REPORT OF A REQUESTED FOCUS VISIT FOR CHANGE. Assurance Section. Youngstown State University Youngstown, Ohio. February 18-20, 2008 FOR

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1 ADDENDUM TWO

2 REPORT OF A REQUESTED FOCUS VISIT FOR CHANGE Assurance Section TO Youngstown State University Youngstown, Ohio February 18-20, 2008 FOR The Higher Learning Commission A Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools EVALUATION TEAM Dr. Karen L. Kirkendall, Associate Professor, University of Illinois-Springfield, Springfield, IL, Dr. Ronald Wasserstein, Executive Director, American Statistical Association Alexandria, VA /03/2008

3 CONTENTS I. Context and Nature of Visit... 4 II. Evaluation of Documentation Supporting Organization s Request for Change... 5 III. Affiliation Status /03/2008

4 ASSURANCE SECTION I. CONTEXT AND NATURE OF VISIT A. Purpose of Visit This visit was embedded within the Comprehensive Visit to Youngstown State University. The purpose was to review the request by the University for no prior Commission approval required to offer program and courses through distance delivery. B. Accreditation Status Please see Comprehensive Visit report page 43. C. Organizational Context In 2007 YSU was given Commission approval to offer a Bachelor of Science in Applied Science degree in Allied Health, and a Master degree in Health and Human Services. Both of these degrees reside within the College of Health and Human Services, where approximately 70% of the campuses online offerings originate. Future degree offerings are planned for Math, Public Health, Criminal Justice and Education. YSU needs only HLC approval for their expansion of their distance delivery initiative. Online enrollments in the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services have increased by 37% for undergraduates and 51% for graduates in the last 7 years. The institution, to date, does not have retention or demographic data available for their online population. They report that most of their students are regional, and within a 60 mile radius of the campus and are adult learners who work full-time and/or are unable to commute to campus. Historically, it appears that YSU began their initiative slowly; serving students within driving distance to campus and have incrementally built student support services that could be accessed completely online (and by phone when necessary). Over the years, YSU s technological infrastructure has become more advanced and stable and currently is providing reliable support for this initiative. Just recently, YSU has appointed a faculty member from the math program as Interim Director of Distance Learning and reorganized their technological services in an effort to centralize the oversight and support services for online delivery. D. Unique Aspects of Visit Being embedded in a Comprehensive Visit provided added resources both from the University as far as setting a context for the institution and for the request, and from the team assembled for the Comprehensive Visit to lend their expertise. E. Interactions With Organizational Constituencies Please see Comprehensive Report page 5. F. Approval Obtained The DPT has been approved by internal constituencies and the Ohio Board of Regents. 4 4/03/2008

5 The t-dpt is going through internal approvals. G. Principal Documents, Materials, and Web Pages Reviewed Please see Comprehensive Report page 7. II. EVALUATION OF DOCUMENTATION SUPPORTING ORGANIZATION S REQUEST FOR CHANGE A. Evaluation of Request 1. Evidence that demonstrates adequate preparation and planning. A review of online courses on WebCT show evidence of organized, studentoriented course materials, efforts to engage students in course materials and interactions with peers, efforts to orient students to online learning and communication of technical support venues at YSU. Student engagement in online delivery was evident through course materials and discussions with students enrolled in online courses. Course capacity limits are set at 25 students. Best practice is evident. There is evidence of curricular review of online courses through the curricular processes of each college. Faculty distance learning agreements are used for review and tracking purposes. Agreements for Spring, Summer and Fall of 2007 were available for review. Interviews indicated that while the majority of faculty complete these forms (which indicate the amount of the distance delivery stipend, if any, and any additional workload credit); not all submitted them for course review. Assessment of student learning outcomes in online courses is identical to that of on campus courses and programs. A reorganization of technological services has centralized necessary technology support within one unit. This division includes all units related to the IT infrastructure and instructional support activities. The centralization of these units assures that the necessary technological support will be provided to faculty and students in all of the colleges at YSU. Faculty report adequate support in the preparation of online courses. WebCT is the primary platform for course delivery. Beyond WebCT, faculty reported using numerous other platforms. The Instructional Design Center offers numerous training workshops on a number of different course delivery platforms. The Instructional Technology Specialist has a Ph.D and is well qualified for the position. Interviews with students enrolled in online courses in the College of Health and Human Services revealed that students easily accessed financial aid, registration, career and library services that were needed. Students also found WebCT easy to use and reliable. Technological support was readily available. Students indicated that most problems with the use of this site were a result of instructor error. Adequate support services are available through the Center 5 4/03/2008

