University of Nebraska at Omaha. Distance Education Strategic Plan. March, 2007

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1 University of Nebraska at Omaha Distance Education Strategic Plan March, 2007

2 Executive Summary The goal of Distance Education (DE) at University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is furthering the academic missions of the colleges and metropolitan mission of the campus. As stated in the December 2003 Distance Education Coordinating Council report, a distance education strategy must relate to the profound impact that information technology and computer connectivity today have on the entire American higher education enterprise. The future of distance education is characterized by three compelling imperatives: Imperative 1: information technology methods used in distance education also can enhance traditional, residential courses. Imperative 2: continual investment in new technology is essential to support quality distance education. Imperative 3: increased access to higher education and quality of instruction must serve as principal justification for distance education expansion rather than cost savings. A distance education student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha is one for whom the majority of instruction occurs when student and instructor are not in the same place at the time of delivery of instruction. Distance education programs provide an educational opportunity for students who are place bound and/or unable to attend or commute to a residential campus. Enrollment in the majority of online programs at UNO is restricted to students who reside beyond a 50 mile radius of the campus. However in online programs that accept students regardless of their proximity to campus, 27% live in rural areas and 73 % reside in urban areas. In congruence with the culture of the campus, development of distance education programs is the responsibility of the colleges. The role of the Information Technology Services (ITS) office of Distance Education is to provide strategic and operational support for these DE programs. In recent years more departments and colleges are recognizing that distance learning is an integral part of their academic mission. This change in perspective is the result of needing to address flat or declining enrollments in residential programs, classroom space issues and increasing demand for distance programs. Additionally, faculty s increasing comfort level with technology, and the implementation of a campus policy that aligns resources with effort have contributed to the growth of DE. ITS returns the majority of DE fees and all non-resident tuition to distance education programs that generate this income. These funds are used to support faculty FTEs dedicated to teaching distance education courses as well as staff support (especially instructional design specialists), specialized student services, information technology (IT) infrastructure, library, and course development support. The graph below indicates the total fees and tuition that have been returned to departments offering distance education programs. 2

3 AY Year * DE Fee Income 0 $188,704 $229,014 $351,453 $432,380 ** Fall and spring semesters only The impact of the recent growth in distance education on UNO student credit hour production is shown in the table below. AY Year * ** SCHP 5,451 4,959 4,714 7,022 7,992 * Decision made to close online Aviation program prior to implementation of DE fee ** Fall and spring semesters only In addition to an increase in credit hour production, ITS office of DE has facilitated an expansion of DE student services such as a free number that is available for technical assistance and a link on the UNO DE webpage where prospective students can submit questions and have them answered within 24 hours. In the coming year UNO plans to investigate and address the unique financial aid issues of DE students as the majority of students enrolled in UNO programs work in professions where employee tuition assistance programs are very limited, have been reduced or never existed. In order to better support faculty involved in distance education, the academic computing unit within ITS re-organized to create the Academic Partnering for Instruction (API) group which includes an instructional designer and multimedia specialists who work with faculty to create rich media content. As the table above indicates, UNO experienced a 49% increase in distance education related student credit hour production between AY and This growth can be largely attributed to the increase in general education requirements for the Bachelor of General Studies Program (BGS) and implementation of the low residency MFA in creative writing. Projected enrollment in current and new programs is expected to increase 10% over current enrollment for academic years and This growth estimate is based on a plan to 1. build on the UNO relationship with the military through the Division of Continuing Studies office on Offutt Air force Base. 2. develop information science and technology concentrations in the BGS to address the campus statewide mandate Targeted marketing for existing niche programs like Aviation and the online MPA has proved successful thus this strategy will be continued or expanded. UNO distance educations are competitive in terms of cost as well as quality. 3

