University of West Georgia
Anticipated Fields of External Instruction and Anticipated Locations/Methods of Delivery
a. Three-Year Plan
The University of West Georgia was one of the first institutions in the USG to offer full or partial online credit courses, and now delivers approximately 100 distance courses each semester representing more than two dozen curriculum areas. Currently three graduate-level degree programs are approved through distance learning. UWG is also a host institution for Georgia’s eCore and webMBA programs. In addition, the University has worked to meet the needs of western Georgia through its five degree program offerings (four graduate and one undergraduate) at its off-campus UWG Newnan, and through an external degree program (nursing) in Dalton and an external degree program (education) at Highlands College in Rome. Enrollment trends, positive student surveys, and graduation rates are among the indicators of the success of these programs. Following is a list of online and off-campus degree offerings that have previously been approved by the BOR.
Master’s in education with a major in media (online)
Master’s in education with a major in instructional technology (online)
Bachelor’s of science with a major in nursing (UWG Newnan)
Master’s in education with a major in early childhood education (UWG Newnan)
Master’s in education with a major in special education (UWG Newnan)
Master’s in education with a major in educational leadership (UWG Newnan)
Specialist in education with a major in educational leadership (UWG Newnan)
Master’s in education with a major in middle grades education (UWG Newnan)
Bachelor’s of science in Education (Georgia Highlands College in Rome)
The University of West Georgia seeks to provide increased access to non-traditional students in the region, as documented in its Mission Statement. In its commitment to providing educational experiences that foster the development of leaders and productive citizens in western Georgia and beyond, the University is considering the development of the following additional online and external degree programs.
Specialist in education with a major in media (online )
Master’s in education with a major in instructional technology and distance learning (online)
Master’s in education with a major in middle grades education (Douglasville)
Add-On in educational leadership(Douglasville)
Master’s in education with a major in educational leadership(Douglasville)
Add-On in media education (online)
Add-On in instructional technology (online)
Interdisciplinary Ph.D. with a major in distance education administration (online)
Bachelor’s in science in nursing (online)
Certificate program in instructional technology (online)
Endorsement in online teaching (online)
Master’s in professional accounting (online)
Specialist in education with a major in reading instruction (online)
Master’s of science in rural and small town planning (online)
Master’s in business administration (off-campus locations in Newnan, Rome, and Douglasville)
Master’s in public administration (off-campus location in Newnan, Rome, and Douglasville)
Bachelor’s of science in education with major in early childhood education (off-campus in Newnan)
Master’s of science in rural and small town planning (Newnan, Douglasville, and Rome)
Master’s of history with a concentration in public history (Newnan, Douglasville, and Rome)
Master’s of sociology with a concentration in criminology (Newnan, Douglasville, and Rome)
Master’s of science with a major in nursing (Newnan, Dalton, Douglasville, and Rome)
Master’s of arts with a major in psychology for students desiring professional counselor licensure (Newnan, Douglasville, Rome)
We note that multiple factors, largely resource and quality assurance issues, may delay or modify any time table for formal requests for the above programs. However, our intent is to identify possible programs consistent with regional needs and institutional mission and available delivery strategies. Our thinking, quite simply, is that the inclusion of possible programs within the Instructional Delivery Plan would reduce the need for frequent amendment to that plan at such times that we declare an intention for some specific off-campus or distance program, and identify resources consistent with quality assurances associated with our academic programs.
b. Need for Programs
The region served by the University of West Georgia is one of the most rapidly growing areas of the state, indeed in the nation as a whole. With its proximity to Atlanta and attractiveness to new industry, the population of the area grew by more than 20 percent between 1990 and 2000. It is anticipated that this growth will not only continue, but will accelerate. Furthermore, projections from the Georgia Department of Labor indicate that occupations requiring college education will make up 25 percent of all the state’s jobs by 2010. The top three education-related occupations, according to forecasts, will be registered nurses, computer support specialists, and accountants. There also exists, throughout the state, a critical shortage of teachers. In Coweta County where the UWG Newnan resides, approximately one new school is built each year. Fayette County, immediately to the east of Coweta County, also opens approximately one new public school per year. Seven of the programs under consideration directly address these most critical needs. The interdisciplinary Ph.D. in distance education administration is being considered as a collaborative effort amongst campus colleges which would serve to foster the development of leaders in distance education in business, education, and government. The University is uniquely advantaged to develop and deliver this program because of its historical and recognized contributions to the field through its annual international Distance Learning Administration Conference and its Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration.
In Douglas County, the University of West Georgia has established operations in downtown Douglasville over the past two years offering mostly continuing education courses. After consultation with Douglas County School officials and considering the geographic opportunities for access to the Douglas downtown area as well as the projected needs for new teachers in the Georgia combined with the anticipated growth projections of Douglas and its neighboring counties, we feel the programs, endorsements, and add-ons noted above will provided a much needed service. We anticipate expanding our program from downtown Douglasville to Lithia Springs Middle School, a partner with whom we place a significant number of students for field experiences.
Possible additional sites for the M.B.A. program would come from responses to student and community demands. At the UWG Newnan, for instance, there were nearly 1200 graduate enrollments in 56 courses, and 600 undergraduate enrollments in 24 courses last year. The graduate degrees in psychology, criminology, and small-town planning are also planned in order to meet the area need for more trained counselors, law enforcement officers, and local government planners.
Finally, telephone surveys of UWG students conducted annually since 2002 reveal that more than 50 percent of students wish that there were more online course offerings and programs available to them. It is not inconsequential to add that the development of new online programs not only serves identified student needs, but also addresses critical conservation issues and classroom space shortages.
c. Facility Investments
The UWG Newnan has facilities to handle the current student load. The main building has been an educational center since its inception. With 10,000 square feet of useable space, it is able to handle six classes with forty students each at any one time. In addition, there is a large auditorium that can seat up to sixty students and two computer laboratories with combined capacity of thirty-five students. All classrooms are fully multimedia capable with computers, permanently mounted LCD projectors, electrically operated projection screens, and video playback machines.
