I have long marveled at how quickly and effectively WCET pivots to support its members when we most need assistance. Remember the announcement of new guidelines that regional accreditors were going to use to evaluate distance education (CRAC-2001)? State authorization enforcement by the Department of Education? WCET helped us navigate around those icebergs.

The Coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented in its national/international impact, has forced campuses to close indefinitely, leading to the plunge into remote learning.


Russ Poulin’s earlier reference to the Titanic, lifeboats, and icebergs started our discussion earlier this month about not only what our members have done to enable instructional continuity this spring, but more important, what our institutions are planning to do to sustain and improve remote learning into the summer, the fall term, and beyond.

Interviews and Promising Practices

Through our interviews with online learning professionals, a number of promising practices emerged that you might find useful. The pandemic will continue to test us, but also provide all of us with opportunities to innovate and continuously improve, albeit under an immense amount of pressure.

The following is a summary of the key practices I found when interviewing these online learning professionals. Below the key practice summary, I have included a table with summarized details of all my interviews. This table includes links to the in-depth content from each interview, should you choose to review the actual interviews.

  • Integrate faculty development and support into remote learning development and/or delivery. Washington State University is awarding certificates to faculty who successfully complete more advanced virtual workshops on engaging students and authentically assessing student learning in the digital learning environment. The University of Central Florida is extending professional development previously used to prepare adjunct faculty and graduate assistants to “inherit” an online course to faculty new to remote teaching.
  • Pair inexperienced remote learning faculty with knowledgeable and experienced online faculty. This is one method of scaling support to augment instructional designer staff. Wichita State University is connecting remote learning faculty with volunteer peer faculty mentors, each of whom are an alumnus of their faculty fellows’ program. St. Petersburg College connects its “superuser” online faculty to remote learning faculty in a similar way.
  • Policies should allow and support integration of content and strategies from quality-certified online courses. This content can be used to develop course shells, creating ‘ready-to teach’ remote learning courses. St. Petersburg College has retrofitted quality online courses) and Indian River State College (master online courses) have leveraged their repositories of QM-certified online courses to push high quality content and learning strategies into remote learning shells.
  • Leverage the strength of a collaborative approach to the use of university resources. The University of Nebraska Online is allocating grants to enable the strategic and coordinated conversion of on-campus or blended courses to high quality online in time for summer delivery. Similarly, the Virginia Community College System is converting “Passport” general education transfer courses into quality online learning courses for summer term use.
  • Use LMS analytics to identify faculty and students needing targeted support. Indian River State identifies both faculty members and students that need extra attention, based on analytics data.three rotary phones on a wall
  • Deliver accurate and updated communications to all stakeholders. Students and faculty feel isolated and are starved for information. Wichita State University and Broward College are doing an especially good job at communicating with both faculty and students. Washington State significantly upgraded its “Distance Education Tool Kit.” This kit was previously used to support students and faculty during snow emergencies. The Virginia Community College System is using all available social media tools to ensure that students know that institutions are virtually open and classes available.
  • Support remote students. Wichita State supports a “one-stop” student services center for all students, online and on-campus. The front-line staff addresses 80% of student requests and questions related to student services (admissions, advising, etc.). The remaining 20% are handed off to the individual offices for support; these requests are more complicated and take more time to address. Though 90% of Washington State students have had some experience with digital learning, the bigger challenge for their students has been adjusting to disrupted jobs and lives and accomplishing all of their learning at home. The University has responded with an intensive level of personal communication, engagement, and support, include food pantries, Chromebooks to lend, and wi-fi solutions.
  • Support students with disabilities. The University of Central Florida has stepped up financial support for its Student Accessibility office to support students learning remotely who have accommodation needs. Wichita State discourages the use of live video for course delivery, and expects that accessibility is integrated into instruction, especially when faculty have students who have registered support needs.

“What’s Next?”

Imagine a day when the Coronavirus is not the first thing we think about when we wake up. Perhaps on that day, your college’s senior leaders will fully understand and appreciate the strategic and vital role that online learning plays in not only the survival of the institution, but in its future prosperity. a woman working on a laptop showing video conferencingPerhaps a substantial majority of faculty will have embraced digital learning and appreciate the relationship between professional development, quality standards, and student success. And finally, perhaps students previously hesitant to take online courses will now regard digital learning as convenient and also as a viable pathway to their career goals.

And, oh yes, digital learning infrastructure, technological and human, will have been strengthened so that the university is ready for the next crisis.

A big thank you to those brave and generous chief online learning officers that found time in their schedules to share their stories with us!

