OLC and WCET Ask: “What Keeps You Up at Night?” – Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series on a partnership between the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and WCET (the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) to obtain feedback from some of our members. Part 1 focused on the outcome of that general question at two sessions last fall. Part 2 is the results of a more targeted discussion at a recent OLC Innovate session. The participants were small groups who attended our conferences. Now we would like to open the conversation and hear from you.


Continuing the Conversation at OLC Innovate

Kathleen Ives (CEO of OLC), Karen Pedersen (Chief Knowledge Officer at OLC),OLC logo and Russ Poulin (Director, Policy and Analysis at WCET) reviewed the results of your input as outlined in the Part 1 blog post. At OLC Innovate 2017 in New Orleans, we conducted a follow-up session. BOLC logoased on results from the two Fall conferences, this time we focused strictly on issues surrounding accessibility. It was one area for which there was great concern expressed and for which our organizations could collaborate to better serve our members…and students.

To glean insights from the group assembled at Innovate, we asked “as a leader navigating accessibility issues on your campus, what is the one issue/challenge that keeps you up at night”?  The insights were encapsulated into three primary trends focusing on students, faculty, and systems.

  • Student Focus:Young women with computer
    • Students want more media – things read to them and more students have different needs (e.g., returning veterans).
    • Accessibility is also a moving target – “if you meet one student with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you have only met one”.
    • A focus on building courses and/or changing existing content with accessibility in mind can help all students.
  • Faculty Perspectives:
    • We need faculty change agents or “champions” – work to change culture.
    • Faculty sometimes aren’t sure about the research behind solutions – they need training.
    • Is there an impact on innovation? – Some faculty are afraid to innovate and/or use new teaching strategies or technology because of accessibility concerns.
  • System Insights:
    • We need an expert to help navigate – “I don’t understand the rules and need to know more about what is required or what is enough.”
    • Often accessibility offices are over-taxed.
    • Administratively the institution needs to understand the consequences – but find solutions in collaboration with faculty.

We then did a deeper dive and asked “What resources do you rely on today and what resources would you like to have for tomorrow?”  Excerpts from attendees on this two-part question included:

  • What resources do we rely on today?
    • Lean heavily on W3C Accessibility
    • Consulting companies that do accessibility compliance reviews.
    • Rely on accessibility offices (however, they may not have the awareness of online) who often interface with legal staff.
    • Faculty taking the lead.
    • Voluntary Product Accessibility Template (VPAT).
  • What resources would you like to have for tomorrow?
    • Rules “cheat sheet” in simple, easy-to-understand language.
    • Decision making flow chart.
    • Simple check for a common standard or minimum viability for accessibility – “you might lose some degree of granularity, but it might help with 80%”.
    • Repository for knowledge and resource sharing – every institution is reinventing the wheel.
    • Content repository of already compliant resources.

More Feedback Wanted. What’s Next?

We greatly appreciate the input from those attending the OLC Innovate session. It was a small group and we would like to expand the conversation.
we want to hear from youDo these accessibility topics resonate with you? Please add comments with insights or perspectives you would like to share.

We are in talks now about next steps. We are thinking about better methods to track the “what keeps me up at night” question in the future. We are also talking about shared resources focusing on accessibility issues.

 

Kathleen Ives
OLC Chief Executive Officer and
Executive Director

Karen Pedersen
OLC Chief Knowledge Officer

Russ Poulin
WCET Director of Policy and Analysis


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OLC and WCET Ask: “What Keeps You Up at Night?” – Part 1

This is the first in a two-part series resulting from a partnership between the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) and WCET (the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies). These posts provide you timely insights from your peers and seek to obtain your feedback. Through a series of conference presentations, we literally asked, “What Keeps You Up at Night?”

This post focuses on the responses to that question collected from small groups of attendees at two sessions in fall 2016. Part 2 will share the results of a more targeted discussion with a small group of attendees at an OLC Innovate 2017 session.

  Enjoy the read!


Kathleen Ives (CEO of OLC), Karen Pedersen (Chief Knowledge Officer at OLC), OLC logoand Russ Poulin (Director, Policy and Analysis at WCET) wondered about ways in which our organizations could collaborate. We wanted to hear from you. Get your ideas.

To learn about the issues you face in your everyday work, we literally asked “What’s keeping you up at night?” At the fall 2016 convenings of OLC Accelerate and the OLC logoWCET Annual Meeting, we used a modified form of “brain writing” to gather ideas from attendees to two questions.

We understand that this is sample only of those attending the sessions. It is not meant to be representative of the entire OLC and WCET memberships. Even so, we found it useful to obtain feedback from attendees in a very engaging format. Below is a summary of some of the top responses from those sessions.

Question 1:  As a leader navigating the online/digital higher education space, what is the one topic that keeps you up at night?

  • Compliance. Does institutional leadership understand the compliance issues with federal and state regulations. Do they understand the associated risks? Is the entire campus leadership and faculty on board?
  • Accessibility. Are we able to meet the needs of the students requiring accessibility assistance? Are we meeting the regulatory requirements? Tired man holding a pillow next to a clockWhat are those requirements? Can we work collectively to exert pressure on publishers, hardware, and software providers to do a better job?
  • Growth and Sustainability. Will our enrollments continue to grow? Can we keep up with growth? How can we financially and structurally sustain the growth? What if we’re in an institution where overall enrollment is decreasing?
  • Faculty Buy-in. How do we get faculty to participate and give the time necessary for quality courses? How can we better work with faculty? How can we help faculty before the institutions decides it is better to move forward without those who participate?
  • Working Collaboratively across the Campus. How do we get buy-in from the leadership? How do we get collaboration between academic and support units to provide necessary student support? How do we increase the flow of communication across campus units?
  • Faculty Development. What faculty development makes a difference in student learning? How can we keep up with changing technologies and methods?
  • Ability to Innovate and Evolve Quickly. How can we best manage change? How do we keep up with technological evolutions and revolutions? How do perform change management, including the interpersonal aspects of change? How do we respond to the “too many options” problem?

word cloudWCET respondents mentioned compliance and accessibility issues more often than their OLC counterparts. OLC respondents tended to gravitate towards faculty development and buy-in issues.

Other interesting responses that did not receive as many mentions include:

  • Improving student outcomes,
  • Obtaining administrative buy-in,
  • Curtailing academic cheating and dishonesty,
  • Addressing the “regular and substantive” interaction expectations,
  • Paying attention to the student experience,
  • Maintaining quality courses, and
  • Assuring privacy and data security.

A note about the responses: Participants could have written anything they wished in response to the question. We tried not to lead them in any direction. The classifications below are our own, but it was clear that there were seven topics that outpace all the others. We would like you to review these topics and let us know if they resonate with you.

Question 2:  In 2025, what will keep you or your successor up at night?