4 I. Mission As stated in the UNO Strategic Plan s mission statement, The University of Nebraska at Omaha is a metropolitan university which means that in addition to holding academic and scholarly values, UNO has a dynamic relationship with its urban and regional environments. Through the integration of information technology, UNO s Distance Education mission is to further the academic priorities of the colleges by providing a comprehensive range of computer mediated and on-line educational programs and services of the highest quality for students. IT support for instructional design and research to further UNO s goal of academic excellence for its students. statewide access for programs that have a statewide mandate. information technology networking opportunities that support UNO and the needs of its students and the community. II. Vision UNO is committed to becoming a leader among metropolitan universities in the provision of distance education. By using technology and innovative methods for educational applications, research initiatives and community partnerships, the ITS office of DE will further the strategic goals of the university and the academic mission of the colleges including their statewide mandates. III. Values Core values shape the way our mission is accomplished and determine the means by which UNO s vision is achieved including the belief that distance education supports innovative instruction that enhances high level student learning; incorporates authentic assessment of learning; meets the changing needs of students and faculty through the creation of partnerships involving technical and content expertise; builds on principles of shared responsibility and shared recognition of success; and requires a deliberate and collaborative approach to the use of information and educational resources. 4

5 IV. Goals UNO will further enhance active learning, authentic assessment and innovative teaching by developing distance education structures and processes that provide students with easily accessible, integrated academic programs, support services, and administrative functions that enhance and support student learning. faculty with high quality, easy accessible services that support the development and delivery of distance education, teaching, research and service initiatives. greater access and learning opportunities including academic programs to students and communities throughout the state of Nebraska and beyond, particularly when distance education initiatives support a statewide mandate. long range planning and leveraging of resources to assure progress toward campus strategic goals and colleges academic priorities. V. Current and Future Distance Education Programs Principal Areas of Emphases 1. Undergraduate academic program development of online a. concentrations for the College of Public Administration and Community Services Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) degree; b. general education requirements for the BGS degree; c. degree programs that have a statewide mandate; and d. collaborative programs with sister campuses and peer institutions in areas of study where the student population on a single campus is small but when combined with enrollment of other campuses, justifies/sustains a high quality program. 2. Development of instructional design support that incorporated authentic assessment of student learning. 3. Development of a quality improvement process for DE program development. 4. Graduate program development including a. blended online programs where there is faculty expertise and departmental interest; b. programs that have a statewide mandate; c. collaborative programs with sister campuses and other universities that expand the education options to the citizens of the state. Current Academic Programs Undergraduate Programs Online Bachelor of General Studies (BGS) with a focus in Organizational Effectiveness Online BGS with a Concentration in Aviation Studies Hybrid BGS with a Library Concentration Hybrid Bachelors of Library Science 5

6 Hybrid Library School Library Media Endorsement Online General education requirements for the BGS degree Graduate Programs Blended Masters in Public Health Online Masters in Public Administration Low residency Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Low residency Masters in Education Low residency School Library Media endorsement Current non-academic initiatives that further UNO s metropolitan mission through community partnerships and public education. Support for the Economic Education Program Participation in the Metropolitan Omaha Education Consortia s Technology Group Participation in the Omaha Chamber of Commerce Education and Workforce Development Taskforce Training for International Studies Afghan Teacher Exchange Program Development of Teacher Standards and Assessment Projects (Digital Student Portfolio) C. New/expanded programs to be pursued in the coming year Undergraduate Programs Online BGS with an area of concentration in Criminal Justice Online BGS with an area of concentration in Non-profit Administration Online BGS with an area of concentration in MIS Online BGS with an area of concentration in Internet Technologies Graduate Programs Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance Certificates/Endorsements Statewide Sign Language Interpreter Training Collaborative Efforts Special Education departments at UNL, UNO, and UNK collaborate to offer distance courses within the state. American Sign Language Interpreting certification UNO Disabilities - UNL coordinates programming with UNK and UNO Deaf/Hard of Hearing UNL Early Childhood Special Education UNL coordinates program with UNK Gifted UNK 6