The table below summarizes a series of promising practices gleaned from interviews with online leaders. These persons represent institutions varying in enrollments and in digital learning sophistication. Select the link from the “Institutional Sources” column to see an institution’s “What’s Next” interview highlights.

WCET “What’s Next”: best practices, next steps, and lessons learned.

Institutional Sources

Face-to-face to “remote learning” course conversion on steroids.

Over spring break, the University moved nearly 5,000 face-to-face course sections, over 700 blended course sections, and 500,000 course credit hours to digital delivery. Fortunately, UCF has a very robust level of digital learning infrastructure, and faculty and student support services, to support this change.

The UCF Story

Triage faculty development at scale.

Daily, live training sessions, with learning outcomes related to D2L basics, creating tests and quizzes in the LMS, using BlackBoard Collaborate, and Respondus began mid-March and were sustained for 2+ weeks. Approximately 1,200 faculty participated in these offerings. Many of these faculty are learning these tools and tips for the first time and others are enhancing their skills. The Wichita State Story

“Remote learning” is not online learning. It is time to add structure to the “wild west.”

Going forward, BC Remote Learning Courses must be delivered using the College’s Desire2Learn (D2L) learning management system, Blackboard Collaborate, and other approved Broward College systems. Remote courses blend both synchronous (at least 21%) and asynchronous components to meet the course’s learning outcomes. Goals include requiring that all faculty teaching remote classes to satisfactorily complete training. The Broward College Story
All previous F2F learning will be online for Summer, either using a retrofitted quality online course in D2L, or live online using Zoom with some form of faculty-student communication. Faculty not inclined to go the retrofitted online route (adopting an existing online course) are given the option to deliver their previously on-campus courses using Zoom.

The St. Petersburg College Story

Moving past the emergency deployment phase, the Virtual Campus team is working with academic deans, who will assign faculty new to online learning to one of three options for summer term course delivery. Virtual campus staff will provide faculty development and support for faculty in each pathway:

  • “Master Course” — QM certified online courses will be shared with faculty new to online learning.
  • “Internet Course” with two categories:
    • ‘Legacy internet course’ — These courses, typically electives, have been previously developed and taught but have not gone through the Quality Matters design process to achieve Master Course certification.
    • ‘New online course’ – Faculty teaching these courses will be given an enhanced course shell based on the master course template.
  • “Remote Learning” Course — Faculty will use Blackboard Collaborate for real-time lecture delivery.

Indian River State College Story

Priority for conversion to certified high quality online courses.

The VA Community College System’s Office of the Teaching & Learning Technologies is converting “Passport” Transfer Courses for summer delivery. Virginia’s Passport “is a 16-credit hour community college program in which all courses are transferable and shall satisfy a lower-division general education requirement at any public institution of higher education.”

The Virginia CC Story

Leveraging the strength of a collaborative approach to the use of university resources, the University of Nebraska Online is allocating grants to enable the strategic and coordinated conversion of on-campus or blended courses to high quality online, and to scale instructional design and digital tools. Campus leadership is submitting proposals to use a portion of funds available to create online versions of high enrollment ‘gateway/bottleneck’ courses, and core undergraduate and graduate courses that have never been taught online. Already approved for funding to enable summer-term delivery are more than 100 online courses. Over $375,000 is being invested.

The Univ of Nebraska Story

Faculty development is a critically important element of initial deployment and continuous improvement of remote learning courses.

Faculty needed to know what software to download and what buttons to push. That was unfortunate by highly necessary step. Moving forward that focus will flip as the future development will begin with the goal of achieving best practices and then focusing on the tools that can be used to accomplish that goal.

The Virginia CC Story

Professional development used to prepare adjunct faculty and graduate assistants to “inherit” previously prepared versions of an online course will be extended to additional faculty new to teaching remotely, assuming there is already a developed online course for them to inherit. Sessions on teaching with lecture capture using Zoom will be required for all summer term remote instruction faculty, with over 200 faculty already signed up. Tom feels that the University will be much better prepared for summer term.

The UCF Story

All faculty teaching remotely are expected to complete the College’s introductory “teaching online” professional development course in the coming weeks. The College has not decided on delivery format for fall term courses.

The St. Petersburg College Story

The Global Campus, which is one of four pillars of WSU’s Academic Outreach and Innovation, is planning to award a certificate to faculty successfully completing ongoing virtual training on topics such as how to better connect with students, and to authentically assess their learning online.

The WA State Univ Story

Faculty new to remote learning must have lots of support and nurturing.

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.

The Wichita State Story

Faculty are being connected with “superusers” in their department who are willing to share their digital content.

The St. Petersburg College Story

The Global Campus production team, which in normal times rolls online courses over from term to term, is helping faculty utilize Global Campus course shells to facilitate online delivery for campus courses.

