Advocating Online Excellence
For U.Va., it is not enough to have an online presence. The University must deliver online courses that are as rigorous, powerful, and engaging as its best on-Grounds efforts. Fortunately, the University possesses the expertise to achieve this goal.
An important source of this expertise is the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, which has long been a proponent of using online technology to reach adult learners at a distance. “We’ve been successful because our focus is not on the technology,” noted Billy Cannaday, the school’s dean and the University’s first vice provost of academic outreach. “It’s on using online tools to increase student engagement and learning.”
The school launched its Technology Enhanced Learning initiative (TEL) in 2011 not simply to build capacity within the school but also to help spread that capacity throughout the University. Eight of the school’s best faculty members received a $3,000 grant to design or redesign their courses to make more effective use of online technology. Throughout spring 2012, they met with experts in the school and around U.Va. to master tools available on UVaCollab, the University’s online-learning platform.
For instance, human resource management professor Laura Frey Horn learned how to incorporate live, interactive presentations into her classes, while John Hulburt, who teaches finance, found ways to oversee group work online that are more effective than the ones he uses in the classroom.
The eight instructors now serve as enthusiastic advocates for online learning. During the summer and early fall 2012, they described their TEL-grant-inspired changes to other SCPS instructors. They will also be making presentations in a two-part course the school has developed for faculty from the rest of the University.