Quality Enhancement Plan
Background and Context
The focus of Central Virginia Community College's Quality Enhancement Plan is the improvement of all aspects of online education. This focus is both new and well-established. It is new in the sense that the online program at CVCC is of relatively recent origin. At the same time, however, it is well-established in the sense that providing distance education in general and web-based instruction in particular is integral to the mission of the College and is part of the long-term vision of the institution.
Part of the Mission Statement of Central Virginia Community College contains the following points:
Central Virginia Community College is an accessible, comprehensive, public, two-year, higher education institution that is dedicated to:
- providing open, flexible, affordable, quality learning opportunities for personal growth and the acquisition of knowledge and skills necessary for productive and meaningful life; and
- providing general education, transfer, applied science, certificate, and diploma programs.
Additionally, the College includes the following goals as part of its Twenty-Year Vision statement:
- Central Virginia Community College is committed to educational excellence; is easily accessible throughout its service delivery area; is seen as the focal point and resource center for meeting the education and training needs of Region 2000, and partners with other organizations and institutions to meet community needs.
- uses state-of-the-art technologies, infuses general education/liberal arts into all curricula, operates in a highly entrepreneurial manner, and partners with other community organizations;
- offers courses and programs which are flexible and responsive to its customer needs on a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week basis using all appropriate instructional delivery systems;
- anticipates and exceeds the benchmarks of educational technologies;
- provides facilities and comprehensive learning resources that reflect the educational, social, cultural, and recreational needs of its students;
- is a comprehensive community college responsible to an evolving variety of community constituencies needing education and training;
- reflects world-class standards in all aspects of the institution;
- is committed to excellence in teaching;
- utilizes and teaches leading-edge technologies;
- is entrepreneurial and innovative in providing educational service to its constituencies in Region 2000;
- utilizes all appropriate instructional delivery systems;
- utilizes a 24 x 7 x 365 timeframe to provide its course and program offerings; and
- anticipates and exceeds the benchmarks of the continued, pervasive growth of technologies in all aspects of the institution.
Thus, the focus of the institution's Quality Enhancement Plan "improving the quality of all aspects of online instruction" is fully compatible with the mission and long-term vision of the College. Moreover, the focus on web-based instruction in this QEP is a continuation of the efforts the College has devoted to distance education for nearly two decades.
CVCC offered its first distance learning classes as asynchronous print-based classes in 1984. These first sections of ECO 120 (Survey of Economics) and PSY 120 (Human Relations) were called at the time home-study courses. These two courses were joined by others, and the institution continues to offer an average of 15 print-based distance education courses each semester to meet the needs of students who prefer this type of class.
Fifteen years after the inauguration of distance education at CVCC, two new technologies were utilized to bring instruction to students: compressed video and the Internet. In 1998, the College first offered Medical Laboratory Technician Program courses via synchronous compressed video to students in the Danville Community College service area. This program continues while serving students at two more sites. In addition, the College has expanded the number of courses it offers in this format and receives classes as well as sends them.
The fall 1998 semester marked the introduction of online instruction at CVCC. The proliferation of the Internet into students� lives means that enrolling in college has become a possibility for students who previously might have been unable to attend. Online instruction has opened a new market for the College. Additionally, web-based courses offer students a level of convenience that suits the busy lives of people with full-time jobs, families, and other obligations that prevent them from committing to synchronous, on-campus classes. BIO 101 (General Biology I) and MKT 110 (Principles of Marketing) were the first courses to be available through the Internet and hence the first since print-based courses to be offered asynchronously. These two courses were soon joined by others, and the College currently offers 55 online classes with a few more under development. Because web-based courses comprise the majority of the distance education offerings at the College, it is logical that the institution makes these kinds of courses the focus of the Quality Enhancement Plan.
The College has taken pains to see that its online courses are governed by a set of policies and procedures which are articulated in the Distance Education Policy and Procedures Manual. Additionally, the College reorganized its administrative structure during the 2001-2002 academic year and merged the responsibilities of the dean of instruction and dean of student services into a single position now designated as the vice president for academic affairs and student services. Thus, one individual currently oversees two vital areas pertaining to this QEP: instruction and student services. One individual now has primary responsibility for improving the learning environment of the College and increasing the quality of student learning. Also as a result of this organizational change, the decision process is more streamlined and efficient.
While the vice president for academic affairs and student services has responsibility for the College�s online program, the day-to-day details of web-based courses are managed by the College�s three academic deans. The deans develop and manage the program and the process of implementing online classes. In consultation with the faculty, the deans determine which classes are most needed and plan the development and scheduling of all online courses.
When online instruction began throughout the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), each college managed the infrastructure required to enable web-based instruction. Based on recommendations contained in the report Organizational Strategy for Distance Learning commissioned by the VCCS office and presented in June 2001, however, the VCCS decided to centralize much of the infrastructure of web-based distance education. Thus in the fall 2002, the VCCS took over much of the infrastructure involved with online courses. Blackboard was determined to be the course platform of choice, servers were installed at the VCCS Utility to handle all the online classes throughout the system, and as a result the VCCS is the largest Blackboard user in the nation. The current arrangement means that each individual VCCS school depends upon the VCCS Utility for systems availability�both for Blackboard and email--and yet retains some measure of responsibility for its own portion of web-based instruction as will be discussed in greater detail below.
