Can College Students Have it All – Learn When, Where and How They Want?

Apparently they can – at least at University of Central Florida where students can choose between different learning options: online, face-to-face, hybrid and more…

The University of Central Florida (UCF) operates unconventionally in comparison to other public universities when it comes to student learning; UCF puts the students in charge by encouraging them to choose when, where and how they want to learn. Students select their learning path and customize it to their preferences and schedule. In keeping with this student focused approach, faculty training, pedagogy and selection of academic programs adapt and cater to the students, even to their demographic profiles (Hartman, Moskal & Dziuban, 2004).

I participated this week in CFHE12’s webinar with Vice Provost Joel Hartman from UCF who shared briefly the institution’s history and pedagogical philosophy. I’ll include in this post highlights of the webinar and insights about UCF’s strategy for readers that might be interested in innovative educational programs, online and/or blended learning.

I was somewhat skeptical that UCF’s methods and learning modality options could be implemented on such a large-scale [student population is just under 60,000] – it seems so radically different from most public universities. Yet I admit it seems to be working, and working well upon review of the UCF’s programs, professional development and research findings. The institution’s strategy is extensive, which is why I’ve focused on only three areas, research, course modality offerings and faculty development in this post.

1. Student Choice of Learning Modality
UCF offers students a choice of five delivery modalities through its Center for Distributed Learning and students can mix-and-match – creating a personalized schedule.

  1. World Wide Web: Courses conducted via web-based instruction and collaboration.
  2. Video Streaming: 100% online courses with streaming digital video delivering content with several types of learning activities and assessments.
  3. Video Streaming/ Reduced Seat Time: Classroom-based content available over the web via streaming video; classroom attendance is not required. Other required activities that substitute for video instruction may include: web activity, in-person or proctored examinations, and labs.
  4. Mixed Mode/Reduced Seat Time [blended learning]: Courses include both required classroom attendance and online instruction. Classes have substantial activity conducted over the web, which substitutes for some classroom meetings.
  5. Face-toFace Instruction: Courses have required classroom attendance and meet on a regularly scheduled basis.

The chart below from ‘The Postmodality Era: How “Online Learning” is Becoming “Learning” provides breakdown of student count by modality (Cavanagh, 2012).

2. Faculty Development
Faculty training is comprehensive with four distinct courses offered. The program brochure outlines the faculty program, ‘Pathways’ exclusive to UCF. According to Hartman, courses are in high demand by UCF faculty and in some cases demand exceeds supply.

One of the Pathways courses [IDL6543] is an award-winning, non-credit course that models how to teach online using a combination of seminars, labs, consultations, and web-based instruction, and is delivered in an ‘M’ mode [mixed mode]. The time commitment for this course is not inconsequential, it requires a minimum of 80 clock hours. The purpose of this faculty development course is to help faculty succeed as they develop and deliver a fully online course (“W”) or mixed mode (“M”) course.

3. Research: Pedagogy
Hartman supports the concept of active research and encourages faculty to get involved.  The Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness (RITE) at UCF studies its student population on a consistent basis using both formative and summative evaluations of academic performance, satisfaction levels and attrition.

The data becomes transformative for UCF as results help to modify, plan and organize the processes of the distributed learning initiative at UCF (Hartman et al., 2004). The papers, of which I include links below, include data and narrative of several of the studies conducted at UCF that involve online, face-to-face and blended learning environments.

Implications for Educators
I was inspired after participating in the webinar and reading about UCF’s programs, to analyze my own institution’s approach in these three areas: professional development, learning modalities and research. Could there be potential for blended learning at our college? Definitely. This review also reinforced how critical faculty development is, especially when incorporating new methods of instructional delivery. Though our institution is far smaller [with a small budget to match], I do see the potential for creating two or three formal ‘courses’ for faculty, in both online instruction and course design. I hope that you were inspired as I was after reading and learning about UCF.  If you feel so inclined, please share your ideas or thoughts by commenting.

Resources

Cavanagh, T. The Postmodality Era: How “Online Learning” Is Becoming “Learning,”  Chapter 16 in Game Changers (Diana Oblinger, ed.), EDUCAUSE Publications, May 2012.

Hartman J., Moskal P., and C. Dziuban (2004). Preparing the Academy of Today for the Learner of Tomorrow Chapter 6 of book: Educating the Net Generation

8 thoughts on “Can College Students Have it All – Learn When, Where and How They Want?

    1. Hi Robert. Nice to hear from you! Having the opportunity to hear the vice provost of UCF speak was tremendous. It was most interesting to hear how a large university was handling implementing progressive programs that address many of the challenges facing higher education institutions today. Debbie

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