5.4.1 E-Learning

Background

The definition of e-learning varies widely. For some, e-learning is equivalent to "distance education" or "distributed learning" since technology enables flexible scheduling, self-paced learning, and course offerings to those who are far away. For some, e-learning means Internet courses, although MnSCU’s E-Learning Initiative includes within its definition older technology like interactive television (ITV) as well as newer technologies, like the digital satellite capability delivered by MnSCU’s Minnesota Satellite and Technology (http://mnsat.mnscu.edu/), or Instructional Management Systems (IMS), like SCSU’s currently supported WebCT. For others, e-learning includes any teaching and learning that is enhanced by technology.

For instance, MnSCU’s E-Learning initiative, Minnesota Online, provides "offerings that students can access any time/any place" but acknowledges "that the same technologies that make it possible for students to learn from a distance also enrich the traditional learning experience." E-learning, therefore, "includes teaching and learning that is enhanced by technology" — counting "some or all of the face-to-face instruction offered in a traditional academic setting" (MnSCU’s "E-Learning Initiatives Overview," February 23, 2002). Additional newer technologies not incorporated in these definitions include Internet2 and synchronous communication technologies as well as face-to-face presentational technology (like PowerPoint).

Currently at SCSU, there is no agreed upon definition of e-learning; having a broad-based conversation to develop such a definition would help us to understand the current status of e-learning on campus and to uncover possible directions for the future. Useful to this conversation would be data collection about current use of technology for teaching and learning.

For instance, we already know that all of the e-learning technologies mentioned above are in use on campus although the most widely used technologies besides presentational technology are probably ITV and IMS (WebCT). However, we don't have a very complete picture of e-learning at SCSU or concrete data about the students involved in classes using technology. For instance, we know that while all ITV classes include off-campus students, not all WebCT classes do. Of the 200 Fall SCSU courses and 8000 students using WebCT, the majority of students were probably on-campus, although data needs to be collected to clarify this claim. Data collection would help us to understand

  • the specific types of students taking those courses and why they are taking them.
    • Are they on-campus students simply taking the courses because they can get into the classes? Because they are interested in the flexible scheduling or the self-paced learning (if the courses are asynchronous)?
    • Are they off-campus students taking them because they live at a distance? Because they are interested in the flexible scheduling or the self-paced learning (if the courses are asynchronous)?
  • the needs of students taking these courses
  • the needs of faculty teaching these classes

Many of the courses presented only via WebCT are offered through Continuing Studies. Some concerns regarding these online courses include

  • training of students in technology use
  • student retention
  • student learning
  • course quality and curriculum approval processes
  • remuneration and faculty workload
  • hiring of faculty, including the role of the department in that hiring (a system for vetting faculty through the department)
  • technology support and technology training of faculty
  • intellectual property issues relating to class materials
  • recognition of faculty professional development, teaching, and scholarship relating to online teaching
Many of these issues also are relevant for technology-rich classes that are taught through regular departmental offerings.

Goals

In the next five years, SCSU will

  • develop and promote a broadly-defined campus understanding of e-learning
  • participate in MnSCU’s e-learning efforts, e.g., Minnesota Online, MnVU, e-portfolios, etc.
  • develop an e-learning committee to address faculty issues (including remuneration, ownership, quality, motivation, support, etc), and student support services for those using e-learning
  • provide the necessary technical support and infrastructure, including the following
  • appropriate increases in bandwidth (see 5.19)
  • funding to support IMS software (see 5.4.5)
  • training for the designated campus IMS software (see 5.4.5)
  • adequate student and faculty training (see 5.17), including the possibility of a 24 x 7 HelpDesk (see 5.16.1)
  • production services to support e-course development (see 5.16.2)
  • find SCSU’s e-learning niche and make recommendations regarding expanded marketing and promotion
  • evaluate possible financial opportunities of e-learning (distance learning)

Specific Actions and Timeline

An e-learning committee will be formed comprised of members of TPR, members of TLTR, technologists, administrators, and students.

  • The committee will follow the standard timeline (see 5.0) for carrying out and reporting on specific actions.
  • The committee will address faculty issues, facilitate expanded student support services for those using e-learning, and coordinate with other appropriate technology committees concerning necessary technical support and infrastructure of e-learning.
  • During the 2007/2008 academic year, the committee will produce a final report assessing the effects of technology on student learning and classrooms and a planning document for the next five-year plan. By February 1, 2008, these will be submitted for review to TLTR and TPR (and then via TPR to Faculty Senate).

Resources

One of primary resource needs for e-learning is a fully-funded and supported IMS. (See 5.4.5.) Additional resource needs include technical support and infrastructure.

Evaluation

  • Has the committee developed and promoted a broadly defined campus understanding of e-learning?
  • Has the committee participated in MnSCU’s e-learning efforts, e.g., Minnesota Online, MnVU, etc.?
  • Has the committee addressed faculty issues (including remuneration, ownership, quality, motivation, support, etc) and facilitated expanded student support services for those using e-learning?
  • Has the committee addressed issues concerning necessary technical support and infrastructure?
  • Has the committee found SCSU’s e-learning niche and made recommendations regarding expanded marketing and promotion?
  • Has the committee evaluated possible financial opportunities of e-learning (distance learning) and made recommendations regarding those possibilities?
  • Has the committee completed a final report?
  • Has the committee developed recommendations for the next technology planning cycle?

Revised: May 2003