- Brief Description of the QEP
The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) of the Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) is
a detailed, chronological plan of achieving the goal of "ensuring all aspects of online
distance education are of the highest quality." The QEP describes the plan's
development, the thirteen goals, and the processes CVCC will utilize to ensure quality
online instructional skills and practices among the faculty, provide the necessary
support services and infrastructure, and assess program activities.
- Acceptability of the Plan
The Committee finds the CVCC QEP acceptable in that:
- The CVCC QEP is focused.
- CVCC identifies an overarching goal of ensuring that all aspects of online distance education at the College are of the highest quality. It breaks down this overarching goal into a framework of thirteen individual goals and supporting objectives. These goals are built on sound logic, provide a clear path of action, and are related to the institution's mission.
- The CVCC QEP is significant.
- Successfully implemented, the QEP can have a significant impact on the quality of instruction at CVCC, not only for online courses but in all instruction that CVCC offers.
- The ongoing QEP process at CVCC, as perceived by the Committee during the visit, is sufficiently active and accepted across the College to ensure results.
- Institutional capacity and commitment are evident.
- The capacity of CVCC resources is sufficient to support the proposed projects and processes needed to achieve the goals of the QEP.
- CVCC has demonstrated the ability to adjust the plan (such as establishing the new Online Advisory Committee) as needed.
- Support and advocacy by senior management, faculty engagement, and college-wide ownership of the QEP were evident in the interviews.
- The QEP resulted from a college-wide planning and evaluation process. The College has set goals and means for measuring achievement of the goals of the QEP.
- CVCC collects and analyzes data in its efforts to fund new personnel, equipment, technology, and facilities requests based on college-wide need and priorities.
- The planning and budgeting process appears to be broadly participatory. Operational areas of the college collect data to document progress toward broad institutional goals and appear to use these data in decision-making.
- Vice presidents, deans and department heads review and align annual plans for their respective areas after funding for strategic priorities have been identified by a planning committee.
- CVCC appears to take seriously the obligation to be accountable and to demonstrate its effectiveness as a college.
- The institution demonstrated broad involvement of institutional community constituencies in the development of the QEP, and continued to be involved in its implementation at the time of the Committee visit.
- The Committee was impressed with the extensive structure of the subcommittees.
- The Committee noted significant enthusiasm, especially among the faculty, for the plan and its potential positive impact upon the culture of the institution.
- It became evident during conversations with several committees that the faculty is beginning to understand that the broader effect of the QEP can improve pedagogy across the curriculum.
- Analysis and Key Observations
A key observation of the Committee is that although the goal of "ensuring all aspects of online distance education are of the highest quality" is evident in the QEP, discussions with faculty and staff reveal a much broader potential impact of the QEP upon teaching and learning across the entire curriculum and support services of the College.
The Committee feels that this is significant, perhaps beyond the current perception of the College. Discussion with CVCC personnel indicates the institution seeks to:
- Increase the quality of its online learning.
- Identify, develop, and utilize effective online learning pedagogies.
- Increase the number of quality online courses.
- Coordinate the development of courses with program development priorities.
Indeed, some changes to the plan have already been made. CVCC has already:
- Identified and put in place organizational entities not envisioned in the QEP (e.g., the Online Advisory Committee).
- Changed the targeted programs that will be developed for the QEP (substituting the Business Administration program for Technical Studies due to challenges implementing significant portions of the more hands-on technical courses).
- Realized more rapid turnaround of reports due to centralizing of online assessment services.
The Committee advises CVCC to continue its efforts in evolving the QEP. Specifically, the Committee notes the following areas for attention:
- Funding and Support
- Strengths and opportunities
- The Committee feels the QEP budget is realistic, and funding will likely be maintained throughout the duration of the QEP.
- Limitations and challenges
- CVCC will need continued flexibility in acquiring, coordinating, and managing the resources needed to respond to changes in the QEP.
- Ongoing support from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) is essential to maximizing the desired outcomes of the QEP.
- Support Services
Some of the resources to support online distance education courses are in place:
- Strengths and opportunities
- The LRC Live (online reference service), coordinated through VCCS, provides live reference support for CVCC online learners.
- Online information literacy tutorials are available, on demand, to CVCC students.
- Links to library services/resources are provided for incorporation on faculty websites via templates.
- Limitations and challenges
- Accessibility. CVCC should address issues of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and ADA for accessibility of its online distance education instruction and services. Awareness, understanding, and the ability to develop and support instruction in an acceptably accessible manner need to be put in place.
- Strengthen Tutoring and Advising Support. Funding (including grants) should be sought for online tutoring services. The one year VCCS trial of SmarThinking is insufficient in funding and breadth of disciplines supported. The College should investigate more robust alternatives for offering tutoring and advising services to CVCC's distant and on-campus students.
