Academic programs are given financial incentives to develop and offer online courses via the use of a tuition differential. This funding allocation allows for the growth of academic programs in online formats, as well as allows academic programs to be more entrepreneurial in their online program growth. This funding model has encouraged and supported the growth of online learning as a percentage of all credit hour offerings from 6.5% of all credit hours to 13% of all credit hours in the fall of 2013. This has occurred during a time of rapid growth for the university as a whole. Linking online course development and course review to funding has encouraged participation in the Teaching Academy for Distance Learning at Southern Polytechnic.
Leveraging a slightly higher tuition rate for online courses than face-to-face courses, we have been able to create incentives for academic department to grown online learning at Southern Polytechnic. The tuition differential is distributed to the academic department (53%), general online learning marketing (12%), seed money for new programs (9%), and support of the Office of Faculty Support and Development (26%). Academic departments only receive funding if their courses have passed a formal course review process that is managed by the Instructional Design Unit and that uses external reviewers who have experience teaching online as well as a background in instructional design. Departmental funds are expended via the Office of Faculty Support and Development and must only expended in support of online learning delivery. Approved uses include course development (including faculty extra compensation), marketing expenditures (program specific marketing), and program support (equipment, software purchases, hiring student workers, adjunct instructors, etc). Courses must undergo review every three years in order to stay current and eligible for departmental funding.
The number of credit hours as a percentage of all credit hours at the university has grown from 6.5% of credit hours during Fall 2009 to 13% of all students during Fall 2013. The Teaching Academy for Distance Learning is regularly at capacity and academic departments are developing new online courses.
This practice provides an incentive for online learning to grow within the institution and helps grow interest and capacity for offering online courses within the institution. Academic programs have a high level of flexibility in the courses they develop and the department chairs can leverage the resulting funds to support the growth and success of the academic programs.
For this practice we developed an internal reporting system that allowed for tracking online course development as well as credit hours generated. This was built by leveraging data already stored in the student information system. The reporting system was easy to construct, and was incorporated into the responsibilities of an existing position.
Administrative costs are minimal for this practice, as many of the faculty development functions are already in place at many institutions. The administration of the DLR funds is part of the responsibilities of a full time position, with student workers assisting in the process.