In 2003, the university funded, through the county, the renovation of a 3200 square
foot building. This facility houses a forty-nine seat tiered auditorium with full
multimedia and distance learning equipment, and computer connections at each table
seat. A twenty- seat conference classroom has a Polycom unit and multimedia technology
in this building. All facilities have minimum CAT V wiring, and fiber interconnecting
the buildings. The UWG Newnan has a dedicated T-1 for internet connectivity to each
With proper scheduling and careful planning, the UWG Newnan can increase its course offerings, programs and enrollment within its currently existing facilities.
The Rome offerings have been done in consultation with our colleagues at Highlands
College. Such would continue to be the case for any future offerings. Douglasville
and Douglas County offerings would be done in consultation with our potential partners
there—both current partners in County Government (for space in Old Court House Facilities)
or with Public School Partners in Douglas County).
We currently offer Continuing Education courses in the Old Courthouse in Douglasville. As has been the case in other external offerings, this facility was made available to us by community partners. The facility provides three rooms with basic instructional resources. We anticipate expanding our program from downtown Douglasville to Lithia Springs Middle School, a partner school at which we place a significant number of students for field experiences.
d. Technology Investments
No new significant technology investments are identified for the delivery of the distance and off-campus programs under consideration. All of the distance programs will utilize course management tools (WebCT/ Vista) and supporting software (HorizonWimba) which are already in use for other distance courses. Technology costs will be limited to ongoing maintenance and upgrades of distance learning technologies and existing technologies at the UWG Newnan. Highlands College and our Dalton Nursing program facility currently house all the necessary instructional technology to accommodate the proposed new programs at these sites.
The College of Education updates and maintains its technology and related equipment on a three-year rotating basis. Where possible and under strict guidelines, student technology fees will be utilized for equipping instructional facilities comparable to on-campus settings. Between the College’s resources and the UWG Student technology fee, no new significant resources will be needed.
UWG is currently involved in a re-conceptualization of technology acquisition strategies, and has begun the process of integrating technology acquisitions for off campus and on-line offerings into that process.
e. Declaration of Intent
The institution will submit “Declaration of Intents” to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at least three months prior to the formal offering of each new external degree program.
Curriculum and Instruction
a. Educational Content
In all cases, with the exception of the eCore and WebMBA programs, student learning outcomes for online and off-campus courses and programs are identical to their traditional counterparts. Courses and assessments are designed by faculty members with the same rigor for all delivery platforms, whether on-campus, off-campus, or through online technologies. In the vast majority of cases, these are full-time, tenure-track faculty members with Ph.D.s or terminal degrees. Course surveys and program exit interviews with UWG distance students have indicated that not only is the educational content comparable, but in the case of online courses, the experiences have been enriched through the use of technologies. A guiding principle of the UWG vision is “educational excellence in a personal environment,” and this is reflected in the emphasis on interaction in online courses. Faculty are encouraged to maintain daily contact with online students, and through course assessments, students have expressed high levels of satisfaction regarding the quality and timeliness of online interactions and responsiveness from faculty. Comparative evaluations of student course grades in online versus on-campus sections and traditional external degree program sections have also shown no significant differences in student course grades.
b. Technology Selection
Faculty interact with campus instructional designers and peer groups to select from various technologies, including WebCT and HorizonWimba, appropriate for their courses. Some courses are designed as hybrid courses in which certain class sessions, assessments, and field experiences are scheduled face-to-face. At the institutional level, all faculty are required to complete an application for each online course, and must certify that they have already received technological/pedagogical training for online teaching, or agree to receive training in online delivery prior to teaching the course. This training helps faculty to acquire the skills to match the appropriate technology with the program objectives. The Distance and Distributed Education Center’s evaluation forms also provide information relative to the appropriateness of the technologies used in distance courses. Furthermore, faculty must review feedback from student surveys and document opportunities for improvement. Thus, through training and regular student and faculty feedback, the institution ensures that the technology used is appropriate to program objectives.
c. External Materials
All courses, with the exception of those delivered through eCore and the WebMBA program, are developed and delivered by UWG faculty. Some faculty members do integrate course components, developed by textbook publishers.
UWG takes great pride in delivering “educational excellence in a personal environment” through a broad range of student services and expanding resources appropriate to support learning. Distance and off-campus students have access to the same range of student services and resources as traditional students, and additional services such as support from the Distance & Distributed Education Center (DDEC) and special services from the library. Information regarding services for online students is available at the UWG Online website. The UWG Online Connection provides links to a wide range of services including admissions, online application, financial aid, academic advising, registration, and fee payment. The support services are generally the same as those available to on-campus students except that they are provided through information on the Web site or via email and telephone. The Distance Student Guide includes comprehensive information regarding support services. Student services and academic support are evaluated in every distance course at the end of each academic term via the Distance Survey).
a. Library Services
UWG students, whether enrolled in face-to-face or DL courses, are able to use the library services of any college or university within the University System of Georgia. The University provides access to the library catalogs through the online Galileo Interconnected Libraries (GIL) catalog. UWG’s Office of Distance Learning Library Services (ODDLS) also maintains a DL-support web page that outlines library services and resources available to students. Among these services are research consultation, check-out and delivery (by mail or courier) of books from the UWG collection, photocopying and delivery (by mail, fax, or courier) of journal articles or other library materials, and use of the interlibrary loan service for materials not held in the UWG collection. Links to the library’s DL services are included on each WebCT course home page and on the syllabi for all distance courses. The library employs a full-time individual dedicated to supporting distance and off-campus learning students.
The institution monitors whether students make appropriate use of learning resources. Departments monitor student use of resources through project and paper bibliographies and other course interactions. The ODDLS coordinates with the DDEC for assessment of student library services, and Distance Education Student Evaluations include two questions related to whether students are aware of such library services and whether students make use of them. In addition, a postage-paid, anonymous response card is included with each shipment of materials to a student so that the user can evaluate the timeliness and appropriateness of materials received. The ODDLS conducts ongoing assessment by using these data to determine the level of user satisfaction and to identify areas for improvement.
