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Undergraduate Online Pilot

Texas Christian University (TCU) is launching a pilot program in which a select group of TCU CORE and other undergraduate courses will be offered online during the summer of 2018. The faculty who were invited to teach in the pilot are all eFaculty certified— meaning they have completed all of TCU’s requirements to teach online—and will be teaching existing, university-approved courses. Online summer courses will allow students to more efficiently complete their degrees while balancing summer learning, work, and internship opportunities. Additionally, the increased availability of TCU CORE courses during the summer will ease the pressure on student schedules, permitting students to take more advanced courses during the school year.

Why increase TCU’s offerings of summer undergraduate online courses?

The Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program aims to increase the availability of TCU CORE courses during the summer. As TCU’s course catalog indicates, “The educational experience offered by TCU reflects its membership in the worldwide academy of learning. The intellectual traditions of the University, honed by the scholarship and creativity of successive generations of faculty, are founded upon a rational and reflective examination of humanity and its natural and social environments. The essential elements of these traditions are captured in the TCU Core Curriculum requirements.” Since TCU CORE requirements are the heart of the TCU educational experience, offering students additional opportunities to take these courses from TCU faculty means that TCU can strengthen the reach of its educational mission.

Online summer courses will also allow students to more efficiently complete their degrees while balancing summer learning, work, and internship opportunities. Additionally, the increased availability of TCU CORE courses during the summer will ease the pressure on student schedules, permitting students to take more advanced courses during the school year.

What is the purpose of the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program?

The pilot program will allow the Koehler Center to work closely with a select group of well-trained faculty to ensure that the summer undergraduate online course offerings are of high quality and provide engaging learning experiences. By starting with a pilot program, TCU and the Koehler Center can verify that our policies and procedures meet student and faculty needs before expanding the program.

What is the current state of online education?

Online learning in US higher education continues to grow dramatically. The most recent estimates indicate that about 30% of all students enrolled in degree-granting higher education institutions in the US enroll in at least one online course; this translates to approximately six million students1. The majority of these students are undergraduate students taking online courses in combination with courses on campus.2

Moreover, while overall enrollment in US degree-granting institutions is falling slightly, enrollment in online courses is increasing.3 Students are making clear choices about how they wish to grow their skills and what types of courses allow them to balance work and internship opportunities, family responsibilities, and other courses on campus.

For a robust review of the state of online education in the US, please see Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States, Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment 2017, and Distance Education and the Evolution of Online Learning in the United States.

What is the involvement of TCU’s peer institutions with respect to online education?

While public non-profit institutions have the largest number of students enrolled in online courses, private non-profit institutions have seen increased enrollment in online courses in each of the last three years.4 In 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 (the latest years for which data is available), the growth rate of online enrollment at private non-profit institutions exceeded that of public institutions.Further growth in online enrollment at private non-profit institutions is expected.6 This changing landscape suggests that TCU will be able to deliver its high-quality, dynamic courses to increasing numbers of students, supporting overall growth in enrollment at the university and expanding the reach of TCU in community.

Several of TCU’s  peer institutions within the state of Texas presently offer undergraduate online courses during the summer. TCU students are attracted to these courses because they allow students to both complete academic requirements and hold internships or summer jobs. In response to these student needs and expectations, TCU’s summer undergraduate online courses will provide TCU students with additional opportunities to experience the valuable and engaging courses that are the hallmark of a TCU education.

What are considered best practices in online education?

Much has been written about best practices for online instructor training, course design, and course management. The following sources provide an excellent overview: 10 Principles of Effective Online Education: Best Practices in Distance Education, Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies, and A Return to Best Practices for Teaching Online.

TCU’s summer undergraduate online program reflects these best practices. First, the faculty invited to participate are all eFaculty certified, meaning they have completed extensive training regarding online teaching and course design. This training covers the organizational elements that make online courses successful and engaging as well as the pedagogical practices that create the foundation for student success in the online environment. Second, the invited faculty will work closely with an instructional designer from the Koehler Center. The instructional designer will address any technical issues related to course design and help faculty with plans for learning outcomes, assignments, and student engagement. Third, the invited faculty will participate in a year-long faculty learning cohort. This program allows faculty to support each other in the course design process and to learn from the successes of each other on individual assignments, learning objectives, or course policies. Together, these factors indicate the high level of instructor preparation and institutional support associated with the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program.

