Your comments about the recommendations
Here are the comments we have received about the Strategic Working Groups recommendations. Some chose to remain anonymous.
- See the recommendations
- Video: See President Gary L. Miller and Dr. Steve Ash describe the recommendations and how they were crafted.
In regard to the "comprehensive Akron Virtual Campus":
While this sounds good as an idea, I have considerable experience working with online courses. Students often are over-scheduled, thinking that taking an online course means that they can “fit in” a 6th or even 7th class. At the very least, this practice needs to be curtailed. There is also a big gap between expectations of students and the reality of the work required by online courses. Typically I find that students struggle a great deal more in online courses. Maybe there could be a GPA requirement to be able to enroll without permission, and cases under that gpa being at the discretion of the faculty who knows how difficult these courses can be.
I think the other main challenges have been identified in the document (needs support resources, web portal, registration changes so they can register first). But, this is not complete as it does not actually consider the challenges of teaching and learning online. This is a unique form of teaching that requires a great deal of effort on the part of faculty. Small classes are a must to have quality online learning. I am concerned that there is a push for flexibility and online convenience without first having the resources for adequate faculty /instructor support.
With a limited number of in-state high school students and with too many competitions, I believe that we should try to attract more international students to apply for our undergraduate programs. We could do this by lowering IELT or TOEFL score, by offering conditional admission, by offering low tuition fees, and by offering conditional scholarships to international students. On possible conditional scholarship is: any international student with GPA 3.5 or higher pays the same tuition fee as an in-state student. What do we loose with this offer ? I think we only gain. We get a very good student who still pays as our normal student. This would attract many good international students and enhance our future reputation.
STRATEGIC THINKING: GEE - WHAT DO YOU THINK WE HAVE BEEN DOING FOR THE LAST 10 YEARS. ADVISORS HAVE BEEN PUTTING STUDENTS FIRST AND HELPING TREMENDOUSLY (ESPECIALLY SHARI THORTON). WE (Faculty) HAVE BEEN OFFERING MORE ONLINE CLASSES. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN INVESTING IN HIGH DEMAND PROGRAMS (Sometimes ignoring critical programs like Land Surveying and GIS - we live in a geospatial age now). WE HAVE BEEN INTERACTING WITH INDUSTRY - ESPECIALLY ENGINEERING AND SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY. ETC ETC
THE ONE THING I HAVE NOT SEEN IS AN INVESTMENT IN FACULTY!! SPECIFICALLY!!
Great job by the committee! Overall I think each of the strategic initiatives will greatly improve the University and have merit individually and collectively. What i don't see and perhaps this is a distinct input to the overall strategic plan is a comprehensive marketing/branding and recruitment campaign that leverages our strengths and targets the markets with viable growth opportunities.
For the most part, I agree with the initial recommendations. I am hopeful that the University will be able to implement these changes and see positive results!
I'm not sure investing in our strengths will be as viable as presented. Consider this analogy:
You have two people. Person A types 80 wpm. Person B types 20 wpm.
You put both through the same one hour typing class.
At the end, Person A now types 90 wpm. This represents 12% growth
Person B now types 60 wpm. This represents 300% growth.
My wish for UA is that they find a program curriculum that unites all of our strengths together. I believe "Design Think" is such a Program. It is used in business management and science fields as an innovative and organizational method to initiate truly innovative ideas. Design Think is a process that brings people together which is something needed on our campus. We have a number of great ideas listed in the strategic plan recommendations. While I realize the purpose of this was to collect and brain storm ideas, my hope is that there is more cohesiveness in the final plan, considering UA’s position in a global and diverse society.
Adjunct Professor, Interior Design
I do not want to sound cynical, but these ideas are great for the future, but until you fix the perception that the community has about the University of Akron, they are only great ideas. The community students who would bring in money either come here and see what a disaster it is or don't come here at all because they hear from their friends how understaffed, unorganized, and that they can't understand any of the professors teaching their classes because of the language barrier that some of our professors struggle with.
I understand wanting to have different avenues to deliver classes online, but we still have a large group of people who want the traditional classes that cannot get them in their schedule because the faculty puts all the material online instead of teaching. I believe that their needs to be a monitoring system before they can move their classes out of the classroom and online as either a web-enhanced, hybrid or online. It limits students who can not learn in an online environment.
This feedback comes from incoming, undergrad and graduate students ranging in age from 17 to 60 with whom I have had conversations.
After we fix the internal issues with the overworked, underpaid, and untrained staff we might want to focus on staffing our development and foundation departments so they can develop programs that would once again build high reverence and relationships with the graduates throughout the world. We have a high ratio of international students that might give back to the university, not to mention attracting more students from other countries who are full-paying students.
