2012-2017 Strategic Plan for 
Distance Learning 

Overview of UNF

Mission 

The University of North Florida fosters the intellectual and cultural growth and civic awareness of its students, preparing them to make significant contributions to their communities in the region and beyond. At UNF, students and faculty engage together and individually in the discovery and application of knowledge. UNF faculty and staff maintain an unreserved commitment to student success within a diverse, supportive campus culture.

Vision

The University of North Florida aspires to be a preeminent public institution of higher learning that will serve the North Florida region at a level of national quality. The institution of choice for a diverse and talented student body, UNF will provide distinctive programs in the arts and sciences and professional fields. UNF faculty will excel in teaching and scholarship, sharing with students their passion for discovery. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors will enjoy a campus noteworthy for its communal spirit, cultural richness, and environmental beauty.  

Distance Learning at UNF

Historical Growth & Direction
Initial distance learning offerings and growth at UNF were grassroots, with no articulated strategic plan, and no formalized infrastructure for support. After an initial period of slow growth, the number of Distance Learning courses at UNF experienced a sharp increase. In Fall 2005, 35 DL courses were offered, and in Fall 2009, 84 DL courses were offered, representing a 90% increase. During the Fall 2011 semester, 103 Distance Learning courses were offered at UNF.

 

UNF’s current Distance Learning policy calls for calls for the development of courses that employ the best pedagogical practices based on the existing research literature and are compatible with the highest levels of student learning, interaction and engagement. UNF’s strategic plan includes performance measures related to increasing distance learning opportunities for students related in support of Goal 1: Cultivate a learning environment that supports intellectual curiosity, academic achievement, and personal growth. 


Governance 

The Distance Learning Committee (DLC) was originally convened in 1999 as the Distance Learning Action Team of the University Technology Committee, and in December 2004 became a permanent, but still ad-hoc committee. In October 2008, the DLC became a University Committee, with elected faculty representation. DLC was established as a governing body with responsibility for developing policies, procedures, staffing, and infrastructure recommendations to advance the development of distance learning that meets the needs of students in a manner that is consistent with the University’s mission. The Associate Vice President for Academic Technology chairs the Distance Learning Committee.

 

Need

Data from the March 2011 Florida Board of Governors meeting on eLearning clearly show UNF lagging behind other state universities in developing distance learning offerings. [1]

In 2011 the Florida state legislation passed Florida’s Digital Learning Now Act, requiring that
at least one course required for high school graduation be completed through online learning, beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2011-2012 school year. [2]
Chart1

Nationally, the 2011 Survey of Online Learning reveals that the number of students taking at least one online course has now surpassed 6 million. Nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course. [3]

At UNF, the Student Government Association president made requests to the President’s office and to Academic Affairs in 2008 to increase the number of Distance Learning courses available to students.

 

Opportunities

There is growing student demand for distance learning courses. Distance learning or online courses offer the student convenience, access, and unique learning experiences and environment. Effective distance learning courses are designed to engage students actively in learning. In this environment, the student is responsible for his/her learning outcomes and must be an engaged and active, rather than passive, learner. Distance learning courses also offer the opportunity for more one-on-one interaction with the instructor and more individualized feedback than a traditional course due to a shift in instructor time. In addition, all students, as opposed to just a few, participate, reflect, and question the course content through interactive discussions. Students also have the opportunity for high peer interaction, peer collaboration and group work, and “live” interactions with the instructors and classmates. These are important opportunities for students.

From a program and institution perspective, distance learning provides opportunities related to expanding a program’s geographic market and meeting the needs of the market. Infrastructural costs associated with building maintenance and energy use and environmental cost associated with commuting to campus and energy may be reduced with distance learning courses.

Strategic Planning

In April 2011, the DLC held a planning retreat to discuss how to best move forward to serve the needs of existing and future UNF students. That retreat resulting in the following broad goals:

  • UNF will offer strategic courses, programs and certifications via distance learning. 
  • UNF will have a minimum of 10 distance learning programs by 2016. 
  • UNF increase the number of course sections offered via distance learning by 2016. 
  • UNF will facilitate with development and monitoring of distance learning programs and the alignment/provisioning of the resources they entail. 
  • UNF faculty will be ‘certified’ to deliver distance learning. 
  • DLC will develop a model for program approval similar to flagship process to guide the development of online degree programs.
  • UNF will develop an infrastructure and organizational structure for DL at UNF. 

The Distance Learning Committee established a subcommittee in Fall 2011 to draft a Distance Learning Strategic Plan for the university that would incorporate these goals into a broader conceptual framework and solicit input from faculty, departments and colleges. The first draft of that strategic plan was developed by looking at national best practices and considering those within UNF’s unique institutional context. That draft was distributed to the faculty in February 2012 and feedback solicited via two Town Hall meetings and individual email. That feedback was incorporated into this final draft. It was the intention of the DLC to be as open and transparent as possible in crafting this document. This document provides a roadmap for future work to develop the policies and practices that will enable UNF to offer quality distance learning courses and programs that serve the needs of our students and of the larger community.

 


Chart2

In Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board, 65% of Chief Academic Officers (CAOs) report that they consider online education critical to their institution’s long-term strategy. Public institutions are largely in agreement online education’s critical role. [4]

The DLC is committed to developing a model that will facilitate the development of high quality distance learning courses and programs at UNF that are based on the best practices identified by national organizations such as the Sloan-C Pillars of Quality; the Southern Regional Education Board’s (SREB) Principles of Good Practice; and the American Distance Education Consortium’s Guiding Principles for Distance Learning.

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[1] http://www.flbog.org/pressroom/meeting_items.php?id=124&agenda=515
[2] http://laws.flrules.org/node/5797
[3] http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011
[4] http://sloanconsortium.org/sites/default/files/pages/OnlineLearningSurvey-Infographic-1.png