For the UWG Newnan, the Newnan Coweta Library provides stacks for up to 10,000 volumes of material from the Ingram Library on the main campus. Academic departments review and update these holdings to insure students have access to required library references. In addition, the UWG Newnan makes a minimum of two courier runs per week for interlibrary loans. Comparable arrangements for library services exist at Highlands College and our Dalton nursing program facility.
b. Learning Support and Tutorial Services
The EXCEL Center for Academic Success, located at the University of West Georgia’s main campus, is devoted to the success and welfare of all UWG students. Distance students can email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone the Excel Center in order to receive academic support and tutoring. The Excel Center web site includes links to study skills, advice from tutors and a Frequently Asked Questions page.
The EXCEL Center offers:
- Free tutoring
- Peer mentors
- Career exploration in hundreds of fields
- Training in study habits and basic computer knowledge
Distance and off-campus students may also telephone and email the Learning Support Center and Testing Office for academic and testing support services as well as the Writing Center. Furthermore, faculty members have online office hours in order to offer additional support to their distance and off-campus students. WebCT has also been an effective medium for faculty to provide learning support. If there are special requirements that students need at off-campus sites, such as the UWG Newnan, arrangements are made for personnel from the main campus to be personally available on site.
c. Student Advising
The EXCEL Center for Academic Success has academic advisors who help students explore various options and help them choose a major best suited for them. Ask Andy is a way for students to get answers for all their college concerns. Andy is the "answer all" expert at UWG. If students have any questions about anything, Andy has the answer. The students simply type their question and point-click at (link unavailable) to send him an e-mail.
The College of Education Academic Advisement Center provides guidance and information about the programs offered by the College of Education. The College of Education Academic Advisement Center
- provides intensive advising support through regular contact with their advisees
- helps students explore various fields of interest, select a specific academic major, research career options that relate to their programs
- develops plans of study appropriate for students’ educational goals
- refers students to other campus offices for assistance in academic, personal, and career counseling; academic skills development; and financial aid
Undergraduate and Post Baccalaureate / Certification students may contact the College of Education Academic Advisement Center by telephone.
Additionally, other faculty and departments advise distance and off-campus students online via email, WebCT and by telephone. Also, faculty members provide initial advisement sessions at our off-campus locations.
The UWG Newnan provides advisement for students taking the core curriculum, and arranges for students to see department advisors for counseling for upper level courses. Graduate professors provide advisement to students in the Masters degree programs. A dedicated nursing advisor is available four hours a week at the Newnan campus, and can be available at other times by prior arrangements. Comparable advising services are available to students at our offices at Highlands College and at our Dalton facility.
d. Student Counseling
Counseling services are available to distance and off-campus students through the Student Development Center of Student Services. The Student Development Center provides career, academic and mental-health counseling for all University of West Georgia students. Additional support services for disabled, international and non-traditional students are also coordinated through the Center. Students may contact the Student Development Center regarding counseling services by telephone or email. If an off-campus or distance student cannot come to campus, the Student Development Center may also refer the student to local counselors in the student’s locale.
e. Disability Services
Students who have learning, psychological or physical disabilities may contact Disability Services at the University of West Georgia. Students may contact coordinators from Disability Services by telephone or email. These coordinators in turn communicate with faculty to plan for the individual needs of students. The Distance & Distributed Education Center also provides technology options for students with disabilities. For example, Impatica On cue provides scrolling text for distance students with hearing disabilities. Impatica for PowerPoint provides audio for those students with sight disabilities and text for students with hearing impairment. Horizon Wimba has closed captioning ability. The DDEC also trains faculty on appropriate uses of technology to meet the needs of students with disabilities and to meet ADA guidelines.
f. Career Guidance
The Department of Career Services offers a host of services for campus, off-campus, and distance students through its online Career Web. Career Web lists both on-campus and off-campus Job Fairs on the web site. The Department of Career Services offers four main services to students: Career Employment, Student Employment, Professional Practice, and the Volunteer Office. Career Employment is responsible for working with senior students and recent Alumni who are involved in job and career searches. Student Employment assists students and employers in meeting temporary, seasonal, and part-time employment needs. A variety of employers use these services to obtain part-time employees--from large corporations to individuals needing help babysitting and yard work. Professional Practice assists students in locating co-ops and internships. The Volunteer Office helps students find opportunities to volunteer and provide community service. For all career services, students can email, call or visit the office.
Distance Education Student Evaluations include a question that evaluates the availability of career services information on UWG’s web site. In the last three years, less than four percent of the students who submitted the distance evaluation felt that information regarding career services for UWG's distance students needed improvement. Also, the University of West Georgia’s Department of Career Services has a Career Services Student Survey online.
In addition, career counseling services are available to distance and off-campus students through the Student Development Center of Student Services. Students may contact the Student Development Center regarding career counseling services by phone or email.
g. Bookstore Services
Course materials may be purchased through the Online Bookstore at the University of West Georgia, and delivery is available via mail service. Students may order books and materials over the phone, request a buyback quote on their textbooks online, and receive email notifications when their books are added to the buyback listing. Students who buy books online may also return them for a refund. Bookstore services for distance and off-campus students are evaluated in the Distance Learning/off-campus evaluation form. According to results from the last three years, more than 85 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that materials required for their courses were available for convenient purchase.
h. Test Proctoring and Evaluation
Distance and off-campus students benefit from the testing services of the Learning Support and Testing Office of the University of West Georgia. Students can arrange services by calling or emailing the Testing Office. The Testing Office provides a variety of test registration materials and also administers a series of national and institutional exams. The Testing Office also provides a supervised environment for students with documented physical and/or learning disabilities who are eligible to receive accommodations, such as extended time, for their classroom tests. The Testing Office also provides test proctoring for a small fee.
Off-campus students often take exams administered by their professors at their off-campus locations. The UWG Newnan also provides test proctoring on site. Off-campus and distance students can also use approved proctoring sites at other university libraries. In addition, exams and quizzes are administered via WebCT either online at a location convenient to the student or a designated computer lab. Some students who take their WebCT exams in a computer lab use Securexam as an additional means of security and integrity.
i. Technical Support
The Distance and Distributed Education Center (DDEC) serves as the University's central point-of-contact for all activities associated with University distance and distributed education offerings. The Distance and Distributed Education Center provides support to distance, on-campus and off-campus students through training, dissemination of information, and operation of a telephone helpline. The DDEC provides technical support for WebCT, myUWG, HorizonWimba, and other supporting technologies. Students may contact the DDEC for support by telephone or email.
