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Countdown Guide for Planning Online/Distance Degrees

October 11 2006

Version 1.4

Note: This is a work in progress. Please send comments, suggestions, etc to judith@designingforlearning.org

Countdown Template - Plan Introduction

This timetable describes six major phases of the planning and development of the degree and assumes a launch of the program 24 months out. Each of the phases describes tasks in five major areas of a planning a distance learning or fully online program:

  • Overall Program Design and Business Plan
  • Target Audience — Learners for the program
  • Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. content and performance goals and attitudes
  • Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc.
  • Environment and infrastructure for teaching and learning

One of the first tasks is to determine the overall Degree Model and secondly, the Course Model of the core courses. It is often good to design another Course Model for advanced areas of specialization. Another early task is to plan out the sequence of the courses and faculty assignments in the program cycle. It is possible that the sequence of the courses might be partially determined by the available and ready faculty, particularly in the first cycle of the program.

Phase 1: 24 to 20 Months prior to Launch

This phase concentrates on the definition of the overall degree to be offered, identification of the intended learners to be recruited to the program and the composition of the instructional team. This phase also includes defining the roles and responsibilities of this instructional team during the three major phases of any program: design, development and delivery.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Describe the program design, the curricula and the overall degree model
  • Plan the promotion and marketing of the degree program — determine who will be responsible for this and the resources for this effort
  • Forecast the number of students to be served in the program in the first three iterations of the degree offering

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Describe the students, the student characteristics and probable learning goals, including their preferences in terms of how to interface with an institution before, during and after a degree program
  • Conduct surveys and research the potential student population
  • Determine the learning environment and tools that students will use for learning in the program

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Identify the list of the core courses that will be part of the degree requirement
  • Identify the number of offered specializations within the degree and the courses within the specialization or certificates that might be subsets of the full degree.
  • Identify practical and culminating requirements, such as master’s requirements, internships, practicums, capstone, professional requirements
  • Determine the sequence of courses to be offered and beginning and ending times for each of the program cycles.
  • Determine the intersection of current topics or specialization areas that link back to societal demands and student needs/interests/updating requirements

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc.

  • Identify the faculty who will teach the courses
  • Determine the makeup of the full instructional team for the degree program, such as faculty, program coordinator, student mentors, and support personnel
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of each of the members of the instructional team
  • Identify and recruit, if needed, the members of the instructional design and development team
  • Identify and recruit, if needed, the members of the instructional delivery team

5. Environment for teaching and learning

  • Determine the teaching and learning philosophy of the program. This includes specification of the goals, skills, knowledge, attitudes of the program graduates
  • Determine the teaching and learning environment for the instructional team and for the students. How will students and faculty communicate?

Phase 2: About 18 Months prior to Program Launch

This phase concentrates on designing the Course Models. This might include distinctive models for larger-enrollment core courses than for the specialty courses. This phase includes the identification of the lead instructional faculty for each of the courses. Another key goal during this period is faculty development in getting familiar with any of the course management systems or tools that will be the primary online teaching and learning “environment” for the program. This is also the time to continue work on the budget and planning and marketing of the program.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Complete the marketing and promotional materials and plan for the program
  • Implement/analyze the market research plan for the program
  • Draft preliminary budget for the program

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Ensure policies and procedures for student admission and tuition, etc are in place
  • Develop system/work flow of communications and acceptance, etc for students containing description of required instructional tools and resources, such as computers, access to networks, readiness to learn, study and work online
  • Ensure people to review admittance documentation and to interact with and support prospective students are in place and well-versed in their responsibilities

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Complete the selection of the primary instructional strategies at the degree level and the course level. This includes detailing the degree model and the primary and secondary course models.
  • Design/define the course model for the core courses that will be part of the degree requirement. Determine the faculty member responsible for the core courses. Determine if these courses will be the same courses on campus as online.
  • Determine the processes and tools that faculty will use to develop and create mini-lecture segments and other unique and customized content resources.
  • Identify the number of offered specializations within the degree and the courses within the specialization
  • Design/define the course model for the specialty courses— including the number of courses, sequence for offering these courses, etc. Identify the faculty who will be responsible for these courses
  • Do the top level design of the Program Launching/Gathering events for the first degree cycle, if such events are part of the degree model
  • Design/define the non-course requirements, such as master’s requirements, internships, practicums, capstone, professional requirements

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc.

