Published on 2016/05/20
Co-Written with Gayla Stoner | Executive Director of UIC Extended Campus, University of Illinois Chicago

The EvoLLLution | Continuing Education Divisions as Impact Agents in Online Initiatives
As more and more institutions look to develop centralized units focused on supporting online learning development and management across the college or university, institutional leaders should look to their CE teams to take the lead.

Continuing Education divisions have an opportunity to work with their institutions to impact change through standalone centers focused on supporting campus-wide online program development.

This article will look at seven key components that will benefit an institution’s centralized approach led by the CE Division as well as the impact of this standalone center approach on the long-term sustainability of a CE Division.

Seven Ways Institutions Benefit from Putting CE at the Head of Online Initiatives

1. Leading through entrepreneurial initiatives

At the forefront of change, CE divisions find ways to innovate, utilize resources in highly impactful ways, and to streamline campus initiatives. CE divisions find solutions to problems presented by large groups of constituencies. Providing a centralized unit that supports the teaching and learning opportunities for online programming, CE divisions are well positioned to be the leaders in this area through an entrepreneurial approach to activities across a campus.

 2. Strategic alignment

CE divisions are well positioned in understanding the strategic initiatives of the mission of their individual campuses. Successful CE divisions support, encourage, and maintain mindful approaches to fulfilling the institutional mission and vision through interdisciplinary approaches, collaborations, and partnerships. As such, CE divisions are in an optimum position across campus to lead and support online program development.

 3. Resource driven

CE divisions are often self-supported ventures that rely on a deep understanding of return on investment, resourcing programs appropriately to maximize both financial and human resources with high faculty and student satisfaction. CE divisions have processes and staff in place to maintain services and leadership to maximize resources.

 4. Faculty Satisfaction

Faculty report that colleagues who develop curriculum and teach in online programs experience higher satisfaction ratings when they have high levels of institutional support for their work. The CE division can assist with faculty support through technology, professional pedagogical development, and experimentation in new learning technologies.

 5. Student Satisfaction

Students report being much more satisfied with learning environments online when faculty focus on teaching and building relationships rather than being relegated to a technology support role. Additionally, students achieve higher results when courses have undergone review for quality construction and consistency.

 6. Course Quality and Consistency

Even in the most individualized approach to teaching, some level of consistency and a continuous improvement process is achievable through a centralized approach to online program development led by a CE division. A consistent approach, which takes advantage of tools such as Quality Matters to review for course design quality, will assist a campus in their institutional approach to achieve quality online programming.

 7. Added Value

A CE division has the added benefit of much experience in providing a “value-added” approach to building programming, is experienced in leading experimental efforts, can provide nimble and flexible approaches to meeting the needs of the campus community, the business community, and to the public. A value-added approach in working with the development of online programming allows the campus to take advantage leadership, strategic approaches, and the collaborative nature of a CE division.

Seven Ways CE Divisions Benefit From This Expanded Role

 1. Building substantive collaborative approaches

CE divisions are collaborative by nature, building relationships among internal and external partners to meet the needs of the constituents. Investing in a standalone center for online program development will necessitate building deeper and more substantive collaborative approaches with internal constituents across the campus community.

 2. Ensuring a voice at the leadership table

To provide support across the campus community, lead and support the online initiative, and provide for the sustainability of online programming, a strong voice from the CE division must be present at the executive leadership level. This voice must be willing to speak for the online programming development, and listen to those involved in the operational development and support.

 3. Program review

Re-evaluation of the CE division to determine probability in leading, staffing, supporting and developing online programming is essential. The CE division must determine the capacity and ability to create and sustain a standalone center for online program development. Resources might need to be redirected. The ROI should be carefully considered as the CE division considers variables in creation of a standalone center for this work.

 4. Ensure engaging student interaction

Providing professional instructional design with multiple tools across various platforms ensures the course content is engaging for the student. The CE division provides a central location to ensure awareness and education of technology trends and tools that engage students throughout their learning process. It is necessary to provide ongoing theoretically based education and support for faculty regarding the use of technology-enhanced courses. The CE division creates engaging faculty-to-student and student-to-student community interactions that lead to student retention and success.

 5. Driving force for innovation

Recognizing the financial expertise within the CE division enables a financial infrastructure that leverages the growth of successful programs to enable incentives for additional programming opportunities. In particular, the CE division offers faculty a fiscally sound exploratory ground to create innovative programs that transform student learning.

 6. Quality governance

The CE division provides accountability for the institution through a central location for ensuring reliable systems, training and support for faculty. Holistic services provided to faculty through the CE Division ensure the program outcomes are responsive to the student demand and need.

 7. Educational pathways for all learners

The CE division has the flexibility to engage multiple disciplines that create new paths to reach a larger audience. Creating programs with a student-centered focus enables real-world applications of educational pathways.

The key takeaway is that a standalone CE division that leads and supports the online programming for a university can benefit both the university as a whole and the CE division by taking advantage of the expertise, collaborative partnerships and leadership found within a CE division.

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