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Hallmarks for Online Excellence and Criteria for Analysis

The Online Learning Council has recently completed a SWOT analysis of the Online Learning landscape at JMU. The council is currently working on a TOWS analysis, to generate a list of potential strategies to clarify direction and strengthen support for JMU's distance online learning efforts. In Spring 2018, the group will start to develop JMU's first comprehensive strategic plan for online learning. To guide their work, the Council is using what are known as the national C-RAC Guidelines, comprised of 9 Hallmarks of excellence, plus an additional 10th Hallmark developed by the Online Learning Coordination Team.

Hallmark 1

Online Learning is appropriate to the institution’s mission and purposes. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  •  Mission statement explains the role of online leaning within the range of the institution’s programs & services
  •  Institutional and program statements of vision and values inform how the online learning environment is created and supported
  •  As appropriate, the institution incorporates into its online learning program methods of meeting the stated institutional goals for the student experience at the institution
  •  The recruitment and admissions programs supporting the online learning courses and programs appropriately target the student populations to be served
  •  The students enrolled in the institution’s online learning courses and programs fit the admissions requirements for the students the institution intends to serve
  •  Senior administrators and staff can articulate how online learning is consonant with the institution’s missions and goals.

Hallmark 2

The institution’s plans for developing, sustaining, and, if appropriate, expanding online learning offerings are integrated into its regular planning and evaluation process.

Analysis/Evidence:

  •  Development and ownership of plans for online learning extend beyond the administrators directly responsible for it and the programs directly using it
  •  Planning documents are explicit about any goals to increase numbers of programs provided through online learning courses and programs and/or numbers of students to be enrolled in them
  •  Plans for online learning are linked effectively to budget and technology planning to ensure adequate support for current and future offering
  •  The institution has established a contingency plan for the continuance of data centers and support services in the event of prolonged service disruption. (Quality Scorecard, Technology Support)
  •  Plans for expanding online learning demonstrate the institution’s capacity to assure and appropriate level of quality
  •  The institution and its online learning programs have a track record of conducting needs analysis and of supporting program

Hallmark 3

Online learning is incorporated into the institution’s systems of governance and academic oversight. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The institution’s faculty have a designated role in the design and implementation of its online learning offerings
  • The institution ensures the rigor of the offerings and the quality of the instruction
  • Approval of online courses and programs follows standard processes used in the college or university
  • Policies concerning ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the use of revenue derived from the creation and production of software, tele-courses, or other media products are clear.
  • Online learning courses and programs are evaluated on a periodic basis
  • Contractual relationships and arrangements with consortia partners, if any, are clear and guarantee that the institution can exercise appropriate responsibility for the academic quality of all online learning offerings provided under its name.
  • Planning, support and oversight processes for both online and on-campus teaching and learning endeavors are well-aligned, closely coordinated and inter-related. Management and leadership of online and on-campus programs and course offerings are not siloed. The University leverages existing infrastructures around governance, technology, academic and technical support, and instruction as much as possible. SOURCE: Revised from UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence
  • To ensure compliance with federal accessibility standards, the Office of Disability Services is a recognized partner in academic oversight of online offerings.

Hallmark 4

Curricula for the institution’s online learning offerings are coherent, cohesive and comparable in academic rigor to programs offered in traditional instructional formats. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The curricular goals and course objectives show that the institution or program has knowledge of the best uses of online learning in different disciplines and settings
  • Curricula delivered through online learning are benchmarked against on-ground courses and programs, if provided by the institution, or those provided by traditional institutions
  • The curriculum is coherent in its content and sequencing of courses and is effectively defined in easily available documents including course syllabi and program descriptions
  • Scheduling of online learning courses & programs provides students with a dependable pathway to ensure timely completion of degrees
  • The institution or program has established and enforces a policy on online learning courses enrollments to ensure faculty capacity to work appropriately with students
  • Expectations for any required face-to-face, on ground work (e.g. internships, specialized laboratory work) are stated clearly
  • Course design & delivery supports student-student and faculty-student interaction
  • Instructional materials are easily accessed by students with disabilities via alternative instructional strategies and/or referral to special institutional resources. (Quality Scorecard, Course Development/Design). Usability tests are conducted and applied, and recommendations based upon Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAGs) are incorporated. (Quality Scorecard, Course Development/Design)
  • Curriculum design & the course management system enable active faculty contribution to the learning environment
  • Course & program structures provide schedule and support known to be effective in helping online learning students persist & succeed.

Hallmark 5

The institution evaluates the effectiveness of its online learning offerings, including the extent to which the online learning goals are achieved, and uses the results of its evaluations to enhance the attainment of the goals. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • Assessment of student learning follows processes used in onsite courses or programs and/or reflects good practice in assessment methods
  • Student course evaluations are routinely taken and an analysis of them contributes to strategies for course improvements
  • Evaluation strategies ensure effective communication between faculty members who design curriculum, faculty members who interact with students, & faculty members who evaluate student learning
  • The institution regularly evaluates the effectiveness of the academic & support services provided to students in online courses and uses the result for improvement
  • The institution demonstrates the appropriate use of technology to support its assessment strategies
  • The institution demonstrates compliance and review of accessibility standards (Section 508, etc.) (Quality Scorecard, Evaluation and Assessment)
  • The institution documents its successes in implementing changes informed by its programs of assessment and evaluation
  • The institution provides examples of student work and student interactions among themselves and with faculty
  • The institution sets appropriate goals for the retention/persistence of students using online learning, assesses its achievements of these goals, & uses the results for improvement. 

