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Effectiveness evaluation
 

I.  DISTANCE AND DISTRIBUTED EDUCATION

ANNUAL REPORT 2006-2007

Mission

The Distance & Distributed Education Center is a university-wide function at UWG which serves to develop and enhance the university's ability to deliver education to students at remote locations, and to meet institutional distance learning goals. Through intercampus sharing of resources, the Distance and Distributed Education Center facilitates collaboration among university colleges and departments to deliver quality distance instruction, faculty and student services, and initiatives.

Goals

Goals and functions of this department mirror the institutional distance learning goals (http://www.westga.edu/~distance/):

    • Work with faculty to plan and create distance learning environments that encourage and support excellence in a personal environment
    • In collaboration with other campus and state departments, maintain the human and technical resources and network infrastructure necessary to successfully support and deliver distance and distributed learning.
    • Ensure that academic and student services are appropriate to meet the needs of distance and distributed learners.
    • Conduct continuous evaluation of distance and distributed learning and support services to ensure the advancement of the University's mission and adherence to quality standards.
    • Support research, scholarship, and creative endeavors which promote knowledge of distance learning.

These goals are reviewed annually in March, by the Distance and Distributed Education Steering Committee, and revised as appropriate.

Statement of Outcomes, Processes to Assess These Outcomes, and Assessment Results Where Appropriate

Goal 1. Plan and create distance learning environments that encourage and support excellence in a personal environment. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  • Student and faculty satisfaction with distance and distributed education courses is high.
    1. Fall 2006 evaluations showed that 83% of distance students agreed that their attitude toward online learning was positive at the end of the term (up from 80% in Fall 2007). 86% agreed in Spring 2007. 84% in Summer 2006. 
    2. 74% of students (Fall 2006) said they'd like to take more courses in future mostly online (compared to 71% in Fall 2005). (Spring 2006 - 78%; Summer 2006 – 76%).  
    3. 63% (Fall 2006) of students said they'd like to take courses in the future completely online (up from 61% a year earlier). (Spring - 65%; Summer – 64%)
    4. 92% (Fall 2006) said that their instructor was positive about the online component of their course (up from 88% in Fall 2005). (93% in Spring 2007; 91% in Summer 2006). 
    5. The number of faculty and students using our online course management system known as WebCT Vista Vista continues to increase, hitting an all-time high of 10,018 active users during Fall 2006; this means that approximately 84% of students and faculty at UWG used WebCT Vista Vista in some respect. Though the number of unique active users was not previously available in WebCT Vista Vista, the enrollment using distance technologies also saw a 13% increase, from 40, 691 in FY06 to 46, 371 in FY07.  
  • Student retention distance and distributed education courses is comparable to or higher than that of traditional courses.

1.       Fall 2006 retention for Distance students was 92.2% for distance students excluding eCore, compared to 88.9% for non-Distance students. Spring 2007 retention for Distance students was 91.7% excluding eCore, compared to 88.8% for non-Distance students.

2.       However, eCore (courses delivered through the statewide consortium) retention remained challenging, at 70% for Fall 2006, 76% for Summer 2006, and 68.3% for Spring 2007. The DDEC has begun a multi-phase project to pinpoint and address issues related to eCore retention.

·         Students enrolled in distance courses have access to student services.

1.      The UWG Online Connection (http://www.westga.edu/~online/) provides easy web access for distance students to access student services.

  • Student learning outcomes are comparable to those in traditional courses. (ex. http://coe.westga.edu/mit/outcomes/index.html)

1.        These are generally the same as traditional and are evaluated on a departmental basis.

2.        Only 28% of students reported in their distance learning evaluations that they felt more comfortable participating in a face-to-face course than in an online course.

·         Interaction among student-faculty, and student-student are at least as high as in a traditional course.

1.        Open-ended responses from written surveys Fall 2006, Summer 2006, and Spring 2007 surveys indicate that students appreciate the ability to interact at flexible times with faculty and other students. For Fall 2006, 82% of respondents agreed that having the flexibility to contribute to class discussions outside the classroom on my own time was valuable to them. (86% in Spring 2006; 81% in Fall 2005).