  • Plan and deliver training in the skills and habits of online teaching and learning for the program faculty. Include technical training in the course management system, and training in online pedagogical strategies and techniques.
  • Encourage the use of the CMS systems with on campus courses and the piloting of some of the online strategies with on campus students
  • Ensure that faculty and any members of the instructional team have the appropriate set of tools for teaching and learning in the online environment. Tools should be up-to-date and equivalent to those of the student learners within reason.

5. Environment for teaching and learning

  • Ensure that a CMS is in place and in readiness for faculty and instructional team to start using the tools, communications and assessment applications within the system.
  • Provide a CMS template for the faculty to use; if possible, discuss the template with the faculty and adapt to their needs, program philosophy and instructional strategies.
  • Check to see that all campus processes can be accessed by online students. Consider early access to public campus events. Begin to make students feel as if they are “on-campus” almost.

Phase 3: About 12 Months Prior to Launch

This phase concentrates on the promotion of the program and the recruitment of the students for the program. This phase continues an emphasis on development of course content and instructional strategies and assessment within the CMS teaching and learning environment.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Continue implementing the promotion of the program
  • Develop/refine public relations plan and website for the program/placements etc. stories about on campus program, etc.
  • Analyze what promotion components are successful and plan out promotion for the remainder of time prior to the launch
  • Refine program budget

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Continue to review policies, procedures, communications for promotion, acceptance etc.
  • Continue to implement and refine communication processes with potential students
  • Ensure policies and procedures for student admission and tuition, etc are in place

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Design the course template for the program courses if this has not already been done
  • Begin the development of the core courses. If it makes sense, develop these courses in parallel with courses being offered on campus to provide an initial level of piloting of key course online components with on campus students
  • Determine objectives, key content and assessment resources for each of the core courses. Which textbooks, which databases, etc. will be primary resources?
  • Develop the assessment plan for each course
  • Determine objectives, key content and assessment resources for each of the specialty courses. Work with library resources to ensure access to appropriate course resources
  • Do the next level of design of the Program Launching/Gathering events for the first degree cycle, if that is part of the design.
  • If the program is a fully online program, develop a “getting ready to learn online” module.
  • Design/define the non-course requirements, such as master’s requirements, internships, practicums, capstone, professional requirements
  • Design and development of core courses should be 50% complete.

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc.

  • Continue training and support of instructional team in any course or program specific resources, strategies, etc.
  • Continue to encourage the use of the CMS systems with on campus courses and the piloting of some of the online strategies with on campus students
  • Provide additional support for innovative ideas, strategies, etc.

5. Environment for teaching and learning

  • Continue to support /ensure that all is in readiness with CMS and other infrastructure. Watch for surprises.
  • Monitor developments in technical digital capture and streaming, and synchronous tools for audio and video communications and for doing team projects and presentations.

Phase 4: 8 to 6 Months Prior to Launch

This phase concentrates on the promotion of the program and the recruitment of the students for the program. An equally important focus of this period is the development of the first set of courses.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Review the promotion and program budget to ensure all is on target

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Continue to review policies, procedures, communications for promotion, acceptance etc.
  • Continue to implement and refine communication processes with potential students Ensure policies and procedures for student admission and tuition, etc are in place

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Continue training and support of instructional team in any course or program specific resources, strategies, etc.
  • Continue to encourage the use of the CMS systems with on campus courses and the piloting of some of the online strategies with on campus students
  • Provide additional support for innovative ideas, strategies, etc.
  • Design and development of initial set of courses should be 80% complete.
  • Design and development of second set of courses should be 30% complete
  • Plans for graduate/teaching assistants and their training should be in place

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc. — Same as for Phase 3

  • Continue training and support of instructional team in any course or program specific resources, strategies, etc.
  • Continue to encourage the use of the CMS systems with on campus courses and the piloting of some of the online strategies with on campus students
  • Provide additional support for innovative ideas, strategies, etc.

