Distance Learning

1996-97 Annual Progress Report


Overview of Achievements

As the Distance Learning Department made an organizational change to become part of the Division of Special Programs, the program focus shifted from its initial start-up phase to a planned, collaborative effort to channel its rapid growth into a quality program, driven by the needs of students. Top priorities for the year were training of university faculty, course development, and development of a strategic plan to expand into on-line offerings.

Highlights of the year’s work include:

* A committee of representatives from various campus areas was formed to investigate and report on the opportunities and challenges of on-line distance learning, with a goal of delivering the firston-line courses in Fall 1997.

* Twenty-five UWG faculty and staff completed distance learning training sessions to prepare them to teach utilizing GSAMS. The workshops combined learning theory with hands-on experience.-

* An eight-minute training video introducing GSAMS to distance learning students began being shown in UWG classes in Fall 95. The video has received recognition as the first of its kind in the GSAMS system, and has been requested and released to several other institutions for their use (with credits to UWG intact).

* Students in Georgia received UWG credit courses from 24 GSAMS locations (up from 16 in the previous year), including Newnan, Dalton, Rome, Douglas County, Cartersville, Vidalia, Columbus, LaGrange, Calhoun, Tifton, Trenton, Ft. Oglethorpe, Ringgold, Canton, Macon, Dooley County, Henry County, Summerville, Woodstock, Mt. Airy, Covington, Cleveland, Lilburn, and Bacon County.

* Of the 32 courses offered this past year via GSAMS, 56 percent were graduate courses, compared to 32 percent in the prior year. Our quarterly evaluations consistently show that graduate courses are generally more favorably received and more needed by distance students than are undergraduate courses, and the cost-benefits of graduate-level distance learning are generally superior to undergraduate-level distance learning.

* Efforts to increase faculty, staff, student, and community awareness of the UWG distance learning program began, and include the development of a monthly internal newsletter, a web presence, and a speakers bureau.

* West Georgia's GSAMS facilities were made available for the first time to other organizations and institutions for use on weekends or other times when not in use by the university. These organizations paid $15 per hour to the university. This revenue was used to offset our monthly telecommunications fees.

* Quarterly program analysis of the distance learning program continued to indicate a positive cost-benefit ratio (increased tuition vs. program costs). Increased tuition is calculated by measuring the number of students at remote sites who say they would not have been able to commute to Carrollton to take the course.

* Equipment and furnishings in both the business and education GSAMS rooms were upgraded. Among the upgrades were a new software that enables far-end camera control, improved audio and video transmission, and computers in each room with Internet access.

* A distance learning resource center, which includes training tapes and a small library of articles and books on distance learning, was developed for use by distance learning faculty and interested staff.

* A distance learning program designed to recruit high school students was developed collaboratively with the Department of Admissions. The first program was delivered to McIntosh High School received local press was well-received by McIntosh students and administrators.

Goals for 1997-98

1. Provide the impetus and support to move on-line learning at UWG from vision to reality, implementing the first on-line courses fall quarter.

2. Develop the infrastructure and support system to enable full degree programs to be offered through distance learning.

3. Expand UWG distance learning through GSAMS into post-secondary market.

4. Stimulate the creation of a comprehensive, streamlined support system for distance learning students in which distance students are able to register, seek admission, and order books with "one step," and receive immediate technical assistance through a distance learning telephone help-line.

5. Develop a comprehensive distance learning certificate program in collaboration with three colleges to be delivered on-line to UWG faculty, and later statewide.

5. Create high-performance standards and assessments to improve the quality of UWG distance education through GSAMS.

6. Address policy and regulatory barriers to distance learning.