Today we provide our second installment of the “What’s Next” stories, featuring the experiences of colleges and universities moving from the initial rapid deployment phase to the next phase of planning for how to deal with the reality of medium-term impacts of COVID-19. Using Russ Poulin’s metaphor, just as we have just finished bailing out some of the water in our lifeboat, another wave of water, the summer term, hits us, presenting the next challenge (or opportunity).

Make sure to check out our first post in the “What’s Next” series: What’s Next? Surviving in Lifeboats. Getting to Summer Term and Beyond.

We welcome Anna Porcaro, Executive Director of Online Learning & OneStop Student Services at Wichita State University

Wichita State University (WSU) has been bucking the downward enrollment trend, with fall enrollment exceeding 16,000 (unduplicated), the largest since the 1980s.

Its 22 fully online programs support about 10% of the total enrollment, and nearly 25% of all credit hours are being earned online. Regardless of delivery modality, every University course has, by default, a Blackboard shell. Faculty already had access to a robust array of professional development to prepare to develop or teach online.

OneStop Student Services. The university supports a “one-stop” student services center for all students, online and on-campus, whose front-line staff addresses 80% of student requests and questions related to student services (e.g., admissions, advising, etc.). The remaining 20% are handed off to individual offices for support; these requests are more complicated and take more time to address. The OneStop has proven to be a very valuable resource for students as the University rapidly moved from on-campus to remote learning.

Remote learning = emergency access to education. Faced with two weeks to move all instruction online, WSU’s instructional design and online learning teams were not able to build online courses for all faculty that had been teaching only on-campus courses. A ‘triage’ approach is being used, focused initially on creating tools and support for faculty who do the heavy lifting needed to move their course to remote learning modality. This training and support are reinforced with a campus-wide network of volunteer peer faculty mentors, each an alumnus of a faculty fellows program, whose members have completed advanced professional developed on methods and standards for online instruction. A woman working on a laptopThe next triage focus has been supporting students, who must depend on faculty and the LMS for access to their courses. More recently, live drop-in sessions are being provided for faculty, while the OneStop is supporting remote students. The University updates faculty and staff on an updated website with information on the latest actions in response to COVID-19.

Video is not the short-term delivery solution. The University is strongly committed to supporting students with disabilities, and as a result, the use of live video for course lectures is being discouraged. More important, the expectation is that accessibility is built into what instructors deliver, especially when they have students who have registered support needs.

Summer, and the learning is online. In previous years, fully online courses have constituted 50% of the summer course schedule. Anna’s priority is ratcheting up the quality of summer term online courses with instructional design support. Remote learning offerings will be addressed next, with the goal to substantially improving summer term courses over those that have been rapidly deployed for spring. Through continuous improvement strategies, the online learning team hopes that the best of summer’s remote learning classes can be eventually added to future “online” offerings.

Fiscal and policy issues going forward. Remote learning has unique costs that have not yet been factored into tuition and fees, no doubt a challenge faced by most institutions. Cost containment is a real issue associated with scaling video collaboration and remote proctoring tools. Anna’s team will use a tiered approach, first considering less expensive solutions, such as university faculty proctoring their exams. The University does not want to make education more expensive for existing students already struggling financially.

Next up, Jeff Nasse, Vice Provost, Academic Affairs and Julia Philyaw, Associate Vice President, Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning (CTEL) at Broward College, in Fort Lauderdale.

Jeffrey Nasse
Jeffrey Nasse

Broward College is a very large institution with approximately 40,000 degree seeking students and an additional 15,000 continuing education students. Broward County, along with neighboring Miami-Dade County, are at the Florida epicenter of Covid-19 pandemic. Jeff and Julia tell us how Broward has made the pivot from on-campus to remote learning:

Instructional Continuity Plan. Located in “hurricane alley” in South Florida, Broward College has for years routinely created an LMS presence for every course, every section, every term as part of their continuity planning. This provided a good start to support the rapid pivot to remote learning.

Remote learning vs. online learning. From the beginning of the crisis, the College has distinguished between online learning and remote learning. The proposed definitions for remote learning are:

Broward College Remote Learning Courses – courses that are delivered using the College’s Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system, Blackboard Collaborate, and other approved Broward College systems. These courses blend both synchronous and asynchronous components to meet the course’s learning outcomes.

