Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Online Growth at UIS

The online progam at UIS is integral to the university. Beginning with the first online classes offered in fall 1998, the initiative has experienced twenty straight semesters and ten straight summer sessions, of growth in online enrollments. No exceptions. Now with 17 online degree and degree completion programs, there are 1,365 online majors at UIS. More than half of all of the students are taking at least one online class, and a number of innovative inter-institutional initiatives are underway.

National Recognition

UIS has received national recognition for quality and achievements in online learning:


Outstanding Online Program - MA in Teacher Leadership

Inaugural Mayadas Online Leadership Award
Ray Schroeder receives the A. Frank Mayadas Leadership Award. Spurring greater national conversation, Ray has consistently and with clear purpose proposed and guided numerous initiatives designed to meet the arguably most important Sloan Pillar, access. Ray championed and led two successful Sloan-C grants, which established fully online degree programs—extending the reach of degree completion and the dreams of a college education for many.

Inaugural Sloan Consortium Fellows (14 awarded nationally)

Burks Oakley
For innovative and inspirational work in the conceptualization, implementation, and advocacy of online learning in higher education on a national scale.

Ray Schroeder
For increasing access to higher education by cultivating a breadth of online degree programs and for chronicling the progress of the theory and practice of online education through new media.

Karen Swan
For rigorous research that has advanced our understanding of learning effectiveness in online and blended education.


Society for New Communications Research Award in External Online Communications

Inaugural Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality in Online Education:
For innovative work in using quantitative data in a process of continuous quality improvement to assure excellence in online teaching and learning at UIS.


Sloan Consortium Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching & Learning Programming

National Public Radio Morning Edition Report describes UIS Online as a "titan" in online learning.


Stukel Distinguished Professor of Educational Administration Karen Swan received the sixth annual Sloan Consortium "Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Online Learning" Award


Scholar in Residence- Center for Online Learning, Research and Service - Burks Oakley received the third annual Sloan Consortium "Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Online Learning" Award


Professor Emeritus and Director of OTEL/COLRS Ray Schroeder received the second annual Sloan Consortium "Most Outstanding Achievement by an Individual in Online Learning" Award

(Note: UIS is the only university that has more than one of the eleven "most outstanding achievement" award recipients.)

UIS Online

Spring 2011 demographic snapshot of online learning at UIS:

· Online majors made up 27.6% of UIS headcount enrollment.
· At 1,364, the number of online majors increased by 67 from Spring 2010
· 35.7% of credits were generated in online courses.
· 57.1% of UIS students took at least one course online.
· 32.9% were registered only in online courses.
· 40.2% of online majors have mailing addresses outside Illinois.
· 85.1% of the Illinois students have mailing addresses outside Sangamon county.
· Average age for online graduate and undergraduate majors is about 35. 33.9 UG, 35.2 GR.
· Students taking both online and on campus courses take heavier courseloads than either the completely online or on campus students.Students taking both online and on campus courses take heavier courseloads than either the completely online or on campus students, by more than 4 hours at the graduate level.

Continuous Improvement through Data-Driven Decision Making

Data collected through the University of Illinois Banner system enables UIS Online to make informed decisions on online degree development, deployment and refinement. Ground-breaking work by Dean Emeritus Bill Bloemer has enabled online programs to closely follow the a wide array of factors and to identify indicators of success and vulnerability. Regression analyses have enabled the monitoring of various quantitative factors to assure the online experience is equal to or superior to the on campus experience for UIS students.

An analysis of the data for an entire academic year (2007-2008) and how these were used to continuously improve was the basis for UIS receiving the inaugural Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education and is linked to the header of this posting.

Online Course Completion Rates

Online classes are completed by students at a rate very nearly the same as on campus classes.

With a sample of more than 60,000 registrations from Fall 2008 through Summer 2010 (2 full academic years).

The overall “remain registered” rate as 94.1% (95.0% onground, 92.5% online)

The overall “successful” rate (B or better for Grad, C or better for UG) was 82.9% (83.7% onground, 81.3% online)
Another 2.7% overall were incomplete or deferred, so possibly successful at a later date. (2.4% onground, 3.1% online.)