We picked 2025, as it is in the future, but not the horribly distant future. It’s only a little over 6.5 years, 401 weeks, and 2,806 days away from the publication of this post. Looking back 6.5 years, we had not yet enjoyed the “Year of the MOOC” and Southern New Hampshire University enrolled fewer than 20,000 students. Things can change. Here’s what conference participants predicted for 2025:

  • The Future of Higher Ed. What does the future of higher education look like? What will “doing it right” entail? What will be the impact of the alternatives to higher education, including new providers? This topic was mentioned more often by WCET than OLC respondents. Some good quotes:
    • “What is the point/role of college? If you want to learn something, go online.”
    • “Will we be competing with non-academic providers, like Amazon?
    • “Do we even need higher education or can people download “knowledge” directly to their brain?”
  • Student Success. Do we need to redefine what a well-educated student looks like? What competencies will be relevant in 5 years? How do we educate people for jobs and a world that does not currently exist?
  • Technology. How will technology evolve? What will be needed to maintain the technologies? How will we manage innovations, especially if they are increasingly outsourced? How to keep up with technology innovations.
  • Funding Models. Given the pressures on higher education funding sources, especially in the public sector, how will higher education be funded? What new funding models are needed?
  • Scalability. Will online and digital learning continue to grow? How do we scaling faculty and support systems to handle the increased demand and changes that future innovations will bring?
  • New Curricular Models. What will be the impact of new credentials, shorter times to credit, shorter times to degree, ignoring the agrarian-based academic calendar, blended learning, and innovations we don’t even know about yet?

OLC participants and their WCET counterparts seemed to agree on many of these items except for “new curricular models.” That topic arose only in the WCET discussion.

Other interesting responses that did not receive as many mentions include:

  • Determining the skills necessary for faculty development,
  • Addressing social changes in an increasing online and disconnected student population,
  • Adopting a “customer service” attitude,
  • Sharing programs and resources across institutions,
  • And these three insightful observations on what will keep them up:
    • The Unknown.
    • The Parking.
    • How to get me to retire!

Now It’s Your Turn. What Keeps YOU up at Night?

We greatly appreciate and value the perspectives our conference attendees provided during these sessions. We understand that these were small groups, so we wish to expand the conversation. While OLC and WCET serve slightly different audiences, there is much overlap. Our goal with the sessions was to understand how our two organizations could bring our collective resources to the table to support institutions and address issues YOU are facing on your campus today.

Do these topics resonate with you? Please provide your comments via this form with insights or perspectives you would like to share.

We would love to hear your answer to the question: “What keeps you up at night?”


Kathleen Ives                                  
OLC Chief Executive Officer and
Executive Director

Karen Pedersen
OLC Chief Knowledge Officer

Russ Poulin
WCET Director of Policy and Analysis


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The Federal State Authorization for Distance Education Regulation Still Stands

The federal state authorization for distance education regulation released in December 2016 will likely survive a little longer. Late last year, we reported that this federal regulation would likely be a victim of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). That rarely-used Act allows Congress to remove recently released regulations simply by passing a bill through both houses by a simple majority and having it signed by the President.

Vince Sampson, attorney with Cooley, LLP, informed us last week that: “It appears that Congress may have exhausted the number of CRA bills they can (or wish to) pass. The politics of CRA legislation are complicated, particularly with the Senate, and it appears that they are moving on to other battles.”

This leaves us with a new refrain: “The regulation is the regulation until it is not the regulation.”

The Fate of a Trio of Regulations Hated by the Deregulators

On January 30 2017, a notice in the Federal Register announced a delay in the effective date of some other regulations so that thePile of papers Department of Education could “review” them. In that notice, there was a paragraph stating that further actions would be forthcoming on three different regulations:

  • Teacher Prep – The expanded requirements for states to review programs that prepare K-12 teachers have now been completely removed via the Congressional Review Act and the President signed the resolution on March 27, 2017.
  • Borrower Defense – This complex set of regulations defines “acts or omissions of an institution of higher education a borrower may assert as a defense to repayment of a” federal student loan. I’ve heard that this regulation will be subject to additional future rulemaking or actions to align it with the priorities of the current Administration.
  • State Authorization – Neither the Department nor Congress have released details on the fate of this regulation.

The Dilemma Facing Colleges

The enforcement date for the state authorization regulations is July 1, 2018. By that date, each institution must be able to demonstrate that it is authorized in any state in which it enrolls student to whom it disburses federal financial aid. Clock faceMore problematic is a set of notification requirements for institutions that enroll students in programs that lead to professional licensure or certification in other states. Institutions need to be able to notify students if their distance program meets the academic requirements of the professional oversight boards in those states.

Getting that information can be challenging. The Department of Education massively underestimated the time it takes to determine these requirements and, if needed, to navigate the approval process in each state. Some institutions have waited to move forward on this work, hoping the regulation would go away. Should they proceed or wait?

Our Advice to You

Don’t wait.

Four reasons why follow:

  1. First, if you are a SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) institution, a similar notification is already required (SARA Manual, p. 27) of SARA member institutions. The notification must be done in one of two ways:
    “a. The institution may determine whether the course or program meets the requirements for professional licensure in the state where the applicant or student resides and provide that information in writing to the student, or”
    “b. The institution may notify the applicant or student in writing that the institution cannot confirm whether the course or program meets requirements for professional licensure in the student’s state, provide the student with current contact information for any applicable licensing boards, and advise the student to determine whether the program meets requirements for licensure in the state where the student lives.”
    Some have interpreted the second bullet to mean that you can just not have done the work and you can say you “don’t know.” That is not the intent. In conversations with Marshall Hill, Executive Director of NC-SARA, that option is intended to cover only those cases where the institution has made every reasonable effort to determine whether its programs meet licensure requirements in the particular state and cannot obtain that confirmation from the relevant licensing board. According to Dr. Hill: “We’ve always regarded this as a ‘last resort’ option, only available after all attempts to determine whether a program meets the state’s requirements have failed. This is important information that states and institutions should be able to provide to students.”
  2. Student Action. Second, you may wish to avoid lawsuits from students and actions by states for misrepresenting your program. Students are rightfully angry to learn they cannot complete their internship or sit for a licensure exam after their institution has collected tens of thousands of dollars from them. Student looking bored.
    One of the new federal regulation’s notification requirements is in regards to a student who decides to enroll in a professional program even after learning that the program DOES NOT meet the licensure prerequisites for his or her state. The institution is expected to obtain a written statement acknowledging that the student understands that the institutions does not have the approval. Some institutional personnel have gone apoplectic over that requirement. I disagree. It is legal protection for the institution. While no protection is perfect, having written documentation that the student was notified and understood that notification is much better than having no evidence in the event of a future lawsuit.
  3. The third reason is that it is the law.
  4. The fourth and final reason is that it is the right thing to do.

