The Online Education Evolution of LSU: A Shift in Focus for a Traditional State UniversityAmanda Major | Instructional Designer in the Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida
Entering into the 100-percent online space requires a paradigm shift for traditional universities. In addition to adding to their education repertoire, these universities must add or enrich methods for reaching and supporting online students—to the point of reconstructing business processes. LSU is a prime example of an institution seeking solutions to increase its online learning program offerings while maintaining its academic reputation as a highly regarded research university.
Realizing the challenges involved in entering the competitive landscape of online education, LSU has partnered with the online program management provider Academic Partnerships, or AP. AP offers full-service online programmatic support, including graduate degree course development, digital marketing and consultative expertise. With this added support, the university aims to remove the geographic, time and financial barriers that students confront in attaining their education by offering 100-percent asynchronous coursework from respected faculty members, renowned experts and exceptional practitioners of LSU.
This strategic partnership in online education development has led to a number of successes:
- LSU Online has launched nine graduate degree programs in two years.
- LSU Online graduated 42 students in its May 2015 commencement alone.
- The Spring 2015 graduates of the LSU Online M.Ed. in educational leadership achieved a 100-percent pass rate on the School Leaders Licensure Assessment.
- LSU Online’s master’s programs in higher education administration and social work have been ranked as two of the top 10 in the country, according to TheBestSchools.org and BestColleges.com.
This is as much an outreach effort as it is an effort to grow enrollments. Launching 100-percent online programs offers those students, often working adults with multiple demands, a means to attain higher education.
Administrators across campus within financial aid, the graduate school, the bursar’s and registrar’s offices, as well as information technology personnel, coordinated to ensure their systems aligned to offer the recommended six annual starts and seven-week terms. To provide this accelerated format that gives students a path for completing their programs sooner than they would in a traditional semester format, systems and schedules were adjusted across campus. This effort was branded with a cohesive identity as LSU Online.
Each program area revisited its admissions practices with the aim of attracting qualified professionals and prospective students to their programs while key faculty and personnel championed student-centered support and focus. This, paired with AP’s enrollment specialist and student support services team, utilized integrated data to enhance and maintain a student-centered focus with solid customer service.
In addition, ongoing quality measurements ensure that online students receive the same top-tier instruction and rigor as students receive on-campus, with an emphasis on fostering students’ competencies for career success.
These continuing efforts have resulted in high retention rates and high program rankings across several graduate program areas, but the success of LSU Online is more than that. LSU’s 100-percent online programs offered in an accelerated format have resulted in the university expanding its reach to offer high-quality, master’s-level education to qualified students who would not normally complete their graduate education on campus. That is momentum that is best measured by the individuals, who as online students, are achieving their dreams by earning a high-quality, reputable degree.
Author Perspective: Administrator