The WA State Univ Story

IRSC used analytics to inform support priorities available for faculty. While all course sections have a BlackBoard shell, Kendall’s team identified 45 faculty who taught face-to-face classes and who had minimal experience with the LMS. A list of sections, course IDs and faculty members was shared with instructional deans, who encouraged these faculty to participate in professional development to prepare them to deliver their course via remote learning.

Indian River State College Story

Institutions must sustain delivery of services, support and information to students that can no longer obtain these services on campus.

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 (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.

The Wichita State Story

Fortunately, 90% of WSU students had some experience with digital learning, either through online or blended instruction. However, the bigger challenge for students was adjusting to disrupted jobs and lives and doing all their learning at home. They needed structure, and they needed resources. The University responded with an intensive level of personal communication and engagement, food pantries, chrome books to lend, and wi-fi solutions.

The WA State Univ Story

Analytics data identified over 6,000 students who had minimal experience using the LMS. A call center initiative involved tutors and advisors to reach out to these 6,000 students to guide them to resources to support their learning in an online environment. Advisors worked with each individual student to reassure them that they could successfully complete the semester as it shifted to remote instruction.

Indian River State College Story

Communication and information for faculty and students is job-one.

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.

The Broward College Story

  • The University’s Academic Outreach and Innovation Division had previously developed a comprehensive “Distance Education Tool Kit” to provide instructional continuity during inclement weather. This tool kit has been transformed into an impressive, virtual one-stop repository of resources supporting students and faculty with limited experience with online learning and includes:
  • A Student Guide for Preparing to Complete Courses Remotely.
  • A readiness assessment for faculty to use to identify gaps and training to address these; a schedule of workshops available via Zoom, and companion resources to fill gaps identified in the faculty readiness assessment. https://li.wsu.edu/teaching-tool-boxes/emergency-tool-kit-for-extended-distance-delivery/

The WA State Univ Story

The University frequently updates a comprehensive Covid-19 site loaded with information for students and faculty. https://www.wichita.edu/about/public_information/wsu_topics/topicscovid-19/index.php

The Wichita State Story

Given the Covid closures across the state, many learners may assume that the community colleges are closed or that there is no space for them to enroll. An aggressive social media (other media being considered) campaign is being created to keep and attract students for the summer term.

The Virginia CC Story

Accessibility support for students must be sustained when instruction is delivered remotely.

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.

The Wichita State Story

UCF’s provost has funded supplemental captioning and transcription solutions and additional support for the Student Accessibility Services office. An LTI integration has been created within the LMS and placed into specific courses where students have accommodation needs so that faculty can more easily and proactively request accessibility support.

The UCF Story


The default grading system for all converted courses is now pass, fail, or incomplete. A student can request by the last day of instruction to switch to receiving a letter grade. Once that request is made, the student cannot switch back to the pass/fail option.

The Virginia CC Story

Some institutions are not providing pass/fail options because of transferability concerns. The St. Petersburg College Story

Hands-on instruction/labs/clinical instruction is a big, unresolved challenge.

UCF is challenged to provide clinical and physical lab experiences for its students and faculty. The sheer size of the institution and the number of programs requiring lab instruction complicate quick solutions, as do recent enacted austerity measures. The Division of Digital Learning has charged a specific team with researching alternative lab options and they are currently working with several departments to identify and deploy solutions.

The UCF Story

Remote learning at scale is expensive.

Cost containment is a real issue associated with scaling video collaboration and remote proctoring tools. Wichita State’s team uses 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.

The Wichita State Story

The University has stepped up to absorb the expense of scaling Proctorio from Global Campus to University-wide use to support assessment and the integrity of student work. This expense is not being passed on to students, including Global Campus students who were previously paying for service.

The WA State Univ Story

  • The University must absorb proctoring expenses, as students cannot be charged a fee to maintain academic integrity without advanced notification during enrollment. For an institution of UCF’s size, the costs associated with enterprise-level remote proctor solutions are significant.
  • Maintaining and adding qualitative dimensions to remote learning requires finding funding at a time colleges and universities are reducing budgets in preparation for declines in enrollment paired with state funding cuts.

The UCF Story

Silver linings.

Today’s remote learning classes may become tomorrow’s online courses, adding more learning options to our online course portfolio.

The Wichita State Story

The St. Petersburg College Story

Indian River State College Story

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.” The Broward College Story
Faculty members who have resisted the option of adopting standard, high quality online courses are now embracing this option. And as faculty members have positive first experiences in remote learning, SPC expects that faculty will choose to adopt more online tools and eventually move from live online with synchronous lectures to asynchronous online learning. The St. Petersburg College Story



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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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