How does the purpose of the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program relate to this larger landscape?

The summer undergraduate online pilot is a response to student needs; the institutional commitment to online undergraduate courses is supported by national trends in the growth of online education as well as by student interest in the courses of nearby peer institutions. TCU is able to offer courses in the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program using its existing information architecture in concert with current TCU faculty members who have already received extensive training in online teaching.

Online summer courses will allow students to more efficiently complete their degrees while balancing summer learning, work, and internship opportunities. Additionally, the increased availability of TCU CORE courses during the summer will ease the pressure on student schedules, permitting students to take more advanced courses during the school year.

Who are the key players in the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program?

TCU’s institutional accreditor, SACS, and the state authorization reciprocity agreement (SARA) to which TCU is a party both have specific, rigorous standards for quality courses. The courses in this pilot program will meet or exceed those guidelines.

All courses in the summer undergraduate online pilot program will be existing TCU courses that have been previously approved by the TCU Undergraduate Council.

Koehler Center faculty developers will coordinate with faculty members, their respective chairs, and the registrar to insure a smooth course development process and a successful course launch.

What is the timeline for this project?

Given that pilot faculty members are all eFaculty certified and will be working with a faculty developer to transform an existing university-approved course, there is a strict timetable (detailed below) for faculty participating in the pilot program. This will insure that we provide students with an excellent online learning experience.

August 15, 2017 Respond to your invitation to participate in the pilot program by notifying distlearn@tcu.edu. Please provide the name of the existing TCU course you will teach. Early notification is appreciated.

As per the invitation email, ask your chair to email distlearn@tcu.edu indicating approval for you to teach online.

September 1, 2017 Submit a completed syllabus to distlearn@tcu.edu (including course calendar). Again, we welcome early submissions.
October 5, 2017 Complete the course learning outcomes / course objectives form.
November 10, 2017 Complete the course mapping checklist, including objectives, assessments, rubrics, and other items.
Late fall to early spring Build a robust and engaging online course. Your assigned instructional designer will serve as a resource during this period.
Early February 2018 Showcase a dynamic, high-interest learning activity from your online course at the faculty learning community checkpoint session.
March 1, 2018 Deliver a complete online course. A complete course is fully built in TCU Online and includes a syllabus, content in modules, assessments, rubrics, and gradebook items. Faculty who do not meet this deadline will be removed from the pilot program.
Late March 2018 Meet with your assigned instructional designer to review feedback from the TCU Quality standards assessment / OSAT process.
April 15, 2018 Implement all suggested revisions from the TCU Quality standards assessment / OSAT process.
May 1, 2018 Deliver the course in its final, finished form with a minimum OSAT score of 70%.

 What resources will be required and how will these be distributed?

TCU will offer the undergraduate online summer courses through the existing learning management system, TCU Online. Thus, these courses will leverage the present methods for course registration, course shell creation, enrollments, and grade reporting. The Koehler Center, IT, and the registrar collaboratively manage these functions. No additional technology resources are required to increase summer undergraduate online offerings.

This pilot program will impact faculty workload. Faculty members will need to determine if they can commit the time to attend the cohort events during the academic year, build the course, work closely with staff from the Koehler Center to refine the course, and teach the course in the summer of 2018. Because of the commitment of faculty resources required for this work, chair or supervisor approval will be needed before faculty can participate in the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program.

If the summer undergraduate online project moves forward, the Koehler Center will need additional staff to support a long-term program of both continuously improving the existing summer undergraduate online courses and increasing summer undergraduate online course offerings by 10 to 15 courses per year.

How will progress be measured and outcomes assessed?