·         Faculty demonstrate competence in developing distance courses whose academic standards and student learning are the same as those for other courses delivered.

1.        All faculty MUST complete technical and pedagogical training prior to teaching a distance course.

2.        Academic standards and student learning are evaluated on a departmental basis. The DDEC reviews student surveys, class by class, to assure that overall student satisfaction with the faculty and the course are adequate. Since 1998, there have only been two cases in which the faculty competence seemed questionable based on student complaints. These were referred to the appropriate department head and dean. Both faculty members have since left the institution.

·         The number of courses developed and offered through distance media meets the demand of the region's students.

1.        A number of students mentioned in their open-ended responses on the written survey that they need more online courses and online degree programs.

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty. Student learning outcomes are assessed by academic units offering instruction. See: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/data/eval/

Goal 2. Maintain the human and technical resources and network infrastructure necessary to successfully support and deliver distance and distributed learning. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  • Faculty are trained and prepared to teach distance and distributed courses.
    1. All faculty MUST complete technical and pedagogical training prior to teaching a distance course.
  • Students are able to receive immediate technical assistance through telephone or email.
    1. The DDEC staff provide immediate response to technical questions from students weekdays from 8 am until 8 pm weekdays. Students may contact a statewide support line after hours.
    2. Helpline satisfaction surveys indicate that all students in July 2006 – June 2007 ranked the amount of time it took them to get help an average of 9.8 on a scale of 1 to 10.
  • Students and faculty are able to receive assistance through a central point-of-contact.
    1. The DDEC provides a central point of contact for support for all UWG distance courses.
  • A variety of delivery methods are available.
    1. In addition to the primary online mode of WebCT Vista, distance courses may also utilize videoconferencing, and Wimba's Live Classroom for synchronous or archived delivery of lectures featuring voice and visuals, and Impatica for simple audio-visual online presentations.
  • Distance courses are easily accessible to a growing number of students and potential students.
    1. The total number of distance courses (51-100% online) offered increased by 18% in FY07, with 422 courses offered in FY07, compared to FY06's 375, a FY05 total of 292, a FY04 total of 243, 132 in 2003, and 144 in 2002. Partial distance courses (those offered 51-94% online) more than doubled, going from 74 in FY06 to 173 in FY07.
    2. Downtime for courses residing on UWG servers is non-existent or minimal, with backup plans in place and utilized as needed.
    3. Except for scheduled maintenance, the WebCT Vista system has functioned without interruption since January 2002. Faculty use WebCT Vista and Wimba Live Classroom as a replacement for GSAMS.
    4. All UWG WebCT Vista courses were migrated to the WebCT VISTA version effective January 2007, which is housed on a centralized USG server.

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review. See: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/data/eval/

Goal 3. Ensure that academic and student services are appropriate to meet the needs of distance and distributed learners. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  • Each distance course or program provides students with clear, complete and timely information on the curriculum, course and degree requirements, nature of faculty/student interaction, prerequisite technology competencies, technical requirements, availability of academic support service, financial aid resources and costs and payment policies. See: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/handbook.html
    1. Information available on web and syllabi for all distance courses and programs.
    2. Information also available in online student handbook, and other online points of access for students.
  • Students express satisfaction with the level of academic and student services received when taking distance and distributed courses.
    1. Summer 2007 focus group students expressed general satisfaction.  The majority of complaints were course specific.
    2. All ten focus group participants (Summer 2007) reported that they received prompt and courteous student support from West Georgia as a distance learner.
  • Students are aware of and utilize online resources available to them for academic and student support.
    1. According to Fall 2006, Summer 2006, and Spring 2007, most students were satisfied with support services (advising, financial aid, career services, registration, and book purchase) or said "did not apply.” 
    2. Sixty-three percent of Fall 2006 distance students reported that they used library services, but 48% (Fall 2006) said they were unaware of library services available specifically for distance students.
    3. Focus groups indicate that students rely on a mixture of online materials and their instructor to find out about available resources.. DDEC has prepared kit for instructors to use in orientation for those who choose, in order to make sure that all services are explained. An increasing percentage are utilizing online resources which points to a need to direct resources towards the maintenance and continual improvements of the online services
  • Enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services and resources appropriate to support their learning.
    1. Distance students have access to the range of student services and resources that traditional students do, and also special services such as support from the DDEC, and special services from the library. Information regarding services is available at http://www.westga.edu/~online   

