersky, and McAfee, must be updated frequently, I think we should anticipate the need for comparably frequent updates of identity management systems ... and "Zero-Day" failures if the hackers get too far ahead of the game ... :-(
  • Student Support Services ... online courses
    Providing optimal support for students in online courses is challenging, especially for off-campus students. Their concerns may cover a wide range of issues, e.g., difficulty understanding topics in their courses, technical problems logging onto the LMS, accessing materials provided by the library, registration procedures, their career prospects, graduation requirements, etc, etc, etc.

    Most of these issues range far beyond a faculty member's subject matter expertise. Now couple these concerns with the fact that off-campus students may be in different time zones on different continents, and compound it with the global Internet-age expectation that concerns expressed at any time and on any day will receive responses within a few hours. The traditional advising system wherein faculty meet with students at appointed hours in their offices can't handle these complex challenges.

    There is a growing body of experience that suggests that the full range of required support services is better provided by combinations of faculty advisors and coaching staff, all of whom make extensive use of the full range of today's media, e.g., email, chat, texting, social media (Facebook/Twitter/Google+), telephone, and Internet-based video calls plus dashboards that enable the faculty/coaches to track their students' concerns and anticipate academic difficulties. Indeed, many online service providers offer 7 by 24 help desk/coaching services and dashboards as part of their strategic partnership arrangements.

D. Faculty
  • "Internet Bill of Rights" ... flipped & online coursesMost of the content of most of the faculty handbooks in most U.S. colleges and universities was adopted long before the Internet began its game changing disruptions of traditional academic processes. As consequence, faculty who develop flipped or online courses are sometimes at risk that their efforts will not receive the same protections as would more traditional initiatives ... risks that might make them more fearful than excited by opportunities to become active participants in the ongoing Internet revolution.

    If a faculty handbook is a "Constitution" then colleges and universities should adopt an "Internet Bill of Rights" to address these uncovered risks. Its "Ten Amendments" might include the following kinds of provisions:

    Credit Hours
    An online course that cover the same subject matter at the same level as a face-to-face course should be assigned the same number of credit hours as the face-to-face course.

    Course Loads
    An flipped or online course should have the same weight in a faculty member's assigned course load during each academic year as a face-to-face course that was assigned the same number of credit hours.

    -- Rate of Compensation
    The compensation that a faculty member receives for teaching a flipped or an online course should be the same as for teaching a face-to-face course covering comparable subject matter and assigned the same number of credit hours.

    Preparation for Teaching Flipped/Online Courses
    Faculty who are interested in teaching flipped or online courses should be trained by their institution at no expense to the faculty member. Faculty who successfully complete this training should receive a certificate that documents their qualification to teach flipped or online courses. Faculty who successfully complete this training should also receive recognition for professional development during their annual performance reviews.

    -- Required Resources
    Faculty who are assigned to develop or teach flipped or online courses should be provided with access to kinds of workstations, software, and network connectivity that they need to carry out their assignments.

    Evaluation Protocols
    Colleges and universities should be tasked to develop a set of student, peer, and administrative protocols for evaluating faculty performance in flipped and online courses. These protocols should be vetted by the faculty in the schools & colleges that offer these courses as part of their degree and certificate programs.

    Annual Performance Reviews for Teaching Flipped/Online Courses
    A faculty member's performance in a flipped or online course should be given the same weight as their performance in their face-to-face courses during their annual performance reviews.

    Financial Compensation for Developing New Flipped/Online Courses
    Faculty who develop new flipped or online courses will be compensated for their efforts in one of two ways: (a) Being relieved of some their regular teaching assignments while they develop the new courses; or (b) Receiving a consultant stipend.

    Annual Performance Reviews for Developing New Flipped/Online Courses
    Faculty who develop flipped or online courses that are approved by their schools & colleges for inclusion in the University's catalog of course offerings should receive merit compensation for their efforts.

    Intellectual Property (IP)Online courses and the online presentations in flipped courses are intellectual properties whose ownership will be shared by faculty, departments, and the college or university in accordance with the  institution's current IP policies.
  • Intellectual Property ... in process

E. Courses & Programs
  • State Authorization ... online courses
    At the present time, colleges and universities that offer online courses for credit must be authorized to do so in every state and territory from which they enroll students. This is an onerous, time-consuming process that involves considerable expense (for some states). But it is what it is. HBCUs and other institutions that want to offer online courses for credit have no choice but to fill out the forms, provide appropriate documentation, and pay the fees ... for every state, district, and territory ... or not ...
    See Allie Bidwell, "Online Programs Reject Students to Avoid Costly State Approval, Report Says" (Chronicle, 3/21/13)

    Indeed, there is so much inconsistency among the authorization requirements of the nation's states and territories that colleges and universities that intend to offer online courses for credit to students who live outside of the home states/territories of the colleges and universities are well advised to seek advice from authorization experts. However, the good news is that help is on the way. Within a few years, current negotiations among the states are likely to yield reciprocal authorization agreements that will substantially reduce the time, expense, and tedium.
    See Carl Straumsheim, "Will States Reciprocate?" (Inside Higher Ed, 11/20/13)
  • Accredited Programs  ... online programs
    Whereas the five regional accrediting bodies provide accreditation for four year colleges and universities, some of the professional programs offered by these institutions receive additional accreditation from their professions' national accrediting organizations

    ... to be continued ...

  • Competency-Based Education
    This discussion has been moved into a separate note for easier future reference ==> Please click HERE

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