Is it easy? No.

Is it the cost of doing business? Yes.

Where Do We Go from Here?

We will continue to keep you informed about any developments.

As for the federal state authorization regulation for distance education, my guess is that it will likely be addressed again as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Some hearings have already been held on reauthorization. I hear that reauthorization will not be a priority for Congress until next year. That’s my guess, as well, but I’ve been pretty bad at guessing lately. There are other options, including a possibility of a delay in enforcing the regulation. The problem is that many of those options would require action by the Department (there are almost no policy staff in place) or by Congress (they are busy with other priorities).

Additionally, we have many questions about how certain provisions of the regulation will be interpreted or enforced and feel that some language is just plain incorrect. We waited on formalizing our observations because it appeared the regulation might be killed. Now that it appears to be surviving the Congressional Review Act ax, watch for more information on our questions and concerns. If you have some you would like us to include, let me know.

Meanwhile, remember that the regulation is the regulation until it is not the regulation. And, even if the federal regulation goes away, the state regulations remain in force.

Many thanks to Cheryl Dowd, Terri Taylor Straut, Marianne Boeke, Greg Ferenbach (Cooley, LLP), and Vince Sampson for their contributions to this post.

Russ

Russ Poulin holding a baseball bat.

Russell Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies
rpoulin@wiche.edu    @russpoulin


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Data Privacy for Institutes of Higher Education (IHE)

Data privacy and protection is becoming an increasingly important topic on a personal and professional level and in all fields -not just higher education. Lately stories about hackers gaining access to important data has filled my news feed. We need to focus on ways to decrease higher education institution’s vulnerabilities and safeguard our information. To that end, this week we welcome Stephen Orr, Adjunct Assistant Professor with the Computer Networks and Security (CMIT) department at the University of Maryland University College. Stephen is here to discuss recent data breaches in higher education and includes some suggested solutions. Thank you Stephen for beginning this important discussion for us and our members!

Enjoy the read,

~Lindsey Downs


Introduction

We recently celebrated the eleventh Data Privacy Day in the United States. According to Wikipedia, the purpose is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices. We are also honoring the first legally binding international treaty dealing with privacy and data protection. This treaty was signed January 28th 1981 at the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data.

Thinking back to January 28, 2017, how did you celebrate? Odds are you didn’t. In fact, you probably have never heard about Data Privacy Day. Image of a peice of cakeThe day passed with no party, no thought of data privacy, and sadly, no cake.

While we are a few months removed from January, it is never a bad time to celebrate, and at the very least reflect on what Data Privacy Day means for institutes of higher education (IHE).

The Challenge

In 2016 there was a 40% increase in data breaches from the previous year. Perhaps one of the most infamous examples was the OPM data breach, where personally-identifiable information – such as names, dates and place of birth, addresses, medical history, even Social Security numbers and fingerprints – of more than 20 million US citizens was stolen. The cybersecurity threats faced by institutes of higher education (IHE) are no different than the threats faced by any other industry. In fact, it is well documented that attackers specifically target IHE for exploitation. A targeted exploit can be through the use of a phishing email whereby the user is tricked into clicking on a malicious link, which in turn exploits and provides the attacker access to the computer. After exploitation, the attackers can find the data of interest, and steal it. Per the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, IHE are subject to exploitation for two reasons: (1) they possess vast amounts of computing power; and (2) they allow relatively open access to those resources. Although IHE have traditionally been considered more academically open‘ by nature, there needs to be a balance with cybersecurity.

In July of 2013 it was reported that 72,000 student’s identities were stolen from the University of Delaware. This was estimated to cost about $19 million. In 2014, it was reported that 300,000 records at the University of Maryland College Park were copied. The information taken included names, social security numbers, dates of birth, and university identification numbers. Also in 2014, North Dakota University system reportedly had their computer systems exploited, providing access to 290,000 past and present student records.2

There are many other IHE breaches that could be listed, but you get the point. Between 2005 and 2014 there were 727 reported IHE breaches with 27,509 being the average number of records exposed. If interested, you can visually interact with the biggest IHE data breaches from 2005 to 2014 by visiting the following webpage.

So what happens after these breaches? Usually a public apology followed by a promise to focus on the organization’s cybersecurity posture, and the promise of credit monitoring for all of those affected. All of which comes at a significant financial and reputational cost.

Perhaps we should be more proactive and not wait for the data breach?

The Solutions

So what is an IHE to do? There are many details that are beyond the scope of a single blog post. That being said, let’s explore what these are at a high level.

First, it is of utmost importance to plan for when, not if. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a Data Breach Response Guide to assist when the worse should occur.

Second, focus on cybersecurity fundamentals. Don’t focus on the Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) or zero-days. Advanced persistent threat attacks can be traced as far back at the 1980s, with notable examples including The Cuckoo’s Egg, which documents the discovery and hunt for a hacker who had broken into Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. It’s hard, if not impossible to stop a well resourced APT with a zero day. According to Gartner’s Top Security Predictions, 99% percent of vulnerabilities exploited will continue to be ones known by security and IT professionals for at least one year. It stands to reason that focusing on the 99% (fundamentals) should be the focus.

The fundamentals include a comprehensive cybersecurity system, which must have locks (perimeter defenses), waiting rooms (for behavioral analysis), ears (for listening for abnormalities in huge streams of data from many sources), eyes (for scanning for abnormalities), a brain to make sense of all of this information, and arms and hands to take action to remediate the threats. There are many public and private organizations that offer advice on how to accomplish this goal. For example, NIST and the NSA Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) offer freely available resources for any organization to use.

Third, protect the data stored at rest and in transit across the ‘secure systems’. Image of a padlock on a stickynoteStrategy (how), policies (course of action), technical solutions (encryption, hashing, salting), and skilled human capital (implementation) are all needed to be successful. To be clear, this is not a one and done proposition. Data privacy requires vigilance and constant monitoring. It may even be prudent to establish a Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) to centralize and streamline the privacy and protection of the IHE data.

In summary, know what data you have, know where it is, know who is in control of it, know the policies and procedures the dictate how and by whom it can be used, know the technical safeguards, and know what the plan is when all of the best attempts to protect the data fails.

Stephen Orr Headshot

 

Stephen R. Orr IV, Ph.D.
Adjunct Assistant Professor
Computer Networks and Security (CMIT)
University of Maryland University College

 

 


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How Open Educational Resources Give Faculty and Students What They Want

Undergraduate costs are on the rise and student loan debt is a huge issue impacting today’s society. How can we, as higher education professionals, help limit the costs for students while also ensuring and promoting their success? This week we welcome Sandy King, Professor of Communications with the Anne Arundel Community College to discuss her suggested solution: Open Educational Resources (OERs). Sandy gives us some background information on OERs and also explains her personal experiences with incorporating OER into her teaching. The resources she provides on OER are outstanding, and I was so excited to hear about the gaming elements she had included in her course!

