Planning Online Programs: Involving
Faculty Early

illustration of an academic assignment

A May 6, 2011 open letter addressed to the University of California chancellor Mark Yudof by the faculty senate expressed concerns over how the system's pilot effort for online programming would be evaluated, as well as (implied) concern over how faculty would be involved in the ongoing planning process.

The issues raised at the University of California are just one example of an obstacle that several high-profile online initiatives have encountered over the past decade.

"If you look closely at those initiatives that have failed to succeed," suggests John Ebersole, current president of Excelsior College and responsible in past years for creating Boston University's successful online program, "the common missing piece in all of them was that faculty were not at the table during the early planning. Their concerns were not addressed at the outset, and in fact it was perceived that it was the intent of the organization to go around them. This led to intensified skepticism and the eventual ire of the faculty." Ebersole also cites other common issues -- most significantly, insufficient market research to determine the student demand for a program and the lack of a systemic, institution-wide plan for growing online programming.

Focusing on the issue of faculty involvement, we decided to interview online programming veterans John Ebersole (president, Excelsior College), Joel Hartman (vice provost for information technologies and resources and chief information officer, University of Central Florida), and Barbara Macaulay (associate provost of online education, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences) for their lessons learned and specific tactics for ensuring that an institution that is either embarking on an online initiative or looking to expand current programs succeeds in preparing, informing, and involving faculty


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