Julia Philyaw
Julia Philyaw

At least 21% of the course content will be delivered via synchronous instruction. This criterion is one way to distinguish between an online course (80% or better asynchronous) and remote learning (less than 80% asynchronous).

  • The syllabus, gradebook and other course materials will be available in the D2L learning management system.
  • Faculty may require students to participate in synchronous instruction at a specific time in accordance with their attendance policy as established in the course syllabus. Synchronous class meeting times will be made available to students on the course schedule.
  • Faculty will make themselves available to students for student office hours at specified times that will be outlined in the course syllabus.

Perhaps noteworthy is that Broward has a less technical definition for students, so they understand the general nature of the remote learning course:

Broward College Remote Learning Courses – courses that are delivered using technology such as Broward College’s Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system, Blackboard Collaborate, or other approved Broward College tools. These courses blend both real-time video and self-directed online activities to meet the course’s learning outcomes.

  • A portion of the course content will be delivered using live video instructional methods.
  • Faculty may require students to participate in real-time instructional activities during the specific time listed on the course schedule.
  • Faculty will make themselves available to students for student office hours at specified times that will be outlined in the course syllabus.
  • The syllabus, grading policy and other course materials will be available in the D2L learning management system.
  • When searching for summer classes, students should carefully review the notes to understand course requirements and other important information.

Scaling just-in-time faculty development and faculty support. To support over 2,000 full and part-time faculty, CTEL has:

  • Created an Academic Continuity Planning and Discussion Teams Site, an active hub of communication and sharing, where over 300 faculty and administrators have been collaborating each day.
  • Delivered daily, live training sessions, with learning outcomes related to D2L basics, creating tests and quizzes in the LMS, using BlackBoard Collaborate, and Respondus. Training began March 14 and continues today. Enrollment in these offerings is close to 1,200 as some faculty are learning these tools and tips for the first time and others are enhancing their skills.
  • Provided “Just-in-time” (JIT) help sessions, 3 times/day, staffed by CTEL and instructional designers, who provide help, support and troubleshooting.

93% of all spring term sections now available via remote learning. Academic administrators determined that 3550 sections of 3,835 could be delivered remotely, while a small number could not be transitioned. Hands-on and clinical courses remain a challenge.A laptop in the dark

Taming the “wild west.” Dr. Nasse would like to move from the rapid deployment mode to a more structured approach to remote learning for summer term as a means of building capacity and ensuring quality. Goals would include requiring that all faculty teaching remote class satisfactorily complete training, and that all remote learning sections use D2L and other tools currently supported by the College. Initially, a wide variety of tools and delivery modalities were used to facilitate the immediate transition and ensure all students would have access to instructors.

The “silver lining.” Dr Philyaw notes that responding to the global pandemic has some very promising outcomes. Recent experiences have demystified the instructional technology tools that support remote learning/online learning for faculty, who would have never attempted these delivery methods. “We have introduced so many faculty members to teaching with technology, and now we can build upon this accomplishment.”

Looking ahead to the fall AND spring terms: the challenge of a guaranteed, year-long course schedule.

With registration opening April 9 for not only fall 2020, but also spring term 2021 terms, academic leaders are challenged by the need to have a schedule in place in a period of high uncertainty. For now, the College plans for a fall term with on-campus learning of the night sky with the words "What's next?"

In Conclusion

Wichita State University and Broward College are two distinctly different institutions in terms of location, programs, and enrollment. Both have successfully managed the on-campus to remote learning transition, and now are deliberately using the next transition to summer term as an opportunity to move from triage to improving the quality of remote instruction. The initial question, “how can we sustain instruction” has evolved to “how can we improve the remote learning experience for both students and faculty.” There is no doubt that their experience in growing and scaling online learning has guided and has supported their relatively smooth transitions to remote learning.

We’ll continue our journey next week by featuring two more institutions in the upcoming “What’s Next” Frontiers series.

russ adkins author photo
Russ Adkins
Russ Adkins, Inc. (Higher Education Consultant)


WCET Resources on COVID-19

This is a highly dynamic situation and WCET will continue to update this post as needed. As always, we recommend that you directly contact your accreditor for specific guidance. WCET will continue to provide resources and updates related to COVID-19. Please see the WCET COVID-19 webpage which lists a number of curated resources for instruction, assessment, student services, regulatory policy, technology/infrastructure, and institutional emergency response planning.


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Laptop in the dark Photo by Gery Wibowo on Unsplash

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