Thank you Sandy for this educational and inspirational post!

~Lindsey


In June of 2014, I attended Maryland OER (Open Educational Resources) Day, and I heard some statistics that has changed the way I teach. In their presentation, Una Daley and James Glapa-Grossklag shared the following:

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, undergraduate costs rose 42% at public institutions between 2001 and 2011.
  • In 2013, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, in Forbes, federal student loan debt was $1 trillion, with the average student loan upon graduation $25,000.
  • College textbook prices have risen 812% since 1978, and according to the Center of the Public Interest Research, 65% of students have sometimes chosen not to buy the textbook, even though 94% of students believe it will affect their grade.

Lowering Student Costs Through OERs

Although these statistics are sobering, there is a solution: OERs.

The U.S Department of Education defines OERs as:

“teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or repurposing by others.”  

OERs include full textbooks, course materials, modules/lessons, videos, images, animations, teaching objects, tests, software, and other ancillaries used for instruction. OERs are digital, which makes them easy to use in eLearning courses. They are available to redistribute and reuse, and most often, can be revised or remixed. A key appeal of OERs is they are usually free or available at very low cost.

For further research, please visit the following:

The Community College Consortium for Open Resources: http://oerconsortium.org/ 

The Community College Consortium for Open Resources Finding Resources Page: http://oerconsortium.org/find-oer/ 

The Open Education Consortium: http://www.oeconsortium.org/ 

MIT Open CourseWare:  https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/

Tufts Open CourseWare: http://ocw.tufts.edu/

Saylor Academy: http://www.saylor.org/ 

Open Stax: https://openstax.org/

My Personal OER Journey

While some faculty simply switch from a publisher textbook to an open text, I chose to build my intercultural communication from scratch using OERs, so that all the material for the course was found in the LMS, Canvas. This gave us some powerful advantages:

  • The cost of the text went from $160 to 0.
  • Available Sooner. Moreover, all of the students have the course materials from the first day. No one is waiting to purchase the text, waiting for a text purchased online to arrive, using the wrong edition of the text, or has misplaced or lost the text.
  • It enabled me to present the content in a more engaging way as well, which was helpful to both the native speakers in the course and students in the course for whom English may be the second, third, or even fourth language. Instead of over 400 pages of text, I was able to present the same concepts with much less text by using video, charts, interactive elements, animations, and links to engaging content presented on websites by authoritative sources, such as the Hofstede Center and the University of Pittsburgh website on Folklore and Mythology. Through video, my intercultural students can visit other cultures and meet their people, such as the following on stereotypes of African men: https://www.facebook.com/filmsforaction/videos/10153063886365983/
  • Creating the course this way also permitted me to make all of the content housed in Canvas accessible. The hard copy of the text I was using was inaccessible to students with vision impairments, and the electronic copy of the text wasn’t formatted for a screenreader, giving students who might need this accommodation no clear option.

And I Added Gaming and Badging

It also gave me the opportunity to theme each module so that I could incorporate some gaming elements, such as badges, to my course. Three of the badges – the Cultural Iceberg, the Dia de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” Project, and Nonverbal Communication – are shown below.

badge showing an iceberg with the words "visable culture" at the top of the iceberg, "unseen culture" under water, with a larger portion of the iceberg, and "deep culture" far under water.A badge showing an individual wearing traditional day of the dead garb such as flowers and the sugar skull maskbadge showing a women wearing a headscarf or hijab and a bindi with her palms together, smiling toward camera.

Students earn a badge by receiving a 90% score or higher on an assignment, and a badge is available in every module of the course, so there are many opportunities for success. Badges are psychic or intrinsic rewards, which rely on the pure joy and satisfaction of achieving a goal, rather than basing motivation solely on the extrinsic reward, achievement for a grade.

With a Storyline

Additionally, using OERs allowed me to add a storyline to the course.  In each module, students assist Francisco, a recent immigrant to the U.S., to acclimate to a new culture. The students provide Francisco with advice and help as he makes his intercultural journey. By helping Francisco gain the knowledge and skills to be interculturally competent, students demonstrate that they, too, have learned the required knowledge and skills.

OER is Liberating

Incorporating OERs has been liberating for me. Now that I’m no longer dependent on publisher content, I can keep the course up-to-date and easily make revisions as needed.  As more open resources become available, my intercultural course will continue to improve.

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Sandy King
Professor of Communications
Anne Arundel Community College

 

 

 


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Submit a Proposal for WCET’s New-Look, Experienced-Focused Annual Meeting

The 28th WCET Annual Meeting was my first WCET Annual Meeting. Actually, since I had only started my new position with WCET a few, tender weeks prior to heading Minneapolis, it was one of my first WCET experiences! And, it was a wonderful one. The WCET Annual Meeting was filled with outstanding networking and learning opportunities, and I received the greatest welcome to my new role that a girl could possibly ask for. I was sad when the event ended. But today, I’m excited to welcome Megan Raymond, WCET’s Assistant Director, Programs and Sponsorship, to get us pumped for the 29th meeting of WCET! The Call for Proposals is out, and the meeting has a whole new look and focus. I hope you will submit to present at this year’s meeting and I’m excited to see you all there!

Take it away Megan!

Enjoy the read,

~Lindsey Downs


Technology-enhanced learning is integral to education whether the course is online, hybrid, or face-to-face. The tools students are accustomed to using, whether they are traditional or adult learners, can support and increase learning and comprehension. Gone are the days of technology being used to deliver correspondence courses. Higher education institutions have embraced to varying degrees, technology in support of delivery, retention, completion, and overall access and success.2015-Tagline-Graphic-v2

WCET, the leaders in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning, brings together innovative higher education and technology leaders who are improving the quality and access to postsecondary education during the fall Annual Meeting.

The Annual Meeting is Evolving with Several New Ways to Interact and Learn

This year, WCET’s 29th annual event in Denver, October 25-27, has evolved much in the way education has. The program will include some sage on the stage presentations showcasing proven practices and lessons learned. Many of the sessions will be more experienced-based where attendees will collaborate on solutions, discuss challenges, and demo emerging technologies. Additionally, many concurrent sessions will be “no PowerPoint Zones” where visuals are encouraged but participants can avoid bulleted list Circle with a line through it reading and charts displayed on a screen.

Higher education is filled with experts entrenched in best practices who are eager to share their scalable solutions. But often there are stories of the best laid plans for new initiatives that held so much promise but failed. WCET plans to share these stories from the brave souls willing to discuss the lessons they learned during a failed attempt spotlight. Much can be discovered from the bruises and scars from those that have tried, failed, learned, and moved on to the next initiative.

The program will also include several loosely organized ‘unconference’ topics. Unconference topics are attendee driven discussions facilitated by a leader. Often some of the most meaningful conversations that take place during a conference are in the hallways or over lunch. The unconference sessions build on these organic conversations and help expand participant’s networks and knowledge.

