This content is an operational imperative to bridge the gap for learners reveals key challenges: financial, academic, and reputational.
To set institutions, faculty, and students up for success, leaders must be strategic about how they transform virtual courses into robust learning experiences—and the resources they draw upon to do so.
Driving true online
Five critical dimensions for
university leaders to consider
Online learning is now a priority—but
what’s your best route to success?
Online course delivery and education technology are necessary tools every
institution has embraced to stay connected to their students. But remote learning
isn’t the same as robust online learning, and institutions are now grappling with Yesterday’s online learning
that divide. This operational imperative to bridge the gap for learners reveals key In the Fall of 2016, 32% of all students
attended at least one distance
challenges: financial, academic, and reputational. To set institutions, faculty, and
learning course and nearly half of
students up for success, leaders must be strategic about how they transform those distance learners attended
virtual courses into robust learning experiences—and the resources they draw only 5% of institutions.1
upon to do so.
The overwhelming majority of
America’s 1.5 million faculty
members moved their courses
online in the Spring of 2020 and
70% of them had never taught
a virtual course before.2
More than 25 million students
transitioned to remote learning
or have been otherwise
impacted by COVID-19.3
Students are demanding more Scalability is now crucial to success Strategy makes all the difference
Nearly every institution in the US quickly As decision-makers know, institutions of higher Institutions must begin and end with strategy.
transitioned to providing online courses, and education face similar dynamics as other fields: Leaders must have greater clarity about what
no two did it the same way. No matter what a growing bifurcation between those that thrive they aim to achieve, how they will achieve
route you took to transition online, you’ve and others that are struggling. Institutions it, and how quickly they can make it happen.
likely discovered your prospects and students succeeding online are doing so on a large scale They must be equally clear about how online
are sophisticated consumers with high and were well positioned to respond to recent learning links to short-term response plans,
expectations. In the age of Amazon, Netflix, events. While institutions that were forced to broader institutional objectives, and future
Apple, Google, and Facebook, students expect transition online quickly learned that what emergency preparedness; how it impacts
online experiences to be consumerized, works for one course or program may not issues such as accreditation; and how it can be
personalized, responsive, immediate, efficient, sustainably scale to meet every need. leveraged to enhance instruction and access to
and relevant from start to finish. They know student support resources.
Many institutions have respected internal
that online learning means more than lectures
teams capable of managing course
delivered via video conferencing, and they A pivotal decision: What are your
development and retention for a small number
often need more support and flexibility, next steps?
of online courses or a single program. But when
not less, to stay engaged and motivated in
they were asked to manage hundreds or even As institutions plan for the future, they face
thousands of offerings, the student experience a fundamental choice. Should they build and
was understandably compromised, adding to manage online learning capacity largely on
Institutions must invest more—and their own, perhaps filling one or two gaps with
increasing retention and enrollment concerns.
be more agile needed third-party services? Or should they
To deliver what today’s students need, Scalability creates qualitative as well as seek a long-term partner capable of providing
institutions must provide complex, connected quantitative challenges. You may suddenly strategic counsel and comprehensive services,
services and integrated support covering the need a tech center, a library disability office, or as well as making upfront investments in
full journey, so nobody falls by the wayside. some other specialized function you didn’t have their programs?
Recent events have taught us the importance before. Can you create it internally? How long
will it take? This white paper will help you ask five timely
of anticipating change, responding quickly,
questions to choose your best resources
and executing effectively. Rigorous academics
must be complemented by outstanding
online experiences and a strong culture of
performance and accountability.
Driving true online teaching and learning excellence|3
ow do we develop compelling online
courses and curricula?
