Annual Report

2001-2002

Distance & Distributed Learning

Departmental Mission

The Distance & Distributed Education Center is a university-wide function at UWG which serves to develop and enhance the university's ability to deliver education to students at remote locations, and to meet institutional distance learning goals. Through intercampus sharing of resources, the Distance and Distributed Education Center facilitates collaboration among university colleges and departments to deliver quality distance instruction, faculty and student services, and initiatives.

Departmental Goals

Goals and functions of this department mirror the institutional distance learning goals (http://www.westga.edu/~distance/aboutus.html):

These goals are reviewed annually in March, by the Distance and Distributed Education Steering Committee, and revised as appropriate.

 

Departmental Statement of Outcomes, Processes to Assess These Outcomes, and Assessment Results Where Appropriate

Goal 1. Work with faculty to plan and create distance learning environments that encourage and support excellence in a personal environment. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  1. Student and faculty satisfaction with distance and distributed education courses is high.
  2. Student retention in distance and distributed education is comparable to that of traditional courses.
  3. Students enrolled in distance courses have access to student services.
  4. Student learning outcomes are comparable to those in traditional courses.
  5. Interaction among student-faculty, and student-student are at least as high as in a traditional course.
  6. Faculty demonstrate competence in developing distance courses whose academic standards and student learning are the same as those for other courses delivered.
  7. The number of courses developed and offered through distance media meets the demand of the region’s students.

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty. Student learning outcomes are assessed by academic units offering instruction.

Goal 2. In collaboration with other campus and state departments, maintain the human and technical resources and network infrastructure necessary to successfully support and deliver distance and distributed learning. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  1. Faculty are trained and prepared to teach distance and distributed courses.
  2. Students are able to receive immediate technical assistance through telephone or email.
  3. Students and faculty are able to receive assistance through a central point-of-contact.
  4. A variety of delivery methods are available.
  5. Distance courses are easily accessible to a growing number of students and potential students.
  6. Downtime for courses is non-existent or minimal, with backup plans in place and utilized as needed.

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review.

Goal 3. Ensure that academic and student services are appropriate to meet the needs of distance and distributed learners. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  1. Each distance course or program provides students with clear, complete and timely information on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, prerequisite technology competencies, technical requirements, availability of academic support service, financial aid resources and costs and payment policies.
  2. Students express satisfaction with the level of academic and student services received when taking distance and distributed courses.
  3. Students are aware of and utilize online resources available to them for academic and student support.
  4. Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services and resources appropriate to support their learning.

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review.

Goal 4. Conduct continuous evaluation of distance learning and support services to ensure the advancement of the university's mission. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  1. Faculty use results of evaluations to improve courses.
  2. Distance learning staff uses results of evaluations to improve programs and services as a whole.
  3. The technologies selected are appropriate to meet course or program objectives.
  4. Documentation of evaluations for each course and the overall distance program is available and accessible.

Assessment methods: Faculty summary of evaluations each term, written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review.

Goal 5. Support research, scholarship, and creative endeavors which promote knowledge of distance learning: Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  1. Our journal, conference, and certificate programs maintain excellent reputations among distance learning administrators in the United States and worldwide.
  2. Our Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration continues to increase in readership.
  3. UWG faculty conduct research to enhance distance courses at UWG and to provide scholarly information to their field.

Assessment methods: Certificate program and conference evaluations, readership data of journal, feedback from readers and participants.

 

Examples of Using of Assessment of Goals and Outcomes to Improve a Process

  1. Delivery methods: Some students surveys indicated a desire for increased opportunities for visual learning in the online environment. Although WebCT has proved to be very successful, it is primarily a text-based asynchronous learning environment, and may not fully meet the needs of all courses or student learning styles. In December 2001, members of the Distance and Distributed Learning Steering Committee reviewed several products to supplement WebCT in the online environment. Horizon Live was selected and implemented in Spring 2002. This tool allows instructors to stream live audio, video, and graphics (such as Powerpoint) to students over the internet. During live broadcasts, instructors can poll students and automatically create a graph with answers to questions. Students may also type questions to the instructor, which he or she can answer live. These broadcasts are archived, and available for students to review at a later time.
  2. Student services: A self-review indicated a need to enhance information to distance students regarding student services. A collaborative effort between the Distance & Distributed Education Center and the Vice-President for Student Services resulted in a comprehensive web site dedicated to providing this information. Also, several streamed videos regarding career services and other concerns are available linked from this website.
  3. Course evaluation: A self-study indicated the need to ensure that faculty were reviewing the results of their distance courses and using the results to improve their courses. With the assistance of the Distance & Distributed Education Steering Committee, the DDEC developed a form for faculty to complete describing their interpretation of survey results and plans for course improvements. Overall results of these forms are posted to the DDEC website.

 

Department Condition

Students: Student satisfaction with distance and distributed courses continues to be high. In Fall 2001, retention for distance courses was 92 percent. Seventy-nine percent of students reported that they had a positive attitude about distance learning after taking a course in Fall 2001. More than 90 percent reported that student services for distance students were good, excellent, or that they were unsure.

Course Offerings: The number of courses using WebCT has grown dramatically over the past four years, with this year’s total estimated at an all-time high of 599. There was also a significant growth in the number of courses delivered via distance for 90-100% of instruction (45% growth from 49 to 71). While the number of GSAMS courses declined from 31 (FY ’01) to 24 in FY ’02, five courses added a Horizon Live component.

Resources: As the demand for distance learning courses and services has increased, so has the need for human resources. Christy Talley joined the DDEC as the fourth full-time staff member in July 2001. She is in charge of all student support, Horizon Live training and administration, and also assists with WebCT faculty training.

 

Department Achievements

  1. Completed SACS self-study and made multiple improvements, particularly in the area of evaluation and student services for distance students.
  2. Conducted 187 one-on-one faculty and staff-training sessions for WebCT. Fifty-eight of those had never used WebCT before. The average training session lasts two hours.
  3. Published four quarterly editions of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Readership has more than doubled during the last year, with more than 10,000 web hits per month.
  4. Delivered 15 WebCT group workshops.
  5. Delivered two sections of the Distance Learning Certificate Program to 41 participants from 18 states and 3 countries, including Australia and Suriname.
  6. Implemented Horizon Live, new online course tool to work in collaboration with WebCT to provide live audio and video. Trained 6 instructors during Spring 2001 on its use.

 

Staff Productivity

DDEC staff members sponsored the third-annual Distance Learning Administration Conference at Jekyll Island in June 2002. The conference was attended by more than 110 distance learning professionals representing more than 25 states. Melanie Clay served as conference director, and Stacey Rowland was conference manager.

Melanie Clay, Janet Gubbins, and Christy Talley prepared and presented "Accreditation Issues in Distance Learning," at DLA2002 in Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Janet Gubbins and Christy Talley attended Rock Eagle Computing Conference in Eatonton, Georgia.

Christy Talley attended NECC in San Antonio, Texas.

Christy Talley and Janet Gubbins attended the Board of Regents’ Teaching and Learning with Advanced Technologies Conference, in Athens, Georgia. Janet Gubbins served on the advisory board for the conference.

Melanie Clay was accepted into and began an online doctoral program in Higher Education at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.

Stacey Rowland earned the Certificate of Distance Learning from the UWG program offered through continuing education.

Melanie Clay served on the Distance Learning Committee for SACS self-study.

Melanie Clay served on the executive board of the Georgia Distance Learning Association.

Melanie Clay continued to serve as editor-in-chief of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Janet Gubbins served as managing editor.