Wednesday, November 17, 2010

getting traction

I had an interesting conversation with a research associate from the Education Advisory Board. They're preparing a report about online program initiatives for a regional university. The focus of the study is on cultural issues in regard to online teaching and learning.

It struck me that during our conversation I found myself defending SU's commitment to resident-based instruction. Working through the range of arguments for or against online, I came to a position that I'm actually comfortable with. In order to move SU forward in the online space, we have to accept the fact that the resident undergraduate experience is (and will likely be for a very a long time) the principle reason why students choose to come to SU. And while we may be able to accommodate those students with flexible format courses, including full-online, we should not expect that they would rather be completing their undergraduate degrees from off campus and at a distance.

Interest here at SU is growing around online graduate programs and certificates. We're getting the most traction with the schools and colleges that don't already have grad programs online, which is everyone with the exception of the Whitman School of Management and the School of Information Studies. That leaves a lot of programs and departments who need help.

Online grad is a much easier (and logical) sell to faculty and executives because it's a target population that isn't necessarily interested in the resident experience. They've had that. Now it's about efficiency and flexibility. So in regard to cultural resistance, maybe we're actually coming at this in the right way. It still feels awfully organic, but I'm confident that we'll see rapid growth after we get a toe hold with a few high-profile/high-dollar graduate programs.

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