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University of Illinois at Springfield

Page history last edited by Burks Oakley 12 years, 10 months ago

University of Illinois at Springfield Online


Online and blended learning have become integral modes of delivery of the curriculum at the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS).  Beginning in 1998, the university has offered courses, degree completion programs and entire degree programs online.  We began tracking blended course enrollments just three years ago, but this year we will have nearly one thousand student enrollments in blended classes.  This past semester, we marked our 34th consecutive term of growth in the enrollments in online and blended classes at UIS. http://online.uis.edu/info/growth.html


Our 18 online and 4 blended programs are all integrated into the mainstream delivery structure of academic departments and colleges rather than isolated in extended or continuing education departments.  We view this as the appropriate 21st century approach to utilizing technology to enhance the practice and delivery of teaching and learning.



We further integrate online and blended learning into the faculty mission through the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS) which provides on-going support to faculty members as they teach, perform research and professional and community service using online technologies.  This support has led to the development and promulgation of many effective practices in online learning that are shared nationally through many book chapters, peer reviewed articles, consultations, conference keynote speeches, national online workshops and international conference presentations presented each year.



Our leadership in this field has been recognized through a number of national and regional awards, most notably:


  • Three of the total of eleven recipients of the prestigious Sloan Consortium annual “Most Outstanding Achievement in Online Learning by an Individual Award” – Distinguished Professor Karen Swan, Research Professor Burks Oakley and Professor Emeritus Ray Schroeder who is director of the COLRS.  No other university has more than one recipient of this award.
  • 2007 Sloan Consortium Award for Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning
  • 2008 Sloan Consortium Inaugural Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality in Online Learning
  • 2008 Society for New Communications Research Award for Online Reputation Management
  • We share our knowledge daily with colleges and universities across the country and the world through our award-winning Online Learning Update and Educational Technology blogs.  We are extending our leadership through our publications and presentations on the educational collaboration potential of the rapidly-evolving and soon-to-be-fully-released Google Wave.


For more than a decade, UIS has pursued access and quality to higher education through online technologies.  We look forward to the continuing that leadership in the coming decade.



UIS Online Students –Spring 2010


At census for Spring semester 2010:


  • Online majors made up 26.5% of UIS headcount enrollment.  
  • At 1,290, the number of online majors increased by 114 from Spring 2009 (9.7%).  (The UIS census headcount increased by 327 students overall.)
  • 33.7% of credits were generated in online courses.  
  • 53.8% of UIS students took at least one course online.  
  • 31.9% were registered only in online courses.  
  • 35.6% of online majors have mailing addresses outside Illinois.  
  • 85.3% of the Illinois students have mailing addresses outside Sangamon county.  
  • The online majors are older than their on campus counterparts, by as much as 9 years on average at the undergraduate level, and by 3 years at the Masters level.  The average age is 35.1 for online Masters students, and 34.4 for online undergraduate students.
  • Students taking both online and on campus courses take heavier course loads than either the completely online or on campus students, by about 4 hours at the graduate level.



Specific Responses to Discussion Questions for the Gates Foundation Meeting:


Where are we today?  Answer to part a.


Paramount in understanding UIS is that we believe that online approaches are a key component of 21st century learning. Therefore, we believe that online learning should not be segregated into continuing or extended education, and we mainstream our online programs and classes into the existing academic structure (and therefore the same assessment process).  This includes student evaluations, departmental outcome assessments, faculty promotion and tenure (not granted unless courses are determined to be above average using student evaluation, peer assessment, and other tools - resulting in continuous improvement), etc.


We take the very best of face-to-face practices of assessment and apply them to our online learning - department by department, discipline by discipline.


Our approach to online learning is best described as social constructivist.  We encourage student engagement with each other, the instructor and the discipline.  We do not encourage lecturing online; rather we encourage discussion, interaction, group projects, and knowledge building (rather than knowledge imparting) - often by using Web 2.0 applications.  We assess success through learning outcomes using a wide range of proctored tests, final papers, case studies, etc., as the instructor deems appropriate to the class.


Our metrics include student persistence to degree completion, grade average (online vs. blended vs. face-to-face), and student satisfaction (via evaluations) in the on-campus, blended, face-to-face program. These are best exemplified in our application for the inaugural Sloan-C Gomory Award for Quality in Online Learning (received in November 2008).  We find the online program to be consistently equal or better than on-campus in a wide variety of quantitative measures.


Where do we need to go?  Answer to part b.


As the Pew Charitable Trust's "Internet in American Life Project" reported this past week, we believe that the Internet will lead us to redefine our definition of "university" in the future - and will open new ways to better serve students.  See the report at:



One way we believe this will play out is in the collaboration of universities in offering classes and degree programs (such as the Great Plains IDEA and Library Science WISE programs).  We will see more such initiatives and the emergence of the multi-versity in which multiple universities collaborate online to provide rich curricula that has greater breadth and depth than any single university will be able to offer.  We would like to build upon long history our team taught inter-institutional classes (e.g. Chicago State, Warsaw School of Economics, BRAC University of Bangladesh) to create a large scale sharing through the New Century Learning Consortium [Burks Oakley serves as the current director of NCLC.].  Given funding, this will happen.


One of the gaps to be filled is between community colleges and degree completion at universities.  We need to encourage a seamless process between the two, because this is rapidly becoming the new norm in higher education for many populations in the US.  It is the affordable route to the baccalaureate.  UIS maintains agreements with scores of community colleges in Illinois and beyond.  But, we need to move further.  Guaranteed admission for community college students in good standing would help ease this transition to the online program at UIS.  Another good step would be dual enrollment during the sophomore and junior years, where students can intermingle classes from the community college with those from the university as they seamlessly progress to the baccalaureate.  We at UIS would like to lead the way in creating these models.


Of course, regarding integrating Web 2.0 into online teaching and learning, Google Wave is an area where UIS is leading the way.  We published one of the first peer-reviewed studies in this area: http://tinyurl.com/wavecollab .  There is enormous potential for Wave to become a high-functioning wiki platform for Web 2.0 in higher education.  We are most interested in pursuing further research in identifying best practices in using this new collaboration platform.


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