Strategic plans are written documents, and therein lay their value. For once a college or university creates and publicizes their strategic plan for hybrid/online learning, that policy has weight that mere proclamations by chancellors or presidents do not. The process of a written plan for online learning creates an impetus for implementation, program assessment and accountability.
A first and critical element of a strategic plan for online learning would be writing clear and unequivocal guiding principles. Ideally, these principles, reflective of the thinking of senior institutional management, would state the following:
- We consider hybrid and online teaching to be both consistent with, and in alignment with, the mission, values and goals of this institution;
- We consider hybrid and online teaching to be of equivalent value and merit to traditional pedagogy;
- We consider hybrid and online learning as an important strategic asset to this institution; and
- We will actively support and empower a realistic, viable and effective strategic plan toward envisioning hybrid/online programs within our institution and will take the requisite steps toward realization of that vision.
Within CUNY, as with many institutions, access to, and promotion of, quality education are two major tenets of our mission. Simply stated, hybrid/online instruction is entirely consistent with CUNY’s mission and values.
Is hybrid/online teaching considered of equal merit and stature to traditional pedagogy? Many faculty might question this, yet it is essential for the administration to state that these newer teaching modes have an equal place within the institution. Can we teach 21st century skills to students by employing centuries-old pedagogy? We are in the midst of a paradigm shift from the instructor-based model to a learning community model that needs to be fully acknowledged and reflected in our teaching practices.
Does the administration recognize the potential for hybrid/online as a strategic asset? If not, then other priorities will get attention and hybrid/online initiatives will become token technology programs, having little institutional impact. As I wrote in a previous blog post, the potential impact of hybrid/online at CUNY could be the equivalent of 2-3 full campuses in terms of teaching and learning. Such a perspective, if adopted by the Chancellor, would mandate careful and thoughtful planning, managing, promoting and resourcing that asset.
Once hybrid/online is regarded as a strategic asset by an administration (as argued for in an APLU landmark study) then a realistic plan for its development and growth would be needed. A shared vision for online, fostered by a process where various stakeholders have real input in its planning, can thus be achieved. I believe the drafting of “guiding principles” is a critical cornerstone to envisioning online learning at CUNY.