Come Join Us, Submit a Proposal

WCET is excited about these new program elements and hope the community is inspired to help build an engaging, high-quality, and unique program. Share your ideas for using technology to advance effective learning by submitting a proposal for the WCET Annual Meeting. WCET members and non-members are encouraged to submit.

29th Annual Meeting banner with dates and location
Some topics of interest for 2017:

  • Emerging technologies: Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, simulations, Open Educational Resources, etc.
  • Institutional success: scalable models, innovative collaborations, managing compliance, student authentication and proctoring, vendor partnerships, supporting faculty for 21st century teaching, next generation analytics decision-making.
  • New models: including CBE, personalized learning, learning design, adaptive learning, alternative credentials, pilots, lessons learned, good practices, etc.
  • Student perspectives: sessions which include student perspectives are highly encouraged whether in person or virtual.
  • Student success: how edtech can enhance access, inclusion, retention, and completion. Creative institution/workforce partnerships, real-world learning outside the classroom.
  • Policies and regulations impacting students learning with technology: accreditation, financial aid, student identity verification, military students, state authorization.
  • Failed attempt spotlight: Attendees learn as much, if not more, from failed attempts.  Share your experiences and lessons learned. We tried it, we failed, and here is what we learned.

View the call for proposal site for full details. Submit by May 4th.

Photo of a group of people meeting in a conference room from last year's annual meeting

WCET Annual Meeting 2016


Megan Raymond headshot

 

 

Megan Raymond
Assistant Director, Programs and Sponsorship
WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET)

 

 

 

 

 


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Sixty Years of Cooperation: Sharing Nursing Enrollments

Happy 60th Anniversary to the Western Institute of Nursing (WIN)! WIN is the western regional nursing organization that succeeded the Western Council on Higher Education for Nursing (WCHEN). Today we welcome Paula McNeil and Anna Galas from NEXus to discuss the history of WIN and the changes the organization has gone through since the separation of WCHEN and WICHE. We are also excited to hear about the NEXus, a program created by WIN and WICHE. The nursing exchange program is an exciting opportunity to reduce costs of online course creation, increase choice of courses for nursing students, and allow for shared courses (which may help reduce administrative costs and barriers).

Read on to learn more about this great program! Thanks to Paula and Anna for your post this week!

-Lindsey Downs

The Western Institute of Nursing (WIN) will celebrate its 60th Anniversary and will present the 50th Annual Communicating Nursing Research conference on April 19-22, 2017 in Denver, C0. We’re “coming home” for this conference. WIN was created as a program of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) in 1957. The Western Council on Higher Education for Nursing (WCHEN) was housed with WICHE in Boulder, CO with Jo Eleanor Elliott as the program director. WCHEN was founded on the core value of the interrelatedness of education, practice, and research, and this value sustains the organization and its programs today.

A planned separation between WCHEN and WICHE began in the mid-1980s, the name was changed to the Western Institute of Nursing (WIN) and by 1995, was sufficiently self-supporting to leave WICHE. The moved to the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) School of Nursing was completed in 1996.

WCHEN’s Communicating Nursing Research Conferences was the first of its kind in the United States (US), and a testament to the courage, vision, and determination of nursing leaders in WIN. At the time of the first conference in 1986, there were only about six nursing programs in the West preparing nurses for leadership positions in nursing education, essentially no body of nursing research, and only about 10 nurses in our region held doctoral degrees, mostly in other disciplines.

The first agenda for WCHEN was to communicate nursing research to help grow the body of nursing knowledge. The first conference presented five research reports with critiques with 44 people in attendance. Steady growth in nursing research and knowledge has continued over the past 50 years. In 2016, there were a total of 194 papers and 465 posters presented to an audience of 926. WIN’s commitment to nursing research, education and practice is reflected in the “NEXus: The Nursing Education Xchange” consortium.

Partnering to Create NEXus – The Nursing Education eXchange

Nexus logo 100.83.40.35.epsAlthough a formal relationship no longer exists, WIN and WICHE have remained amicable partners on a variety of projects, of which NEXus is a highly successful example. As an outgrowth of WICHE’s NEON grant, WIN and WCET joined forces to submit a successful grant to the Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education, US Department of Education1. The aim of the project was to address the looming nursing shortage and facilitate doctoral students in completing their programs of study by making accessible the distance education courses from among consortium members.

The project had three main goals:

  • through sharing, reduce the costs of creating online courses;
  • increase the choice of courses available to nursing PhD students; and
  • overcome the administrative barriers to students enrolling in shared courses.

Original members that signed the Memorandum of Agreement in 2007 were Oregon Health & Science University, University of Colorado, University of Northern Colorado, and University of Utah. The project was assisted by consultations from the Great Plains IDEA Project. NEXus differs from Great Plains IDEA in that each member of NEXus offered its own degrees.

Sharing Enrollments in Distance Education Classes

Through NEXus, member institutions offer about 250 courses/academic year (AY) taught through distance modalities. NEXus rents the WICHE ICE database system and makes the nursing courses available through the NEXus Course Catalog. Each institution identifies the courses and seats available, often filling empty seats. Courses are clustered by interest and topic area to assist students and their advisors in selecting the best courses as an elective(s) in the students’ degree programs or possibly substituting for a required course for an off-time student.

The first courses were offered in AY 2006-2007 and started with PhD nursing students. A pilot project to add Doctor of Nursing Practice students to the consortium began in Fall 2009. Many courses are now open to both PhD and DNP students, further enriching the doctoral education experience.

As seen in Table 1, enrollments began slowly in AY 2006-2007 but more than tripled in the 2010 – 2013 academic years. Course enrollments exceeded 100 beginning in AY 2014-2015, and reached 131 in AY 2015-2016. Total enrollments thus far in the project are 752.

Chart with course enrollments

Table 1: Enrollments from 2006 – 2017

Student Feedback: Expand Access to Courses, But There Is a Cost

A total of 138 individuals who have taken NEXus courses have graduated through 2015.

Surveys of students taking a NEXus course are completed at the end of each term. Responses from students are consistent. NEXus students are able to take courses that are not offered on their own campuses, and the consequences of not having an available NEXus course would delay graduations. The most frequently mentioned concern about NEXus courses is the cost.

NEXus courses are offered at a set tuition rate.  The rationale for a set tuition rate is that the tuition among consortium members ranges between $567 and $1,952 per semester hour. The NEXus Common Price has remained steady at $775/semester hour, but will increase to $825 in AY 2017-2018. Consortium members determined that a common price would not disadvantage the programs that have higher tuition. Some institutions with lower tuition have developed ways to compensate for the higher NEXus cost to their students, such as offering scholarships. Revenue from the common price is split between the teaching institution, the home institution and NEXus.

