It isn’t surprising to learn that demand for online courses is rapidly increasing across institutions of higher education. From my perspective, the business case is clear: professional colleges and universities that adopt online programs have the opportunity to greatly boost reach, enrollment and revenue- all without adding a square foot of real estate. But adopting an online program doesn’t come without risk. Universities must assess whether an online program fits within their institution’s overall culture and goals.
The accreditation process can be complex and time-consuming, especially when new courses are launched solely through online programs. Professors must transition from face-to-face instruction to online teaching, which requires a different skill set. How can your professional college or university maximize the potential of online learning while minimizing these inherent risks? Our recent white paper entitled “Smart Steps to Online Learning” provides a comprehensive guide to developing a well-planned online learning strategy. Here are some top tips highlighted in the white paper:
- Get a full commitment—of both time and money—from senior administrators before delving into an online program: An online initiative is an enormous undertaking that can only be accomplished with full support from administrators. Show that online learning is viable by providing financial proof points as well as surveys that demonstrate student interest.
- Know your technology! Understanding your technical needs is critical when first starting an online program. Some early questions to ask include: What is the technology budget? Can it grow as online learning expands? Does the university have the technical resources to manage Web hosting?
- Build accreditation-worthy policies and best practices from the start: Using well-known, best practices in distance-learning pedagogy will help ensure a more efficient and successful accreditation process.
- Convene a diverse task force, made up of faculty and administrators who will get input from students: Combine strategic big thinking and operational steps by articulating what success will look like. What is the best method for delivering online content? How would it enhance the student experience? Answering these and other practical questions will help visualize the framework needed for your online program.
- Pilot an online course: Piloting is essential. Test the technology and methodology of your online program by piloting a general course that will draw a variety of students. This will allow you to collect valuable student and faculty feedback so you can make adjustments before launching the full online program.
Are you ready to launch an online learning program at your professional college or university? Check out “Smart Steps to Online Learning” for further best practices and tips, including ways that Blackboard can help boost your institution’s enrollment and revenue online!