In the first post of this blog series Bring your Online Learning Strategy into Focus, we considered how to ENVISION the creation or conversion of an online program. Once this initial vision is articulated, the next step is to determine how this vision squares with the available resources.
Of course MONEY, the financial ability to pursue a new direction will be centrally important. But how much money will you need? And what do you need to spend it on? What resources are already available to you that could be reimagined for new purposes?
Where I work, the faculty leadership showed a great deal of foresight and holistic thinking in pursuing their new direction for an online program by not just hiring a “Program Director” or appointing someone to “Take this online.” They examined their internal faculty workloads and technological infrastructure. For the curriculum, they decided both for the quality of the program and for efficiency to add this program into the regular load for faculty work- no adjuncts. This decision fed into the shape of the program itself- the two tracks offered for the new program reflect the strengths of our existing faculty.
The school also created an entirely new IT department- hiring a Director of IT, who in our case brought 20+ years of experience in IT on our campus, allowing us to tap into the broader institutional resources much more efficiently. And they hired me- an online instructional designer. In that hiring decision, our faculty made it clear to me that I was chosen because of my background as a humanist and a teacher. Yes, they were interested in my technology skillset, but only if I could contextualize in it the ways they hoped to be able to for their new experience of teaching online.
So far, so great for my well-funded organization, right? Well-resourced internally and located within a larger environment of great resources. But what about institutions with smaller budgets? Or those programs located inside of schools where resources are difficult to access?
Where should these programs start and how can they expand their capacity to include online learning?
The idea of going forward without adjuncts? Impossible.
Technology costs! Time commitments from faculty and administration! Not just the time of creating a new curriculum, but also learning new technology, learning new ways of communication and fielding the demands of new programs.
I’ve had some experience with this overwhelming reality through my consulting work at Full Tilt Ahead with several universities- with each institution taking a different approach.
Here are three examples.
One, a small graduate school in Georgia had very little technology infrastructure, no learning management system, and very little centralized faculty development capabilities. Certainly no instructional designers or online course developers. They reached out to us with questions about where to start and I suggested they beef up their centralized technology leadership and hire an instructional designer. They laughed at this level of commitment to permanent employees. They much preferred the route of hiring our company to take over the process entirely and work with and train their internal resources along the way. Another client took our advice to hire new staff instead but contracted with us to guide and establish the infrastructure and get their initiative off the ground. While another potential client decided to pick our brains about available resources and take a homegrown approach.
As a member of your decision-making team- the important considerations for resourcing require that you let multiple stakeholders have a voice and that existing resources and outside expertise both be consulted and considered as part of the equation. As an example, the choice of which learning management system to use is inextricably tied to the question of internal and external resources. See our article Jumping into online learning: How to choose a learning management system. This gives an example of how resources impact decision-making processes for online learning.
The question of resourcing moves your work definitively past the perpetual philosophical state of questioning that can be paralytic in academic environments and forward to what is logistically doable? Getting to the topic of RESOURCES may help switch your committees from an exploratory mindset to strategic planning.
Here’s your TO DO List:
- List institutional resources for technology support
- Describe technological infrastructure for online learning
- Determine sources of financial support
- Identify and recruit support of faculty and staff with online learning experience
- List curricular resources for program development
- Start hiring or contracting process for online learning skillset