Assessment methods: Written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review. See: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/data/eval/

Goal 4. Conduct continuous evaluation of distance learning and support services to ensure the advancement of the University's mission. Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  • Faculty use results of evaluations to improve courses.
    1. All distance faculty must complete the Distance Evaluation Summary form, documenting what changes they will make in future distance courses based on their student surveys.
  • Distance learning staff uses results of evaluations to improve programs and services as a whole.
    1. The DDEC staff reviews evaluations and completes an annual effectiveness evaluation each June. A staff retreat is also held annually to assess staff quality standards, issues and plan for the next year.
  • The technologies selected are appropriate to meet course or program objectives.
    1. The DDEC selects technologies for campus use and support based on student need, recommendations from other institutions, and cost-benefit.
    2. Individual departments and instructors select from combinations of the various institutional technologies (WebCT Vista, videoconferencing, Wimba Live Classroom) based on the program and course objectives.
  • Documentation of evaluations for each course and the overall distance program is available and accessible.
    1. Overall evaluations for student written surveys, focus groups, phone surveys, retention and other data is available at the DDEC website http://www.westga.edu/~distance/data/eval/
    2. Raw survey data is also maintained by the DDEC and each department offering distance courses.

Assessment methods: Faculty summary of evaluations each term, written student surveys at end of each term, annual focus group with distance students, informal discussions with Distance Learning Steering Committee and distance faculty, departmental annual self-review. See: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/data/eval/

Goal 5. Support research, scholarship, and creative endeavors which promote knowledge of distance learning.  Accomplishing this goal will ensure that:

  • Our journal, conference, and certificate programs maintain excellent reputations among distance learning administrators in the United States and worldwide.
    1. The journal is required reading for many institutional programs, including University of Nebraska's doctoral program in Higher Education, and is referenced in many papers and books.
    2. The conference attracts a growing international audience of practitioners in the field.
  • Our Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration continues to increase in readership.
    1. The journal maintained an average of 15,000 hits per edition in FY07.
    2. In its tenth year of production, readers of our Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration increased from a span of 34 countries in FY06 to 49 countries in FY07.  As of June 15, 2007, the journal had been accessed nearly 375, 000 times.
    3. UWG faculty conduct research to enhance distance courses at UWG and to provide scholarly information to their field.
    4. UWG faculty and staff regularly present research at the DLA Conference and other conferences, including SITE, Educause, and other professional meetings. Many UWG faculty articles and books on distance learning are linked from the distance website.

Assessment methods: Certificate program and conference evaluations, readership data of journal, feedback from readers and participants.

