New dean position to manage online learning, incorporate technology in classroom

Media Credit: Elizabeth Rickert | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The Department of Libraries and Academic Innovation posted a new job listing last month for an associate dean of innovative teaching and learning to help faculty learn how to teach courses online and use new technology in traditional classes.

Updated: May 4, 2017 at 3:11 p.m.

The library department is adding a new position to help faculty use cutting-edge technology in their classes.

The Department of Libraries & Academic Innovation posted a new job listing last month for an associate dean of innovative teaching and learning to help faculty learn how to teach courses online and use new technology to teach traditional classes. Officials and experts said the new position would help faculty take advantage of the latest technological trends to improve their classes.

Geneva Henry, the dean of libraries and academic innovation, said the new position would manage the University Teaching and Learning Center and the Instructional Technology Lab, which holds workshops for faculty about using technology and navigating Blackboard, the University’s learning management system.

“The associate dean for innovative teaching and learning will oversee the ongoing enhancement of GW’s programs in pedagogical innovation, both face-to-face and online,” she said.

The new associate dean will also manage the eDesign shop, which helps faculty and school officials design courses that are set to be taught online, according to the job description.

Henry said the department is now accepting applications and hopes to fill the position as soon as possible.

The new dean will arrive after Paul Schiff Berman, the former vice provost for online education and academic innovation left his position in January 2016, when online learning programs were put under the control of the library department.

Charles Garris, professor of electrical bioengineering and the former chair of the Faculty Senate’s executive committee, said the University would rely more on online courses in the coming years because GW is nearing the maximum amount of students that can be enrolled on its campuses.

Last year GW reached 99.66 percent of its allowed enrollment of students on the Foggy Bottom campus under an agreement with city officials.

“Part of the problem is that enrollment is capped,” Garris said. “Online learning is where the wide open spaces are.”

Garris said online learning is an effective way to increase revenue while staying under the cap but it is necessary to have someone, like the new associate dean, monitoring the quality of online programs.

“The finding of the committee is we have to make sure that all of these programs that have the same quality control,” Garris said. “You need maintain the quality of that degree.”

The new dean will also lead the new science, technology, engineering and math lab in Gelman Library.

The STEMworks lab was scheduled to open at the beginning of the spring semester in Gelman Library but Henry said that the lab only had a “soft opening” this semester.

Henry said the lab would offer workshops, computer software and additional support in STEM courses next fall.

Brent Evans, a professor of higher education and public policy at Vanderbilt University, said it is common for universities to hire someone before a new program like the STEM lab launches.

“New programs often require extensive preparation and design and will operate more smoothly when the person in charge has been fully engaged in the planning stages,” Evans said in an email.

He said the new position will also help GW develop its online learning offerings. Online courses can be good marketing tools and sources of revenue for universities, he said, but they come with their own set of challenges and have to be carefully managed.

Online courses have expanded over the past several years as many schools have relied heavily on online education to maintain enrollment and revenue. This year the College of Professional Studies brought in more than 54 percent of its revenue from online courses.

Officials have also prioritized training faculty to teach online courses in recent years. This semester the teaching and learning center is offering a new course for professors designed to help them make the transition to teach courses online.

Janet Lawrence, a professor of higher education administration at the University of Michigan, said based on the job description, officials were looking for someone to manage online learning efforts and incorporate technology into traditional class settings.

“It sounds to me like what its signaling is they anticipate want to support both traditional brick and mortar instruction but they understand that there is a need on your campus or at that institution to move in new directions,” she said.

This post was updated to reflect the following clarification:
In an earlier version of this story, The Hatchet reported that the new associate dean would be responsible for developing and implementing new online courses. While the new position will have a role in online learning, individual schools will still develop and administer online courses. The new associate dean will manage the eDesign shop, which helps school officials and faculty design online courses that have been approved by schools.

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