NEXus Partnership Has Grown

NEXus was funded in 2008 through a second grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), US DHHS written by WIN and WCET. The intent of the second grant was to extend the project out of the Western Region. By that time, Arizona State University, University of New Mexico, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Loma Linda University and Washington State University had joined the consortium. The first consortium members outside the region were the University of Kansas and the University of Tyler Texas. The following schools joined from 2012 – 2014: The University at Buffalo, The University of Oklahoma, Idaho State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Hawaii, Case Western Reserve University, The Ohio State University, and the University of Iowa.

The NEXus project is fully sustainable following support from the two federal grants2. A decision by the HRSA Division of Nursing to change its grant focus resulted in a lack of fit with NEXus, and the project was unable to apply for an extension grant. The consortium members responded quickly with the establishment of membership dues. The annual dues and the tuition split based on growth of members has resulted in full sustainability of the project.

Collaborating to Help Students is the Western Way

Students who have taken NEXus courses present their research and DNP projects at the WIN Conference (and other regional conferences), resulting in further growth of nursing research and the body of nursing knowledge. NEXus brings together nursing education, practice and research. It remains an exciting and productive project, the result of cooperation between WIN and WCET/WICHE. It is, after all, the Western Way.

 

Paula McNeil 2013

 

Paula A. McNeil, RN, MS
Executive Director
Western Institute of Nursing; Project Director, NEXus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galas Headshot

 

Anna Galas, MS
Program Manager
NEXus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, US Department of Education (FIPSE #P116B040822)

2US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (D09HP09070)


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A Digital Accessibility Agenda for Education

Accessibility is a hot topic in and outside of education. In fact, this month, WCET joined the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD)Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) and the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) for Developmental Disabilities awareness month. In honor of that important topic, today, we welcome Rob Abel, Chief Executive Officer with IMS Global Learning Consortium to discuss the importance of accessibility in digital learning. This topic is important not just for students with disabilities but for all students, faculty, staff, and community members that may associate with our institutions.

I hope you will join us for our WCET Webcast this week to continue this conversation! Register now for Enabling Accessibility in Learning Technology Thursday, March 16, from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET.

Enjoy this wonderful post, and, thank you Rob for the information and support of accessibility in education!

~Lindsey Downs


Learning is the frontier that defines all other frontiers. Yet, our understanding of the science of learning is very young. How is the explosion of digital devices impacting learning? The answer is “we just don’t know.”

However, we do know that learning is an adaptive process in the brain in which white matter connections among grey matter functional regions are strengthened through interactions with the world. Each human brain contains some 100,000 miles of blood vessels. How they are organized makes us who we are—and there is no one else like you.

What is in your brain has a lot to do with the type of digital experiences you prefer. And, the types of digital experiences you have also impact what is in your brain, bringing to mind Marshall McLuhan’s famous quote, “The medium is the message.”

Student Success and Digital Accessibility

The success of every student, not just those with “disabilities,” is dependent on the impedance match between the medium and their brain. For instance, Jack has a specific preference for large type when reading on his cell phone. Jill prefers audio to reading. Jason has been diagnosed with dyslexia and prefers learning with the help of assistive technology. These situations illustrate just a few examples on the boundaries of the frontier of technology’s impact on learning. All of these scenarios require digital accessibility: easy to find, easy to use, and importantly, meeting the needs of the user and the situation at hand.

A model showing Content Creation Descriptions, including legal requirements and standards, assistive technology settings, platforms and software, personal needs and preference, inclusive design, content creationAccessibility involves a range of products that “come together” during technology-enhanced learning. There is the instructional material itself—the digital textbook, web page or app. This material is delivered via a digital platform—an ebook reader, an LMS, a web browser—sometimes all of them at once. Then, there is the actual computing hardware and operating system that the platform software and instructional material are rendered on. The material may also be available via a range of assistive technologies—magnifier, screen reader, braille embosser, other specialized software or hardware. Importantly, assistive technologies also enable user input.

Accessibility in Higher Education

Every educational institution, regardless of how large, is grappling with the accessibility issues that can “get them in trouble.” Everyone wants to do the right thing for every student. And, while there has been some steady progress on many fronts, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and Universal Design for Learning,  accessibility is clearly a need that is under-resourced in terms of both institutional support and supplier investment.

The IMS Global Learning Consortium (IMS Global) has been on the leading edge of developing open standards that can enable better accessibility for those with “special needs” but also for all users for more than 15 years. A small but dedicated set of organizations, including IBM, The Open University and WGBH led the development of IMS Global Access for All (AfA), a standard that enables matching of any learner’s needs with digital resources that meet those needs under a variety of usage scenarios, including mobile devices. AfA is now an international standard published by ISO/IEC. IMS Global has also revolutionized digital accessibility in delivery of educational assessment via the Accessible Portable Item Protocol® (APIP®) that was led by ACT, ETS, Measured Progress, Pacific Metrics and Pearson. APIP provides assessment programs and question item developers with a data model for standardizing the interchange file format for digital test items so delivery can be optimized for a variety of special needs. The IMS Global Personal Needs and Preferences (PNP) standard enables the user preferences for both AfA and APIP.

At IMS Global we believe that a high degree of cooperation among the education industry, publishing industry and accessibility associations is required to move the needle on accessibility in education to where it needs to be. Over the last several years IMS Global has collaborated closely with publishing industry associations to leverage a mix of IMS Global standards and the most recent version of ePub, that has been named Edupub. Edupub promises to provide accessibility advances compared to existing digital book formats.

The Future of Accessibility in Education

For those of us in the education sector, institutions, suppliers, and associations, we need to work together to create the future of accessibility in education. However, the ecosystem is complex. IMS Global has an established Institutional Leadership Network focused on accessibility, led by Penn State, Tennessee Board of Regents, University of Michigan and Unizin. IMS Global is also participating on the advisory Board of the Center for Accessible Materials Innovation (CAMI), a first in the world grant program.

The agenda is as simple and complex as building an effective collaboration among the key ecosystem participants. The challenge is in the term “effective.”Chart about education sector collaboration, digital content, publication proviers, personal needs, tools and computing platforms. These different options are all connected.

It is very clear that institutions today are required to replicate similar services. Thus, “effective” requires new collaborations among institutions to find, vet and recommend the right solution to each challenge.

It is also very clear that even though institutions may view suppliers (learning platforms, education publishers, assistive technology providers) as “large” or “well-resourced,” they are not. Education suppliers do not have the same enormous budgets and profits as commercial Internet or computer companies. Not even close. Thus, “effective” requires new collaborations among education sector suppliers.

Join Us!

IMS Global invites all potential collaborators to join in to our efforts to enable accessibility for all. Please contact us to learn more and join in!

