Inside Higher Ed posted an interesting article about online instruction the other day. You can find it here. Even before the pandemic, students were voting with their class registrations, pushing institutions to increase online offerings, which brought about a decrease in face-to-face instruction. It is not difficult to meet the minimum requirements of your accreditor, but is the minimum enough? SACSCOC requires five things and none of them are difficult. If you ask students, they will tell you that they are prepared for the online learning environment. So we are off to the races, right?
Let’s start with identity. The minimum is a unique username and password issued to students upon admission. I don’t know about you, but I routinely log in to things with my wife’s credentials. With her permission, of course, but the point stands. This is not hard to circumvent for the student who wishes to. Do the faculty require proctored exams? Is there an institutional policy requiring proctoring to add a layer of security? Don’t get me started on the evaluative value, or lack thereof, of un-proctored multiple choice or T/F exams in online courses.
How about readiness? Is that recent HS graduate or returning older student ready for the online learning environment? Are they reading and comprehending at something approaching grade level? We know most are not. Are they disciplined, self-motivated, and organized enough for online learning success?
What are the implications of all of this though the lens of IE metrics?
- Students circumventing the security of username and password authentication could be artificially inflating your student learning outcomes attainment numbers. How could that be bad? Inflated numbers here can lead to a false sense of security and a program that fails to make a needed adjustment to instruction to support student learning.
- Students who enroll in online courses who are not ready for that learning environment lead to higher D,F,W rates and, by association, lower student success rates. This will show up in your student achievement measures (Standard 8.1 for SACSCOC institutions). If, as they should, those institutional measures are reflected in the program review process, student readiness, or lack thereof, will impact you here as well.
It is clear that online instruction is here to stay and it offers a great deal of flexibility to students and institutions. Is your institution doing all it can to protect the integrity of its online courses and providing enough support to students? An institution cannot fulfil its mission unless it is protecting program integrity and ensuring students have the tools and skills needed to be successful.
If any of this makes you nervous or gets you thinking, reach out for a discussion. Let’s talk about these issues.
At Southeastern Accreditation Consultants, we’re ready to collaborate and support your accreditation and strategic planning efforts. From reviewing narratives to building your documentation, we offer individualized services to best meet your needs. Contact us to get started.