Evaluating Your Institution’s Online Readiness

There’s more to online teaching and learning than what happens inside the learning management system. And since COVID is apparently going to be with us for a while, we need to have some discussions about broader key operational considerations as we move into the fall term.

Dr. Jenna Templeton, Vice President of Academic Affairs at Chatham University, joins Dr. Cherron Hoppes, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Helix Education, to talk about how an online readiness audit can prepare your institution to thrive come fall 2020.

Assessing Your Campus’ Online Readiness

Online education requires a cultural shift. For a traditionally based institution to think about moving online and how to service students in addition to delivering a quality educational experience, it can feel like a tough shift. 

“As we were thinking about expanding online, we had the opportunity to connect multiple campus units together to talk about the impact of expanding online in the institution,” Jenna said. “What would that mean for the registrar’s office, for financial aid, and for our IT departments, and how those all interrelate in the student experience?”

Jenna and the team at Chatham worked to pull more of those departments together, reinforce the focus on student centeredness, and help departments get out of some of that silohed thinking that just happens in daily work. 

“It gave everybody the opportunity to hear how a frequent or recent change impacted the other departments — unintentionally,” Jenna told us. “And how that impacted students, so they — the teams — were wonderfully quick to come together and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that had happened. Let’s think about how we can do this differently moving forward.”

What Do We Wish We’d Known Pre-COVID?

Cherron asked Jenna what she wished somebody would have warned her about 60-90 days ago.

“Oh, that’s a good one,” Jenna said. “I would have known to have a checklist of the things to pay attention to because every day, another piece comes up.”

She has a checklist now, and it’s derived in part from the top three things she sees as being deeply influenced and changed from the experience surrounding COVID-19.

How faculty are approaching teaching. Moving 100% online does cause one to think about how we deal with accommodating students in our classes all the time. A student may have to be out for a bit, and we think about that at the time, but we don’t necessarily plan for that.

More forms are available for students to complete and route online. Since students can’t filter into offices anymore, universities are having to make more and more forms available and transferable online. Many students — and staff members — will likely continue to appreciate that convenience even after in-person contact becomes more viable.

Do we have the right ed tech to continue to support learning in any format? This question may be the most obvious point, but it is also among the most critical. We have to deliver course content to students in a variety of formats.


What Does the Future of Online Learning Look Like?

“We were already down this path (of online learning),” Jenna said. “We’ve been in constant transitions with that because of the work that we did in the areas for improvement that we identified.” 

The school has always required all faculty at least to post their syllabus in the learning management system, and the school has also always used its learning management system for faculty portfolio reviews for promotion. So all faculty are familiar with the learning management system at some level. That said, Chatham is in the process of changing its learning management system. All the faculty are now being trained or retrained on a new system. 

“In some ways, it’s a fortuitous timing that we are training all faculty on the learning management system at this point,” Jenna said. “That was something that we identified in our work.” 

Another issue to think through: How to create processes and policies that aren’t placed based? How do you provide a full range of services to learners who aren’t physically present? 

That’s going to be a key component of online education. 

How Do You Create a Consistent Educational Experience Online?

How do we help instructors use a consistent online platform? 

Chatham has an institution-wide learning management platform system and an instructional technology team that has worked with the faculty to say, “Here’s what we want to use, you can use Zoom, this is your best strategy, we have pro licenses for you to do that.” 

How do we help faculty translate their content into the learning management system? 

The staff in the ed tech department at Chatham helped many faculty members. Besides, many instructors already used the learning management system for a lot of their course content.

“Then, we pulled our champions from departments together to help their colleagues be able to convert their content where they needed help,” Jenna said. “So those who either already had it or had strengths in that area helped the other faculty to move that along.”

One more key point: instructional designers have been critical for onboarding faculty and creating strong learning engagement for faculty and students in online courses and programs.


This post is based on a podcast interview with Dr. Jenna Templeton from Chatham University. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.