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What is the current status of distance education at Kent State University?

Snapshot of distance learning at KSU, Spring 2011.

  • Nearly 10,000 students took at least one online course (25%)
  • Enrollment in online courses increased 82% from spring 2010 to spring 2011
  • Approximately 400 courses and 725 sections were taught online
  • Nearly 8% of all credit hours were taught via distance learning courses

What is Kent State University’s Distance Learning Strategic Plan?

Develop a clear and concise system-wide distance learning strategy.

  • Offer highest quality Kent State University branded distance education courses and degree programs
  • Meet national standards in online course building (Quality Matters TM)
  • Provide systematic training and support resources for online instructors aligned with research-based instructional practices for online teaching
  • Provide systematic review and evaluation of all KSU online courses with immediate focus on strategic initiative courses
  • Prioritize allocation of distance learning resources based on a system-wide strategy to generate increased demand for and revenue from strategic initiative online courses
Current priorities of the Distance Learning Strategic Plan.
  • Priority I: Develop and refine 50-70 core TAG courses that are part of the Ohio Transfer Module
  • Priority II: Support the development of approximately 12 strategic initiative graduate programs
  • Priority III: Evaluate and revise existing courses that meet the DL strategic plan to align with national standards, e.g. Quality MattersTM.
  • Priority IV: Selectively support economically viable undergraduate programs
  • Priority V: Support development of other courses as distance learning resources allow

What criteria determine a "strategic initiative course" designation?

Current criteria considered for designation as strategic initiative course, certificate or degree program include but are not limited to the following:

  • Is the course recognized by the Ohio Board of Regents as a TAG course and part of the Ohio Transfer Module?
  • Are there large enough numbers of graduates throughout the nation?
  • Is there national workforce demand for the degree area or professional discipline?
  • Is it an existing or emerging program with significant growth potential?
For questions regarding the Distance Learning Strategic Plan, please email the Office of Continuing and Distance Education, Executive Director Deb Huntsman

Which factors should be considered before proposing to develop an online course or program?

Since most classes at KSU are held in physical classrooms, a main consideration should be the potential effect on face-to-face enrollment. Ideally, online courses should increase enrollment and revenue and not simply shift current student enrollment from a face-to-face section of a courses to online section. Consider the following :

  • Will the course or program create educational opportunities for non-resident students?
  • Is there overcrowding or students who are being turned away from face-to-face courses?
  •  Is there a need for more flexible scheduling, i.e. summer session course(s)?
  • Could the educational experience or student learning outcomes be enhanced by delivering instruction in a virtual environment?
Consider whether or not the target audience (students) and faculty are ready for online instruction.
  • Do your students have experience with online learning?
  • Does your faculty have experience with online teaching?
  • What level of diversity of skill and knowledge will there be?
  • What are the current teaching methods used in face-to-face classes, will they translate well in an online environment?
  • What are the technology needs (hardware and software) and level of technological literacy expected of students and faculty?

Are there various "levels" or categories of online courses?

There are three classifications of “online” courses: V1, V2, and V3.

  • V1 – 100% online requiring no face-to-face or online live sessions.
  • V2 – 100% online with one or more synchronous online live sessions.
  • V3 – A blend of a minimum of 50% online sessions (asynchronous or synchronous) and requirement of one or more face-to-face meetings.
The course must be delivered exactly as advertised and listed in the banner registration system and KSU course catalog.

Is there an approval process to develop an online course?

Yes, every online course in the KSU catalog, developed with or without university support, must first be submitted for approval:

  1. Talk to the chair of your department and/or the director of your school.
  2. Seek approval for your course from the faculty curriculum committee.
  3. Submit a Distributed/Distance Learning Agreement to develop an online course to the Office of Continuing and Distance Education.
Plan on initiating the approval process two semesters in advance of scheduled delivery date.

NOTE: Use of the Blackboard Learning management system to offer supplemental materials (syllabus, course schedule, readings, web links, videos) in a 100% face-to-face course does not constitute an “online” course and does not require department, school or OCDE approval. However, your department scheduler will need to “turn on” the Bb Learn component of your course.

How long does it take to develop a course for online delivery?

Developing an online course requires a significant amount of time to plan the curriculum, organize course structure and create content. Whether you are an experienced online course developer converting an existing course, or new to distance education and creating your first course from scratch, you should begin preparation a minimum of one semester prior to scheduled release date.

What type of university support resources are available?

The type and amount of university support you may receive for developing an online course depends on three primary factors:

  1. The Distance/Distributed Learning Agreement (sent via email in the initial contact from OCDE)
  2. The  KSU Distance Learning Strategic Plan
  3. Available grant money from OCDE
The Distance/Distributed Learning Agreement outlines faculty options that balance compensation, copyright/intellectual property, and university support.