Online classes are taught - in most cases - by the same faculty member who teaches online. Very nearly 2/3 of the faculty members teaching online are mainstream tenured/tenure-track faculty members, emeriti, or full time clinical instructors on campus. The remainder are adjunct faculty members carefully selected and supervised by the departments and colleges. A total of more than 211 different faculty members taught online in the previous academic year. More 350 online class sections are offered online each term.

Faculty members, for the most part, take a social constructivist approach - engaging students and encouraging individual knowledge-building. Most faculty members check into their Blackboard daily and take pride in responding to student postings within 24 hours.

Deployment of Online Degrees and Certificates

The online degrees and certificates have been rolled out over the past dozen years - one and two at a time. Beginning with a Liberal Studies degree completion at the baccalaureate level and the masters in Management Information Systems and Teacher Leadership at the graduate level the program expanded at a measured pace.

Program requests generated at the departmental level and progressed through the normal governance process.

Faculty members receive a stipend to translate an on campus class into an online class - with the assistance of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning. Commonly, this is accomplished during the summer term. All online classes are offered as part of the normal teaching load - just as on campus classes. The online classes generally carry class caps of 25 - lower for writing-intensive clases.

External Funding, Fees, and Sustainability

The success at UIS has been fueled, for the most part, by external funding. Given the dropping percentage of funding from the state over the past ten years, any new initiative such as the online program needed to be funded by grants.

Seeded by a modest $52,000 grant from the then VPAA of the University of Illinois system, Dr. Sylvia Manning (who is the now president of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Accrediting Association), the program started in 1997. Nearly four million dollars in grants over the next decade funded start up of 17 online degree programs and numerous online certificates.

An online fee of $25/credit hour sustains the initiative now - generating more than a million dollars annually that is distributed back to the departments, colleges, COLRS, tech support and library in order to keep the program growing. The fee now funds stipends for the addition of new online classes and even new online degree programs.

Sloan Consortium Pillars of Success

The Sloan Consortium ( ) is an association of hundreds of colleges, universities, and other organizations committed to quality online teach and learning. UIS has been an active participant in Sloan-C.

Five pillars of success are promoted by the Consortium:

  1. Learning Effectiveness
  2. Access
  3. Faculty Satisfaction
  4. Student Satisfaction
  5. Institutional Cost Effectiveness

All five of these pillars are necessary for a successful online program.

Community of Practice in E-Learning (COPE-L)

Based on research by educational theorist Etienne Wenger, Professor Laurel Newman led a group of faculty and staff members in creating the Community of Practice for E-Learning. This group of faculty, online unit coordinators, and staff meet regularly through the semester to discuss research, best practices, and innovations in technology-enhanced, blended, and online learning environments.

Online Program Coordinators

A key element of student satisfaction, retention and time to completion is the model of online program coordinators at UIS. These dedicated academic professionals serve in multiple roles to assure students receive the information, service, and support that they need at a distance. Interfacing with faculty members, admissions, records, financial aid, and the full range of personnel and offices at UIS, these coordinators help assure that students succeed in their online experience.

Center for Online Learning, Research and Service

The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service emerged in 2009 as an expansion of the Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning.
Funded by the VPAA in 1997 as a unit to support faculty members in the development and deployment of online classes, the unit began by providing web development for faculty members seeking to put their class syllabi online. Over time, the unit developed and later purchased a learning management system.

Now, with seven full time equivalent staff members, the unit provides instructional design, pedagogical support, innovative resources, and daily assistance to faculty members. Nearly 1,000 faculty appointments are served each month. In addition, the unit supports ten faculty fellows who conduct research and publish scholarly articles about online and blended learning.

Library Resources Online

The UIS Brookens Library provides a wide array of resources - 24 hour online reference desk Live Chat, scores of full text online databases, online book search, and much more.

Every Blackboard is configured so that it can accommodate electronic reserves. A separate tab is placed in each board for the library with access to all of the online resources as well as instructions on how to have articles and books mailed to your home.

The UIS Bookstore takes online orders for textbooks and ships both used and new books to students via UPS.

Online Tools

A wide array of tools is available to faculty members to assist in the delivery of the curriculum online. The tools linked off the title of this posting are common ones hosted at UIS.

