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Cross-Institutional Partnerships Through Open SUNY: Connecting Individuals and Teams Across a Public University System

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Presenter(s)
Michele Forte (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
Thomas P. Mackey (SUNY Empire State College & Office of Academic Affairs, USA)
Kathleen Stone (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
Tai Arnold (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
M. Bridget Nettleton (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
Additional Authors
Kim Scalzo (State University of New York, USA)
Theresa Vamvalis (SUNY Empire State College, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 12:45pm
Track: 
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
All
Session Type: 
Information Session
Location: 
Southern Hemisphere V
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Session: 
Concurrent Session 2
Virtual Session
Abstract

Open SUNY initiative adds campus partners to address system-wide access, completion, and student success through online learning, student supports, and faculty development.

Extended Abstract

As the Open SUNY initiative continues to evolve and expand within the State University of New York (SUNY), partnerships are formed throughout the system to move online learning into the future. As part of this process, the early adopters of open and distance education, and the emerging online institutions within the same university system are all challenged to think in new ways about student success, completion, and faculty development. Open SUNY has completed two significant waves of development and is anticipating a new phase that will continue to include new programs and engage added stakeholders. This ambitious online initiative promises to expand access to online learning throughout the system, while maintaining the autonomy of independent campuses to design courses and programs, and to ultimately grant the degrees. Open SUNY leverages online learning as a system-wide resource that enhances the student experience at traditional campuses and appeals to adult learners at nontraditional institutions and community colleges. As the Open SUNY team builds cross-institutional partnerships across the system, individuals are working in new ways to expand the network and share insights related to student support, course design, marketing, enrollments, and faculty development. This requires overcoming challenges related to the use of different systems, while building something new that fosters student success and faculty engagement. Open SUNY has been successful in starting a new conversation about these issues with a particular emphasis on the recruitment and retention of online learners.
Participants will gain insights about how to scale online learning through cross-institutional partnerships and within complex university systems. We will provide take-aways and lessons learned based on what we may have missed in Waves 1 and 2, and what new initiatives are emerging. For instance, as Wave 2 programs expanded we gained insights from new partners related to outcomes assessment, use of rubrics in evaluating student work, use of course development template and master course model as well as meeting specialized accreditation standards related to mission and governance, resources, curriculum and institutional effectiveness.
What surprised us? We will discuss our evolving understanding of orientation for online learners. After two waves of this initiative we now have a deliberate focus to consider based on what online learners need. Given the scope of Open SUNY, what components can rest at system level and what is the responsibility of individual campuses? How can we scale best practices via templates, and then push to campuses to individualize base on student demographics and other considerations such as the role of campuses and local communities? How does system help campuses understand that a one-size-fits-all orientation will not meet the unique needs of their students - while at the same time providing something to start from? What questions should be asked? What kind of data and information are needed to ensure that students have what they need to be successful in the online environment? While students can take online from anywhere - they still tend to stay local.
This presentation will also examine our ongoing development of Metrics. We will describe all of the metrics initiatives to date, and the particular difficulty around measuring student support initiatives. Presenters will discuss how and why said measurement is key to changing campus culture via our differently distributed resources - or, said differently, how resource distribution drive campus culture.
Additional surprises include the difficulty we encountered with truly leveraging systemness -- the degree to which campuses share real concerns about retention and completion, and how the participants in this important project development are doing excellent, ground level work. At the same time, many campuses, especially those newer to online, have no organized means by which efforts can be organized - some have retention plans, but most campuses are collections of silos with excellent work done within said silos.
Attendees will be encouraged to ask questions, share insights, and engage in conversation about these issues based on their own experiences.