Several reasons lie behind the institution's choice of online education as the focus of its Quality Enhancement Plan. First, a sense existed among faculty, staff, and administrators at the College that the rapid implementation of the CVCC online program overlooked certain matters and that others were in need of revision. Certain policies are vague or uncertain, lines of authority need to be clarified in some instances, and some aspects to be need created or changed in order to optimize the College's web-based distance education program.
Second, student questionnaires and surveys indicated weaknesses that need addressed. Through its data-gathering process, Central Virginia Community College has identified several areas of concern relating to online instruction based on the results of student satisfaction surveys conducted over the past three years. For example, from 2000 until 2002, students were more satisfied with the quality of the content in traditionally-taught curricular courses (92.0%--91.3%) and 16-week courses (93.6%--90.0%) compared to the quality of content in web-based courses (86.8%--77.3%). In 2000, student satisfaction with the quality of content in compressed video courses was about the same as with online courses (85.5% vs. 86.6%), but in 2001 and 2002, students were more satisfied with the quality of compressed video courses (89.1%--80.9%) than they were with web-based courses (85.3%--77.3%). These data clearly suggest room for improvement. Thus, a purpose of the QEP is to increase the rate of student satisfaction with online courses to equal the satisfaction with traditionally-taught classes and thereby improve the overall quality of student learning at the institution.
Thirdly, between spring 2000 and fall 2001, the percentage of successful class completions for students enrolled in web courses was significantly less than the percentage for those students enrolled in traditional courses. During the fall 2001 semester, for example, the success rate for students enrolled in traditional courses was 92.0%; however, students enrolled in online courses had only a 77.9% successful completion rate. These numbers too, suggest another area that could be improved, and a goal of the QEP is to lessen the difference in this category. Increasing the rate of student satisfaction with online courses to equal the satisfaction with traditionally-taught classes will improve the overall quality of student learning at the institution. Based on the evidence above it can be seen that the QEP is the result a number of factors that indicated a need for improvement in the online program.
The annual Student Survey that generated the data in the previous paragraph represents but one assessment strategy CVCC employs to guide its planning process. This planning process--the engine that drives the College train--is formally known as the Strategic Long-Range Plan, and the processes involved in it encompass the entire institution. Guiding the Strategic Long-Range Plan is the Strategic Long-Range Planning Committee. The membership of this committee is also the same as the SACS Reaffirmation Plan Leadership Committee, the committee that has overseen all dimensions of the College's reaffirmation effort (see Appendix A). The leadership of the College felt that sharing members between the two committees would ensure that the QEP would be fully incorporated into the Long-Range Plan.
Although the CVCC Local Board had been apprised of the College's plans for the QEP virtually since its inception, the final draft of the QEP was presented to the Local Board at its October 2003 meeting. The Board previously approved the 2003-2004 Strategic Long-Range Plan, which contained the goals and objectives of the Quality Enhancement Plan.
The Long-Range Plan articulates the goals and objectives of the College both in the near and long term and establishes the funding priorities of the institution. In short, the Strategic Long-Range Plan guides the College. Each division of the College annually submits its individual goals and objectives for the coming year. The Strategic Long-Range Planning Committee then examines all the individual plans and makes the necessary decisions regarding what projects or requests will be funded and in what priority.
The process entails more, however. Assessment is also a central component of the Strategic Long-Range Planning process. Each division of the College also must submit an evaluation of the progress made on the goals and objectives at the end of each year as part of its Focus on Continuous Improvement. The assessment of the previous year�s Long Range Plan is published as a companion document with the revised Strategic Long Range Plan. Thus, the institution is able to precisely monitor the rate of progress for each of its goals and objectives and to accurately gauge its institutional effectiveness. When warranted, the institution can make the necessary adjustments to the Plan to ensure its realization.
The cyclic nature of the process, the annual compilation of five-year goals and one-year objectives and the accompanying focus on continuous improvement, gives the institution a detailed picture of its progress, development, and change. The Strategic Long-Range Plan requires the institution look both forward and back. By looking forward, the institution determines where it wants and needs to go. Looking backward enables the institution to gauge its progress and make any required adjustments. Equally important, the Strategic Plan allows any interested reader a view of what directions the College is taking and where and how the money is being spent. (The entire Strategic Plan, which includes a more detailed description of the processes involved, is available on the CVCC web site at the following URL:
http://campuspages.cvcc.vccs.edu/SLRP/default.htm -- moved here.)
The goals and objectives of the Central Virginia Community College Quality Enhancement Plan have all been incorporated into the Strategic Plan. That they are part of the Strategic Plan illustrates the importance the College places on realizing the goals and objectives of the QEP. That they are part of the Strategic Plan means the College has made the commitment to achieve the goals of the QEP and is also committed to providing the financial resources necessary to meet these goals. The institution has identified the costs associated with the implementation of the QEP and has determined the funding sources to meet these needs. A chart of the goals and objectives of the CVCC Quality Enhancement Plan follows the History of the Project section of this document. Immediately following this chart is another chart which shows the resource allocations required by the QEP and the funding sources for each.