Schaffhauser, D. (2020) Distance Learning Ramp-up: A Strategic View Campus Technology, April 23
Phelps, J. (2020) SNHU to cut tuition from $31,000 to $10,000, revamp on-campus learning New Hampshire Union Leader, April 22
I came across these two examples of how institutions have managed successfully to move on-campus courses online. However, although both these universities have significant on-campus programs, they also already had some of the largest number of online enrolments in the USA, so they were in a much better position initially. Nevertheless each of these has some best practices that could be adopted by many other institutions.
As always, I strongly recommend that you read the original articles, because the details are important, but here are some of the main points:
Arizona State University
From an interview with Phil Regier, CEO of ASU’s EdPlus Division:
- ASU Online has always been an integral part of the university. ASU Online uses regular, campus-based instructors also for developing the online courses. ASU already had a third to a half of the faculty that had been trained in how to do quality digital instruction from a distance before Covid-19
- for Covid-19, ASU looked at ways to improve connectivity for students with low socioeconomic status (wifi gaps, equipment such as computers or tablets)
- daily meetings were organised in the Vice-Provost’s office to deal with issues as they arose from moving campus-based courses to online courses
- ASU focuses particularly on online student engagement (discussion forums, peer-to-peer assessment, etc.)
- 2,400 faculty had already been put through a two-week master class in online teaching and learning, supplemented within the weeks prior to [the COVID19 closure] with additional training in how to use Zoom at scale
- a website was created where faculty could go to learn best practices for how to break students into groups and how to teach synchronously using Zoom at scale and at a distance
- In ASU Online, 99.9 percent is delivered asynchronously, because of the nature of the learners
- ‘Zoom is a great tool but it’s not a substitute for full-blown, well-constructed online courses. It is a tool in the quiver.’
Southern New Hampshire University
- tuition will be cut 61%, from $31,000 to $10,000 starting in the 2021-2022 academic year
- incoming freshmen and transfer students with freshman standing will receive full tuition scholarships for the first year. The scholarships, which will be available to 1,050 on a first-come, first-served basis, won’t include the cost of room and board.
- the first year incoming freshmen will take their courses online with learning support while living on campus and participating in all campus clubs, activities, athletics and other experiences.
The advantages of experience
ASU had already built 2,500 high-quality online courses over 10 years. Between fall 2012 and fall 2019, the number of students taking online programs through ASU Online grew more than 12-fold, from an estimated 3,565 students to 45,073, pushing total enrollment in 2019 at the university to 119,951.
During the last 10 years, ASU continued to adapt new technologies. They assessed their efficacy. They knew what worked and what didn’t. ‘That’s 10 years that you simply can’t accelerate into three months.’
You can’t go back and change decisions made years ago, but you can learn from other institutions’ experience. As leaders in online learning in the USA, Arizona State University and Southern New Hampshire University can provide valuable lessons for other institutions that have been slower in moving to online learning.
Also I am very intrigued by Southern New Hampshire’s tuition fee strategy. This seems to me to be a very significant development, not just for the USA, where tuition costs have rocketed over the last 10-15 years, but in many other countries.
Could institutions start offering two-track degrees: regular full campus-based programs at a higher cost than fully online programs – or a mix of both? If so what would be the best mix: online learning for the large first and second year courses, or for the more specialist and usually smaller third and fourth year courses?
And what would that mean for faculty contracts and training? Ideally you would want instructors comfortable teaching in both modes: but why not? Perhaps these are the most important changes to the higher education system that will result from Covid-19.