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Retired Action Project 4

Improve and Expand Washington State Community College's Distance Learning program.

Describe this Action Project's goal in 100 words or fewer:

The overall goal of this project is to put into place the services that will enable Washington State Community College to receive permission from the Higher Learning Commission to offer online degrees. A secondary goal of this project is to fully migrate to the Sakai course management system.

Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:

Primary Category: Helping Students Learn

Describe briefly your institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project now -- why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:

The Distance Learning (DL) program has experienced tremendous growth over the last three years, and the DL program presents an opportunity for sustainable enrollment growth over the next several years.

List the organizational areas - -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units -- most affected by or involved in this Action Project:

This Action Project will impact virtually all departments, both academic and non-academic. Areas most affected include the Distance Learning director, student services, helpdesk, institutional technology support services, academic divisions, and institutional research. Other areas affected include front desk, disability services, tutoring, grant writer, marketing, bookstore, business office, records, human resources, library, and administration.

Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:

Student learning, technical support, student support services, professional development, communication, budgeting, and contract training.

Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):

This Action Project is planned as a two-year process. Year one activities include creating a new payment structure; creating a Distance Learning center; creating a review process for online course development; creating a communication plan; and expanding contract training. Year two activities include implementing a seamless online authentication system; providing online instructors with access to a laptop and other necessary equipment; implementing staff development programs; and providing student services processes online.

Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:

A timeline has been developed for each component of the project and will be monitored for completion.

Describe the overall "outcome" measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:

Process Measures:

  1. Implement seamless online authentication system.

  2. Provide online instructors access to a laptop and other equipment for teaching.

  3. Make all of our current student support/student services process available online.

  4. Provide staff development programs.

  5. Develop and implement payment structure for creating, maintaining, developing staff.

  6. Create a DL center with help desk, director, etc.

  7. Create a reliable review process for online course development and approval.

  8. Standardize courses on one delivery platform, Sakai.

  9. Create a communication plan to inform others.

  10. Create a funding formula that ties DL budget to enrollment growth.

  11. Identify and prioritize online degree programs.

  12. Ensure student success in online learning.

  13. Expand contract training using DL to create a virtual training world.

Outcome Measures:

  1. By fall 2008, have all online and blended courses on Sakai course management system.

  2. By fall 2009, receive permission from the Higher Learning Commission to offer online degrees.

  3. Increase distance learning enrollment by 100% between fall 2007 and fall 2010.

Annual Update: 2008-09-11

Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.

As a major objective of the Distance Learning Action Project, Washington State Community College committed itself to expand its distance and blended learning offerings. In realizing this major objective, WSCC successfully deployed Sakai as its new learning management system for online and blended courses. The Sakai project is part of the Open Learning Partnership (OLP), a collaborative effort between the Ohio Learning Network and e-Tech Ohio Commission. Throughout the year, faculty and staff have been working on migrating their online courses from the old LMS (Interact) to Sakai. As of September 1st, 2008, 60% of WSCC online courses have been migrated. The remaining 40% will be fully migrated by the end of the year (December 2008). In addition to fully online courses, Sakai is now used to deliver blended/hybrid courses that support face-to-face classes. At least 6 courses are offered this fall quarter in a blended mode. Fifteen more courses will be offered in the winter quarter 2009.

Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.

The Distance Learning Action Project affects and has had an impact on almost all academic and administrative functions in our institution. Deans, chairs, and faculty members from all three academic divisions have been heavily involved in the processes of planning, course approval, content design and development, and delivery of courses on Sakai. Additionally, personnel from student services, help desk, MIS department, the library, as well as the business office have been involved in all aspects of the administrative and student services operations including student advising, help and support, enrollment and registration, and library services. The past year has truly been a collaborative affair between all the various constituencies at WSCC that impact students learning and success in an online teaching/learning environment.

Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.

While we are completing the migration of the remaining few courses to Sakai, we have begun to implement the second major objective of this Action Project, obtaining approval from the Higher Learning Commission to offer full degrees online. WSCC has been selected by the Ohio Learning Network to participate in the OLN's sponsored Center for Transforming Student Services (CENTSS) audit workshop in October 2008. Our goal is to assess and review the various web-based student services that are needed to enable distance learning students to access various administrative and academic services online. Deploying sophisticated and reliable academic and administrative web-based services will enable our distance learning students to access the same kind of services campus-based students have access to. Moreover, deploying such online services requires improvement in our computer and network infrastructure. WSCC is continuously investing in modernizing it facilities and infrastructure. We recently outsourced a project to design and implement a single sign-on facility that will help us build a portal for all web-based services that can be accessed with one username and password.

Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.

In realizing the first objective of this Action Project, WSCC implemented new effective administration and tracking method for its new learning management system, Sakai. Standards and policies have been developed for course creation, naming convention, a faculty compensation model, and a systematic course development process. As part of our efforts to diffuse Sakai across the campus, we have started to use it not only for course management, but also for collaboration projects, and soon we will explore the e-Portfolio facility available in Sakai that can be used to assess and measure student learning. This has helped us in making Sakai become part of our organizational fabric to serve the academic, administrative, and workforce development department across the campus. The E-Learning Center launched a new web site that will become the main communication and information dissemination platform for online and blended courses and technology-enhanced teaching and learning activities.

What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?

The main challenge left in this Action Project is full implementation of the student services component that will pave the way for WSCC to obtain HLC approval to offer full online degrees.

Annual Update

What is the primary reason for closing this project?

The overall objective of this action project has been to improve and expand WSCC’s distance learning course offerings. The project has focused on three goals:

  1. to migrate all online courses from the old Interact learning management system to our new Sakai learning management system;

  2. to start offering blended courses on Sakai to provide additional flexibility for our students; and

  3. to put in place the necessary online student services that will allow WSCC to obtain HLC’s permission to offer full online degrees.

We have fully achieved goals 1 and 2. WSCC has now standardized all its online courses on the Sakai LMS, and we have increased our fully online courses to 79. Furthermore, we now offer more than 45 courses in blended format. We are also making excellent progress in putting in place all the required online student services to enable our students to complete a full degree entirely online. We are fine-tuning few additional online services before we request a change-of-status from the HLC.

What aspects of this project would you categorize as successful?

The main successful aspect of this project was the adoption of Sakai as our standard learning management system and the integration of Sakai with the College’s single sign-on portal. The success was due to our collaboration with the Ohio Learning Network and the support we got from the Open Learning Partnership initiative and the Ohio Sakai Council. Another successful aspect was the involvement of all faculty and staff in making distance learning an integral element in our course and program offerings. The popularity of distance learning at WSCC is steadily increasing and due to our better infrastructure and the support of our leadership and faculty and staff, we are now offering many blended courses as well as using Sakai to support an increasing number of face-to-face classes and several collaboration projects across campus.

What aspects of this project would you categorize as less than successful?

We continue to work hard on improving our existing online student services as well as add new ones. We still have some gaps to fill in our students’ services to make them fully online. The ultimate goal is to make sure that distance learning students do not have to be on campus to deal with any service.

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