Method(s) of course procurement
Wyoming's Community Colleges are well positioned to provide access to college courses for qualifying high school students (juniors and seniors) across our state. Each of the seven community colleges offers some of their courses through distance learning programs. School districts have the option to offer high school credit for successful completion of these courses resulting in dual credit for the student.
Each of the Wyoming Community Colleges is funded by the state of Wyoming and other local revenues. Each college employs both full-time and adjunct faculty to deliver distance education courses. Courses are offered to the general public and the number of sessions is determined by enrollment trends. Each college is part of the Wyoming Education Network, providing quality Internet and compressed video technology services. As accredited members of the Higher Leaning Commission North Central Division, each college's courses are certified as meeting national standards. The Distance Education Program at Casper College has received specialized accreditation from HLC. Furthermore, faculty members at each college meet or exceed HLC guidelines as qualified instructors in their particular content area.
Casper College (CC) offers a wide and growing variety of distance education coursework via the Internet, compressed video, multimedia CDs, and telecourses. These classes are an excellent way to take college courses for credit by students who find it difficult to attend traditional, on-campus courses. Distance education classes fit conveniently into busy work or family schedules, allowing students to work on a college degree in their hometown. At CC, students can take most of their general education requirements prior to attending classes on campus.
Casper College is organized by divisions and the divisions by departments. There are eight (8) academic divisions including Business, Fine Arts, Language and Literature, Health Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Trades and Technology. The process used to procure or self-create a distance education course begins with the Division Chairperson. This Division Chair identifies the faculty member qualified to create and/or teacher a distance education course. Faculty members, using the same high standards and the same credits as traditional on-campus classes create a course curriculum and syllabus. The core content is the same as it would be in a traditional setting; however, distance education instructors at CC understand that the presentation requires new strategies and additional preparation time. In planning their courses, they take into account current research findings along with the strengths and weaknesses of their particular delivery system: Casper College currently uses two course management software systems: WebCT6 Vista and Moodle 1.9. When the course has been created, it is submitted to the distance education committee for review. This committee will assess the content of the course as well as the amount of content that can realistically and effectively be delivered via a distance education system. Issues that may be assessed include (but are not limited to):
- Does the course take into consideration the different learning styles of students?
- Does the course realistically pace activities?
- Does the course include lecture as well as discussion and student-centered exercises?
- Does the course have strategies for student reinforcement, review, repetition, and remediation?
- Does the course use effective interaction and feedback strategies which will enable the instructor to identify and meet individual student needs?
Faculty can also submit their proposed course to "Quality Counts, " an organization that collects data and performs analyses that appear in the Quality Counts, Technology Counts, and Diplomas Count annual issues of Education Week. Because this is a nationally recognized and respected organization, the feedback faculty receives can be used in the creation of effective online courses.
Once the course receives a positive recommendation from the distance education committee, the proposal is forwarded to the Vice-President of Academic affairs who is responsible for final approval. Dr. Simone takes an active, hands-on approach to this process.
Course evaluation and improvement
Casper College holds its distance education courses to the same rigorous and comprehensive guidelines that are followed by on-campus courses. These standards are supported by:
- The mission of the institution in which we state that Casper College provides educational opportunities to improve the quality of life and sustainable community building and citizenship.
- College goals in which we state that the institution will promote education for a lifetime by enhancing the use of current pedagogies and technologies.
- Providing adequate resources to offer qua1ity distance learning.
- Requiring the development of appropriate curricula and instruction design to meet the needs of our students.
- Supporting the faculty involved in distance learning with appropriate resources, professional development, facilities and equipment.
- Providing students with appropriate instructional materials, advisement and guidance.
- Routinely evaluating the quality of our distance learning program through the use of student evaluations. These evaluations are required each semester and are reviewed by the instructor, the Vice-president for Academic Affairs and by the Dean of Educational Resources, who administers Distance Education. These evaluations are used to make improvements in the courses.
By adhering to these fundamental features, our institution continues to assure the delivery of quality distance education. This project will review the NACOL National Standards of Quality for Online Courses as a guideline in the development of quality course assessments.