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Improving Student Success and Satisfaction in Online Learning

—Co-written with Sue Bauer | Instructional Designer, University of Central Florida—

The ongoing institutional support model which is bolstered by strong administrative support has allowed the university to grow its online offerings while maintaining high academic quality in tough economic circumstances. Photo by Praveen Upadhyay.

At the University of Central Florida (UCF), 72 percent (45,117) of students are enrolled in at least one fully online or blended course.  We have consistently striven for high quality in blended learning courses and the latest data indicates that 87 percent of the students are highly satisfied and 81-94 percent of students succeed with an A, B, or C in the course. So what’s the secret of such a successful, large blended learning initiative?

We believe it’s the long-standing practice of a systematic, scalable, and sustainable model that has been applied to online course development since the first UCF online courses were developed in 1996. This early success also began with the support of UCF’s administration and the inclusion of faculty professional development in the university’s strategic plan. The result has been an institutional culture focusing on quality blended learning courses.

UCF offers a rigorous professional development program mandated for all faculty wanting to reduce their face-to-face instruction in either an online or blended learning delivery mode.  The award winning professional development course, Interactive Distributed Learning (IDL6543), combines face-to-face seminars, one-on-one instructional design consultations, online course content, and optional open labs in a blended course delivered to UCF faculty each semester. The IDL6543 course is designed with project-based learning. Participants acquire online pedagogical and technical skills through a mix of content delivery, student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction and collaboration in a blended delivery format.

IDL6543 participants experience a blended course from a student perspective. In addition, several important online services and elements are provided to the participants. The following illustrates the services available to blended and online faculty:

Extensive support from the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) – CDL offers support services to assist faculty in the development and delivery of their blended or fully online courses including:

  • Online@UCF Support – Technical support for faculty and students for the Learning Management System (LMS) and related programs.
  • CDL Video – Video production
  • CDL Graphics – Graphic production
  • CDL Learning Systems and Technology – games, applications, study tools, & learning aids production
  • Research support from the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness (RITE) – RITE assists faculty with the design, implementation and publishing of research in the area of online teaching and learning.
  • Accessibility Module – The concept of Universal Design for Learning is emphasized. Faculty learn about the varying disabilities and importance of making their materials accessible to all learners.
  • Interaction – Our best practices emphasize the importance of embedding interactions into the course delivery.  Whether its student-to-student, student-to-instructor, student-to-content, or student-to other (guest speaker, site visits, etc.), we promote one or all interactions be incorporated to promote content retention.
  • Emerging technologies – Emerging technologies such as 3rd party tools, mobile apps, eBooks are introduced to the faculty as well as strategies and best practices on how to incorporate them.
  • Rubrics – Rubrics are used to prompt faculty to reflect on their course development and ensure inclusion of key course components. There is a course rubric, used by participants and peers to ensure key components of the course have been reflected upon and applied. There is also a module rubric which is used by participants and the instructional designer to ensure key components of a course module have been reflected on and applied.

Faculty can apply these best practices while they develop their own course elements and effective online teaching and learning strategies through a scaffolding project approach.  Following the completion of IDL6543, they continue to have the support of the Center for Distributed Learning to assist them with future development and delivery of their blended or fully-online courses.

UCF’s ongoing support model, bolstered by strong administrative support, has allowed the university to grow and meet the needs of students while maintaining high quality of courses and instruction, even in the current economic challenges. The professional development program, IDL6543, provides the faculty with the tools and strategies they need to be successful online and, in turn, help students succeed and be satisfied with their blended learning experience

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University of Central Florida’s Access, Quality and Efficiency through Online Learning, 2010 – 2011.

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Thank you to Patsy Moskal and Linda Futch for providing guidance and for their time in editing.

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