Does Your Institution Struggle with Online Education?
Many historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) struggle with how to build effective distance learning programs. Cost, staffing and faculty comfort levels with technology all limit institutions’ capacity. Most HBCUs focus heavily on personal relationships and face-to-face interaction to nurture students’ intellectual, social and professional development. How distance learning fits is an open question.
Yet in order to survive and thrive, HBCUs must find ways to succeed with online education.
Collaboration May Be the Answer
At The Center for Excellence in Distance Learning, we believe a collaborative approach makes sense for institutions grappling with this common set of challenges.
The concept for the Center originated with Wiley College’s participation in the Kaleidoscope Project, an NGLC-funded initiative to help colleges develop and adopt courses using open educational resources (OER). Because OER are free from traditional copyright limitations, instructors are free to revise, remix and repurpose content, and these educational materials are freely available to students in digital form. Wiley College decided to design distance learning courses using OER, in order to eliminate textbook costs and improve students’ access to the materials.
As faculty members began collaborating with other Kaleidoscope institutions and OER services provider Lumen Learning to develop “open” courses, it soon became apparent other HBCUs could benefit hugely from this approach. It offers a winning combination of cost savings, improved access and the ability to tailor course materials to the needs of HBCU students. By pooling investment, collaborating with peers and sharing work products, HBCUs can see these benefits multiply, while keeping resource requirements at an affordable level.
Introducing The Center for Excellence in Distance Learning at Wiley College
Today this innovative concept has become a reality. Housed at Wiley College, the Center for Excellence in Distance Learning coordinates collaboration, course development and resource sharing across partner institutions. Through the Center, participating faculty members enjoy training, professional development and support from Lumen Learning to assist them with creating and teaching high quality courses using OER.
Progress so far is impressive. As of January 2014, 40 online courses were being taught. Another 30 OER-based courses are under development for summer 2014, using a collaborative process facilitated by Lumen Learning to engage faculty members from each of the Center’s institutional partners.
Eventually the vision for the Center is to develop a vast catalog of online courses, programs and supplemental resources that HBCUs can use to build distance education programs efficiently and effectively. With this collection grounded in open educational resources, each institution and instructor has greater freedom to adapt the courses and materials to their programs, preferences and students’ needs.