The DDEC produces an Online Distance Student Guide at that delineates equipment requirements and provides instruction on the use of various DL technologies. The DDEC also provides a variety of support services for students who are taking online courses, including an online WebCT tutorial, an online troubleshooting guide, and one-on-one orientations and troubleshooting support by phone, in person, or via email. Links to these services and the helpline telephone number are redundantly provided in the Distance Student Guide, all WebCT courses, and syllabi. In January 2002, the DDEC began offering face-to-face orientations to supplement its extensive online bank of information for DL students. . Some departments also conduct an orientation session for all new students that includes a component on the effective use of distance technologies. In addition, at the first class meeting, DL instructors acquaint students with the operation of the technology resources and how they will be used in their courses. Moreover, an in-depth orientation center for WebCT users is available online.
Students can also e-mail WebCT support directly for help, using http://webct.usg.edu/support/westga/ or by telephoning the WebCT Support Toll Free Number Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 9 PM EST and on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 PM EST. Distance students will have access to an additional WebCT support line as the University of West Georgia migrates to the Board of Regents Central Vista Server. The additional WebCT help line will be available to distance students 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Computer resources have been greatly enhanced, both on-campus and off campus, in recent years. ITS provides technical support for software including myUWG, Banweb, and technical resources. Students can contact the ITS Helpdesk by phone or by email. The Department of Learning Resources provides equipment rental, technical support for problems with audio/visual equipment, and graphic services. Students can contact LRC by phone or email.
Curriculum, Course, and Degree Requirements
Available online, the requirements for each degree are published in the Undergraduate Catalog or the Graduate Catalog. Individual departments also list their degree requirements online. Degree and course requirements for distance, off-campus and on-campus students are equivalent.
The curriculum is established by academic departments in accord with broad guidelines set forth by the University System of Georgia. Curricular offerings are approved through faculty committees at the level of the colleges and the University. The approval process involves faculty members, administration, and the University System Board of Regents. Specifically, the Faculty Senate’s Undergraduate Academic Programs Committee is responsible “to recommend policy and procedures concerning undergraduate degrees and academic programs (including majors, concentration and minors, continuing education, core curriculum, and individual undergraduate courses; to approve all undergraduate course additions or deletions from the curriculum and any reorientation of existing programs.”
Every course, including those offered through distance modalities, offered by the University of West Georgia has defined learning outcomes, as listed in the syllabi that are available on academic departmental Web sites. The methods of instruction and evaluation are chosen with these goals in mind.
a. Course and Program Costs and Payment Policies
Undergraduate Fee information for all undergraduate students is available and contains an Off-Campus Fee section. Graduate Fee information is available for all graduate students and contains an Off-Campus Fee section.
Students can refer online to The Scoop for specific term important dates, deadlines, directions to off-campus sites, and fee schedules. Additional information is provided online by the Student Accounts Office. All students may contact the Office of Student Accounts by phone or visit their offices located on the first floor of Aycock Hall. All students can make payments online, over the phone or in person.
Mandatory fees, such as student health fees, are assessed for “on-campus” courses. If the course is an off-campus course, mandatory fees, except for the technology fee, are not assessed. A Total Distance Course (those which meet at least 95 percent through videoconferencing, WebCT, or other technologies, instead of face-to-face) must not have more than one face-to-face meeting, in addition to a final proctored exam if desired. The location need not be the Carrollton campus. Mandatory fees, except for the technology fee, are not assessed for total distance courses. Fees for distance courses were established through traditional University processes with final approval by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The process included faculty and staff from the Distance and Distributed Education Center, the Office of the Registrar, Student Services, the Business Office, and the Graduate School.
b. The Nature of Faculty/Student Interaction
Off-campus students are able to interact with faculty during their off-campus office hours. Off-campus faculty members provide office hours at all of the off-campus locations. In addition, off campus, on-campus and distance faculty offer opportunities for interaction with students via telephone, email and other online media.
UWG distance technologies employ a variety of synchronous and asynchronous technologies to support interaction between students and faculty, and among students. Horizon Wimba Live Classroom, a technology introduced at UWG in December 2001, provides synchronous audio transmission, supported by computer presentation, whiteboard, and interactive chat and polling, between an on-campus instructor and students at their home computers. WebCT, an online course development and delivery application, enables instructors to post course notes, stream video presentations, and interact synchronously through text-based chat rooms and asynchronously through discussion boards and private email. Department chair surveys indicate that faculty members regularly utilize most of these strategies, as well as telephone and occasional instructor travel to remote sites, to maintain interaction. Student surveys indicate that faculty are readily accessible via email or telephone. This feedback illustrates that distance programs at UWG do provide for timely and appropriate interaction.
c. Point of Contact and Communication
Course information, including prerequisite technology competencies and skills and
Availability and means of access to academic/learning resources and student and auxiliary services (recruiting and admissions materials should clearly and accurately represent the program and services available.)
The central point of contact for all information regarding distance learning is the institutional distance education administrator who heads the Distance and Distributed Education Center. The DDEC website provides comprehensive, continually updated information. Students taking courses from the UWG Newnan may contact the Center directly, as it has knowledgeable staff available during all hours of operation. Nursing students interested in the BSN program based in Dalton and education students at Highlands College in Rome may contact the Admissions Office by telephone or email. Graduate students may inquire to the Graduate Office by telephone, email or to individual academic departments concerning off-campus courses at other locations.
The publications produced and distributed by the University accurately reflect the institution and give rigorous attention to SREC’s principles of good practice. Publications are reviewed and updated at least annually and reflect changes in admission requirements, degree requirements, tuition and fee structures, financial aid procedures, course descriptions, and faculty/staff rosters and credentials. Information contained in hard-copy publications is consistent with information available on the university's website.
Course information, including prerequisite technology competencies and skills and equipment requirements are included in the online Undergraduate Catalog and the Graduate Catalog. Furthermore, full course syllabi, for on-campus, off-campus, and distance courses, are posted online. Services for students, organizations, activities, and policies are available in the online Student Handbook. The readiness of students to take courses is ensured either via admission requirements for introductory courses or via the enforcement of prerequisites for advanced courses.
