Strategic Plan for Online & Distance Education 2018-2023

Our Vision

The University of Northern Iowa will be nationally known as a premier provider of high-quality online and distance education courses and programs.

Our Mission

Our mission is to provide exemplary leadership and support in the planning, development, promotion and delivery of high-quality online, off-campus and blended courses and programs offered through distance education.

Principles That Guide Our Work

  • Our overall competitive strategy will be based on a value proposition that emphasizes the superior quality of our courses, programs and support services.
  • While responsibility for the academic quality of courses and programs resides with faculty members and academic departments, we will strive to be helpful and effective partners in efforts to continuously improve offerings.
  • New program development will be intentional. Efforts will be guided by the document, “Criteria for the Development of Programs for Online, Blended or Off-campus Delivery” http://www.uni.edu/continuinged/faculty/distance-ed-criteria.
  • We will serve as good stewards of the University’s resources and provide transparency in all aspects of our operations.
  • We will help to foster innovative, high-impact learning experiences that are grounded in best practices.
  • We will work intentionally to instill a culture of collaboration and shared purpose within our unit, striving for excellence in all endeavors.
  • The University’s core value of providing an inclusive educational environment that is accessible and affordable will serve as a guidepost for our efforts.
  • We will provide leadership, support and advocacy for non-traditional students who wish to further their education.

Goals and Strategies

Goal 1: Increase accessibility to high-quality distance education offerings. 

(BOR Strategic Plan Objective 1.4; Core value reflected in UNI Strategic Plan 2017-2022)

Strategies:

  1. Support the development of courses and programs for which demand and need are evident and the capacity to deliver high-quality offerings exists.
  2. Provide support to faculty and departments in efforts to secure external funding to enhance the affordability of Continuing and Distance Education courses and programs.
  3. Assess interest and support for a scalable online course development pilot project.
  4. Assess the market demand and feasibility of offering select non-credit offerings in high demand fields.
  5. Adopt a systematic approach in developing stronger relationships and enhanced communication with key contacts at Iowa’s Community Colleges, business and industry groups and non-profit organizations.
  6. Assess the impact of financial aid on the recruitment of adult learners and collaborate with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to ensure that structures and processes for this population are aligned with best practices.
  7. Assess the viability and potential impact of differential tuition rates for courses and programs designed in highly competitive markets.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Total duplicated enrollments in Continuing and Distance Education courses (Board of Regents Annual Distance Education Report)
  • The number of certificate, endorsement and degree program cohorts offered through distance education (Board of Regents Annual Distance Education Report)

Goal 2: Elevate the quality of support services provided to students.

Strategies:

  1. Align Continuing and Distance Education structures and processes with the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) “Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education” http://nc-sara.org/files/docs/C-RAC%20Guidelines.pdf.
  2. Support the use of innovative strategies and best practices in the provision of academic advising and support services for adult learners.
  3. Evaluate and implement functionality within eLearning and connectUNI that helps support student retention and success.
  4. Continually review and enhance the content and functionality of the Continuing Education and Special Programs website. http://continuinged.uni.edu.
  5. Collaborate closely and intentionally with other UNI student support service providers to revise and enhance the non-traditional student landing pages and elevate support services.
  6. Assess and elevate the process of onboarding students at a distance.
  7. Support applied research projects in areas of high impact that support efforts to increase student success in distance education courses and programs.
  8. Develop operating procedures and a communication plan to systematically follow up with students who have left the University in good standing (“non-completers”).
  9. Take full advantage of the capabilities and reporting functions available from Campus Solutions, connectUNI, eLearning, the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness and other resources to enhance assessment, decision-making, reporting and efforts to continuously improve services.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Percent of students indicating “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with student support services (Delivery Methods and Support Services Survey)
  • Percent of students indicating “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with UNI’s eLearning system and/or video conferencing system (Delivery Methods and Support Services Survey)

Goal 3: Elevate the quality of the support services provided to faculty members, academic departments and other internal constituents.

