From Grapes to Wine: Traditional to Online Doctoral Programs

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Conference Proceeding

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This panel from East Tennessee State University (ETSU) shared a wide variety of opportunities and challenges in moving well-established face-to-face programs to fully online delivery formats. The panel represented a rich history of professional experience and teaching in higher education administration, PK-12 administration, and program development and marketing. Originally scheduled as a roundtable discussion, the presentation was moved to a breakout session and was well-attended. Panel members shared discussion, comments, and audience questions. Content proximal to the presentation focused on four areas involved in the collaborative move to an online delivery of a doctoral program: Notification, Development, Approval, and Implementation. However, audience participation drove discussions into areas of adult learning constructs, tuition, accreditation, and much more.

Notification as a central topic was a review of the political and historical perspectives leading to ETSU’s program change when the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) announced a state-level initiative to move programs to online formats. ETSU had a fortyyear history of delivering a strong and well-respected Doctor of Education program, but. as the state-level movement continued, it was clear that ETSU would lead the way with its program.

Development was the process of moving a rigorous program from the classroom to a fully online program. During this phase additional instructors were hired and resources were provided for training and curriculum change to accommodate non-traditional delivery models. Because of the state support and interest in moving this project, the program change occurred over an amazingly short time frame — approximately eight months.

Approval as a phase occurred in concert with development as course work had to meet online guidelines and many courses were reviewed through processes in the department of educational technology. Approval phase issues also addressed accreditation issues pertaining to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools requiring online courses to retain rigor and be equivalent in content to the same or similar course delivered in a traditional construct.

Implementation emerged as a review of the issues and opportunities of practical change in delivery models. As we all have experienced, no amount of training or preparation can remove the classroom moment of loss of connectivity or the inherent difficulties of getting students comfortable with using tools in a virtual environment. Questions from the audience moved panel participants into discussions of the wide variety of university resources for graduate students in online programs, including but not limited to a myriad of library resources, technology help resources, and lower tuition rates through an online consortium that allows online students to have access to in-state tuition rates. In the panel dialogue with the audience, it appeared that the ETSU program migration, though swift, was very thorough. One area that seemed to engage all was a possibility of moving toward strengthening culture in online programming through resources for family members of graduate students in online programming.


Austin, TX

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