UF expands and develops online offerings

Damon Osbourne explains the processes involved in offering degrees and courses online 

By Lauren Wolters

The University of Findlay offers a wide variety of courses online, as well as several degrees obtainable in a fully online format. Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs Damon Osbourne discussed the processes involved to allow these offerings online. 

Osbourne works with the deans and department chairs of UF’s colleges to find areas to explore online learning at UF. Osbourne explains that the department and college that owns each course ultimately decides which modality the course will be offered in each semester (i.e. face-to-face, online or a blend of the two). UF departments decide if they have the necessary faculty, expertise and other resources to offer the course online. 

“One way to get more faculty to ‘buy into’ [online learning] is to ensure that the faculty who are developing and teaching the online courses have the skills necessary to do so,” Osbourne said. “To that end, we require all our online faculty to complete three essential trainings around online course design and delivery. This helps us all speak a common language regarding online teaching and learning, as well as help normalize delivering course content via this modality.” 

Osbourne also explained the challenges in offering onlines courses and programs. 

“The biggest challenge in offering online courses and programs in general is getting faculty to buy into offering the course or program online,” Osbourne said. “The faculty own the curriculum at UF.” 

UF has internal curriculum approval processes conducted by faculty to determine whether a course can be offered as a traditional on-campus course, a fully online course, or a blended/hybrid course. The faculty approve a course to be offered in general, and then the department decides whether they can offer that approved course online or not. 

In addition to the impact from department chairs and faculty, student demand also plays a role in the modalities of courses offered each semester. 

“Many times, student demand is the big driver on whether a standalone online course is offered online,” Osbourne said. “Departments track which courses have the most demand overall and offer enough online sections to accommodate the demand from the student population.” 

Similar processes are involved for UF fully online degrees. These online degrees include: a Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Arts in Professional Communication, Master of Business Administration, Master of Environmental, Safety, and Health Management, Master of Science and Applied Security & Analytics, Doctor of Education, Doctor of Education in School Psychology, and Doctor of Pharmacy. Findlay Online has more details on the requirements for each of the programs available. 

If the program is already offered at UF as a traditional on campus program, we already have approval from our accreditor (The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)) to offer the same program online,” Osbourne said. “We merely have to provide reporting to indicate that we are doing so, along with the syllabi for the courses of the program.” 

When offering a program in a new format, UF also requests approval from the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), which also requires the same reporting.  

“If we seek to offer a completely new degree in an online format, we need to have the program approved through our own internal new program development process first,” Osbourne said. “Then we would submit it to HLC and ODHE for approval.” 

UF needs approval from both accrediting bodies before they can carry out their intentions for the program. After the programs are in place online, UF uses many of the same tools that they use for the traditional student population to manage the online population such as Starfish. 

I work with faculty to ensure that their online courses provide students with regular opportunities for engagement in order to have students interact in the online course environment several days per week,” Osbourne said. “When activity drops off, we know to reach out to them.” 

UF also uses Respondus Lockdown Browser to monitor academic integrity in many online courses. Osbourne said that developing more authentic assessments can also reduce the ability for students to cheat. 

“These assessments are more challenging to develop and assess, but they require students to inject their own experiences into their responses which makes it far more difficult to cheat,” Osbourne said.
Osbourne is excited about UF’s long history of online offerings and the recent growth of its online programs.
“We continue to offer online courses across the curriculum as our faculty grows in comfort with this modality, so I only see an upside with regards to our online offerings from here,” Osbourne said.