Distance Education Office Closure

With 2014 came the next step in BC’s development of eLearning with the Distance Education Office. It has been two years since BC’s enrollment with the Canvas Learning Management System. Canvas has been integrated into not only online courses, but hybrid and on-campus courses as well. “With the proliferation of on-line and electronic learning resources and our migration to Canvas, each and every student and instructor can be a participant in e-learning,” said Tom Neilsen. While many of these changes are targeting the younger generation of “digital natives,” Russ Beard believes it will be fairly user friendly, stating that “if they know Facebook, Canvas will be an easy adoption.”

BC has come a long way since we had 61 online and 1,441 telecourse students in 1996, now serving 17,352 online students and 7,978 hybrid-course students in 2013. For fall quarter 2013, 19% of students were taking online and/or hybrid courses. Distance education enrollment peaked in 2012 with a combined total of 33,597 enrollees for online, telecourse and hybrid courses.

The closure of the Distance Education Office is not synonymous to a closure of resources. For students, services previously offered through the Distance Education Office have been transitioned to Student Services. “Now, they will have a full spectrum of student support services that support all delivery modalities available through the Educational Planning and Advising Center and other Student Services resources.”

The Help Desk has become a one-stop-shop style of assistance for all technical problems students and faculty may experience. BC “collaborat[ed] with Information Resources to centralize the technology ‘Help’ supports provided to faculty and students in the computing Services area.” explained Nielson. The Help Desk can be accessed just outside of N250 or by phone or online.

For faculty, what was once merely “groups of faculty from two divisions […] intentionally focusing on identifying and promoting best practices in online instruction within their divisions” has evolved and expanded to “all divisions” said Nielsen.  Additionally, the “[Faculty] Commons provides “timely and relevant assistance to their peers.”

While some fields of study do not offer online courses, most departments have incorporated Canvas and other online services into their courses. The continuing education department, for example, offers an array of online certifications and courses, “utilizing many of the advanced features of Canvas such as ePortfolios, Badging, and Outcomes,” said Mark Veljkov, product manager, of online learning – continuing education. The Communications department utilizes features ranging from “rubrics to provide specific feedback to our students on a variety of assignments to using the conference tool for online office hours and from the discussion boards being used for unpacking course content to well-organized sites that utilize modules,” stated Katherine Oleson, chair of the communication studies department. These are but a few of the many features and opportunities to utilize an eLearning model.

BC is seeking an eLearning Manager to work with the Faculty Commons Director to “design, deliver, and maintain resources and support for instructional design and technology [on behalf of all faculty], focusing on best practices and innovation,” described Nielsen. The position would work with the Office of Instruction, residing in the Faculty Commons.

Nielson concludes that, “as we develop our Academic Master Plan during the next few months, we will surely be considering the incorporation of elements related to e-learning.  This will inform the eventual creation of a strategic plan for e-learning that is included in the position description for our new e-Learning Manager.  We will also assess the effectiveness of our redesigned e-learning support system and make changes as needed.”