G. WSU Online
1. Need Reflected in Survey and College Plans
In the 1998 survey 40% of faculty indicated that they would consider or would definitely reallocate funds for online courses. 18% would definitely consider reallocation, and 8% consider it their single top priority. Although faculty concern for funding this area is not as great as others, as reflected through the survey and number of college plans submitted, they are interested in developing online courses.
Planning for the project began in the fall of 1995 in discussions between CATS and continuing Education; the 95-96 year was devoted to seeking endorsements from various campus bodies, with actual development of initial courses and services done by CATS and CE between roughly March and September of 1997.
Twenty courses were offered Autumn quarter, with just over 100 students enrolling. Approximately 400 students enrolled in around 30 courses Winter quarter, and around 500 are expected in 37 courses Spring quarter. Almost all courses have been developed and taught by full-time, permanent faculty. Class size is capped at 15 per section, especially in the first term a course is taught, but repeat offerings can grow to 40, at the instructor's discretion. All instructors have been selected by departments.
All features of WSU Online have been developed locally. WebTester was the first to be developed, but the online discussion mechanism, the log in system that collects student data, and the portfolio (where students and faculty post student work and comment on it) have also been developed here this past year. Admissions and enrollment mechanisms are virtual (I use the term deliberately) real-time. which sets our program apart from several other prominent virtual campuses. The library and advising services in WSU Online have been widely praised in the distance learning community and are likely to be emulated if not appropriated.
Development of WSU Online was covered by Technology Initiative funds and start-up funding from Continuing Education. Ongoing instruction is intended to be conducted primarily on an overload basis for the foreseeable future, with the possibility of a few exceptions for in-load assignments. Most enrollments generated through WSU Online are budget-related.
3. 98-99 Plan
Since this area ranked low in faculty priorities for funding allocation, there are a minimal number of college projects related directly to this area, and all of the fee money collected from students enrolled in WSU Online is directed to WSU Online, the ARCC recommends no allocation this year.
4. Future Recommendations
It is difficult to predict future growth, though student demand is likely to remain strong. Doubling both number of classes and number of students in two years seems possible, but class sizes and number of courses and sections offered will be controlled by instructors and departments. A few departments plan to offer series of courses or major requirements online, and we hope to offer enough online courses in the right disciplines to meet all general education requirements. We will continue to to develop additional student services and online extra-curricular discussion activities in the months ahead. WSU online courses will probably be the core of Weber State's participation in the Western Governors' University.
Primary staff for WSU Online at present consists of two program development staff reassigned from within CE, two temporary programming staff, a full-time classified employee, and several hourlies, all in Continuing Education; the team leader is Tamara Aird. Several other staff in CE, CATS, and Administrative Computing also contribute to the project in the course of their regular duties. Future staff growth is likely to come through contract and hourly employees; our highest priority would be to make one of the temporary programmers a permanent position.