Does online instruction help or hurt your IE metrics?

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Published by Douglas A. Wymer

Throughout an academic career spanning nearly 20 years, Dr. Wymer participated in many site visits (both substantive change and reaffirmation visits) for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) and he has been a visiting team member for the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges with the Western Association of Colleges and Schools. In addition to serving as a team member, Dr. Wymer has served as a visiting committee chair for SACSCOC. After earning a B.S. in Biology (with a minor in Chemistry) from what was then Shorter College, an M.S. in Entomology from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Tennessee Technological University, Dr. Wymer started a rewarding career in academia. He earned tenure and achieved the rank of Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences at The University of West Alabama and served in a number of administrative roles at UWA including Department Chair and Assistant Dean. He served as a Department Head at Pensacola State College and, after a year in that position, was promoted to Dean of Baccalaureate Studies and Academic Support. In 2016 he became the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake-Sumter State College, where he served for four years before launching Southeastern Accreditation Consultants.

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