About the Distance Education Initiative

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What is the Distance Education Teaching and Learning Initiative?

This initiative is a University-wide effort aims to enhance the undergraduate and graduate student experience by creating distance education course offerings.  These re-designed courses will improve instructional effectiveness by utilizing innovative teaching strategies and increase flexibility of course offerings for both students and faculty.

Overview:

Over the last year West Chester University has seen a 72% increase in online course enrollment.  However it has been found throughout higher education that institutions have struggled to find consistent and effective ways to obtain faculty buy-in as it relates to online course transformation.  This lack of participation may be related to faculty feeling overwhelmed to learn on their own about the vast amount of technological innovations available to utilize in course design (Brown & Green, 2003).  However, we need to offer support for our faculty because the quality of the student’s learning experience can be directly tied to the effort, quality, and skill of the faculty member who delivers instruction (Bai, 1999). For this reason it is important for the university to provide a supportive culture for online teaching.

Enhancing faculty and staff comfort levels with technology, and supporting technical training in specific technology-based skills can help address skepticism about online pedagogy and reduce a faculty member’s reluctance to change (Covington, Petherbridge, & Warren, 2005).  This initiative will target newly hired faculty within the last three years at the institution.  Faculty will be asked to participate in a faculty learning community with the focus on online course transformation.  The benefit of faculty learning communities as enablers of lasting change in higher education is well documented (Cox, 2001; 2003; 2004). Participating in a learning community allows individuals to contextualize material, ideas, and concepts in a different manner, using socialization and interactions to ground problems and experiences in individuals as well as abstractions (Dees, Zavota, Emens, Harper, Kan Niesz, Devine, & Hovhannisyan, 2009).

Project Leadership:

  • Office of Distance Education
  • Teaching, Learning, and Assessment Center

Project Goals:

The initiative will address the following objectives:

  • Increase access to courses through the use of a distance education course delivery
  • Test and assess new pedagogies that center around student-centered, active, inquiry-based, resource-oriented learning through the creation learning communities that will improve the student experience.

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