The Board of Trustees approved the allocation of a portion of University of La Verne’s year-end reserves for the development of online-hybrid courses.
The year-end reserves are made up of tuition revenue, interest income revenue, and room and board revenue.
According to the Board’s guidelines regarding the allocation of the year end reserves, a portion of the year end reserves go to endowment, which funds student scholarships, a portion goes to programs related to administration, a portion of the reserves goes to the building and upkeep of new facilities, and another portion of the reserves goes to academic initiatives, such as the development of new courses.
A group of instructional designers, collectively known as iCAFE, will help professors develop online versions of their courses. iCAFE is a part of the Center for Advancement of Faculty Excellence. The online-hybrid programs will combine on-campus in-person class sessions with online education. Some courses will be made available in an entirely online format.
“The online hybrid is primarily almost exclusively for the regional and online campuses, that is to say, the adult learners,” Provost Jonathan Reed said. “Though it’s possible some juniors and seniors in the traditional age undergraduate could also take advantage of online classes, the intent is not to move the undergraduate age experience to an online format. The intent is rather to offer for adult learners high quality online as an option in addition to face to face programs.”
Most of the courses that will be made available in online-hybrid format are evening courses taken over the span of ten weeks. By cutting the time spent in a physical classroom and putting some of the material and assignments online, the online-hybrid courses offer an alternative to adult students who might not otherwise fit a five-hour class into their schedule.
“We only want certain programs to go online,” Reed said. “Two to three programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, two to three more in the College of Education, and then the College of Business has already put many of its programs online. We’re looking at three to six programs over the next year or two. We’re also looking at hybrid over a three year period, having the evening classes, mostly graduate and adult learners, to a hybrid format.”
Reed requested $1.3 million to be allocated to the development of the online-hybrid programs, according to Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian.
“(The provost) is going to take his time in launching these programs in a sequential order,” Kechichian said. “I don’t believe that we have the capacity to launch them all at the same time.”
Sharon Davis, professor of sociology, has taught online courses in the subject of criminology. While online courses can accommodate students who either have busy schedules or cannot access a physical campus, purely-online courses have their drawbacks.
“Personally, from my own experience, I don’t feel that (exclusively online education) is as good of a delivery system as face-to-face interaction,” Davis said. “That personal touch, that I can see you and you can see me, I can look you in the eye as I tell you something, and I can immediately read your reaction is very helpful to me as an educator, knowing whether or not you’re understanding what I’m saying.”
Year-end reserves are also being allocated toward the funding of 24-hour Blackboard support. Under the current system, if an individual has problems with Blackboard, they contact one of the members of University staff responsible for the maintenance of the software and tools needed to run Blackboard, and 24-hour support is not available.
The University of La Verne will contract with the Blackboard company so that if students need to report problems with the system, they can call a number that connects them to Blackboard staff directly. Through this new system, support for Blackboard-related issues is available 24 hours a day.