Regis University's College for Professional Studies (CPS) has offered accelerated (8-week) undergraduate and graduate degree programs in classroom and online delivery formats for __ years. In recent years the technology available to learners and faculty has changed the former's expectations for how and where they receive course work, and challenged (and changed) the latter's abilities to design and deliver curriculum that meets expectations and accreditation standards.
Three years ago CPS decided some form of blended courses and programs must be part of its curriculum delivery options. To that end CPS sought and received a grant from the Sloan-C Localness Initiative to pilot a blended delivery format in select graduate programs. The School of Management's (SoM) 12 course General MBA and the School of Education's (SoE) 12-course MEd in Principal Licensure programs were selected and the pilot was launched in July, 2009. This balance of this document describes decisions made by the implementation task force prior to implementation, issues that surfaced and were addressed during the pilot and a summary of results from the pilot.
The first major problem facing both schools and the Department of Learning Design (DLD) in providing a blending learning experience to students was the need to rewrite 12 courses in the blended format in both degree programs while operating within the enterprise model of the College, and rolling newly rewritten courses out to students while course writing was still in progress.
Both the enterprise model, as well as the philosophy that classes in any format should have the same outcomes and be as close to the same experience as possible, led eventually for SoM to a process of more simple course development that was still effective if formulaic."
A major challenge for the DLD was to assist the schools' course experts in conceptualizing and navigating a virtual environment and how to best integrate learning opportunities seamlessly between classroom and online delivery formats.
The SoM's initial strategy was to offer the blended courses at two satellite campuses thinking they would provide more flexibility to students and bolster enrollments at the satellite campuses. The SoE chose to implement its part of the pilot as cohort group at a school site. These decisions had a number of impacts on operational and pedagogical issues.
The grant committed the implementation task force to a minimum of twelve clock hours of face to face learner/instructor contact. The presentation will address how the two schools chose to meet this requirement as well as how the eight weeks were allocated to online and classroom sessions. Both schools chose faculty for their overall experience in teaching their course, and for their demonstrated proficiency in both classroom and online delivery.
The task force also needed to work with internal and external markets to create awareness of the blended course sections. Internally, the task force had to work within the university's existing information system to distinguish blended courses in the Course Schedule from the same courses already being offered in 100% online and in the classroom sections for learners and faculty. Externally, the task force and CPS Marketing needed to consider how to best present blended delivery to potential students.
The task force experienced significant learning during the pilot as unanticipated course design, operational and pedagogical issues presented and required resolution. These included how to clearly identify what materials and pre-work learners needed for the classroom sessions so that they came prepared; new courses codes and more-than-usual detail course descriptions for the Course Schedule; more orientation to blended delivery, even for experienced faculty.
The task force's ability to respond was aided by student satisfaction with the blended courses gathered in surveys and student interviews given to students at various times during the presentation of both the SoE and SoM blended courses. The presentation will provide detail of those surveys and interviews.
Both schools saw disparities between classroom and online versions of their programs more clearly and because of this process made the necessary adjustments to bring them into line with each other. The result is greater consistency across all delivery modes; classroom, online and blended.
Despite some initial struggle to adapt to the blended format, blended section instructors noted another benefit: a change in their teaching paradigm. Instructors' believe their new understanding of the relationship between what was being taught, how it was being delivered, and how students best learn began to inform their teaching, in the online and classroom formats, not just blended delivery.
The task force came to see how these course design, operational and pedagogical issues presented significant barriers to launching the blended courses in an optimal way. It is felt that student learning and satisfaction were impacted by these barriers and this presentation will offer solutions to barriers and lessons learned in offering blended classes in an accelerated format to an adult student population.