For a deeper dive on the information summarized above, please see the App Note: Enhancing Accessibility through IMS Global Standards. Or, join us at the Learning Impact Leadership Institute, Denver, May 16-19, 2017, for the Enhancing Accessibility for All track sessions as well as a full day focused on Assistive Technology.

WCET and the IMS Global Accessibility Institutional Leadership Network invite you to the Enabling Accessibility in Learning Technology webinar on Thursday, March 16, from 1:30-2:30 p.m. ET to explore the challenges and opportunities for standards-based accessibility work.

Rob Abel headshot
Rob Abel, Ed.D.
Chief Executive Officer
IMS Global Learning Consortium

 

 

 


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The Military Advances on Credentialing and Quality Reviews: Pay Attention

Military personnel and veterans are eager to learn…and most of them do so using educational technologies and distance learning. Given that the United States has been involved in two wars for more than a decade, how do they defend the country and earn a degree in their spare time?

Cheryl Dowd and I attended the recent Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) conference, which attracts those interested in educating active duty military personnel, their families, base/post personnel, and veterans. Those attending represent all branches of the military, higher education institutions, and educational service officers who serve the students on a base or post…or virtually.

Two innovations really caught my eye. One is a massive advance in the complex world of professional credentialing in which active duty personnel can learn about and earn credentials recognized in the civilian world. The other innovation is an interesting experiment in conducting a quality review of institutions serving the military. The review is based on the philosophies of simplicity and transparency.

Credentialing is, Literally, COOL

Kudos to the Army for a re-imagining of how to encourage and enable soldiers to obtain professional credentials. These “credentials” are the industry-relevant in the civilian sector for someone to enter a profession. For some professions, it is a certificate. For others, it is the knowledge and skills to sit for a licensing exam. What they did:

Slide showing sample alignments between military training and civilian credential exam objectives. Shown are three scenarios with perfect alignment, partial alignment, and not closely aligned.

Slide from a presentation on mapping objectives.

  • They identified the knowledge, skills, and training requirements for every position that a soldier could hold. They also identified civilian professional credentials that matched some, most, or all of the Army’s requirements.
  • They mapped the Army requirements to the civilian requirements. They identify any gaps between the Army and civilian requirements.
  • They share this information on an easy-to-use website called COOL for Credentialing Opportunities On-Line.
  • They pay for soldiers to take any assessments required to obtain a credential. They pay for only one attempt and success rates are high.

The employability of veterans has always been an issue. With COOL, soldiers are asked to think about gaining civilian professional credentials early in their military career. Gone are the days when a soldier begins thinking about such credentials in the last few months of his or her enlistment. By gaining the credentials early, the soldier practices the trade and has experience prior to leaving the service. The Army was so successful with this program that all the other services have quickly followed their lead to create similar COOL websites.

Credentialing Observations and Implications for the Rest of Us:

  • Student-Centered. COOL is laser focused on the needs of its audience.
  • This is a fabulous treatment of making a complex credentialing puzzle understandable to the lay person. Should we be replicating this outside of the military application?
  • Not Just Higher Education. The criteria for inclusion of a credential is that it is the one recognized by the industry or profession. It DOES NOT HAVE to be offered by an accredited institution. This is explicit acknowledgement that the world of credentials is morphing before our eyes and is no longer limited to traditional colleges and universities.

An Innovative Swing at the Elusive Quality Review Piñata

More than 2,700 educational providers signed the Department of Defense Memorandum of Understanding that they will follow certain rules and guidelines in serving active duty students receiving “Tuition Assistance” financial aid. Over the last decade, the Department of Defense attempted multiple not-always-so-successful initiatives to assess or audit institutions that signed the agreement.

Iwo Jima statue of marines raising a flag on the top of a mountain.The Department introduced a new review process at the CCME conference. Some interesting hallmarks of this new effort are a) to focus initially on data that is already being reported and b) be very transparent with the formulas used and results obtained.

Each institution will be ranked on the following six risk factors for students using Tuition Assistance (TA) and an overall ranking will be obtained (I apologize if I have some of the metrics incorrectly reported:

  • Rate of Course Completion: ((Total TA enrollments at an institution) – (TA Enrollments not completed or failed)) / (Total TA enrollments at an institution)
  • Sum of Total Complaint Cases. They addressed that their research showed that institutions with larger enrollments did not have significantly more complaints than those with smaller enrollments.
  • Enrollment Changes: Year-to-year change in TA enrollments.
  • Cost to Graduation Ratio: A calculation using graduation rate (presumably TA grad rate, but even that raised a question) and the average cost (do they mean price to the student?) of a course compared to the average cost of a course for all students.
  • Outcome Stability Ratio: The average graduation rate for the institution over a number of years.
  • Transaction Volume: The total number of TA transactions processed by an institution across all services in a given year.

I am not commenting in more depth until I see the full details of each of these calculations and the overall ranking methodology.

This is just the first step, as the top 50 institutions will receive additional questions that promise not to be too intrusive or time-consuming. An additional 200 institutions will be randomly sampled to also receive the questionnaire. Of the sampled institutions, twenty-five institutions will be selected for an in-depth survey process and up to five may undergo on-site visits. Institutions found to be out-of-compliance with the Memorandum of Understanding will be given time to show that they have corrected these discrepancies.

Credentialing Observations and Implications for the Rest of Us:

  • Cost/Price. Given WCET’s recent work on the cost and price of distance education, it is notable that economic considerations have become a factor in this review process. We can probably expect more such analysis in the future outside of the military.
  • I’m not a fan of ranking, but this is an innovative and much more transparent use of them. As with any ranking, will the institutions begin touting their ranking in their marketing materials? Undoubtedly. Is that bad? Not if these “risk factors” work. Will it cause gaming of the numbers? Likely.
  • If this simple-to-understand, transparent model is seen as successful, will accrediting agencies be encouraged to develop similar measures?

Let’s continue to watch these innovations from the military. We can learn from them.

Finally, congratulations to Lane Huber of Bismarck State College, at the close of the conference, he assumed the rank of chair of the CCME Board.

Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat

Ready for baseball and regulatory season.

Russ

Russell Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

rpoulin@wiche.edu    @russpoulin

 

 

 

Photo Credits:
Presentation slide: Russ Poulin
Iwo Jima Flag Raising: https://morguefile.com/search/morguefile/10/soldier/pop

 


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Connecticut’s One-Stop Service Increases Enrollment and Retention

WCET has long been a champion of e-learning consortia, multi-institution efforts to partner to do more together than can be done by an individual campus. Today we feature one of them.

In the past, the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) has reported on its multi-campus e-tutoring program, which has been replicated elsewhere. In 2015 they reported on providing a financial aid call center. Today, we are pleased to have CTDLC return to inform us that they built on their financial aid work to create one-step approach to student services. Thank you for sharing.
  — Russ Poulin, WCET

Our students come to us from an increasingly diverse landscape, learning while in traditional classrooms on campus or, perhaps, while traversing the globe in airplanes. In our work across the WCET community, we assure that the instruction is of the highest caliber we can provide. Much has happened on the student support front as well, but perhaps has lagged in comparison to our academic efforts.