The University’s catalogs contain all of the information regarding academic programs. These catalogs are updated annually. In addition to hard-copy versions, catalogs and numerous other official publications are available on the university’s website. The Undergraduate Catalog and the Graduate Catalog can both be found online. Information useful to current and prospective students regarding academic calendar, grade appeal policies, course loads, disciplinary procedures, and similar items is available online.
a. Ensuring Faculty Training, Fiscal, and Logistical Support
The Distance and Distributed Education Center (DDEC), a centralized, academic-based support unit for distance education and off-campus delivery, ensures appropriate training for faculty who develop and teach distance education courses by requiring that the faculty complete training on the technologies used, pedagogical best practices, policies, and procedures. This requirement was established by the UWG Distance Education Steering Committee (DDESC), ratified by the Faculty Senate, and is enforced by the online course proposal form that explains to faculty that their course websites will not be set up until the training requirement is completed. The form also requires the instructors to certify that they meet minimum technical proficiencies, understand the policies and procedures that govern the offering of a distance education course, and understand their responsibilities to maintain course records.
As a way of ensuring continued professional development and quality of support, the
Evaluation Summary for Distance Courses (ESDC) form is also required of faculty. Approved
by the UWG Faculty Senate in Fall 2001, the ESDC form is sent to all instructors along
with the results of their distance course surveys, at the completion of each distance course. The form requires that faculty provide
written documentation reflecting their DE course evaluation results, how the students'
feedback will be used for course improvement, and the quality of support the instructors
received. DE faculty must complete this form and return it to the UWG Distance and
Distributed Education Center before they are permitted to deliver another distance
In addition, the centralized UWG Distance and Distributed Education Center provides a myriad of innovative professional development and training opportunities including: pre-determined and custom group workshops; one-on-one assistance via phone, e-mail, and online conferencing; web-based short courses; self-paced tutorials; training “house calls” to instructor offices; DE faculty peer mentoring programs; a tri-annual newsletter; and a faculty list-serve.
To facilitate a community of learners among the DE faculty and recognition for professional development efforts, the DDEC sponsors: the Apollo Café Program (Monthly informal discussions); discussion blogs; the Apollo Program’s Amazing Online Teacher Awards (awarded annually to those instructors who attend at least three group DDEC workshops in a fiscal year, certify that they have used the information gained, teach at least two distance courses in a fiscal year, and provide a 10-15 minute presentation in one of the DDEC group workshops); the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration (a free peer-reviewed journal); and the annual UWG Distance Learning Administration conference.
In order to coordinate training and professional development across campus and avoid duplication, the UWG Distance & Distributed Ed Center, central Information Technology Services department, Learning Resource Center, and the instructional technology support units within each of the three degree-granting colleges all collaborate to offer a centralized calendar for all faculty and staff.
The DDEC also ensures fiscal and logistical support by budgeting expenditures specifically for training incentives, travel for professional development and to off-campus sites, postage, appropriate technologies and hardware. Some academic departments choose to allocate release-time for faculty during the term prior to teaching an online course for the first time, as needed, in order to ensure ample time to participate in training and develop a quality online course.
b. Faculty Credentialing Requirements & Inclusion
Distance and off-campus courses are developed and taught by the same faculty who teach them on campus, so there are no different qualifications. Those who develop and teach distance learning courses must meet all criteria related to faculty, including hiring procedures, guidelines, and credential requirements. The DDEC monitors the proportion of full-time and part-time faculty as well as the percentage of faculty holding a doctoral degree, to ensure that the rates are comparable to courses being taught on-campus and at off-campus locations. The proportion of part-time to full-time faculty at UWG has been within generally accepted parameters among peer institutions, at approximately 2 to 1, according to the BOR's 2002-2003 Information Digest. Also the percentage of faculty holding a doctoral degree was 86.5%, well above the University System of Georgia's average of 73.6%. Since the same faculty are used for both on-campus, off-campus, and DE courses, the rates are comparable. As explained in the online UWG Faculty Handbook, opportunities for professional growth and development, including participation ensuring quality of educational programs, are available to all faculty. Clear online criteria guide faculty through the tenure and promotion process at each level of the process.
Distance education faculty are included in policy decision-making and planning processes through informal surveys and discussion, a DE faculty listserv, the opportunity to serve on the UWG Distance and Distributed Education Steering Committee, the Faculty Senate, and faculty luncheon open-forums sponsored by the DDEC.
c. Faculty Evaluation, Promotion and Tenure
Faculty developing and teaching distance education or off-campus courses are evaluated in a variety of ways at many different levels. At the end of each course, campus-wide student evaluations are conducted. The evaluation form, known as the Student Evaluation Instrument, may be given in-person via a scantron written format or online. These evaluations are designed to obtain feedback on a wide variety of issues, including teaching methods. Furthermore, these evaluations are a key component of annual faculty evaluations, which accompany promotion and tenure decisions as well as post-tenure reviews. In addition, departments use these evaluations in the assessment of courses as well as programs. Thus, experimentation with teaching methods is critically examined.
In order to strengthen UWG’s distance and distributed education programs, separate evaluations have been developed for distance courses. These evaluations specifically address issues to ensure that the technology used is appropriate, and that students are satisfied with their learning experiences. Each term a Student Evaluation is distributed to all students enrolled in distance learning courses. The evaluation is made available online to those enrolled in web-based courses. Evaluation results, including a compilation of student comments, are reported to each academic department chair, and then forwarded to the respective faculty.
Approved by the UWG Faculty Senate for Fall 2001, all distance faculty are sent a form along with the results of their distance course surveys. The Evaluation Summary for Distance Courses form asks that the faculty provide written documentation reflecting on their DE course evaluation results and how the students' feedback will be used for improvement.
In addition to these survey results, the quality of instructional materials and examinations are included in teaching portfolios that are a part of evaluation for promotion, tenure, and for post-tenure review. Thus, there is a built-in system of peer evaluation within a department that ensures adherence to current practices within the discipline. Finally, program reviews are done periodically at the University-wide level, assessing individual courses and programs as well as the effectiveness of an academic department as a whole.
