Going the Distance

By Elizabeth Millard

As distance education programs expand at many colleges and universities, administrators are faced with a question: Is it better to have a centralized distance education office, or should individual departments handle distance education on their own?

At Troy University a central office provides instructional design, tech support, Blackboard resources, and quality assurance. That helps provide a smooth experience for students such as James Gilbert, who serves in the U.S. Army.

Some institutions are making a shift from one model to another, such as Texas A&M University’s recent move to decentralize by transferring development, management, and promotion functions of its Office of Distance Education to its college deans, shuttering the central office. There are also distance learning efforts going in the other direction, as departmental programs come under a centralized strategy that provides uniform course development and shared technology resources.

A third type of approach blends the strengths of both strategies, with some colleges and universities creating hybrid programs where certain services, such as technology support or system integration, are centralized, but other aspects—such as faculty training and course development—come under the helm of individual departments.

In general, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy or definitive answer to the question of centralization, leaving officials to take a look at what works for them, what doesn’t, and whether change is necessary.

Continued at: http://www.universitybusiness.com/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1770

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