Examples of Using of Assessment of Goals and Outcomes to Improve a Process

  1. Delivery methods: As a result of reviewing their course evaluations, faculty continuously indicate the need to more easily incorporate use of multimedia in their courses, including audio and video. The DDEC responded by upgrading its Wimba Live Classroom server, which allows for two-way video; and by upgrading the campus-wide license for Impatica, to allow for narrated presentations to be produced using Office 20007 and to be easily delivered mobile via capable phones, Ipods, and Blackberrys. In addition, we made available a new suite of products which integrates with WebCT Vista, enabling audio voice boards, podcasting, and rapid creation of audio files. These enhancements, unlike some several years ago, are seamlessly integrated and have a very low learning curve for both faculty and students. We have also purchased a rapid elearning product called Raptivity and StudyMate to enable a content expert to more readily develop professional-looking, interactive content. Some instructors are also beginning to explore podcasting as a way to deliver course content to learners.
  2. Faculty training: Training housecalls were implemented in January 2004 in order to allow faculty to get just-in-time training to assist them in preparing for their distance courses.  267 housecalls were made in FY2007, up from the 200 in 2006, the 80 that were made in FY05.Also, online resources for those instructors who are primarily self-directed are continually developed and updated.
  3. eCore retention: Resources are increasingly being directed towards meeting the unique advisement and support needs of those engaged in online learning through eCore. The first phase of a multi-pronged evaluation and improvement process was completed in Spring 2007. The first phase included a statistical analysis of eCore retention and grades, on a course-by-course basis (as compared to on-campus counterparts) and interviews with eCore students who had withdrawn from class. Based on this data, several suggestions have been made to the system office, and the DDEC has implemented new processes and support mechanisms specifically for eCore students. Evaluation data for these changes will be available in Spring 2008.

Department Condition

Students: Student satisfaction with distance and distributed courses continues to be high. In Fall 2006, retention for distance courses was 92.2 percent. Eighty-three percent of students reported that they had a positive attitude about distance learning after taking a course in Fall 2006 . Ninety-two percent reported that they found WebCT easey to use and understand.

Course Offerings: The number of courses using WebCT Vista has grown dramatically over the past five years, with this year's total estimated at an all-time high of  1849, up from 1610 last year and 1318 in FY05.  The number of courses offered 51-94% via distance was 173 compared to 74 one year ago.   Enrollments in distance courses (51% or more of instruction time) were up to 7654 in FY07, compared to 5274 in FY06, and 4781 in FY05. Total distance and distributed enrollment supported by the DDEC climbed to 46, 371 from 40,691 last fiscal year and 36,655 in FY05.

Resources: As the demand for distance learning courses and services has increased, so has the need for human resources. Five student assistants, funded by Student Technology Fees, have continued to be vital in providing first-level telephone support for distance students. However, the number of full-time staff has remained at five since 2004. Since 2004, the number of WebCT course sections has almost doubled in these past three years (from 962 sections to 1849).  The number of distance (more than 50% online) courses increased from 280 in FY2004 to 422 in FY2007. The department has a highly critical need to add additional support personnel to support existing distance learning courses and expand its programmatic offerings to meet the requirements of university system initiatives.

Department Achievements

    1. Continued to make multiple operational improvements, particularly in the area of evaluation and student services for distance students.We conducted 87 face-to-face student orientations in the classroom in FY07, up from 43 in FY06.
    2. Completed the university's migration to the BOR's centralized WebCT Vista server in January 2007.
    3. Conducted 101 in-house, one-on-one faculty and staff training sessions. The average training session lasts one-and-a-half hours. This does not include the “housecalls” described in number four below.
    4. The DDEC began offering “housecalls ” to faculty who need assistance with distance learning in Spring 2004. Support staff were available to visit faculty in their offices on Monday and Wednesday mornings by appointment. Visits were limited to 60-minutes, and support was limited to providing assistance with WebCT Vista course tools, demos of technologies and software (such as Wimba Live Classroom, Impatica , etc.) and basic course evaluation and improvement. 267 visits were made in FY06, up from approximately 80 made during FY2005.
    5. Responded to approximately 1600 helpcalls, which is approximately 1/3 of all technology-related helpcalls reported on the UWG campus.
    6. Published four quarterly editions of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Average number of visits to the site each month is 5000.
    7. Nearly doubled the number of faculty served through distance learning group workshops (746). Participants earned 2005 hours through 57 workshops. The average workshop length was 2 hours.
    8. Delivered two sections of the Distance Learning Certificate Program to 28 participants from 15 states and 2 countries.
    9. Delivered two sections of the Distance Education Certified Trainer Program to 25 participants from 15 states and 2 countries.
    10. Delivered two sections of the Advanced Technologies in Distance Education Program to 32 participants from 10 states and 3 countries.
    11. During FY ‘07, UWG continued to be number one among the eCore host institutions, in eCore enrollment. The University of West Georgia accounted for 39% of all students in eCore , averaging 509 students per term for the year. Resources are increasingly being directed towards meeting the unique advisement and support needs of those engaged in online learning through eCore. A multi-phase evaluation and improvement process is currently underway.
    12. Selected for a national program sponsored by MERLOT (http://taste.merlot.org/ ) and in collaboration with UWG faculty Jeff Rooks, the USG Board of Regents and Georgia Public Broadcasting; the ELIXR project recognizes, records, and shares online multi-media presentations on best practices in instructional technology.

