Page 36 - Campus Technology, August/September 2017
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CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | August/September 2017
& Technical College System, Georgia State, Houston Community College (TX) and Rio Salado College in Arizona. From there, the work turned to identifying practices that
the researchers consider “replicable.”
Sharing Tools and Fundamentals
Pugliese, who is the principle investigator for the research, shared some early findings.
First, the definition of who learns online “has changed radically,” he said. While technology used to address the four-year undergraduate degree earner, now the population is considerably differentiated. As a result, online practices require “methods and workflow and processes on how to do that.” The final research report will share detailed examples of how different kinds of schools handle those elements of their programs, as well as tools that will allow readers to analyze their own institutions and do benchmarking against various metrics “around cost of efficient and effective instructional delivery, operation and maintenance, student support costs, those types of things.”
One area that’s ripe for “significant improvement in cost and efficiency” is the use of “centrally delivered operating models of digital teaching and learning,” said Pugliese. “The ability to move from a decentralized approach to a centralized approach, where there’s a higher degree of quality control and it’s necessary to have strong professional development,
is a definite trend in lowering cost overall.” However, he added, “We found across the board in many cases, how you do that migration from a decentralized approach to a centralized approach isn’t easy.”
The Catch-22 of Scaling Up
Along with the report, the research group is still developing its “dissemination strategy.” That will involve not just sharing the report but also putting on workshops at institutional forums over the next year or two, said Pugliese, “where we can have a small quorum sit down for a how-to-do-it session.” The gatherings will show how to use the statistical and financial data tools for doing benchmarking and comparisons.
While much is still in development on the project, one thing is clear: It’s important to view digital learning activities through the lens of return on investment.
“There is still some reticence to want to embrace [digital teaching and learning] at scale,” Pugliese explained. “Some institutions are still looking at this in a way that’s very isolated for certain types of programs or certain types of low-risk opportunities. Some look at it from the perspective of having to keep up with other institutions in terms of marketing. Many of them, I think, even after years haven’t really seen the benefit because it’s a Catch-22. They haven’t implemented it at scale and can’t see the benefit. And they can’t see the benefit until they implement at scale.”
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for Campus Technology.
Another trend was the switch from outsourced OPM (online program management) to developing and promoting courses and programs inside the organization. “Institutions [that] historically are using OPM providers are increasingly taking that in-house for higher quality services to implement at scale,” Pugliese observed. Among others, both Arizona State and U Central Florida have gone through that transition.
For both OPM and centralization, the report will share some “basic fundamentals” in terms of what has to be done, where investments will need to be made, and what the timeframe will be. “These areas are “fairly complicated,” he said. “To put that in some sort of toolset we think will be most helpful.”

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