I state my opinions with the utmost respect for what you are trying to accomplish, but the issues are so much deeper than bringing in money, what is the cause for the decline in student enrollment from paying students.
Great to see some of these ideas. Here are a few more. For the online learning take a page from SNHU. I am an Akron Alumni now living in NH. SNHU came from nowhere and built an amazing online program. See how they did it. Also on the idea of selling services like testing (Corrosion testing, Hemp/THC quality, Polymers) take a look at the University of NH Interoperability lab. Although they are part of the University they are completely self supporting. They also provide lots of jobs and training for the students. Companies from all over the world come to UNH for the 'plug fests' or 'test fests' to test their open standards hardware and software and then they hire the lab to do independent work. So if Akron has a competency that is recognized start with that. I do like the Hemp/THC testing idea as that sure to be an up and coming industry. Lastly to build on your idea to offer certificates. How about allowing Alumni to come back (online) and get the minor or double major they never had time to get. For example, my daughter (also Akron Alumni) wanted a minor in Biology. It took to much time away from her BS in Computer Engineering. So if she could online add that minor after the fact that would be great.
'82 BSEE and Board Member Women in Engineering
I am concerned about the focus on online offerings. Although there is a place for that approach, there are many other such offerings, often at more prominent institutions, and at low cost. What we offer as a physical campus is the opportunity for HANDS ON ENGAGEMENT and EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING. Those do not readily transfer to online classes. We are physically present here, and have many programs, majors, and areas of emphasis that can only be taught and learned in person (e.g., lab experiences, independent research while being mentored by research -active faculty).
There is also a misperception implicit in the recommendation that online classes are cheap and easy and infinitely scalable. Research indicates that online classes are very demanding of faculty, and are unlikely to automatically improve the scale of delivery. And online classes seem to work well for students that are already doing well - those that are self motivated and directed. Many of our students need more guidance, and that is hard within online courses.
There is room to expand online offerings, but the materials in the recommendations document suggest far too much emphasis on what should be a helpful add-on, not the main focus of our new directions.
The proposal to reserve enrollment within online courses for non-traditional students is an excellent and badly needed one. The Senate's distance learning committee [DLRC] had recommended it in the past. From an implementation perspective, a good strategy would be to create a "Non-Traditional" category (it exists at other universities) of the student database, based upon people who have one or more of the following characteristics:
Over 25 years old;
Works at least 30 hours per week;
Lives more than 25 miles from campus and does not live on campus;
Access to online courses is restricted to this category of student until a week before the beginning of the semester (otherwise, on-campus students will crowd out those students, given the popularity of these courses), assuming the enrollment cap hasn't been reached. Having that category also allows for subsequent tracking of progress and offering other curricular options. Given the demographic shifts in higher education, it is hugely important to appeal to this group of students and give them the flexibility they require.
FT Faculty (Professor)
The former Senate committee, known as the Distance Learning Review Committee or DLRC, should be revived as an advisory committee for online curriculum planning and oversight. DLRC had been primarily responsible for approving online courses until that process was (quite correctly) changed. But the members of that committee also were involved in making recommendations regarding overall distance learning curricula. That committee (perhaps with a different name) and its mission in that respect ought to be revived, especially under the leadership of its former chair, Wendy Lampner. It offers an especially useful role for facilitating the training of online faculty, the encouragement of online programs, and the promotion of best practices in this area, especially given the partnership that it encourages between faculty and the outstanding members of the Design and Development Services [DDS] staff.
FT Faculty (Professor)
More "Smart Classrooms" like the ones in Leigh Hall are needed, especially for the recording of lectures that can be used in online courses that could, then, be further developed, including for the purpose of receiving Quality Matters [QM] accreditation. These classrooms facilitate both classroom and distance learning and are well integrated with the Brightspace system. Further investment in this technology and the classrooms to support it also are needed.
FT Faculty (Professor)
Akron Virtual Campus-why are there limited number of spots for online courses? One of the benefits of online education is that the university can expand the number of prospective students.
A single point of contact is mentioned several times-please DO NOT build more administrative positions! Unfortunately universities are too top heavy already.
Late-enrollment fees during the first week of classes are an unnecessary barrier. In the words of Dr. Miller, "It can wait a week."
Can we get our tools back? The curriculum guides are vital and this new system of tucking them into the bulletin is time consuming and not in a workable format.
Can we PLEASE pay more attention to the photos used for our marketing and Publications? Last years the picture on the cover of OUR bulletin had a student in a Mercyhurst University CC shirt. Look through our publications and see how hard it is to find good pictures of students in Akron gear, except if there is sports involved. Our publications and marketing should show our students as product of the product. Look at our competitor's publications.