6 for Student Progress, Disability Services and Career and Counseling Services. The College of Health and Human Services contracts with Smartthinking to meet tutoring needs of online students. An academic adviser is also available for online students through this college. YSU s online initiative is directly related to the accessibility element of the institutional mission. This initiative is also consistent with state programming related to the new University System of Ohio. Catalyst for Change: E-Learning in Ohio, the 2007 report of the Ohio Learning Network, documents Ohio s commitment to distance delivery. Infrastructure is in place to deliver course content at a distance. Platforms to delivery online ascynchronous coursework as well as synchronous distance learning through interactive video conferencing (IVC) have been operating effectively for the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services. Students report positive experiences in these courses. Students and faculty indicate technical support is readily available to meet their needs. Help desks are staffed 7 AM 10 PM, and onsite help is always available while interactive video allows YSU to collaborates effectively with other institutions, with the Ohio Learning Network, and NEOUCOM. Strategic planning and master plans show evidence of an institutional commitment to YSU s online initiative. The campus has developed a separate strategic plan for distance delivery and a master plan for Information Technology. There is evidence that many of the elements of the IT master plan have already been met. The distance delivery strategic plan was only recently completed. These documents demonstrate the awareness and commitment of the institution to instructional, organizational and technological planning necessary of their distance delivery initiative. The institution has begun to centralize its distance delivery initiative with the recent appointment of a Director of Distance Learning. This position was designed to coordinate, enhance, and support distance learning activities across the institution. The director is responsible for the development of institutional policies and procedures concerning distance education and collaboration with deans and chairs in long-range planning related to the development of YSU s distance delivery initiative. The individual who has been appointed to this position is well qualified. 2. Evidence that demonstrates that further organizational attention is required Beyond technological services and a newly assigned director of distance learning, the campus lacks centralized structures at the institutional level for the tracking, oversight, advising and support of their online students. Further, the campus lacks a centralized mechanism for aggregating demographic and course data. The self study did not provide a demographic overview of its online students. Faculty and staff interviews revealed anecdotal evidence on these demographics, but no institutional data existed. While most faculty complete distance delivery agreement forms, many do not and this appears to be the only 6 4/03/2008

7 way the institution is able to track online delivery across the colleges. Only one college (College of Health and Human Services) provides an academic adviser for online students. There is no centralized mechanism for assuring that online students are provided academic advising. Finally, the new director of distance learning does not have a full-time assignment to this position (50%). The campus lacks mechanisms for assessing the needs of online students. While many of the support units have surveys concerning the adequacy of their services for YSU students, there was little evidence that these surveys specifically examined the needs of online students. These mechanisms are critical to the success of the initiative. 3. Evidence that demonstrates that further organizational attention and Commission follow-up are required. 4. Evidence is insufficient to demonstrate organizational readiness to implement change. B. Other Accreditation Issues None C. Recommendation of the Team 1. Evidence is sufficiently demonstrated to recommend approval of change request. D. Rationale for Team s Recommendation The University has set in place processes, has recognized the importance of this proposal to meeting the mission of the institution, and has strategically planned for this initiative. III. AFFILIATION STATUS Please see comprehensive doument page /03/2008

8 REPORT OF A REQUESTED FOCUS VISIT FOR CHANGE Advancement Section TO Youngstown State University Youngstown, Ohio February 18-20, 2008 FOR The Higher Learning Commission A Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools EVALUATION TEAM Dr. Karen L. Kirkendall, Associate Professor, University of Illinois-Springfield, Springfield, IL, Dr. Ronald Wasserstein, Executive Director, American Statistical Association Alexandria, VA 22314

9 Advancement Section CONTENTS I. Observation of Team Regarding Change Request II. Consultations of Team /03/2008

10 Advancement Section ADVANCEMENT SECTION A. Observation of Team Regarding Change Request The team noted that the University has carefully planned for consistency and quality of online offerings. Faculty have training for online delivery readily available to them. B. Consultations of Team The team believes that a progress report to the Board of Trustees and to the Provost on the implementation of the online strategic plan would serve to assure accountability for this initiative. 10 4/03/2008

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