Accrediting bodies also conduct periodic reviews of academic programs. They may ask for copies of syllabi and examinations as evidence of evaluation methods, thereby adding another measure of quality control by experts in the discipline. All faculty are also required by the office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs to post their syllabi online for public review.
Policies governing promotion and tenure, termination, probationary appointments, non-renewal, and employment are distributed to each new faculty member and are available online through the website of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
Administrative, Fiscal, and Operational Support
a. Administrative Structure
Through dedicated UWG funding, a centralized academic-based support unit for distance education and off-campus delivery known as the UWG Distance and Distributed Education Center (DDEC) ensures effective planning and coordinating of distance education and off-campus programming across multiple departments. Under the direction of the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Director of Special Programs, the DDEC is a premier organization that is highly visible to the University community, and recognized as a one-stop shop for the support of distance and off-campus students and faculty. The group’s organizational status as a centralized, academic-based support unit enables it to effectively collaborate with the campus community yet balance the competing agendas of the various colleges, technology services, the library, and student support functions. This structure has been effective not only in minimizing duplication, but in creating an environment that promotes online and off-campus courses of the highest possible quality, delivered in a timely, customer-oriented and cost-efficient manner.
Distance and off-campus programs are driven by faculty and student needs, rather than technology. The DDEC director and instructional design team meet regularly with academic deans and faculty who teach distance courses to discuss new and existing policies, procedures and issues. In addition, the UWG Distance Education Steering Committee (DDESC) provides direction and counsel to the DDEC on various issues, and meets regularly in order to collaboratively plan and assess progress in distance education. The DDESC includes faculty, department chairs, deans, and staff from the Registrar’s office, Student Services, and Admissions. Applicable sub-committees are formed, when necessary to address specific needs and concerns. The DDESC communicates all recommendations to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Faculty Senate when appropriate. Meeting minutes, findings, and resulting policy changes are communicated on the DDEC website and through the distance education faculty listserv.
The fact that the DDEC is tied to the university’s mission and included in the University’s
Bread and Butter goals, strategic plan, long-term planning and enrollment committees,
illustrates the commitment of university budget processes to distance education and
Additionally, the Coweta County Commission has been extraordinarily financially supportive of the University’s efforts at the UWG Newnan. It purchased the Center from Georgia Power seven years ago for $1,200,000 and leases it to the University for a Nominal Fee provided that the University offers courses and programs needed in the area. At the end of ten years of the University’s operation of the Center, the agreement between the County and the University provides that the Center be turned over to the USG. Also, the Coweta County Commission provided approximately $500,000 in start-up funds over a three year period for our undergraduate degree in nursing.
b. Operational Plans Ensure Quality of Service
UWG's Vision Statement emphasizes the University’s goal to remain a leader within the University System of Georgia in technology throughout the entire undergraduate and graduate curriculum. Incorporating information technology into academic programs and becoming a leader in the use of asynchronous learning environments to support Distance Education are specifically detailed in the Vision Statement and various university long-range plan reports. The University's "bread and butter" goals are also supportive of external relations, regional collaboration for economic and community development, and information technology.
Specifically, the operational plan for achieving the identified University goals illustrates the University’s commitment to ensuring that adequate equipment, software, and hardware infrastructure will be available to support both instructional delivery and the necessary levels of communication among students, faculty, staff, and administrators. The plan states,
“Information technology. UWG must employ appropriate information technology to enhance student and faculty learning, provide access to distance education resources…”
“Campus infrastructure. UWG must develop effective plans to maintain infrastructure necessary to deliver university services.
- Allocate adequate resources to building maintenance: mechanical systems, roofs, carpeting, paint, etc.
- Develop a comprehensive strategy for requesting and scheduling maintenance.
- Develop adequate budgets for computing and networking technology.
- Treat replacement of computers and networking equipment as recurring budget items rather than as one-time capital expenditures…”
Regarding the quality of instructional delivery and the necessary levels of communication
among students, faculty, staff, and administrators, the following recommendations
were made by the UWG Distance and Distributed Education Steering Committee and approved
by the Academic Affairs Committee, the Committee on Graduate Studies, and the Faculty
Senate to be adopted institution-wide:
Courses should provide for significant interaction, whether in real-time or asynchronously, between students and faculty.
Faculty who are qualified in both subject matter and distance learning delivery systems
should be available to provide support and assistance for online courses and new instructors.
Evaluations, including regular course evaluations, should be conducted pertaining to the appropriateness of technologies and to student and faculty satisfaction.
Appropriate evaluation procedures should be developed and data should be reviewed and used to make course and program improvements.These recommendations have been implemented, and the DDEC has a series of evaluation processes in place to guarantee that the distance program is monitored and revised as needed. To ensure the quality of instruction in distance courses interaction between students and faculty and among students via electronic bulletin boards, chat rooms, phone calls, or email are strongly suggested as an important part of all courses. Faculty members also use a variety of means, including rubrics for grading discussions, for assessing student performance within courses. Each course includes a syllabus that describes its course participation expectations. The WebCT tracking tool allows faculty to monitor student participation and progress. The tracking tool counts which pages the students visit, how long they stay, how many discussion items students read and how many responses they make. Thus, when students are not responding, the instructor can contact them. Students are asked to evaluate course materials, the professor, and the course delivery in general by using the DDEC Course Evaluation instrument. Faculty members also evaluate the courses and selected elements of the distance environment.
The DDEC continually assesses the impact of the equipment, software, and hardware infrastructure available to support both instructional delivery and the necessary levels of communication among students, faculty, staff, and administrators. At the end of each term, distance course evaluations survey students on their experience, asking questions pertaining to the ease, use, and location of access, as well as the level of interaction in each course. The results of these surveys, as well as an annual random phone survey, are tabulated and reviewed by the UWG Distance Education Steering Committee. Further recommendations are made and implemented as appropriate. The DDEC reports on the effectiveness in an annual Effectiveness Report and in the year-end Annual Report are posted publicly online.