Other Web 2.0 technologies such as Google Docs, wikis, blogs, slideshare,, and many more are hosted off site. The Office of Technology-Enhanced Learning offers training and support for these tools. OTEL also has built a virtual learning island in Second Life where avatars from around the world meet to engage each other in teaching and learning activities.

A new Faculty Resource Center is maintained by OTEL with a dozen computers capable of supporting resource-intensive applications and predictive data analytics.

Student Services and Support Online

Student services are offered online to meet the needs of the students who are dispersed among 49 states and many foreign countries each year. The Center for Teaching and Learning offers online tutoring in writing, math and science (click on the title of this posting for more information).

Another important online service is provided by Career Services. With certification as online career counselors, this office provides support to online students seeking to advance their careers.

The Tech Support Center is available online 7 x 24 - and by phone seven days a week with longer hours scheduled at the beginning and end of the term.

Online Peer Mentor

One successful practice used in UIS online classes is to designate an online peer mentor to join an online class. The peer mentor fulfills a liaison relationship between the faculty member and the student. The mentor models excellent student postings in the discussion board. S/he follows up with students who have not posted regularly and answers questions that the student is not comfortable directly asking the instructor.

A successful Higher Education Cooperation Grant on online peer mentoring was led by UIS with seven Illinois community colleges. The final report and evaluation sums up the research:

Online Class Evaluations

UIS online classes are evaluated by students... online. These evaluations include the very same questions that are administered on campus. We have noted that UIS students more often post comments on the online form than they do the paper on campus evaluation forms. Often times these comments are more deeply revealing than the likert scale question responses.

We encourage mid term formative evaluations to assure that faculty members get complete feedback in time to make changes before the end of the term. One tool commonly used for formative assessments is .

Student Satisfaction

Online Students at UIS are more satisfied than those at many other universities as reported in a Noel-Levitz comparison of online student satisfaction. A comprehensive analysis of more than 50,000 final grades posted in online and on campus classes at UIS over a three year period reflects an average difference of 0.02 gradepoint between the on campus and online classes. Recall that the for the most part those classes are taught by the same faculty members who teach the classes on campus.

Academic Integrity

UIS maintains high academic integrity standards. A well-administered Academic Integrity Policy is linked to the title of this posting.

The university has an online test proctoring policy:

Among the other approaches employed by faculty members to assure academic integrity are:

  1. Use unique case studies each semester
  2. Require distant students to take exams using a proctor
  3. Phone students (or use VoIP) for an oral exam
  4. Turnitin or another anti-plagiarism software tools
  5. Create an honor code for the class
  6. Require annotated bibliographies for final papers

An article that is shared among many online faculty members is one from the EDUCAUSE Quarterly journal:

New Century Learning Consortium

The New Century Learning Consortium is the latest of a long series of inter-institutional online collaborations at UIS. The NCLC was established by UIS on a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. UIS leads ten other institutions: University of Southern Maine, Southern Oregon University, Cal State at Eastbay, Louisiana Tech University, Oakland University, Hampton University, Sam Houston State University, the University of Minnesota Crookston, SUNY Empire State College and Chicago State University in developing online programs and initiatives. There is an emphasis on pursuing forward-thinking initiatives that lead higher education to move beyond the physical, geographically-limited, campus-based box and experiment with finding new ways to utilize online technologies to more effectively and more efficiently teach, learn, and serve.

Long-standing online collaborations with Chicago State University, North Eastern Illinois University, Lesley University, and others have enabled UIS to expand diversity through team-taught online classes.

National Professional Outreach

Faculty and professional staff members at the University of Illinois regularly share their research and expertise via publications and presentations. In one recent year the Provost reported that more than 3/4 of the faculty members up for tenure review had publications in the area of online and distant learning.

Some 80% of the online searches conducted online are done via Google. If one searches for online learning or educational technology, UIS resources appear among the very top returns. The RSS feeds of the Online Learning Update and Educational Technology blogs are published at the Web sites of dozens of colleges, universities, associations, and related entities - they are also published in the right column of this blog! We are also well followed on Twitter and in a number of other blogs inlcuding .

Contact Information

Professor / Director Center for Online Learning, Research and Service
University of Illinois at Springfield
One University Plaza
Springfield, IL 62703