- Expanded Hours of Service. Provision of services such as testing, counseling, faculty office hours in evenings and weekends is essential to supporting online distance education. The College should investigate ways to offer services at times when online learners need them.
- Assessment and Research
- While the QEP is designed to improve student learning among CVCC's online students, the plan must include significant formative evaluation to guide decision-making and measure progress toward creating online distance education of the highest quality. The committee advises CVCC to establish more specific measurable outcomes and track them over time.
- The following steps will result in outcome objectives which are sufficiently specific and appropriately quantifiable to be of value in assessment:
- Formulate objectives based on expected outcomes, the most important of which are measures of student learning.
- Develop multiple, quantifiable measures which indicate the extent to which these outcomes have been achieved.
- Systematically collect and analyze data on these multiple, quantifiable measures.
- Use these data to develop strategies to improve programs, services, and operations.
- Report regularly the extent to which the expected outcomes are achieved.
- Although the college carries out excellent survey and needs assessment research and publishes the results, these instruments are only one type of many measures to assess outcomes.
- Suggested measures include
- State reports which allow VCCS to compare its performance with other community colleges in Virginia.
- Institutional data tailored to measure exactly what CVCC needs to know. Possible measures include, but are not limited to (1) completion rates, (2) success rates in courses (grades of A, B, C, or D) and/or online programs, (3) retention rates in courses and programs, (4) job placement rates, (5) course/department passing rates, (6) gap between satisfaction in online and traditional courses, (7) number/percent of courses meeting standards, (8) number/percent of faculty trained in the use of new technologies, (9) number/percent of faculty participating in faculty development, and (10) fiscal resources allocated to professional development, instructional support, and other measures.
- The committee also advises that the overall objectives of the QEP be less "process" and more "outcome" oriented.
- Sample Objectives might include:
- By 2005, decrease by __% annually the number/percent of students who drop or resign from online courses.
- By 2005, increase by __% annually the number/percent of students who earn grades of "C" or better in online courses.
- By 2006, increase by __% annually the number/percent of online program graduates who are employed within one year after graduation.
- Curriculum, Course Development and Academic Management
- Strengths and opportunities
- Online Advisory Committee Role has become active. CVCC has done a good job of involving various campus constituencies in the planning process. The Online Advisory Committee should be involved on an ongoing basis in curriculum decisions, course development, and assessment.
- A major milestone - creating two programs - is almost complete. CVCC has (by utilizing new and previously developed courses) all but six of the courses required for the two programs it has designated to produce as part of the QEP.
- Instructional efforts are based on research. The CVCC faculty and staff evidence a strong interest in basing their decisions on empirical evidence. This provides a solid foundation - but research findings can come slowly. CVCC should increase their efforts to identify and utilize existing research (e.g., University of Central Florida's studies on online learner characteristics).
- The peer-review process, recently suspended, should be revised, strengthened, and implemented as a key component in the quality development and assurance process.
- Limitations and challenges
- Evaluate strategic courses and program development. The two programs developed as part of the QEP create the foundation for additional online programs. The need for additional online courses and programs should be addressed with consideration of both the QEP and CVCC's college and community-wide goals.
- Build relationships with benchmark programs. The College should continue to build relationships with exemplary online distance education providers to learn from institutions that have developed advanced online distance education techniques and pedagogies. CVCC should also consider bringing in external online course development experts to increase faculty and staff learning opportunities locally.
- Retrofit quality into existing courses. While the QEP calls for the development of new courses - CVCC has also decided to update the wealth of courses already developed. The Committee supports this decision.
- Strengthen instructional support services. Instructional support services for faculty should be improved in order to support revision of existing courses to QEP standards concurrently with development of new courses.
- Be realistic. CVCC's stringent definition of a "totally online course" (all activities online) sets a high threshold. While this is useful, and admirable, as an aspirational goal - the rational utilization of alternative non-online methods, as noted by some faculty in the interviews - should continue until online technologies catch up with CVCC expectations.
- Additional Observations
- Service to existing students
- CVCC acknowledges the importance of their online courses in making educational opportunities available to students in their service area who are unable to attend normally scheduled classes. The College also embraces online technologies and pedagogies as a way to enhance the learning experience in its traditional classrooms.
- CVCC also expects to enroll and teach students beyond its service area. Expanding enrollment via online distance education presents issues of mission, but more practically of capacity, that CVCC should address carefully before marketing its programs state and nationwide.
- "Evolution is the mission of the school" - CVCC faculty member
- A significant outcome of the QEP may be to change the culture of CVCC from one based upon instruction in the traditional classroom to one based on innovative and ubiquitous use of the online distance education pedagogies and technologies now being developed - across the institution and the curriculum.
- The QEP should reflect this larger aspiration. The Committee encourages CVCC to revisit, refine, and revise the QEP continually.