ECAR, the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research, has recently released a report (“The State of E-Learning in Higher Education: An Eye toward Growth and Increased Access“) that focuses on “e-learning” aka “online learning”. The report highlights the grown of online learning along with some of the challenges.
The recommendations (see below) included in this report [PDF] are important for strategic planning and can be extremely helpful as practical examples moving forward.
Here are some of the key findings:
- “Nearly all institutions have a major interest in e-learning, at least at the level of some departments. Online courses are ubiquitous, with over 80% of institutions offering at least several courses online and more than half offering a significant number of courses online.
- Two-year (AA) institutions have historically been leaders in using distance courses to attract nontraditional students, and these institutions continue to pave the way in online course offerings to attract “post-traditional learners.” Among all Carnegie classes, AA institutions are most likely to have a center dedicated to e-learning and are most likely to offer a significant number of online courses.
- For successful, large-scale implementation of e-learning, a centralized model provides more efficiency and seamless integration of e-learning services and is characteristic of more mature institutions. However, for some institutions, a distributed model allows for more innovation and individualization for specific programs.
- There is a desire to more than double the number of e-learning staff in central IT. The most-desired positions include course designers, professional development staff, and app designers. IT is involved in the management of e-learning services in almost two-thirds of institutions.
- Institutions in general are most mature in their synergy of e-learning systems and are least mature in using analytics to assess e-learning outcomes.”
What are some of the key recommendations in the report [PDF]?
- Make e-learning initiatives part of the institution’s strategic plan and budget.
- Faculty development programs should be coupled with technologies that are deployed and provide the infrastructure for online learning.
- Develop e-learning incentives for faculty to nurture faculty interest in teaching with technology.
- Designate an office or center to manage, coordinate, and administer the necessary services along with assist in providing the management and vision for online learning.
- Develop a strategy to support students and their needs. From online readiness to technical support to help to ensure student success and retention.
- Consider partnering with content providers (open education resources), technology vendors, and support services to provide a comprehensive online program.
- Make course design support flexible and responsive to faculty needs. Ensure that the technology is easy to use and that faculty are aware of where to receive support and what technologies are available to them to help shape their instructional design and pedagogical application of technology in teaching. Is there enough staffing to support the growth and professional development needs?
- Consider increasing the number of staff to support e-learning initiatives. Training, instructional design, quality, and student support require people who have the pulse of what is needed and can assist in a timely manner.
- E-Learning technologies should focus on ease of use, integration, reliability and effectiveness. The technology should provide the needed resources for faculty (course delivery, retention, communication, grading, and efficient/effective tools to teach), students (social learning and personal learning networks and management), and the administration (reporting, big data, analysis, student success/retention).
How does your institution score on the progress in E-Learning? Take the ECAR E-Learning Maturity Index Assessment to find out! This assessment covers areas such as: Priority, Readiness, Ongoing Evaluation/Training, Policies/Governance, Investment in Faculty/Staff, Outcomes Assessment, and Synergy.