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OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Creating a Culture for Blended: Critically Evaluating Implications for Institutional Innovation

Lisa M. Bunkowski (Texas A&M University Central Texas, USA)
Andria Schwegler (Texas A&M University Central Texas, USA)
Additional Authors
Barbara Altman (Texas A&M University/Central Texas, USA)
Session Information
October 16, 2015 - 9:30am
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Blended Program/Degree
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Southern Hemisphere V
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 9
Virtual Session

Integrating blended courses into an institution requires more than revising definitions, it includes layers of processes and addressing the expectations of internal and external stakeholders.

Extended Abstract

Objectives of this Presentation:

Participants will review an administrative process for creating and implementing a unique blended learning course designation at participant's own universities, including lessons learned, insight from best practices, and research literature supporting the effort.

Participants will discuss the implications for the revised course designation across the institution, including regional accreditation standards, state requirements, compliance review, committee oversight, and faculty professional development.

Participants will take part in a poll about Blended courses and programs, and the results will be integrated into the presentation.

Context and Introduction
Our university is well placed to design and deliver both "fully" face-to-face and/or "fully" online classes, but almost five years into online growth, with 14 fully online programs and 37% of our SCH (semester credit hours) online, the intersection of online technologies with face-to-face instruction is still unclear.
Independent within the Texas A&M System since 2009, Texas A&M University Central Texas (A&M-CT) continues to work toward implementing a clear, consistent designation for this "middle ground" within course and program offerings. Last fall, we made headway when we implemented our independent student registration system and could control the labeling of course types.
In planning for this transition, it became obvious that we needed to explore what our course and program modality descriptions meant to better define them. New course designations better enabled students to understand the delivery options and faculty to understand pedagogically where their courses stood for preparation purposes. In creating these designations, we also needed to address expectations and definitions of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC). Only with consensus at the university regarding course and program types, would there be clarity in university processes related to course delivery options and training and support efforts.
We faced a series of challenges in working toward developing quality blended courses and programs. First, the institution needed to arrive at consensus regarding descriptions of course and program modalities. Second, once the course- and program-type definitions were accepted, we needed to provide training and other support mechanisms for faculty and students to embrace this approach. Portions of this support intersected with our more established online training and support for faculty and students; however, much work needed to be done to illuminate the institution-wide implications of integrating a blended approach. For example, even distal processes such as Export Control procedures to screen online course content needed to be reexamined, and fee structures for technology use across different course types needed to be reconsidered.
Approach/Case Study
A major administrative, innovative, and philosophical shift occurred that facilitated this blended transition for our university. What had been our "Distance Learning" division - under a series of related names, was reconceptualized as the Technology-Enhanced Learning division. The scope of the new division was expanded to cover all learning spaces of the university - from the brick and mortar classroom to the fully online space, and every conceivable combination in between. The Assistant Vice President of Technology-Enhanced Learning led the university in formalizing our definitions to address the long-standing misalignment. To develop the customized distinctions, he drew on the Online Learning Consortium definitions and layered them over the THECB and SACS-COC definitions of distance education and learning.
Supporting the AVP and the T-EL division is our Council on Academic Technology and Innovative Education, a recently restructured cross-campus group of faculty and staff involved in innovative education, co-chaired by the Director of Instructional Enhancement and Innovation and the Associate Director of Academic Technology. This council helped develop the Standard Academic Procedure (SAP) addressing training for faculty, which was expanded to include the blended modality and increased the faculty eligible to participate.
To prepare for this growth, our first Blended Learning Workshop was offered in August 2013 and revised for delivery again in May 2014. It is now being revamped with an eye toward merging it with a "hands-on" redesign academy with a combined that was informed by quality training in our fully online programs. In addition, supporting blended courses and programs with Faculty Fellowships and Awards through the recently created Office of Instructional Enhancement and Innovation will also help foster faculty engagement and participation in training efforts. Our distance learning leaders are also working to redefine university procedures regarding oversight of online courses and programs through their committee work. With clear, well-defined terms for the range of course and program types, training and support in addition to institutional procedures will be clearer as well.
To best support students, we provide training, on-campus support, and a quality, 24/7 help desk.

Results/Presentation Take-Aways
As a result of engaging in this session, participants will leave with new ways to define course types, how to implement the definitions, and how to integrate them into the existing institutional infrastructure.

Lead Presenter

Dr. Lisa Bunkowski is the Director of Instructional Enhancement and Innovation. She is engaged with leading faculty development, mentoring, and is actively involved in supporting online and blended initiatives. As a Historian and member of the History faculty, her research focus is the mid-19th century U.S., with emphasis on issues of violence and gender. She is also involved with regional history, and is working on the Bell County, Texas Oral History Project.
Dr. Andria F. Schwegler is an Assistant Professor and Online Coordinator for the College of Education. She teaches courses in statistics, social psychology, and educational media. Her research interests are in posttraumatic stress and depression in soldiers returning from combat and in the scholarship of teaching and learning.
Dr. Barbara W. Altman is Assistant Professor/Management for the College of Business Administration. She teaches courses in Business Ethics, Leadership and Strategy. Her research interests are in corporate social responsibility, organizational change, and inter-organizational partnerships. Her research interests also involve methods to improve online and blended course design and delivery.


Questions asked by the Virtual Audience but unanswered during the live session, have been answered by the presenter below: 


Q. Does tenured faculty get release time for course development?

A. Great question! I’m sure a number of our faculty members would prefer release time to the stipends that are available through the Technology-Enhanced Learning division - but the answer to your question is no. However, at the college or departmental level, a course release can be arranged if the course to be developed is a high demand course that is part of the program core, and the course-load of the faculty member can be covered.