Consider that while we have the ability to complete a home mortgage application fully online in a matter of hours, on most campuses students are left to navigate a complex and challenging cadre of needed steps across Admissions, Advising, Financial Aid, Registrar and Bursar offices. While blended welcome centers have begun to replace traditional campus silos, what of that student who is learning from a distance, or another who is balancing multiple responsibilities and time is of the essence?

Failure to complete all of the steps in these complex processes can leave students stopping out or transferring. Meanwhile, colleges and universities lose valuable student enrollments. In response, the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium has worked with our members to create a Student Engagement Call Center, partnering with experts on campus to engage students and guide them in completing admission and enrollment requirements.

Financial Aid Call Center is a Success

“For me, the most compelling evidence of the success of the CTDLC Call Center is that we no longer have long lines of frustrated students waiting to see someone in the financial aid office, no matter what time of the year.”  

Anna M. Wasescha, Ph.D.
President
Middlesex Community College

In our July 2015 blog post, we shared our experience launching a Financial Aid Call Center. This service has proven successful in freeing up department staff to focus on processing aid and handling complex student issues, with over 90% of the incoming student calls being resolved by our call center staff.  We have also found we can proactively identify high risk students by the nature of the questions they are asking and escalate these to institutional retention specialists for intervention.

Despite these successes, we often find ourselves transferring students and prospects to other departments for help with enrollment-related questions that we don’t have access or training to resolve.   Students and prospects get frustrated when told they need to contact multiple people to complete the process.  In response, we expanded our service set to include Admissions, Advising, Registrar and Bursar, offering students one place to receive help.

One Ring to Rule Them All

With all department phone lines redirected to the CTDLC Call Center, prospects and students now get all their questions answered in just one call. We began by providing full lifecycle support (recruitment to retention) to prospective and enrolled students in the Advanced Manufacturing Program at seven Connecticut community colleges.  In partnership with the CT Department of Labor and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System Office, we provided Live Chat, an online form and a phone line for incoming calls.   Here is the process we put in place:

Students identify their preferred method of contact:

Screen image that says

Once interest in the program is established, the Call Center guides the prospect through all stages of the enrollment process.

When a student inquiry transitions to an enrolled student we continue to be a resource via the webpage knowledgebase, phone line, and Live Chat. Students contact us with process and status questions throughout their time in the program, creating a one-stop support experience regardless of institution.

Finally, throughout the student lifecycle we provide proactive monitoring and outbound communications regarding enrollment, financials, and course persistence concerns.  These calls are targeted to students meeting specific criteria and are designed to prompt/navigate those students to take specific actions. Wherever possible, we guide the student through the outstanding action or task.

This program proved that the majority of prospect and student inquiries were process and status questions which could be addressed by our call center with the remaining 10% requiring subject matter expertise resulting in escalation to a specific department. In 2016, we began to offer full student lifecycle support to individual institutions taking multi-department incoming calls as well as conducting proactive, scheduled outbound calls throughout the year.

Workflow chart. 1st step on Recruitment: initial inquiry-information gathering and program orientation. 2nd step enrollment: admissions process guidelines. 3rd step retention: website knowledgebase plus phone and LiveChat.

Outbound Call Campaign for 12 Community Colleges

As word got out about our success making outbound calls to high risk students, we were asked by our system office to partner with the twelve Connecticut Community Colleges to provide this service to current students at risk of not completing a required step to remain enrolled. This campaign was the first large scale effort like this for the system. We contacted nearly 20,000 students in late July and August and saw over 8,000 of those students became enrolled.

Our support center staff called and guided students to take the required steps to remain actively enrolled at their institution (i.e., missing required documents, enrolled but not paid, awarded not accepted). 80% of the students we spoke with followed through and were retained.

“We found that most students wanted to remain enrolled and often just needed a helping hand or a gentle reminder to get them there.  In this age of text messaging, social media and online shopping we sometimes forget the importance of the human touch. These calls show the students that the college cares about them.”  

Les Cropley
Support Center Manager
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium

We also contacted former students, now considered ‘stop outs’, who left in good standing, but failed to return. 35% of the ‘stop outs’ we spoke with (students in good standing within the last 2 semesters that had failed to return) re-enrolled in the fall semester. The enrollments were impressive but the data we collected were perhaps the most valuable assets of the campaign. The system office received an executive summary along with our recommendations while each college president received a report specific to their institution. The information formed a baseline for future campaigns and is being used to make informed decisions regarding process improvements.

One-Stop Support Model Campus Wide

To support our planning and development efforts, we partnered with a community college that already had a strong culture of student centered support. They saw the correlation between a high-touch support model and increased enrollments and retention. With their departmental phone lines pointing to our Call Center, we are able to provide live support seven days a week and assist with multi-department questions and requests.

“In the face of declining enrollment and diminished resources we decided to partner with the CTDLC to proactively address the challenges before us. This strategic enrollment management approach at HCC yielded enrollment of more than half of students targeted (1,130 students) and prevented 400+ non-payment deletions. In addition, as a result of our partnership with CTDLC we’ve noticed approximately a 50% reduction in incoming call volume to the various departments. This reduced call volume allows our staff to focus more of their time providing optimal service to our students.”

Paul Brodie II, Ph.D.
President
Housatonic Community College

Although the service set is still young, we have seen very encouraging results. We have observed a significant reduction of approximately 50% in incoming calls with the one-stop model. We believe this is indicative of students getting their questions answered in a single call rather than having to work with multiple departments.

Feedback from students has been very positive and institutional staff have reported faster processing times as they are able to focus their attention on high yield activities and solving complex student issues. In our outbound campaigns, we have seen evidence of increased enrollments and retention. The data we are collecting are significant and are being used to streamline processes, reduce transfers, highlight program needs and justify the investment in student services.

What’s Next?

As institutions continue to struggle with declining enrollments and ongoing retention issues, it’s clear that supporting students through all phases of their college career is needed. The hybrid approach of combining a remote call center with highly skilled on-campus staff offers a proven combination of “always available” support along with high-touch service for those who need it.

With that in mind, we are currently expanding our one-stop model to all twelve Connecticut community colleges to support inbound and outbound calls.  This will allow for service equity across every campus as well as data collection and summary reporting that cuts across traditional campus silos. The benefits to students, institutional staff, and the system as a whole are exciting and potentially game changing. We look forward to taking this next step, helping the colleges and students we serve to succeed.Cathy Bergen, author of the post, smiling at you.

Cathy Bergren
Director of Service Delivery
Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium
cbergren@ctdlc.org.

 

 


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