Strategies:

  1. Collaborate with faculty members, department heads, the Graduate College and other administrators to ensure appropriate systems and structures are in place for the approval, oversight and assessment of courses and programs offered at a distance.
  2. Meet regularly with academic departments, the Graduate College and program coordinators to explore additional opportunities for program promotion and solicit feedback on ways to enhance services offered by Continuing and Distance Education.
  3. Assess, enhance and expand the individualized, comprehensive instructional development support services provided to faculty members who teach distance education courses.
  4. Support and expand professional development opportunities for faculty and staff in the use of best practices in teaching and engaging students at a distance, including the Quality Matters Initiative.
  5. Collaborate closely with Educational Technology and Media Services (ETMS) and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) to facilitate a coordinated approach in providing professional development to faculty members.
  6. Develop a distance education resource guide that highlights best practices in distance education instruction and documents the practices, processes and procedures/guidelines related to offering courses and programs at a distance.
  7. Continually review and evaluate emerging instructional technologies with potential to enhance teaching and learning and the provision of support services to students.
  8. Assess faculty and staff interest in forming communities of practice to support efforts to elevate teaching and learning and increase student success in online courses.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Percent of faculty indicating satisfied/highly satisfied with instructional development support services (Instructional Development Services Survey)
  • Percent of faculty indicating satisfied/highly satisfied on workshop assessments for Quality Matters professional development offerings (Instructional Development Services Survey)

Goal 4: Elevate the UNI distance education brand.

Strategies:

  1. Develop and implement an integrated marketing and communication plan to promote UNI’s Continuing and Distance Education’s offerings.
  2. Enhance the experience of prospective/current students and other constituents through the implementation of connectUNI (UNI’s constituent relationship management/CRM) system.
  3. Leverage the Education Advisory Board's (EAB) Adult Learner Lead Generation service to enhance our multi-channel approach to marketing and recruitment.
  4. Elevate the quality of communication within the UNI community about Continuing and Distance Education’s activities, impacts and value propositions.
  5. Leverage the loyalty and strong affinity to UNI by strengthening the collaborative approach with the UNI Alumni Association in efforts to promote courses and programs to graduates.
  6. Provide leadership in elevating the development, assessment and promotional efforts for our unit’s interdisciplinary programs (Individual Studies, Bachelor of Liberal Studies and General Studies).
  7. Consistently demonstrate leadership, a spirit of collaboration and a positive approach to problem-solving in efforts to continuously improve all aspects of distance education.

Key Performance Indicator:

  • Percent of students who are very likely or likely to recommend UNI’s distance education program (Delivery Methods and Support Services Survey)

Goal 5: Continually assess and evaluate the performance and impacts of our unit's work.

Strategies:

  1. Provide strong leadership in efforts to assess learning outcomes in CESP’s interdisciplinary degree program offerings and in continuous improvement efforts focused on enhancing student learning and success.
  2. Ensure structures and processes for distance education offerings are documented and aligned with criteria and expectations set forth by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC).
  3. Document continuous improvement efforts and ongoing assessment activities and use the data to make changes and improvements.
  4. Review the structure and impacts of our revenue sharing model to ensure it is appropriate, equitable and effective.
  5. Monitor financial trends and enrollment data and ensure that adequate financial resources are available to support our unit’s strategic initiatives.
  6. Provide transparency in clearly communicating revenues and expenditures for distance education activities.
  7. Monitor progress toward the goals and strategies set forth in this plan, make adjustments as necessary and ensure sufficient resources are allocated to accomplish our goals.

Key Performance Indicators:

  • Number of students enrolled in Individual Studies, Bachelor of Liberal Studies and General Studies
  • Number of Iowa counties with students enrolled at a distance (Board of Regents Annual Distance Education Report)

Goal 6: Foster a strong sense of community and shared purpose within our unit.

Strategies:

  1. Demonstrate the values of collaboration, caring, respect and excellence in all endeavors.
  2. Ensure that all staff members understand how the interconnected work of each person contributes to our unit’s vision, mission and goals.
  3. Ensure that all staff members understand how the work our unit carries out supports the purpose, mission, and goals of the University.
  4. Continually review structures, staffing levels and training to ensure we are providing exemplary service to students, faculty and other constituents.
  5. Develop training and professional growth opportunities for employees that align the talents, goals and interests of individuals with the needs and priorities of our unit.
  6. Monitor our physical space to ensure conditions are conducive for productive, collaborative work.
  7. Support a culture of professionalism and excellence for all staff.
  8. Set aside time to share information and celebrate our achievements.

Key Performance Indicator:

  • Percent of staff members indicating “satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with our unit’s office climate (Office Climate Survey)