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ERIC Number: ED517308
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Aug
Pages: 80
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
Online Learning as a Strategic Asset. Volume I: A Resource for Campus Leaders. A Report on the Online Education Benchmarking Study Conducted by the APLU-Sloan National Commission on Online Learning
McCarthy, Sally A.
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
Online learning is a complex undertaking that holds great potential as a teaching and learning mode that public colleges and universities may strategically employ to achieve broad institutional priorities and contribute to the attainment of national goals. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities- (APLU) Sloan National Commission on Online Learning Benchmarking Study was designed to illuminate how public institutions develop and implement the key organizational strategies, processes, and procedures that contribute to successful and robust online learning initiatives. The Online Commission has developed a set of observations about successful strategic online learning initiatives. These observations are based on 231 Institutional Interviews with administrators, faculty, and students at 45 public institutions across the country and close to 11,000 responses from a national Faculty Survey. These observations include the following: (1) Online learning programs may work most effectively as a core component of institutional strategic planning and implementation; (2) Online learning initiatives benefit from ongoing institutional assessment and review due to their evolving and dynamic nature; (3) Online learning activities are strengthened by the centralization of some organizational structures and administrative functions that support and sustain the programs; (4) Online learning programs overseen by academic affairs units may be more readily accepted and may be more easily integrated into the fabric of the institution; (5) Online learning programs need reliable financing mechanisms for sustainability and growth; (6) Online learning programs succeed with consistent and adequate academic, administrative, and technological resources for faculty and students; and (7) Online learning programs have the capacity to change campus culture and become fully integrated if presidents, chancellors, chief academic officers, and other senior campus leaders are fully engaged in the delivery of "messages" that tie online education to fundamental institutional missions and priorities. The data compiled through the Institutional Interviews and Faculty Survey also identify a number of "key leadership and policy issues" for campus presidents, chancellors and chief academic officers to consider. These issue-specific recommendations include: (1) Campus leaders need to better understand the characteristics of the online teaching populations on their campus and use communication strategies that target and engage all faculty members; (2) Campus leaders should maintain consistent communication with all faculty and administrators regarding the role and purpose of online learning programs as they relate to academic mission and academic quality. Further, campus leaders, administrators, and faculty must all work together to improve the quality--or perceived quality--of online learning outcomes; (3) Campus leaders have the potential to expand faculty engagement by better understanding what motivates faculty to teach online; and (4) Campus leaders and faculty governing bodies need to regularly re-examine institutional policies regarding faculty incentives, especially in this era of declining financial resources. Perhaps most importantly, campus leaders need to identify strategies to acknowledge and recognize the additional time and effort faculty invest in online as compared to face-to-face teaching and learning. Finally, the Commission recognizes that some of these observations and recommendations may appear rudimentary for some campuses, especially those institutions that are further along in implementing or supporting more "mature" online learning programs. However, the institutional participants and faculty respondents reported that many of these fundamental issues of structure, finance, and faculty support and engagement have resurfaced or emerged in new ways as programs have matured over the years. Toward this end, APLU and the Online Commission are hopeful that the observations from the Benchmarking Study will provide fresh insights and perspectives to campus leaders, administrators, faculty, and students engaged in or interested in online learning and lead to an increase in the number of strategic online learning initiatives at public colleges and universities across the nation. Appendices include: (1) APLU-Sloan National Commission on Online Learning Membership List; (2) Institutional Interviews: List of Participating Institutions; (3) Summary of Institutional Interview Design and Methodology; (4) Benchmarking Study: Letter of Invitation; (5) Benchmarking Study: Fact Sheet; (6) Benchmarking Study: Campus Questionnaire; and (7) Institutional Interviews: Introductory Script. (Contains 22 footnotes.) [For Volume II, see ED517311.]
Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. 1307 New York Avenue NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005-4722. Tel: 202-478-6040; Fax: 202-478-6046; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: Administrators
Language: English
Sponsor: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Authoring Institution: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities