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

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

An Integrative Approach to Innovative Course Design: Creating an Enhanced Learning Environment

John Weidert (Columbia Southern University, USA)
John Hope (Columbia Southern Education Group, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 12:45pm
Institutional Strategies & Innovations
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Oceanic 7
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 2

An integrative approach was used to create a new vision of innovative course design. The goal was to create an enhanced learning environment.

Extended Abstract

Columbia Southern University (CSU) is a 100% online, accredited, for-profit institution offering degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels to approximately 30,000 students. Degree offerings cater to career professionals as well as working adults who are seeking additional vocational training and possible career changes. As a result, the average student age demographic falls between 35-40 years of age. This student demographic has unique family and professional challenges often not associated with traditional student populations. Therefore, these dynamics often influence learner persistence through a degree program. CSU has identified the assumptions of andragogy and adult persistence literature as important factors in meeting adult learner needs and has attempted to address them in its vision of online course design.

As a central focus of its philosophy of "changing and improving lives through higher education," the CSU administration set as its goal improving the student experience, student exceptionalism, and student engagement. Through a more than six-month journey and interdepartmental cooperation, CSU faculty, staff, and administrators developed a course vision that reduces barriers for adult learners by focusing on innovative course design and the defining the role of teaching faculty. In an effort to reduce student anxiety, CSU establishes consistency through a standardized, easy-to-follow course structure for students. The course design reduces ambivalence, while the assignments foster efficacy by providing opportunities to capture the learner's experiences through more authentic assessments which are measured by applying a rubric.

Faculty strengthen the elements of course design by facilitating the experience for the learners and providing insights as experienced professionals in their field of study. Faculty are encouraged to be intentional in developing a social presence in the course through substantive feedback, audio and video engagement, as well as synchronous sessions with students.