7 Mild/Moderate Disabilities UNK Assistive Technology Upon approval of this program UNK will deliver severe Visual Impairment UNL UNK and UNO collaborate on the development and delivery of the online BGS with a focus in Administration Studies as well as a low residency Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. UNO collaborates with Chadron State College and the University of Missouri on Masters of Library Science programs. UNO has established articulation agreements with Metropolitan Community College and other area community colleges. VI. Expansion of continuing and new degree programs Growth of undergraduate distance education will focus on development of the online undergraduate degree completion program. The target audience for this proposed program is adults. Currently 22.1% of UNO undergraduate students are over the age of 25. This compares with information from the U.S. Department of Education which indicates that 39 % of all postsecondary students were 25 years or older in 1999, compared with 28% in Additionally, U.S Census data indicates a need for an expanded adult degree completion program. According to 2000 U. S. Census data, there are 264,000 residents over the age of twenty-five in Nebraska who have completed some college or earned an associate degree but who do not have a bachelor s degree. Recent Department of Commerce reports show that while the average annual salary of a high school graduate is $25,900; that figure jumps to $45,400 for a college graduate. The difference between the earning power of a college graduate and a high school graduate is about one million dollars over a lifetime. Addressing the need for an adult degree completion program does more than support individuals; it also supports the business communities and state economy. Chamber of Commerce Omaha 2000 staff state anecdotally,that while the need for computer literacy remains high with employers, the broader need is for employees with the communication, critical thinking and technology skills associated with a bachelor s degree. UNO is equipped to respond to this need because it has the only established adult degree completion program in the University of Nebraska system. UNO s adult degree completion program which is administered by the Department of Continuing Studies (DCS) in the College of Pubic Administration and Community Service (CPACS) is one of the oldest in the county. CPACS DCS awards a BGS degree that gives adults the choice of 43 areas of concentration. The BGS combines academic integrity with realworld flexibility. With its 55 year history and a track record of 200 plus graduates per year, UNO s current adult degree completion program meets all these criteria but that of anytime/anywhere access. 7

8 In the past 2 years, developmental mini-grants offered by the ITS Distance Education office funded online general education courses. As of Spring, 2005, UNO colleges offers a full range of general education requirements. By collaborating with UNO and UNK colleges, the ITS office and DCS plan to continue to strategically direct resources to colleges to so that the development of online concentrations within the online BGS will continue to grow. Recent campus and university system purchases including course management software and expansion of a statewide telecommunications network support faculty transitioning their traditional coursework to web-based options. As of fall, 2006, over 1400 UNO classes utilize software every semester that could make anytime/anywhere learning possible. Additionally, the UNO Information Technology Services (ITS) Department has restructured resources to expand support for development of online learning and student services. VII. Resources needed Prior to 2003, UNO s resources for Distance Education consisted of a small budget used to support faculty mini-grants for developing new or update existing DE courses associated with colleges DE priority programs. All other funding came from within the colleges and student service departments including the library. Implementation of a DE resident fee and changes in nonresident fees and tuition in 2002 provided a very basic level of support. As a result the campus, colleges and support services continue to fund DE initiatives by augmenting DE fee and tuition revenue with existing resources. Additional resources are needed in the following areas. 1. Student Support Services Scholarships An increase in scholarship funding would expand programs to students who currently cannot afford to further their professional education. The majority of UNO DE students are employed full time thus they tend to enroll in programs part-time. Because federal financial aid is not available to part time enrollees and because many of these students are enrolled in programs such as Library Science and Public Administration where tuition assistance from employers is extremely limited or non-existent, UNO DE students tends to be limited to those who can afford to fund their own education. Student advising the current caseload of 350 student /advisor in the department of Continuing Studies is more that double (150 students/1 advisor) that which is recommended by the National Association of Academic Advisors. With the projected 10 % increase in DE enrollments, there is a definite need to fund at least one additional advisor. Library Support Currently the library is able to absorb the "extra" work required to support distance students. However, as staff numbers potentially decrease and distance student numbers increase, the library will reach a point where 8 additional support for library services is absolutely essential.

9 2. Faculty Support Stipends or other monetary incentives for faculty Instructional Design Assistance Hardware to support rich media content development Staff/Graduate Assistant support for development and course coordination of DE courses. III. Policy/Procedures Changes The following are policies and procedural issues that impact Distance Education and with revision, could provide better support. Policy Issues Vague intellectual property rights policy leading to inconsistent interpretation. Need for review and possible revision of current Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure so that faculty involvement in DE instruction, research and online publication is consistently valued equal to on-campus activity. Revision of faculty workload policies that address the time intensity of online instruction. Absence of an intercampus graduate application form that streamlines admission for students registering for DE courses offered by one campus and delivered by another and that addresses registration of courses that are co-sponsored by two campuses. Administrative Issues The most significant obstacles UNO faces are: Need for a mechanism that allows campuses to share SCH production and revenue from co-sponsored programs. Need for system-wide hardware/networking lifecycle funding that reflects a threefour year replacement schedule. Development of a mechanism allowing DE students to acquire a photo ID Development of an overall integrated marketing plan for DE programs. The ITS office of DE will continue to work on solving these issues with appropriate campus departments and the NU Distance Education Coordinating Council. 9

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