Hallmark 6

Faculty responsible for delivering the online learning curricula and evaluating the students’ success in achieving the online learning goals are appropriately qualified and effectively supported. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • Online learning faculties are carefully selected, appropriately trained, frequently evaluated, and are marked by an acceptable level of turnover
  • The institution’s training program for online learning faculty is periodic, incorporates tested good practices in online learning pedagogy, and ensures competency with the range of software products used by the institution
  • Faculty are proficient and effectively supported in using the course management system
  • Faculty receive training and materials related to Fair Use, plagiarism, and other relevant legal and ethical concepts. (Quality Scorecard, Faculty Support). A process is followed that ensures that permissions (Creative Commons, Copyright, Fair Use, Public Domain, etc.) are in place for appropriate use of online course materials. (Quality Scorecard, Course Development/Instructional Design)
  • Faculty receive training and are supported in universal design principles and methods so that instructional materials are easily accessed by students with disabilities via alternative instructional strategies and/or referral to special institutional resources. (Revised from Quality Scorecard, Course Development/Design).
  • The office or person responsible for online learning training programs are clearly identified & have the competencies to accomplish the tasks, including the knowledge of the specialized resources and technical support available to support course development and delivery
  • Faculty members engaged in online learning share in the mission and goals of the institution & its programs & are provided the opportunities to contribute to the broader activities of the institution
  • Students express satisfaction with the quality of the instruction provided by online learning faculty members.

Hallmark 7

The institution provides effective student and academic services to support students enrolled in online learning offerings. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The institution’s admissions program for online learning provides good web-based information to students about the nature of the online learning environment, and assists them in determining if they possess the skills important to success in online learning
  • The institution provides an online learning orientation program
  • The institution provides support services to students in formats appropriate to the delivery of the online learning program
  • Students in online learning programs have adequate access to student services, including financial aid, course registration, and career& placement counseling
  • Students in online learning programs have ready access to 24/7 tech support
  • Students using online learning have adequate access to learning resources including library, information resources, laboratories, and equipment & tracking systems
  • Students complaint processes are clearly defined and can be used electronically
  • Publications & advertising for online learning programs are accurate & contain necessary information such as programs goals, requirements, academic calendar & faculty
  • Students are provided with reasonable and cost-effective ways to participate in the institution’s system of student authentication. 

Hallmark 8 

The institution provides sufficient resources to support and, if appropriate, expand its online learning offerings. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The institution prepares a multi-year budget for online learning that includes resources for assessment of program demand, marketing, appropriate levels of faculty and staff, faculty and staff development, library and information resources, and technology infrastructure
  • The institution provides evidence of a multi-year technology plan that addresses its goals for online learning and includes provision for a robust and scalable technical infrastructure.
  • The course delivery technology is considered a mission-critical enterprise system and supported as such. (Quality Scorecard, Technology Support)
  • A documented technology plan that includes electronic security measures (e.g., password protection, encryption, secure online or proctored exams, etc.) is in place and operational to ensure quality, in accordance with established standards and regulatory requirements.

Hallmark 9 

The institution assures integrity of its online offerings. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The institution has in place effective procedures through which to ensure that the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completed the course or program & received the academic credit. The institution makes clear in writing that these processes protect student privacy and notified students at the time of registration or enrollment of any projected additional costs associated with the verification procedures.
  • The institution’s policies on academic integrity include explicit references to online learning
  • Issues of academic integrity are discussed during the orientation for online students
  • Training for faculty members engaged in online learning includes consideration of issues of academic integrity, including ways to reduce cheating. 

Hallmark 10

Senior leadership has designated leadership for the coordination of online learning, especially distance online learning endeavors, and supports their efforts. 

Analysis/Evidence:

  • The unit responsible for leading and coordinating online learning endeavors is a critical part of the senior leadership team within the academic affairs division.
  • The institutional leader or leaders of online learning endeavors are engaged in and fully aware of the broad University mission, and understands the role of online learning within that broader context.
  • The appointed leadership is empowered and resourced to establish plans and protocols for initiatives.

Sources

The full text of the C-RAC guidelines may be found online at:
http://bit.ly/C-RACguidelines and on page four of http://nc-sara.org/files/docs/SARA-Institutional-Application.pdf

Other documents upon which this analysis is based include:
• The JMU Strategic Plan
http://browndigital.bpc.com/publication/?i=223226 and http://www.jmu.edu/jmuplans/_docs/StrategicPlanMeasures.pdf
• The JMU Six-Year Plan
http://www.jmu.edu/jmuplans/supporting-plans/6yearplan2016-2022.pdf
• JMU Best Practices for Online and Hybrid Courses (http://www.jmu.edu/dl/wm_library/JMU_Best_Practices_for_Online_and_Hybrid_Courses_Dec_2013.pdf) and Best Practices for Online and Hybrid Programs (http://www.jmu.edu/dl/wm_library/BP_for_Online_Programs_Dec_2013.pdf) (NOTE: I checked it to make sure the SWOT document includes everything from those documents)
• SACSCOC Principles of Accreditation http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/2012PrinciplesOfAcreditation.pdf
• SACSCOC Requirement 2.7.4: Documenting an Alternative Approach
http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/corerequirement274.pdf
• SACSCOC Credit Hours Policy Statement
http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/Credit%20Hours.pdf
• SACSCOC Direct Assessment: Competency Based Educational Programs Policy Statement
http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/DirectAssessmentCompetencyBased.pdf
• SACSCOC Distance and Correspondence Education Policy Statement
http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/DistanceCorrespondenceEducation.pdf
• SACSCOC Best Practices for Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs
http://www.sacscoc.org/pdf/081705/commadap.pdf
• University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Hallmarks of Excellence in Online http://www.upcea.edu/Files/Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership 10.1.15.pdf
• Online Learning Consortium Quality Scorecard http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/consult/quality-scorecard/

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