The DDEC uses many other assessment strategies to monitor support, facility, and equipment effectiveness also. The DDEC has used Remedy (a help-desk tracker) since January 2003 to identify patterns of support needs, common technology problems, as well as satisfaction with support services. All telephone and email support calls from faculty and students received by DDEC staff are logged into the system. All those who receive support are automatically sent an e-mail survey regarding the effectiveness of the support received. Data and results are posted to the DDEC website and reviewed bi-annually in order to modify operational support procedures and technology in order to best meet the needs of faculty and staff.
The central Information Technology Services department (ITS) works with the DDEC to operate and maintain the University’s current course management system – WebCT 4.1 Campus Edition. ITS is also responsible for supporting other centralized servers (webpages, student information systems, financial services, and e-mail), the University’s computer network, most of the multi-media classrooms, and the campus’ computing infrastructure. ITS ensures quality of service by providing redundant systems. The mission-critical servers (of which WebCT is one) are all clustered together so that if one fails then another one picks up the slack. If the WebCT server goes down an e-mail is automatically generated and distributed to the campus WebCT administrator in the DDEC and the Assistant Director of ITS. Should there be a loss of power on-campus, the cluster has a backup power generator that will ensure that students off-campus will not be affected and distance education instruction can continue with usually only a momentary lapse.
ITS staff monitor local network usage daily and have systems in place to both ensure
security and place traffic in order of appropriate priority so that tasks associated
with WebCT and communication are given preference. Although the ITS phone helpdesk
is only available during the traditional work week, they have off-hours staff handle
the e-mail help account and a 24-hour emergency beeper service. ITS works closely
with the University System of Georgia’s Office of Information Technology to monitor,
correct, and communicate any issues that arise within the USG network also. Any planned
down-time is communicated to users via the faculty listserv and the WebCT homepage.
Like the DDEC, ITS uses the Remedy help-desk tracker and automatic survey feature
to assess its effectiveness.
The ITS System Administrator has developed a daily incremental and full backup procedure along with a disaster recovery plan. In addition, the DDEC and ITS work together to backup, restore, and maintain access to all online courses and student coursework for a period of one year on a second WebCT archive server.
As the University of West Georgia migrates from the current on-campus WebCT server to the centralized off-campus USG WebCT server, some of these operational procedures will change and much of ITS’ responsibility will shift to USG’s Office of Instructional Technology. The migration to USG’s WebCT Vista 4 server is anticipated to begin summer 2006 and be completed spring 2007.
To supplement the services to students and faculty who access the WebCT online course management system outside of the normal work week, DDEC’s helpdesk staff works evening hours and on-call during the weekends. The DDEC also has a 24-hour emergency beeper for use by UWG students, faculty, or staff. In addition, as part of USG’s WebCT licensing agreements, online students and faculty have access to two additional extended-hours help services, one of which offers assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days a year.
c. Budget Ensures Sufficient On-going Support
UWG’s Resident Instruction Budget (RIB) is funded from state appropriations, student tuition and fees, and dedicated funds received from sources external to the University System of Georgia. Through dedicated RIB funding, a centralized academic support unit for distance education and off-campus delivery courses and programs known as Special Programs ensures a base monetary investment in promoting and supporting off-campus and distance education programs throughout the University.
All costs associated with distance and off-campus courses and programs housed in Special Programs are monitored to ensure they are generally offset through tuition revenue generated by student enrollments and/or saved energy costs. In addition, any new specific distance education course or program proposal would follow the same guidelines and procedures as those followed for non-distance or off-campus courses and programs.
d. Safety and Security Off-Campus
The UWG Newnan is an independent site that maintains sufficient staff during all hours of operation. In addition, the University has a contract with an independent security firm that provides a security guard from 5 PM until closing on those weekdays that classes are in session at the UWG Newnan. The guard is also present on Saturdays when the Center conducts classes.
All buildings at the UWG Newnan have electronic security monitors that protect resources during periods when the facility is not staffed. This system connects directly to the public safety office on the main campus. Through arrangements with the Coweta County Sheriff’s office, patrolmen include the UWG Newnan in their periodic patrols and respond to calls of suspicious activity or security system alarms. Similar security arrangements obtain at Highlands College and our Dalton facility. Security considerations will be part of any site considerations for offerings provided with partners in Douglasville and Douglas County.
Evaluation and Assessment
a. Evaluation Methods
Evaluation of student learning outcomes of courses offered at off-campus sites is identical to that of traditional, campus-based programs, and is the responsibility of academic departments. Evaluation of student learning outcomes of distance courses is the shared responsibility of academic departments and the DDEC (Distance & Distributed Education Center). Assessment methods include student evaluation surveys at the end of each academic term, annual telephone surveys with distance students, course evaluation surveys completed by faculty, and department-specific reviews.
Distance students complete end-of-course evaluations, which are reviewed by faculty and department chairs. The DDEC reviews the data and comments compiled from these surveys, class by class, to ensure course quality and student satisfaction. Since 1998, there have only been two cases in which evaluations indicated significant concerns regarding online course quality or faculty competency. Each of these cases was referred to the respective academic department chairs and deans for further investigation. In 2001, the UWG Faculty Senate approved the mandatory use of the Course Evaluation Summary form for online faculty whereby instructors review student data and personal experience to identify course weaknesses and strengths and to determine areas for course improvements. Since the beginning of the 2002 academic year the DDEC and the Distance Education Steering Committee has regularly reviewed data from the surveys provided by online professors in order to improve training and policies aimed at ensuring student learning and satisfaction. In addition, a telephone survey of UWG distance students is conducted annually in January and February by the DDEC. Between 80 and 90 percent of students surveyed over the past four years indicate that they believe they learn as much or more in online courses as they do in traditional, campus-based courses.
In addition, The UWG Newnan Director maintains a continuous process for evaluating courses and participation levels at the UWG Newnan. The Director evaluates courses to insure that students can maintain a flow of study consistent with achieving a degree. For those degree programs on the Newnan Campus, the Director reviews courses to insure that students can complete their study in the period specified. Courses at the UWG Newnan are also evaluated for cost viability to insure that program revenues generally exceed program costs. Deviations are reported to academic department chairs for evaluation and decisions to continue or cancel classes based upon enrollment. This evaluation also indicates the strength of programs and the suitability of program offerings. Comparable processes are in place at Highlands College and our facility in Dalton.
b. Data Collection & Analysis
Student surveys are administered to students at off-campus courses in the same way that they are in the traditional environment. They are distributed personally, usually on the last day of the course, by a designated assistant while the faculty member leaves the room.
