THE WEEKLY BLAB
Volume 7, Issue 32 – May 13, 2013
Graduation is always the best time of the year. Seeing all the proud students and their even prouder parents and families is great and this year was no exception. The fun began on Friday evening at 5:00 PM, when Dean Han Reichgelt (Computing and Software Engineering) hosted the CSE graduation party. The beer and food were both good, and everyone was having a good time.
Saturday brought SPSU’s two graduation ceremonies, the biggest ever in the history of the University. I think we’ve been able to say that every year since 2006, a winning streak I hope never gets broken. The graduation also featured our first Political Science graduate, as well as the first time students graduated in all seven engineering disciplines. This year was the last official graduation for Steve Hamrick, our registrar (who will be retiring soon), and the first for Jill Brady (our new registrar) who did a fine job onstage. I’m not sure if it was the humidity or what, but it was very difficult to separate the medallions from each other, and Koger and I had a little trouble juggling them but we managed. The afternoon graduation was a little rowdier than the morning one, with an inflatable beach ball being bounced over the students’ heads for a minute or two, and lots of loud cheering for individual grads.
Open Forum on Establishing an Online Campus
On Thursday, May 9, an open forum was held to discuss and answer questions about a draft prospectus on possibly establishing an online campus that was sent out on May 3. About 60 people were present, and the forum lasted for about 90 minutes. Given the lateness in the semester that the draft prospectus was completed and went out, another open forum on this subject will be held in early summer (probably the week of May 27th), and a third will be held in the fall if there’s any additional interest.
The questions were all reasonable and interesting, and Sam Conn and I did our best to address them. Given that SPSU has had a long history of offering online programs, one question was “Why establish an online campus? Why not just continue with what we’ve been doing?” The main reasons have to do with focus, consistency, and market. It’s very important for students taking online courses with SPSU to have the same experience (and use the same platform and tools) for each course, and to be able to access a wide range of support services. An online campus will provide a greater consistency in our offerings. The online campus will also focus on a different demographic than our traditional campus—it will focus more on adult, military, and non-traditional students. Their needs, which are somewhat different than traditional students’ needs, can best be accommodated through an online campus.
Another question was “When will the online campus be launched?” Our next steps will be to meet with all the support areas on campus (Admission, Business, Financial Aid, Marketing, ATTIC, Faculty Support and Development, Library, etc.) to determine how these areas would support our online efforts in the short term, in the transition period as the online campus grows, and at full implementation. Presumably, each area will respond somewhat differently. We’ll also meet with the departments that already offer online degree programs to hear any concerns and suggestions they have, and how best to migrate their programs to the online campus. These responses will be incorporated into an operations document. Assuming that things progress nicely, that document could be completed mid-Fall semester. If there’s a consensus to move forward, the online campus could go “live” soon after that. There’s a certain fuzziness to this answer since we already offer lots of online courses and our online students will need the support services described above no matter what happens.
Other questions and comments included:
- “Will the departments still maintain control over the curriculum in their online courses?” Yes—there’s no reason to change this.
- “Which will be more lucrative for faculty members—the current model or the online campus?” We believe that the online campus model will provide more opportunities for all faculty members. As the campus grows, there will be more opportunities for online course development and for summer teaching. Even programs that are successful now still have the capability to grow considerably. This growth will generate revenue that will support the campus as a whole, critically important in this time of declining state support.
- “Moving in this direction and supplying these services has been suggested in previous years and those reports have just gathered dust.” This is true—until now, we didn’t have the IT infrastructure and support in place that would have made the move to an online campus feasible. The online campus will allow us to implement the good ideas in these reports, and to pursue these other markets.
- “What happens if a department wants to migrate its program to the online campus, but one faculty member doesn’t want to join in the migration?” That’s a good question that will need to be worked out. The prospectus states that faculty will only teach in the online campus if they choose to affiliate—if they don’t, they can go on teaching as they currently do. If an entire program were to migrate over, presumably they would be assigned to teach some other course, or a section that isn’t being taught in the online campus.
- “Will we be creating online versions of every degree program at SPSU? What programs will be offered?” There are some programs that don’t lend themselves to online instruction, and these will probably not be offered online. The main programs to be offered will be degree completion programs and graduate programs, although any department that wants to offer a complete undergraduate program can be accommodated.
- “What does the sentence ‘SPSU plans to generate and/or purchase course content that fits the unique needs of the online campus’ in the draft prospectus mean?” It means that some of the course content will be developed by those faculty who have chosen to affiliate with the online campus. Also, when a current online academic program migrates over to the online campus, its course materials would migrate with it. Finally, there is quite a bit of high-quality online content that is currently available for very little cost or for free that we might use.
- “How will revenues and expenses be allocated to the departments and to the online campus?” There are some successful financial structures that have been implemented on other campuses (VPI, U. Maryland, etc.) that can serve as models for SPSU. We will be working with VP of Business and Finance Bill Prigge to develop a specific model to address these issues. We’ll share that model when it’s completed.
Overall, the reaction to the prospectus at the open forum was quite positive. If you have any suggestions or concerns, you can share them with Sam Conn or me via email, or you can attend one of the future open forums.
Center for Teaching Excellence Luncheon
The Center for Teaching Excellence had its annual luncheon last Monday, where the various members of the CTE Advisory Committee and CTE Fellows presented a report to the Deans and me on what they had accomplished over the past year. Dawn Ramsey spearheads this effort and does a magnificent job. I’m very proud to support the CTE from the Academic Affairs budget—it plays a critical role in faculty support and development.
The report itself was quite impressive—the number of different activities was over 200 (that’s almost one per full-time faculty member!) with the total attendance indicating that on average, SPSU faculty members attended four activities. This level of activity is remarkable, and I’m unaware of any university that offers as broad a range of opportunities for its faculty in proportion to its size. Pretty much every activity carried out by the CTE was singled out for praise from one or more of the Deans or from me. Suggestions for the future included continuing all (!) current activities, sponsoring an ongoing workshop where SPSU’s best teachers can highlight their best practices, and to expand the Research Learning Community’s work (perhaps in concert with the Honors Program) to develop opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank every member of the CTE Advisory Committee and all the CTE Fellows for their fine work in strengthening our academic community.
One More on Annette
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
Last week’s trivia challenge focused on words related to “May”. The winner was Jennifer Louten (Biology), who got all five correct. Here are the correct answers:
- You dance around it. A May Pole.
- Spider-man’s aunt’s name. May Parker.
- She plays Sheldon’s girlfriend on the Big Bang Theory. Mayim Bialik.
- Famous clinic located in Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic.
- It was supposed to happen on December 21, 2012, but didn’t. The Mayan Apocolypse.
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Today’s trivia challenge focuses on “Lilies”. Why? Why not? No looking up the answers now! SEND ALL ENTRIES BY EMAIL TO firstname.lastname@example.org, since if you put them as a response on the BLOG, everyone will be able to see them!
- Holiday that the lily is the traditional flower for.
- Married to Herman, mother to Eddie, Yvonne De Carlo played her in the TV show.
- Stylized lily that is the royal symbol of France, it also appears on the flags of Quebec, Detroit, Louisville, and New Orleans.
- They toil not, neither do they spin.
- First woman elected to the National Academy of Engineering and first honorary member of the Society of Women Engineers. Two books and a movie are based on her life (“Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Belles on Their Toes”)