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Lessons Learned From John Jay Online (Part 1)

Background

In September 2014, John Jay College of Criminal Justice launched two new fully online programs as part of their John Jay Online :

  1. Advanced Certificate on Terrorism Studies, and
  2. Masters in Security Management.

These programs represent the first fully online programs at a CUNY college outside of CUNY’s School of Professional Studies online programs. Given the significance of this development, I organized a panel discussion at the latest CUNY IT Conference in early December entitled, “Strategic Planning for Online Programs: Lessons Learned from John Jay Online.”

I was fortunate to have two John Jay panelists, both instrumental in shepherding these programs into being: Adam Wandt, Assistant Professor of Public Policy/ Faculty Fellow of Online Learning, and Feng Weng, (formerly) Director of John Jay Online.

Acting as a moderator for the panel, I asked Adam and Feng to reflect on their experiences creating these programs from inception to program delivery. Topics discussed ranged from the initial vision to market research, from stakeholder buy-in to overcoming obstacles, from marketing to faculty development, from policies and procedures to takeaway lessons for other campuses. Our free-flowing conversation offered many insights and passionate viewpoints. I believe this session provided an all-too- rare dialogue concerning the trials and tribulations of starting fully online programs within CUNY. What follows below (and subsequent blog post) are the salient points these two experts made, and an expanded discussion of each point.

A Long and Winding Road

Having the college president of John Jay supporting the creation of these online programs was an essential part of seeing this project to fruition. Yet, from inception to program rollout, it took about five years to fully implement these online programs. Yes, the process is a long and winding one, with diverse obstacles and pitfalls. Unlike the SPS online programs, which created alternative structures around faculty governance issues, John Jay did not have that luxury. Faculty governance and faculty buy-in took a long time and much effort to be realized. In addition, new policies and procedures had to be developed and approved, and numerous bureaucratic approvals needed to be obtained in terms of NYS Department of Education. Considering these and other unforeseen issues, it would be a good idea for all CUNY campuses interested in online programs to plan for a lengthy process.

Institutional Support

Starting online programs with institutional support is a difficult path, without it is a fool’s errand. At several CUNY schools that I know of, mid-level administrators and some forward-looking faculty have attempted to pilot online offerings without the full buy-in from their respective administrations. Invariably, such well-meaning efforts lead to frustration and accusations from faculty governance and few sustainable initiatives. Without enthusiastic support of a college President and Provost, there is little hope for any semblance of an online strategy, vision or effective implementation. For all practical purposes, each campus stakeholders must be on board and pulling in the same direction for new online programs to have a fighting chance.

Next Blog Post: John Jay Online: Part 2 will include these topics:

Empowering the Change Makers; Tenure and Promotion; Faculty-Driven Efforts; New Business Practices, Policies and Procedures; Faculty Resistance to Acceptance

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