Online learning at DePaul is not only growing, but thriving. Strategic efforts to prepare faculty with best practices in online course delivery and curriculum design has made entire programs available via the web. Credit hours taken online over the past five years have increased an impressive 72 percent, an important measure of this success.
Another is the increasing volume of students taking courses online. Last fall, about 20 percent of the student body enrolled in at least one online course, and by year’s end, a tenth of DePaul’s total credit hours was taken online. And it’s not just graduate students. Last fall, 22 percent of graduate students took at least one online course, while 19 percent of undergraduates also enrolled in at least one such course.
These accomplishments were achieved by design. Making optimal use of technology in support of teaching and learning was designated in DePaul’s strategic plan, Vision 2018, as a priority to serve students in ways that enhance their ability to complete their degrees.
The summer session proved to be a boon for students seeking online opportunities, with almost 30 percent of summer credit hours taken online.
GianMario Besana, associate provost for Global Engagement and Online Learning, says “most universities that offer online education are promoting the convenience of web-based courses as their main advantage,” but DePaul’s online education is about much more than just access and flexibility. The Faculty Council endorsed a set of distinctive pedagogical features that characterize the online experience DePaul creates:
- Students are held to a high degree of accountability through frequent engagement with course content, the instructor and student peers. Online discussions allow every student to reflect on his or her experiences to integrate content effectively, making online learning even more immersive than a traditional classroom.
- Professors regularly assess student progress and intervene with personalized feedback and guidance.
- DePaul’s digital environment facilitates the use of local and global resources to enrich courses, allowing faculty to integrate input from expert and peers worldwide into the online class experience.
DePaul is well-positioned in the online education marketplace. It ranks second in the percentage of students taking at least one online course among the nation’s top 10 largest Catholic universities, fourth among the top 10 largest private universities and fifth among 25 private peer institutions. (See interactive visuals below.)
The DePaul Online Teaching Series (DOTS) program has prepared 365 current faculty members with best practices in online teaching. Kelly Kessler, associate professor and graduate coordinator of Media and Cinema Studies in the College of Communication, is one of them. “DOTS exposed me to an array of online resources, provided me with excellent technical and design support, and created a cohort of trained online teaching faculty with whom I continue to collaborate.”
Sandra Virtue, director of Online Learning in the College of Science and Health, is another graduate of the program. “DOTS provided me with the training to both prepare and teach an effective online class in the psychology department. After participating in DOTS, I feel that I have the skills and resources available to me so that I can teach a high quality, online course.”
DOTS is earning national accolades. Faculty Instructional Technology Services Director Sharon Guan and Assistant Director Daniel Stanford received the Shauna Schullo Best Distance Teaching Practice Award at the 2014 conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, which recognizes presenters whose sessions contributed significantly to the practice of distance education. Their presentation “A Dash of DOTS – Ingredients for Award-Winning Faculty Development” received the highest score in session evaluation at the 2013 conference. DOTS also won the 2012 Sloan Consortium Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching.
As of the fall 2014, DePaul had 17 complete graduate programs available online through four colleges. It also had two undergraduate degrees and four degree completion programs available online through six colleges, plus one undergraduate minor and a special education endorsement program.