For online courses, evaluations are posted through WebCT on the course website. Students are sent reminders by the DDEC through WebCT to complete these surveys, and they are informed of the importance of the surveys in improving course and program quality. The results are sent to academic department heads for review and distribution to faculty. As outlined in previous sections, each faculty member is responsible for the careful review of his or her evaluations and the completion of a form which outlines course strengths and weaknesses and plans for future improvements. Copies of this form, along with the compiled evaluation data, must be sent to the distance education administrator in the DDEC before the instructor can teach another online course.
Telephone surveys are administered each January and February to a random sample of approximately 100 students who enrolled in distance courses during the prior term. The survey, administered by the DDEC, includes both quantitative questions and open-ended questions regarding both perceived course quality and availability and quality of student services for online students. The overall results of both the telephone surveys and the faculty course summaries are posted on the University website, and they are used in the annual reporting and planning process. The results are also reviewed by the Distance Education Steering Committee to make programmatic and policy improvements.
c. Enrollment Monitoring
Enrollments for distance courses are recorded by the Registrar’s office and verified by the USG system office. The DDEC reviews enrollment reports for accuracy, and reviews the course bulletin prior to publication to make sure that distance courses are properly designated. Each semester the DDEC collects retention data from the Registrar’s office and reports this information to the Distance Education Steering Committee. The retention rates for UWG’s online courses (not including eCore classes) have ranged from 85 to 89 percent, a percentage range which is comparable to retention rates for traditional, on-campus courses. Enrollment limits for courses are set by the individual academic departments. Monitoring of participation levels in online courses is the responsibility of the faculty member teaching the course. However, faculty are encouraged through DDEC and peer training to clearly define participation expectations for students and link these to course grades as appropriate.
d. Frequency of Program Review
Program review of all external degree programs is conducted by individual academic departments and colleges on an annual basis in the same manner as traditional, on campus programs. Distance programs are evaluated annually by both appropriate academic departments and also by the DDEC and the Distance Learning Steering Committee each August. The academic departmental evaluations focus on learning outcomes, course quality, processes, and enrollment patterns, and are part of the annual departmental effectiveness evaluations posted on the University website. The Distance Learning Steering Committee reviews distance courses and programs in light of specific institutional goals and outcomes including technical resources and infrastructure, educational excellence within courses, retention, and academic and student support services. Summaries of these reviews and actions taken are posted on the DDEC’s website and publicized appropriately. When necessary, new policies are recommended through traditional University processes.
a. Ensuring Compliance with Copyright and Intellectual Property Laws
The University of West Georgia requires all faculty members to comply with copyright and intellectual property laws and with USG and institutional intellectual property policies, procedures, and guidelines. UWG has established a comprehensive education program designed to ensure that faculty members understand applicable laws. This includes a web reference which provides links to information on the TEACH Act, University of West Georgia’s intellectual property and copyright policies, the USG Guide to Understanding Copyright and Education Fair Use, information from the Copyright Clearance Center, and copyright and intellectual property information from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. In order to ensure availability of this information, the DDEC staff also provides it to the faculty through course development workshops, printed handouts, and notices via a listserv. Because the course development tool (WebCT) is a secure environment, materials are protected by passwords. A link to the USG Guide to Understanding Copyright and Education Fair Use policies is also provided as an announcement on each faculty’s WebCT homepage. The University counsel also is available to provide legal advice on copyright and intellectual property issues as needed.
b. Secure Transmission of Sensitive Data
The University of West Georgia uses its Campus Security Plan to identify, create and maintain appropriate IT policies and standards in conformance with the Campus Security Policy objectives and in compliance with the Policy Manual of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. These policies apply to all UWG faculty, staff and students, in addition to any guests who are authorized to use the University’s computers and/or data network. Use of the University’s computing and network resources is understood to constitute an acceptance of these policies.
A combination of physical security, personnel security, and system security mechanisms is used to control access to the UWG enterprise network. The principal instruments of access control are a combination of personal user login identification and a unique password authentication. These are created in a manner consistent with the guidelines established by our policies. A system of Discretionary Access Control is also used in order to restrict network users only to those privileges or access necessary for their work and thereby provide a secure network.
The UWG Security Policy maintains that certain specific types of data transactions are to be protected during transmission and that some or all of these data may need to be stored in an encrypted form. Proven standard algorithms as outlined in the security plan are used as the basis for this encryption. All critical assets are located and housed in a securable area with independent environmental controls and with access restricted to those with direct responsibility for proper operation and system health.
Most systems used to support UWG’s distance courses and programs currently reside on systems housed at UWG and managed as described. However, in Fall 2006, the University’s WebCT courses will begin migration to the UWG’s centralized server residing at the ALT office north of Atlanta.
c. Process Used to Address the effect of Distance Education and Off-Campus Offerings on Current Contracts, Licenses, Policies, Procedures and Practices
Through its extensive experience in the delivery of distance and off-campus programs
through the administrative support provided by its Office of Special Programs, the
University has established systematic processes which enable proactive response to
issues related to distance and off-campus programs. As a member of the Vice President
for Academic Affairs’ Deans’ Council and the University’s PAC (President’s Advisory
Council), the Director of Special Programs collaborates directly with both heads of
academic units and the leaders of other campus administrative entities on issues affecting
distance and off-campus programs. Policy or procedural changes which directly affect
faculty, courses and programs are processed through traditional University governance
Distance programs and courses present unique challenges. For this reason, the Distance Education Steering Committee was created in 1997. Consisting of appropriate faculty and staff members, it has become the principal forum for discussion of policy issues concerning distance education. It advises the DDEC on a regular basis, and recommends appropriate changes in University policies when necessary. It also thoroughly discusses and makes recommendations through traditional University processes about the purchase of major educational products or software which oftentimes require extended licensing or contractual agreements. UWG follows established USG protocols and shared licensing agreements when and if applicable.