Planning an online program in higher education: An emerging model
Karen Renner Al-Ashkar, The University of Wisconsin - Madison, United States
Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Wisconsin - Madison . Awarded
The purpose of this descriptive case study was to examine the processes related to the development of an online graduate degree program in higher education. The study identified major planning steps undertaken by a committee of program planners and identified factors---categorized as barriers or enhancers---encountered by planners during each of the major planning activities. Strategies used by planners to deal with factors encountered were also identified and discussed. A proposed model for planning online programs in higher education was developed from the findings of this study.
The importance of internal and external context analyses and the value of developing planning documents that can later become strategic tools were stressed. Early in the planning process documents related to strategic and business planning and the development of budget categories, which were used as tools in later activities regarding administrative factors, were created.
The relevance of activities based on needs assessment that led to the development of program objectives and the program curriculum was reinforced. Planners in this study included faculty development and technological support in the activities related to course design and development. The concurrent development of systems to support distance learners was also included as an integral step in the planning process. These steps, along with pilot testing and revision of new courses, were emphasized in the proposed model.
The value of identifying factors that served as barriers or enhancers is affirmed; these factors were included in the descriptive table that accompanies the proposed model. Factors included, for example, administrators' respect for the experiences of planning committee members, traditional campus processes and practices, and stakeholder expectations. The descriptive table included the major planning activities and aligns each with the factors in play during the time of that activity and the strategies used by the program planners to deal with the factors in play.
Strategies that proved successful in this case, such as context analysis, open communication and avoidance of negative associations, along with the commitment and qualifications of the planners and the atmosphere of the planning, are discussed.
Al-Ashkar, K.R. Planning an online program in higher education: An emerging model. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, The University of Wisconsin - Madison.
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