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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

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The Application of the e-Learning Maturity Model Framework to Increase Student Learning Outcomes in Online Programs

Darryl Draper (Old Dominion University, USA)
Anne Mendenhall (University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA)
Session Information
October 30, 2014 - 3:00pm
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Areas of Special Interest: 
Institutional Initiatives
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Electronic Poster
Atlantic Hall
Session Duration: 
60 Minutes
Electronic Poster Session 2

This practice proposal examines current e-learning practices of two institutions using the eMM to develop a roadmap for student learning effectiveness.

Extended Abstract

This practice proposal examines current e-learning practices using a validated framework to guide pedagogical practices for increased learning outcomes. The e-learning Maturity Model (eMM) is a benchmarking and quality improvement tool that provides online learning initiatives with an evaluation of their e-learning activities. The intent of this research is two-fold; examine the ‘maturity' level of e-learning practices to develop a roadmap for success, and identify and imbed sound instructional approaches that promotes critical thinking.

Statement of Problem

According to the 2012 Survey of Online Learning Report, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States" the findings state that the number of students taking at least one online course has exceeded 6.7 million. In 2011, 32 percent of higher education students take at least one course online. The rate of growth in online enrollments remains robust even though overall higher education enrollments actually declined during the same period. Higher education institutions face many challenges. Student enrollment patterns and student demographics are changing, student retention and graduation rates are decreasing. The sense of urgency to deliver online courses is in direct response to factors such as shifting enrollment patterns, and competition with for- profit institutions. In general, institutions struggle to deliver engaging, effective online courses. Some challenges are faculty perceptions, ineffective course design, lack of pedagogical grounding, facilitation skills, evaluation, student support, and organizational structure.

Key Issues
How can Academic Institutions increase student-learning outcomes in the online environment?
On the surface, the process seems to be an easy task. In reality, the tasks and processes associated with designing programs for online delivery is complex. There is a need for a process model that encourages the development of effective educational technology resources independent of technical platforms, organizations structures and pedagogical frameworks. The e-learning Maturity Model (eMM, Marshall & Mitchell, 2004) is a benchmarking and process improvement framework validated internationality as a tool for informing and guiding the systematic improvement of e-learning initiatives by higher education institutions. The assessment of capability by the eMM focuses on five key domains and is assessed using a number of processes (Marshall, 2006b).
As well as being measurable and innovative, these processes and practices are also intended to be scalable for future strategic action, and suggestions for the activities that can improve outcomes for students, staff, departments and the institution in the form of student learning and retention. The following is a list of the five process domains:

  • Learning Domain: Processes that directly impact on pedagogical aspects of e-learning
  • Development Domain: Processes surrounding the creation and maintenance of e-learning
  • Support and Coordination: Processes surrounding the support and operational management of e-learning
  • Evaluation: Processes surrounding the evaluation & quality control of e-learning through its entire lifecycle
  • Organization: Processes associated with institutional planning and management

The underlying idea of maturity models is that the ability of departments to be effective in a particular area of work is dependent on their capability to engage in high quality processes that are reproducible, sustainable, and able to be built upon. Capability describes the ability of an institution to ensure that e-learning design, development, and deployment is meeting the needs of the students, staff, department and institution. At a department level, the emphasis of the model is on guiding improvements in e-learning that move from ad-hoc processes based on individual initiative to a holistic, integrated process that delivers documentable process improvements in critical areas like student learning.

Each of the processes has identifiable levels, or maturity of processes and corresponding examples to document each department's activities. Marshall's (2006a) levels are not intended to be hierarchical, but rather holistic in nature and describe the maturity of a process from a synergistic perspective. The following are the five dimensions:

  • Delivery: Creation and delivery of process outcomes
  • Planning: Assesses the use of predefined objectives and plans in conducting the work of the process
  • Definition: The use of institutionally defined and documented standards, guidelines, and policies during the process implementation
  • Management: Concerned about how does the institution manages the process implementation and quality of outcomes
  • Optimization: Captures the formal approaches to improve capability measured within other dimensions of this process

This research study intends to evaluate existing processes and practices at two institutions' in the conversion of courses to online delivery using the eMM framework for guiding the adoption of e-learning and improving the processes surrounding it to ensure improvements in student learning outcomes.
The eMM research will serve as the first step in the process by establishing a baseline evaluation from which specific, actionable initiatives can be established. When the eMM model is deployed for assessment, the following questions will be answered:

  • Do we have the organizational learning capability to understand and benefit from past experiences? If not, how do we create that capability? If so, how do we enhance the capability?
  • Are we effectively deploying resources to meet our most critical needs?
  • Does the college have a general consensus on our highest priorities for meeting our most immediate challenges?
  • Do we understand the steps necessary to make immediate as well as long-term sustainable improvements in student outcomes.

Project Goals and Objectives
The overarching research goal is for the institution to benchmark best practices to improve e-learning processes. At the end of this project, the two institutions will be able to:

  1. Identify e-learning capabilities within each of the domains (Learning, Development, Support, Evaluation and Organization).
  2. Develop and document best practices for each of the domain areas.
  3. Support Department's faculty in the processes that directly impact the pedagogical aspects of e-learning.
  4. Collect and evaluate measures of e-learning activities to ensure quality.
  5. Create a process improvement plan using data and feedback from the processes.
  6. Choose to pilot innovative ideas and technologies in their e-learning activities.
Lead Presenter

Darryl Draper is an Assistant Professor of STEM and Professional Studies at Old Dominion University. She is highly experienced in the design and delivery of e-learning in higher education and corporate contexts. Her specializations focus on e-learning. Specifically, using the e-learning Maturity Model framework as a benchmarking and quality improvement tool for institution's e-learning activities. While at her previous institution, she employed the eMM framework on an online master's Instructional Technology Specialist program to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses for process improvement. The analysis enabled the program to develop a strategy from the data that resulted in multiple high rankings from US News and World Report for online graduate programs in 2012. http://www.niutoday.info/2012/02/29/college-of-education-faculty-tap-online-courses-to-foster-community-building-among-students/

She transitioned from the corporate arena into higher education to further her passion in knowledge creation and sharing in groups and organizations. Her work focuses on the interplay of individual and organizational knowledge in the creation, sharing, and management of best practices. Currently, Dr. Draper is researching the implementation of the eMM framework with Old Dominion University's Distance Learning Department as well as the Biology and Engineering Departments to evaluate and assess existing student, faculty and institutional needs to increase performance across the learning, development, support and coordination, evaluation and organization areas.
In 2012, she was a Distinguished Dissertation Award recipient from the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI) for her dissertation entitled, The Instructional Effects of Knowledge-Based Community of Practice Learning Environments on Student Achievement and Knowledge Convergence.