shifting reality of the online landscape

State Systems Plot Major Online Growth

Public universities across the country are adjusting to the shifting reality of the online landscape. Despite similar goals, approaches vary widely.

Mark Lieberman March 20, 2019

interviewed administrators at systems across the United States for a wide look at how the landscape is shifting.

The University of Missouri System last year signaled plans to increase its total enrollment from 75,000 to 100,000 by 2023. Administrators pointed to online education as a key driver of future growth.

In other ways, the Missouri system’s approach could look similar to Massachusetts’. Administrators in Missouri are pondering the creation of a separate entity within the system that would offer online programs to adult learners.

Administrators have ruled out purchasing or merging with an existing online apparatus, as Purdue University did with the for-profit Kaplan University to enrollment-expanding but controversial effect.

Senior administrators and board members at Louisiana State University began looking at online education in the early 2010s.

From 2016 to 2018, Sasha Thackaberry served as assistant vice president of academic technology, course production and alternative learning models at Southern New Hampshire University. Louisiana State hired her in February 2018 to lead its online growth; three months later, she was promoted from associate vice provost to vice provost of digital and continuing education.

When Kristina Johnson became chancellor of the State University of New York system in 2017, she challenged administrators to consider a wide range of possibilities for growing online capabilities. According to Tod Laursen, SUNY’s senior vice chancellor and provost, the system has just wrapped up an information-gathering process that will inform a soon-to-be-released request for proposals. Johnson has slated for this fall a major online learning initiative, the details of which are still being ironed out.

Colorado State University Online serves as an online program manager for the state system — distinct from Colorado State University Global, which has a separate faculty and governance structure, and tends to serve adults at an average age in their 30s. CSU Online, by contrast, tends to serve “less seasoned” students between 24 and 34 years old, according to Amy Smith, senior director of CSU Online.

more on online education in this IMS blog

8 Comments on shifting reality of the online landscape

  1. Julia
    April 8, 2019 at 11:06 pm (1 year ago)

    It was an interesting read about specific colleges and how they want to increase enrollment by offering online courses. Actually more than just some courses online, actually an entire college online, much like SNHU and GCU, who have offered online college for years. I take online courses because I want the flexibility to have classes that are available when traditional courses are not. I can see a lot of others doing the same thing for convenience and other restrictions on their time. Having all of the courses online has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage being learning can happen any time, any place and on a variety of different devices.

    • Imo E.
      April 10, 2019 at 4:17 am (1 year ago)

      I find it quite interesting seeing just how much of a factor online education is having on enrollment in higher education. I know, from various articles and studies I have read, that traditional higher education overall is not seeing numbers as favorable as the ones projected by the online program mentioned in this article. This data demonstrates that appeal this learning format has to many. I look forward to seeing how this continues to impact the higher education landscape. I personally believe that the biggest hurdle the further integration of online learning will face is the pervasive idea that the format is not as legitimate as the traditional instruction.

      • Plamen Miltenoff
        April 11, 2019 at 7:55 pm (1 year ago)

        indeed, the myth of the “illegitimacy” of online education is pervasive; thank you Imo. Indeed, the reason is a very real and tangible misorganization of “online” courses and programs. Who determines, how and what does constitute a “solid” online program? Who and how accredits them? Is synchronous better then asynchronous and vice versa? Indeed, in 2019, we have opulence of literature and experience about training faculty and staff, organizing programs and providing students with online learning experience no less effective then F2F one.

  2. Aizhan
    April 10, 2019 at 8:34 pm (1 year ago)

    If done properly, online education can not only help increase enrollment, but also increase the quality of higher education as a whole. I know St. Cloud State University has some online graduate programs that are better than face-to-face ones in the quality of training they provide. It is great news that more and more schools are adopting this new trend; however, the transition to online education is definitely not a smooth one. Again, the key phrase here is “if done properly”, and I hope that educational institutions will make the best use of online learning and all it has to offer.

  3. Shah
    April 11, 2019 at 3:39 am (1 year ago)

    In recent past, online education has been a driver of enrollment for higher education in the U.S. Various faculty professional development efforts are conducted to prepare faculty members to teach online. But, one thing that makes me question this drive. Are faculty members being introduced essential elements of teaching online? Are they familiar with best practices? Faculty members are subject matter experts and adding extra component of teaching online can be overwhelming. Also, it is been evident that faculty members who teach online without adequate preparation; they tend to make it less engaging for the students. Hence, bringing inclusivity and humanizing factor in online education is imperative.

    • Plamen Miltenoff
      April 11, 2019 at 7:49 pm (1 year ago)

      those are excellent questions, raised by you, Shah
      This campus was addressed since 2009 numerous times by me to provide orientation for new online students and orientation for faculty.
      Currently, as per Educause, (#7 in, IDs are predicted to have an increasing role in teaching preparation, specifically online materials. How are we looking into the future, in terms of staffing and assisting faculty to become ready for these challanges?


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