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A Collaborative Approach to Online Learning – Part 2

With Alan Young

August 24, 2012

Writer: Rob Eaton

BYU-Idaho's approach to creating and teaching courses online is designed to harness the subject matter expertise of all the parties involved. Even though having so many parties involved in such a creative process can be challenging, the synergy of these critical ingredients allows BYU-Idaho to create a high-quality learning experience online.

For this collaborative approach to succeed, it's important for everyone who contributes to understand their role - and to respect the expertise and experience of others. This article is part two of a three part series that will provide a high-level explanation of relative roles and responsibilities. Part one focuses on campus faculty, part two on the role of the online team, and part three on online instructors.

The Online Team

A centralized team oversees the creation and administration of courses online at BYU-Idaho. This approach has two distinct advantages: Expertise and Scalability.

Curriculum designers with advanced degrees in instructional design provide critical expertise in creating courses, while specialists in online instruction train remote instructors how to achieve the best results when teaching online. In addition, by handling the logistical details of reviewing thousands of applications, hiring hundreds of applicants, and offering hundreds of sections, the online team makes it possible to offer courses online to thousands of students without overwhelming department chairs.

The roles and responsibilities of the online team include the following:

  • With input from department chairs, the Online Academic Advisory Committee, which consists primarily of on-campus faculty and academic leaders but also includes leaders from the online team and online instructors, and the Dean's Council, the online team decides which courses and degrees get created online.
  • The online team establishes design standards for creating courses online, such as implementing the Learning Model and requiring rigorous but reasonable amounts of meaningful student work.
  • The online team collaborates with designated faculty in creating great courses based on these standards to achieve learning outcomes chosen by faculty. While faculty members bring knowledge in the context to the process, curriculum developers bring instructional design expertise.
  • The online team recruits, screens, and hires online instructors, with approval from department chairs about the academic suitability of applicants to teach popular courses.
  • The online team trains remote instructors, oversees the quality of online instruction, and takes remedial steps, when necessary. Online instructors report to the online team.
  • If any issues arise concerning an instructor's mastery of the content, the online team confers with the department chair or course lead.
  • In consultation with department chairs, and under the leadership of the Scheduling Council and the Academic Vice President, the online team decides on the appropriate number of sections to offer of each course online.
  • Through the Online Support Center, the online team provides support to students taking courses online.
  • The online team responds to all student complaints stemming from online courses, conferring with the Course Lead if any issues arise regarding content.

The entirety of these articles, along with a table that outlines the approval process for online activities, can be found in the Fall 2012 issue of Perspective Magazine.