Exceptional faculty and academic quality remain central to serving students wherever they are. “Pearson is willing to listen
But translating faculty expertise online isn’t easy. It requires different techniques and often a
change in mindset. and work with us to meet
Online students want to engage whenever it’s convenient, in a stimulating community of learners, our needs…my faculty are
with maximum control over how they learn. Older online teaching strategies—even if somewhat
pleased with how Pearson’s
more interactive than a “lecture with PowerPoint™”—often bore them. Institutions must master
newer tools, practices, and skill sets. instructional designers
You may employ instructional designers and are likely familiar with their traditional roles. However, have been able to work with
developing modern online courses requires you to integrate traditional instructional design with
strong expertise in user experience engineering and several other disciplines: them to translate some of
Role(s) Tasks these difficult tasks into an
Architect, design, and optimize the entire learning experience, not just within
courses, but across the entire student lifecycle
Standardize interaction design across courses so students are immediately
User interface/user experience/ — Dr. Goutham Menon
comfortable when they start a new course
learning design specialists Director of Social Work
Carefully design linkages and entry points so all of a program’s courses build University of Nevada, Reno
on each other, and students can efficiently move towards graduating with the
competencies they need
Ensure that Learning Management Systems (LMSes) and other tools are working
properly and used to maximum pedagogical advantage
Graphic designers, videographers, writers, Create educationally compelling content that appeals to today’s students
and other creative professionals Create deliverables that also improve on-campus iterations of your courses
Web developers, web programmers, Make sure courses work smoothly and responsively on any browser or device your
and web architects students want to use
Quality assurance teams Make sure everything works well, in the many environments in which it will be used
Project managers Ensure that the right solutions are built, and delivered on schedule and on budget
Work with faculty and others to measure course/program performance
Program leaders and managers qualitatively and quantitatively, learn the right lessons, and adjust or intervene to
improve student success, retention, and completion
4|Driving true online teaching and learning excellence
Beyond all this, course development teams and Accessibility
their institutions face two more crucial issues:
Accessibility is absolutely vital when online “We’ve heard from our
innovation and accessibility.
courses are the only option available for
students. Courses should be designed for students and alumni—
Innovation compliance with accessibility requirements,
military and civilian—that
The most successful institutions plan requiring careful closed captioning and other
strategically for how they will manage modern features. Accessibility is best designed our online programs made it
innovation and new requirements in their in from the outset, and can’t easily be bolted
online courses and programs. on. If a course is designed well upfront, fewer easier to earn a degree. They
students may request costly accommodations.
Online course design is evolving rapidly. Busy graduate and get good jobs
internal teams may not have time to stay on
with good salaries.”
top of it all, no matter how forward-thinking
they are. An online learning partner that — Bill Clements, VP and Dean
creates thousands of new courses each year College of Graduate and Continuing Studies
may help you quickly implement innovations Norwich University
your students will benefit from, and avoid
those that are overhyped or unsustainable.
But these aren’t the only modifications you’ll
need to manage. For example, who will help
you quickly update your courses to reflect
changing accreditation requirements? If you
must reinvent or reinvigorate a program, who’ll
lead design thinking workshops to clarify goals
2. How do we help our faculty succeed?
Your faculty are experts in their disciplines, with strong networks in their fields and a deep
commitment to students. But they may not be experts in learning design, and some just had an
abrupt introduction to teaching online. “Our faculty were incredibly
You’ll need to support faculty all the way to success. Collaborating on course development and relieved to know that
training requires a deep understanding of their needs and respect for their expertise.
we were working with
Course development support professionals who
While the institution and faculty should always retain the rights to their intellectual property, the
best online courses are co-created with learning experts who know how to communicate the understood not only the
faculty member’s message most powerfully. These experts can help instructors:
graphic and media design,
• optimally structure and deliver their existing content so it’s maximally effective online
but also how to organize an
• communicate complex concepts in new ways, via interactives, animations, videos,
and more online course to best suit the
• identify opportunities to embed greater real-world relevance throughout coursework needs of an online student
and achieve the goals of
Faculty training should be comprehensive, ongoing, and measured. Institutions need mechanisms the faculty.”
for recognizing an instructor’s need and quickly delivering the right assistance. Training should
— Neil Teixeira
encompass: Director of Distance Learning
• all tools instructors will be expected to use fluently, including LMS and community tools
• just-in-time training based on real-time metrics that identify gaps (e.g., through student
feedback, you might discover that a faculty member needs more training on facilitating
• course management tips and shortcuts to help faculty free up time for teaching
Driving true online teaching and learning excellence|7
3. What kind of support services do
online students need throughout their
educational journeys? “Maryville prides itself on
As Arizona State University Online Executive Vice Provost and Dean Philip Regier explains, “When it partnering with industry
comes to online learning, there is a direct correlation between quality services and student success.
