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Taking the Plunge

Chuck CollinsThree percent of our students take an online course each semester. According to a 2016 National Center for Education Statistics report, 14.5 percent of students nationwide took at least one distance education course in the fall 2014 semester. While we have dipped our toes in the waters of online education, we are far from the average.

One of Chancellor Davenport’s priorities is to expand UT’s online course offerings. Our response in the College of Arts and Sciences is two-fold. We will develop online masters-level programs and convert existing courses to a hybrid or online format primarily for the summer sessions. Both of these options provide students (those at UT and those “out there”) with additional options for taking courses and have the potential to provide more funds to the offering department through tuition return.

So what is our plan?

Online master’s programs are expensive. The structure of an online course should produce enough revenue to cover development costs. They also need to generate enough additional profit for the department to justify the investment. In order to identify areas within the college that could support such a program, we are collaborating with the Provost’s office, as well as searching on our own, to find consultants that could help us with this effort. In addition to identifying areas for online master’s programs, we anticipate the consultants could also help with the marketing and possible management of the programs.

If you are interested in offering an online master’s program in your department, please conduct a self-evaluation to identify programs that might have a broad appeal. Please send your ideas to Todd Moore, associate dean of graduate studies, who is spearheading this effort.

Online summer courses are less expensive to develop and a great way for faculty to wade in the waters of online education. For years, we have provided support for the development of online summer courses. We will continue our efforts, offering a faculty member a stipend or research funds of $2,500 to develop and deliver online summer courses. Once we confirm an online summer course, the instructor works with staff from OIT and TN-TLC during the spring semester to convert the course to an online format and offer it the following summer. Once a course is converted, we can continue to offer it during summer sessions and even during the fall or spring semesters.

Please look at high-demand courses within your department and consider the viability of offering them as an online course. We will send out requests for proposals in early December. Now is as good a time as ever to consider how you might dive into online education.

If you have questions, please email me.

Chuck Collins
Associate Dean of Academic Affairs