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E-Learning: What Does Our Future Look Like?

E-learning can help us increase access to our university, provide better education to our current students, and grow enrollment and resources. Yet there are operational issues as well as faculty concerns that must be addressed.

Based on the report from an outside consulting firm, Parthenon, and feedback from the Academic Leadership Retreat, we are looking for the best way to proceed in strategically harnessing the benefits of e-learning.

“There is increasing excitement around online programs and e-learning opportunities,” said Jennifer Gramling, director of online programs. “Faculty input in growing e-learning is essential as is our need to provide support, training, and professional development activities focused around best practices in online teaching, learning, and assessment.”

On our campus, online teaching and e-learning initiatives have emerged along two distinct paths: fully online distance education academic programs at the graduate and professional levels and online courses and hybrid courses at the undergraduate level.

We currently offer 14 online master’s degree programs, one post-master’s degree program, three doctoral programs, and one advanced standing bachelor’s program (RN to BSN).

“However, our recent discussions have centered around the importance of extending educational opportunities to students who wish complete bachelor’s programs and helping move the state toward its higher education goals,” Gramling said. “The most substantial growth in our online programming over the last five years has been in online undergraduate course development, with a focus on providing access and opportunity to residential, on-campus students.”

Enrollment in credit-bearing online undergraduate courses that are not part of a distance education program has been trending upward, increasing 65 percent over the last three years.

Initiatives in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Haslam College of Business, combined with increased capacity in popular online courses such as Nutrition 100 and Classics 273, have propelled this growth.

Another new program in the works: the College of Social Work will launch an online bachelor’s degree in social work in fall 2019 for transfer students who have already earned 60 credit hours. It is the first program of its kind in Tennessee and one of only a handful nationally, according to Robert Mindrup clinical assistant professor and director of the BSSW Program.