CUNY Survey of Online Learning—Part 3

It’s been a few months since I conducted the CUNY-wide survey for Online Learning, culminating in a panel discussion at CUNY’s 10th Annual Technology Conference at John Jay College on December 1-2, 2011.  Findings from the survey were presented in a panel discussion entitled “Strategic Planning for Online: Potential for CUNY Campuses,” that included myself (Bruce Rosenbloom, City College), Janey Flanagan (Borough of Manhattan Community College) and Michelle Fraboni (Queens College). In a previous post, I discussed the rationale for the survey, background and methodology, and a second post reviewed the results for the first half of the survey.  In this post, I will cover the highlights from the second part of the survey.

Early Phase of Online Adoption

The majority of CUNY colleges responding to the survey are clearly in the adoption phase for hybrid and online.  Few campuses had more than 4% of their courses online or hybrid, with the majority having 3% or less of their courses online.  For comparison purposes, this compares with SUNY, which has close to 20% of their courses either hybrid or online. However, there currently seems to be a greater urgency at most campuses to explore online, given the PMP (Performance Management Process) that now measures online courses as one of numerous criteria by which college presidents in CUNY are evaluated. In fact, 50% of respondents agreed with the statement, “PMP has spurred hybrid/online development on my campus.”

Another question asked about future expansion plans for hybrid/online at each campus. Not surprisingly, 100% agreed with the statement that “we expect to expand our hybrid/online offerings in the next year.”  Fewer (38%) indicated that their campus was planning conversion of entire programs to hybrid/online format. Even less were interested in exploring partnerships within CUNY (31%), partnerships outside of CUNY (12.5%), or global collaborations (37%).  These results show that most CUNY campuses are still in the early stages of online development (see model for online development).

The Reasons for Online

Question 16 in the survey sought to determine the major reasons for campuses offering hybrid/online courses. The following factors received the greatest votes:

  • Increase student access to learning (100%)
  • Improve scheduling flexibility (87%)
  • Improve faculty teaching options (82%)
  • Improve teaching at my institution (75%)

Other noteworthy responses included increasing student learning outcomes (68%), improving student retention (62%), and increasing participation in the learning process (68%). Clearly, there are numerous compelling reasons that are driving CUNY’s growth in hybrid/online learning.

Faculty Resistance, Rewards and Attitudes

The survey indicated that faculty attitudes toward online run the gamut between “mostly open and receptive” (12%), to very wary and resistant (6%). The largest number of respondents to the survey (36%) checked off “too varied to characterize.”  It should be noted that this query was measuring administrators’ views on faculty, rather than directly surveying faculty views. I would very much like to see a future CUNY faculty survey on hybrid/online learning.

When the question listed “barriers to successful implementation of hybrid/online at your campus,” most respondents considered faculty resistance as definitely (36%) or somewhat (47%) impeding online efforts.  Another important factor holding back online adoption was stated as “insufficient recognition of faculty for tenure and promotion.” This is an ongoing issue whereby traditional criteria for tenure and promotion have not kept pace with newer technology-related developments like digital scholarship or even creating an online course.  There is also the perception that hybrid/online courses take more time to develop and teach, and this is not recognized or rewarded (53% thought this was definitely an issue).

Another interesting question in the survey concerned whether hybrid/online produced a fundamental rethinking of teaching at my college (13% agreed), a significant change (50%), or very little change (37%). The issue is whether online is a “disruptive technology” that can change institutional practices. I feel that since CUNY is at an early stage in its online development, little systemic change has occurred to improve pedagogy across disciplines.  However, for the small group of faculty that have gone through this process of creating a hybrid/online course, I know from experience that often it has forced a rethinking of teaching methods and practices—generally for the better. The seeds of institutional change can gradually come from individual instructors–the early adopters—and their ability to influence their colleagues, departments, and schools.

Concluding Remarks

This survey represents a labor of love, as it were.  The entire process — from conception through implementation — from convening the panel through doing the summary/analysis, has taken many hours.  I gladly did this in service to the university and because I genuinely was interested in this area.  However, these questions and others need to be asked in a consistent, ongoing and organized manner by CUNY Central.  I have advocated in several previous blog entries, for the need of a central office of hybrid/online learning (see post).

At CUNY, we are in a critical stage of online development, transitioning from mostly ad-hoc, decentralized efforts with online courses, to administration-sponsored online initiatives on campuses entailing more planning, accountability and controls. As our hybrid/online efforts mature across this university, I strongly believe there is a need for a greater role by CUNY Central in this process. This yearning was reflected in the last question in my survey, which asked about that role. Clearly, the campus administrators who responded to the survey express the need for greater central office support in terms of policies and procedures (59%), budget and resources (88%), and strategic planning (58%). If this survey, and the work that went into it can accelerate that process toward a greater centralized role, then I feel the time was well spent.

Additional Resources

I recorded a question-by-question summary and commentary for all survey questions using Camtasia/Screencast. These screen captures complement my blog posts concerning the survey and presentation of results at the CUNY Technology Conference.

Overview of Survey (14 minutes)

Survey Results: Part 1 (17 Minutes)

Survey Results: Part 2 (14 Minutes)

PDF File of Complete Survey Results (Survey Monkey graphic format)

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