Published: May 7, 2018

Academic Futures Town Hall Notes

Technology & Education – Online & Distance Learning

May 1, 2018


Jeff Cox and committee members:

Brief update on the Academic Futures process and the committee’s current thinking and status on this topic.  Highlights about this topic included:

  • We currently follow an “uncoordinated brilliance” model of using technology for education.  We need to establish a cohesive vision and strategy.
  • Students are the primary stakeholders, but we’re also including faculty and staff success as part of the conversation.
  • Technology can be used to enhance our connection to the community and further improve our reputation.
  • We need to determine how to overcome resistance and encourage broader acceptance of using technology.
  • How can/does using technology support other topics like interdisciplinary education and inclusive excellence?

Comments and Questions:

  • How did we get to our current state of “uncoordinated brilliance”?
    • As a campus, we never reached consensus on what online/distance education should look like, so work grew organically. 
  • What other institutions or models should we adopt/adapt?
    • We haven’t approached it in that way.  There are different examples for different pieces.  Arizona State has an interesting model for professional masters.  MIT has some interesting approaches.  We have heard that we don’t need to compete with what our peers are doing (some of whom are far ahead of us).  Instead, we need to find our areas of strength and create a solution that gives us a competitive advantage in those areas.  We need to find out what works for us strategically.
  • The Southern New Hampshire (SHNU) model makes R1 Research Universities uncomfortable – that model uses mostly adjunct professors to teach a stable set of courses.  We need to recognize that we have high-powered intellectuals on campus who, with a little help on creating online courses, could really engage.  We need an online approach that is more tethered to a university of this caliber.
  • Faculty think of the SNHU model when they hear “online” and bristle against online education.  We need good communication about what we mean by “online”.
  • Students want personalized educational experiences based on collaboration in both teaching and research.
  • What considerations are being given to the pedagogical differences in teaching online courses?
    • That’s a good question.   We have several practices that currently exist (CE, professional masters, FTEP, GTP, etc.) and experts in those areas.  But faculty don’t know which of those doors to go through, so we end up with a de facto competition on where to go and how/where to create a course.  We need to define the cohesive model/continuum and know what doors there are and how to utilize the experts.
  • We don’t want to create bad online versions of in-person teaching – we need to use the strengths of technology.
  • As a campus, we haven’t come to a definition of “presence” in the different teaching modalities.  Presence is multi-faceted and needs practice.
  • Metrics used to measure the success of technology may not be the same as measuring lecture hall courses.  We need to determine what metrics are needed, and then measure/provide feedback in real time.
  • Students want faculty to use technology well, or not use it at all.  They don’t want technology for technology’s sake.  They report that they get distracted by other students’ laptops/devices. Technology needs to be seamless in the learning experience.
  • Faculty are concerned about not using technology well and losing control of the class.
  • In the professional masters programs, all courses support both distance and in-person.  The ZOOM tool is used for team dynamics.  None of the faculty have had much trouble in using the tools.
  • “Hybrid” teaching (part online, part in-person) is part of the discussion of the continuum of using technology in teaching as it can leverage both in-person and online models.  The hybrid model helps on the issue of classroom availability and could also help on housing costs (a remote student could just come and stay for a couple of weeks for in-person/team activities).
  • Students still want to participate in class even if they physically cannot be there in person (e.g., at home sick, on field study, working, etc.).  This allows them to keep up with the courses.  Flexibility is necessary.
  • Students don’t care which learning management system (LMS) is used, but they would like all faculty to use the same one.  It’s difficult to find all the grades and assignments in all the different systems.  We need to at least pick which one we use for grades, which one for assignments, etc. and use the right tool(s) based on its strengths.
  • Technology is often an afterthought and faculty don’t know how to use it effectively.  We need some baseline training on the technology in the right sequence.  Discussing pedagogical approaches without understanding the language of LMS’s is like taking Spanish 4 without having a basic working understanding about the Spanish language.
  • Most LMS’s are typically not good tools for richer dialogue and debate beyond a basic discussion board.  They don’t allow students to bring/post other information that creates a richer student experience.  We need to integrate better dialogue tools.
  • There are many LMS’s out there – we should consider building a modular, interoperable, adaptable solutions so we can pick the right tool for the course.
  • We could consider universal design for learning.
  • Universal design could be a starting point, but teaching is contextual and requires adaptation on a daily basis. Online teaching requires a different set of tools/adaptations/logic.
  • We will need to address structural issues (beyond the budget model) to incentivize online teaching and build in flexibility.
  • We have so many funding models on campus for courses that it is confusing to students.
  • Certain colleges/departments have put disincentives in place for creating/taking online courses.  Some archaic policies exist that place restrictions on how many online courses will count towards a degree.  The mode of delivery is irrelevant – courses should be the same quality and rigor regardless of whether it is online or in-person.
  • Students need support to navigate the online modality (time management, self-regulation, etc.).
  • We need to get broader input from students beyond UGS – graduate teacher programs would be another source of student input.
  • Online should be an enhancement to rather than a replacement for the typical college experience.
  • As a public institution, we can serve students and communities no matter their circumstances.  We are not serving as many parts of the community as we could be.  Technology can help us do that.  We can serve Colorado as well as other states that are unable to serve their communities.