Faculty who have accepted an invitation to join the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program and whose chair or supervisor has granted permission will participate in a required faculty learning community for online course development. There will be three checkpoint sessions each semester (September, October, and November; February, March, and April).  In advance of each meeting, faculty will need to submit pieces of their course. Faculty who do not deliver a complete, fully developed online course by March 1, 2018, will be removed from the pilot. Courses must earn a score of 70% on the Online Structure Assessment Tool (OSAT) rubric in order to go live in Summer 2018. The OSAT is designed to ensure all courses have accountability and quality, and help establish an ongoing improvement and faculty development plan. After the course has been taught, Koehler Center staff will complete another OSAT to capture student and faculty engagement in the context of the live semester course.

Department chairs will receive the OSAT results from the live semester course, class engagement data and additional reports from TCU Online, enrollment data, and the results from eSPOT surveys.

Each time a given summer undergraduate online course is taught, the Koehler Center will use the results from the live semester OSAT, class enrollment data, and TCU online reports to work with the faculty member to develop a plan for the continuous improvement of the course. Additionally, university administrators will use course enrollment and retention data, TCU CORE attributes associated with the course, and other data to determine whether courses will be offered in subsequent summers.

The summer undergraduate online pilot fulfills Koehler Center outcomes 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, and 2.2. As part of the Koehler Center’s own assessment practices, participants in the cohort will complete a midpoint and final evaluation of the Koehler Center’s activities related to the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program.

What is the communication plan for the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program?

As Summer 2018 approaches, our publicity efforts will increase. Looking backward, the pilot program was initially discussed with the Chancellor’s Cabinet and Provost Council in 2012. At that point, the administration decided to delay a pilot program due to the uncertainty surrounding the state authorization process. TCU’s participation in the national State Authorization and Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) resolved these concerns and a summer online pilot program was approved in December 2016. Committees that include the Provost, Registrar, Associate Deans, Chairs, faculty members, and executive administrators have all had conversations about the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program.

Invitations were issued to eFaculty certified individuals in early summer 2017. The informational website for the Summer 2018 undergraduate online pilot program will go live in late summer 2017. Outreach to the larger TCU community via a flyer or information sessions will happen in fall 2017, giving students plenty of time to plan their spring and summer schedules accordingly. If the program moves forward, a new call for eFaculty certified participants will be issued in late Summer 2018 for courses to be offered in Summer 2019.

If you have further questions, please contact distlearn@tcu.edu.

 

1 Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States
Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment 2017
3 Distance Ed Enrollment Trends: New Data, New Trends, New Partnership
4 Distance Ed Enrollment Trends: New Data, New Trends, New Partnership
5 Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment 2017
Digital Learning Compass: Distance Education Enrollment 2017


TCU Online Course Delivery Policy

  • All online courses will use TCU’s adopted Learning Management System, currently TCU Online (Brightspace by D2L).
  • Faculty must be listed on class search as the faculty of record teaching the course to receive a live course shell.
  • All fully online courses must follow the Registrar’s start and end dates for all classes.


Requirements for Teaching Online Courses

Faculty whom were invited to teach in the pilot are eFaculty certified— meaning they have completed the TCU’s training requirements to teach online courses as listed below:

  1. Training to be completed before teaching online:
  2. Create online course in TCU Online; course to be fully built well before the official start date of the course so as to allow Koehler Center staff to insure the course meets university standards.
  3. To go live, a course must:
    • earn an Online Structure Assessment Tool (OSAT) PDF score of 70% or greater (Required)
    • Implement all improvements identified as short-term / critical fixes before the official start date of the course


Requirements for Online Courses

  1. Online Structure Assessment Tool (OSAT)PDF score 49 points out of 69 total points 70% or greater (Required) and review for course shell build, all identified improvements implemented annually after course goes live (Updated Feb 2017)
  2. Faculty engagement in course must total 30 hours (based on the benchmark of a three credit course).*
  3. Student activity in course 3 hour course should equal or exceed 45 hours (based on the benchmark of a three credit course)*
  4. Class completion rate (based on student census date as compared with student enrollment at the end of term) should be 88% or greater, barring any exceptional events (Required)*

*Reporting is pulled by Koehler Center staff from TCU Online and shared with Department Directors/Chair.


Other Important Information