Staff Productivity

DDEC staff members sponsored the eighth-annual Distance Learning Administration Conference at St. Simons in June 2007. The conference was attended by more than 170 distance learning professionals representing more than 31 states, and several countries. Melanie Clay served as conference director, and Stacey Rowland was conference manager.

 

Melanie N. Clay completed her doctoral studies and graduated with a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership in Higher Education from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in August 2006. She served as Editor-in-Chief of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, DLA2007 Conference Director, and as UWG's representative on the Regent's Advisory Committee on Distance Education. She also served on the UWG Web Redesign Task Force, the UWG Center for Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee, and on the Technology Coordinating Council. She was a reviewer and reader for the Educause 2006 Conference, and developed a new certificate course called “Advanced Technologies for Distance Educators.” She was the primary author of a presentation, Best Intentions and Retention: The Role of Support Staff (with Janet Gubbins and Abbott Packard), delivered at DLA2007. She is also the co-director of the national MERLOT/ ELIXR project for which our department was selected.

 

Janet Gubbins was re-certified as WebCT Vista Certified Administrator, and began serving as the primary administrator of UWG's new iTunes initiative, the USG Podcasting Server, and UWG's Georgia Public Broadcasting's United Streaming Service. She served on the UWG Tech Fee Committee and the UWG Master of Public Administration's Advisory Board. With Darlene Owens, Janet presented A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words! at the WebCT Vista/Blackboard User Conference 2006, and Best Intentions and Retention: The Role of Support Staff (with Melanie Clay and Abbott Packard) at DLA2007. She also presented Using Online Tools to Improve the K-12 Experience at UWG's Learning Festival 2007. In addition, Janet attended the Rock Eagle Annual Computing Conference and completed the Advanced Technologies for Distance Educators Certificate Program. She was recognized in a BOR annual magazine for supporting innovative virtual team building, together with UWG faculty Dr. Eric Bergiel.

During 2006-2007, Christy Talley became both a Certified BlackBoard Vista Administrator and a BlackBoard Certified Trainer. Additionally, Christy completed the Distance Learning Leader Certificate Program in summer of 2006.  Christy co-authored and co-presented Tips to Guide and Common Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Online at E-Learn 2006 in October. In April of 2007, Christy presented "Benefits of Collaborative Software in Online Courses" as part of the Horizon Wimba Desktop Lecture Series. Christy also presented and authored Give Your Online Course a Voice with Wimba Voice Tools  at DLA in June 2007. Christy continued to serve on the Strategic Enrollment Committee, Numbers Group sub-committee, and Distance Learning Steering Committee. She is also the co-director of the national MERLOT/ ELIXR project for which our department was selected.

Stacey Rowland served as eCore advisor for 500+ students per term beginning March 2006 until present. Stacey continued to serve as Managing Editor of the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Stacey Rowland prepared and presented “Integrating PowerPoint Presentations with Audio and Video Components into Online or Web-Enhanced Courses” at the Distance Teaching & Learning Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Stacey also attended the Rock Eagle Annual Computing Conference in Eatonton, Georgia.

Effectiveness Evaluation

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

Past Annual Reports:

2003-2004

2002-2003

2001-2002

1999 - 2000

1998 - 1999

1997 - 1998

1996 - 1997


SACS Self Study Response to SACS



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