Courses designated as part of the Distance Learning Strategic Plan (strategic initiative courses) will receive university support by default.

Individual initiative courses (all courses not part of the strategic plan) may also be eligible for university support from the Instructional Designers and/or Educational Technology Designers of their School or College, and OCDE's Online Learning Team.

View a flow chart of the online course approval process and distance learning resource allocation for course development.


1. Support for individual faculty/school initiative courses:

Kent Campus Colleges with an 'in-house" Instructional Designer

Primary support for CCI, EHHS, Public Health and Nursing on the Kent Campus:
For all other Kent Campus Colleges:

Course development will be supported by the Educational Technology (ET) design team.  After submitting your course request to OCDE, you will be contacted by the manager of the ET Design team, Eve Dalton, to assess your needs. Depending on your needs, the ET design team may meet with you once or several times.

If you are an experienced online teacher, the online guide and online resources along with occasional support may be all that is needed. If you are new to online teaching or are doing a major redesign or new initiative, you will want to create a development plan and timeline with the ET design team.

Primary Support for  Regional Campuses
2. For university strategic initiative courses:

Degree programs and courses that have been identified and designated as strategic initiatives will follow a more structured approach to design and development. A team of faculty members, program managers, instructional designers and educational technologists will work collaboratively using the OCDE Course Development Guide to create high-quality, cohesive online courses or programs.

Office of Continuing and Distance Education Executive Director Deb Huntsman will meet with the school director and program planners to identify and develop market research, budget projections, resource allocation, grant possibilities, external vendors and project timelines.

Online Learning Director Valerie Kelly will hold an initial meeting with course coordinators and course developers to establish program goals, course learning objectives, and a development plan and timeline for strategic initiatives.

View a flow chart of the strategic initiative course development process.

Strategic Initiative Course Development Flow Chart

Are there “official” university design standards?

If you are developing an online course without any university support, then technically no. However, the OCDE is in the process of implementing university-wide guidelines for creating high-quality online courses based on the Quality MattersTM rubric. Additional resources for course design can be accessed on the Online Learning website.

Strategic initiative courses will be developed according to the processes detailed by the OCDE in the Online Course Development Guidebook in order to maintain consistency and quality across an entire online degree program.

Individual initiative courses developed with university support will follow current best practices developed by the Educational Technology Support group.

Is it possible to choose the online course delivery platform?

No. All online courses at Kent State University must be delivered using the Blackboard (Bb) Learn Learning Management system. You have a choice of tools to use within the Bb Learn environment and the ability to use additional Web 2.0 tools outside of it. However, Bb Learn MUST remain the point of entry for the course. Bb Learn contains tools that can be used for fully online, asynchronous and synchronous courses (V1 and V2), as well as Blended (V3) courses and supplemental use in face-to-face courses.

Can faculty practice developing in Bb Learn before creating the “real” course?

Yes. Submit a ticket to to request a “Practice Bb Learn course”. Visit the Resources for Faculty page on the Blackboard Learn section of the KSU website for video and PDF tutorials.

Are course materials developed differently for online delivery?

Yes, and no. Though the course goals, learning objectives and content materials may remain the same, the lack of immediacy that exists in an online learning vs. a face-to-face environment requires online instructors to deliver course instruction in a different manner than in a brick and mortar classroom.

  • The online environment requires instructors to be more structured, organized, detailed, and explicit in delivery of student expectations, course requirements, learning activities and assessments.
  • Opportunities to create instructor-student interaction and feedback, student-student interaction and collaboration, and student-content interaction must be created in order to maintain active course participation and retain students.
  • Appropriate uses of the Bb Learn LMS and Web 2.0 technology should be explored and implemented to deliver “common” course content such as: course announcements, class discussions, class lectures, text-based readings, audio and video files, assessments, etc.
  • Web links to KSU online student resources and 24/7 technology support must be provided to students.

Additional information regarding online teaching pedagogy can be found in the Pedagogy section on the Learning Space page and on the Teaching Online quick guide.

Available and recommended software applications for creating and delivering course content online are listed on the Online Course Development and Delivery Software page.

We need to develop an online course/program, however, our school/college doesn't have any experience with distance learning or teaching. What do we do?

If your student/faculty population is not familiar with the online environment, consider the following options:

  • Develop a customized orientation to ease students into Bb Learn, the KSU learning management system
  • Offer/require customized online instructor training for those developing and teaching courses.
  • Create student guides and tutorials.
  • Limit the number of initial online course offerings.
  • Offer blended courses (50% online / 50% face-to-face) before moving to 100% online courses.
  • Work with university Instructional Designers and Educational Technologists to create high quality, highly-structured online courses.
Email the Online Learning Team for additional suggestions or help