5. Environment for teaching and learning — Same as for Phase 3

  • Continue to support /ensure that all is in readiness with CMS and other infrastructure. Watch for surprises.
  • Monitor developments in technical digital capture and streaming, and synchronous tools for audio and video communications and for doing team projects and presentations.

Phase 5: 6 to 3 Months Prior to Launch

This phase concentrates on the review and piloting of the designed and developed portions of the online activities and assessment. Plans for the initial events for the students are complete.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Review the promotion and program budget to ensure all is on target
  • Prepare final budget, make adjustments as needed for the number of students

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Continue to review policies, procedures, communications for promotion, acceptance etc.
  • Continue to implement and refine communication processes with potential students
  • Ensure policies and procedures for student admission and tuition, etc are in place

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Design and development of the first set of courses should be 90% complete
  • Design and development of the second set of courses should be continuing

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc. — Same as for Phase 4

  • Continue training and support of instructional team in any course or program specific resources, strategies, etc.
  • Continue to encourage the use of the CMS systems with on campus courses and the piloting of some of the online strategies with on campus students
  • Provide additional support for innovative ideas, strategies, etc.

5. Environment for teaching and learning — Same as for Phase 4

  • Continue to support /ensure that all is in readiness with CMS and other infrastructure. Watch for surprises.
  • Monitor developments in technical digital capture and streaming, and synchronous tools for audio and video communications and for doing team projects and presentations.

Phase 6: 3 Months to Launch

This phase concentrates on ensuring the readiness of the program for its launching, the planning of the initial activities and events. During the time the final communications with the students are completed, in terms of admission requirements being in order. This phase also does a check on the readiness and preparation of the instructional team and the courses that will begin the first degree cycle.

1. Overall Program Design and Business Plan Tasks

  • Ensure that budget is in place for the first cycle of the program
  • Ensure that the instructional team is in place, that they are trained and ready for their roles and responsibilities
  • Begin planning for the next cycle of students, etc.

2. Students for the Program Tasks

  • Communicate with the students regarding that all is in readiness with their admission requirements and tuition payments, etc.
  • Communicate with students on the plans and expectations for any launching event or the first readiness module
  • Communicate with students about the expectations of the teaching and learning tools and resources that they will need for the program.
  • This is also a good time to plan a survey of the students on their skills and readiness for learning in an online program

3. Curriculum/Program Plan, i.e. Content Tasks

  • Any final refinements on the design and development of the core courses should be completed during these last three months.
  • Plan for the assessment of student outcomes should be integrated and in readiness with the initial set of courses
  • Evaluation plans for the course delivery component are ready
  • Planning for the initial Launching activities will be complete, if applicable. For this first cycle, the primary design goals of this launching meeting is for the students to meet each other, meet the faculty, and other members of the instructional team. The first meetings of the core courses will occur. Processes and procedures for the online courses will be communicated, discussed, etc. It is to be determined how other graduate students in the program might be involved and participate.

4. Instructional team for the program, faculty, mentors, etc.

  • Ensure that the instructional team for the initial courses to be offered is in place. This includes faculty, technical support team, and the non-faculty mentor/course assistant. Ensure that roles and responsibilities for the each of the members of the instructional team are clear to team and to students
  • Ensure that all members of the team have appropriate tools, and communications in place.
  • Ensure that any needed training for the instructional team is complete or is planned

5. Environment for teaching and learning

  • Ensure that the Course Management System and the courses to be using this resource is “loaded” with the course materials and that the communications links are in place with the full instructional team
  • Ensure that the technical infrastructure for other student support, etc. is all in place. This includes remote/online access to people for all types of traditional campus services

Launch Program and Enjoy the Students!

 

judith@designingforlearning.org
Revised February 10, 2010
Copyright Judith V. Boettcher, 1997-2010