The more support students receive, the better their learning outcomes and overall experience will be.”
leaders to enhance student
Online students require support throughout their journeys, from first contact to graduation and beyond. access and success. Together,
Effective online student support requires institutions to collaborate deeply and creatively in new
we will better educate
ways. This sometimes requires significant cultural and organizational change. For example:
thousands of students who
• When student support services discover that students are encountering serious life
challenges (from financial to physical or mental health), how do they communicate this want and deserve a high-
information to faculty or other relevant support teams?
quality college education.”
• How could faculty adjust their curricula or course structure to include more flexible
options for struggling students? — Mark Lombardi
• When faculty know they will soon be covering difficult key concepts, how could they Maryville University
coordinate with tutoring support to better meet anticipated student needs?
8|Driving true online teaching and learning excellence
Students and programs are more successful when faculty and student support professionals
work together closely. Retention specialists are typically the “glue” that integrates the institution’s
capabilities to promote student success. Retention specialists can track individuals’ progress, reach
out proactively when there’s an academic or non-academic problem, and coach online students to
remain engaged and move towards their goals. They often collaborate with these professionals:
Financial aid Ensure that students get fast and reliable answers about financial aid, and know about
non-institutional resources that may be available to them.
Online tutoring Provide tutoring on the right topic 24x7, when the student needs and wants it.
Help desk Provide 24x7 help desk services to help students overcome technical obstacles
Career services Provide comprehensive career services, from practicum and internship placements
to 24x7 resume, interviewing, and portfolio support.
Offer organized pathways to help students build career capabilities.
4. Do my resources have a track record of
Whatever resources you’re using, objectively assess their track record. Many of the same questions
apply to both internal and external resources:
1. Have they delivered on their promises?
2. Can they build the types of programs you want? Have they done it successfully before?
3. Can they demonstrate the new and advanced skills you’ll need to deliver robust online
learning at scale, or are they stretched to their limit?
4. Are they agile and collaborative, or siloed and resistant to collaboration?
5. Will they act as agents of change, helping you accelerate transformation, anticipating and
serving changing student needs, job markets, and realities? Or are they tied to routine
and unlikely to suggest improvements?
6. Are their long-term interests aligned with yours?
5. What marketing and advertising
expertise do we need to sustain
Like the rest of us, students didn’t have a choice about taking their education online this Spring. But
moving forward, they’ll be weighing their options between returning to school or not, staying with
your institution or not, and starting college or taking a gap year.
In a market place where you’re not only competing with other institutions but also the uncertainty
of higher education in general, capturing student attention demands greater skills and
sophistication, and stronger collaboration in support of a clear strategy. Consider these issues:
National branding and promotion—Sustaining your enrollments requires more than
local or regional brand equity. You’ll need to advertise more, and more effectively, to
reach your current students and prospects. It begins with greater clarity about who they
are and what they care about. This requires creative professionals and marketers who
deeply understand today’s educational landscape.
New channels—Most students are primarily on social and mobile, and with the advent
of social distancing people social media usage has increased as much as 40% with 18–34
year olds.4 You need the expertise to reach them wherever they are and where they’re
Google search and advertising—Staying in the first page of search results and
building profitable online ad campaigns requires expertise, creativity, and agility. Teams
need to constantly monitor costs and adapt to changing algorithms.
Driving true online teaching and learning excellence|11
Flourishing online programs and graduates
Pearson helps institutions grow their impact and meet today’s challenges by
enrolling learners online, and helping them transition into thriving graduates. We
offer the most comprehensive portfolio of online learning services to foster both
academic and financial strength. We deliver our services through diverse business
models customized to complement an institution’s strengths, match its risk
tolerance, and sustain its mission in the face of change.
For more information, visit pearson.com/opm
1. Grade Increase: Tracking Distance Education in the United States, Babson Survey Research Group. 2018.
2. Coronavirus Forces $600 Billion Higher Education Industry Online, Bloomberg Businessweek. March 19, 2020.
3. COVID-19: Higher Education Resource Center, Entangled Solutions. May 4, 2020.
4. “Report: WhatsApp has seen a 40% increase in usage due to COVID-19 pandemic”, Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch. March 26, 2020.
Pearson services for online success
• Funding • Student support
• Research & insights • Faculty support
• Student acquisition • Help desk
• Curriculum design • Sources
• Learning design
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