National Distance Week Series: Online Learning’s Past, Present, and Future
By William M. Drayton III, Instructional Design & Technology
Director of Instructional Design & Online Learning
Last March, I found myself in a Zoom room exploring Canvas with CapTech Faculty. While compelled by the faculty's optimism, I could not escape the sting of a news story I caught that morning. The sound bite of students complaining about their institution's ability to adapt at the onset of COVID-19 pains me as an Education Tech Admin. As I facilitated the training, I mentioned the story to a faculty member. She responded with a comedic, "well, I am only here for Zoom. I know Canvas. I have been using Canvas since we transitioned". Her statements reminded me why I choose to work for an institution founded on the basics of distance education and poised to exceed its founders' vision by 2025. Let's explore Capitol's history in Online Education, the present state of distance education, and newly established, pathways for all Capitol Chargers to "Take Charge" of their online learning experience.
Distance education is a part of the CapTech DNA and has afforded hundreds of alumni keys to life-changing careers. An abbreviated scan of the university's history presents firmly planted roots in Correspondence education, which expanded into physical and virtual campuses. Here's a timeline of our past and essential actions that fortified our Online Learning Infrastructure. Click here for web-accessible PDF version.
COVID-19 changed the world in many ways and jolted every sector of education into online education, including the pains and possibilities of distance learning. Educators and administrators were forced into moments of discomfort and were called to lean on quickly changing data to make decisions. Through it all, one must appreciate a few key takeaways:
- We survived
- For the first time, everyone, was forced to trust the online learning system and embrace its capabilities.
- Students learned new time management tactics and were taught how to balance professional remote work expectations.
- Faculty was forced to become proficient in online teaching and communicate with students with a higher frequency using new tools.
- New tools and technologies were explored and adopted.
- New Established focus on student learning and engagement.
Online Learning is committed to continuous quality improvement. This fall, the department established its own Mission Vision, Values, and Strategic Goals organized into five strategic focus areas; Learning System, Technology, Efficiency, Integrity, and Advancement.
Strategic Focus Areas
1. LEARNING SYSTEM
- Implementing socially distanced labs and scheduling changes to ensure hands-on labs are available.
- Integrating Circle-In Virtual Tutoring for additional student support for undergraduate students.
2. LEARNING TECHNOLOGY
- Improving access to the Virtual Library through Learn@Capitol (Canvas).
- Integrating ePortfolio tools into Canvas, allowing students to share industry related projects with employers, partners, and alumni.
- Acquiring advanced classroom technologies and lab tools for Hybrid Learning.
3. LEARNING EFFICIENCY
- Establishing a task force for the Improvement Online & Hybrid Instruction.
- Launching Online Student Orientations Courses for Undergraduate and Master's degree-seeking students
- Expanding Online Learning Department Staff and Help Desk to support virtual and hybrid instruction.
4. LEARNING INTEGRITY
- Implement Canvas Analytics and Dropout Detective to track faculty and student communication and responses.
- Implement Portfolium Curriculum Mastery Pathways to demonstrate program level mastery.
5. LEARNING ADVANCEMENT
- Expanding Undergraduate Online Degree Programs
- Launching Professional Education Curriculum
- Online Learning Consortium Institutional membership
- Online Learning Consortium Learning Workshop passes offering faculty and staff discounted rates on professional development
Capitol Tech's Online Learning department is confident that these strategic focus areas will serve as a foundation to support both students and faculty Capitol as online learning continues to evolve. In all, the student and the instructor walk side by side towards a new era of online learning. Our past shows us the importance of proactivity and self-reliance. It should remind us to look within ourselves and pull together to define and achieve a desired virtual classroom. Capitol is prepared for the present because of its forward-thinking history. How we fare in the mystery of tomorrow revolves around you and how you leverage the tools and how you "find a way or make one” as a part of the online learning community.