For several years, Taylor has turned its attention towards extending their high quality education towards the world of online learning, beyond Upland.
On Oct. 31, Taylor took a significant step in the right direction after the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approved Taylor’s plan to improve their online program.
“Education has been changing over the course of the last several years and Taylor University needs to acknowledge the change and figure out how we can be a part of it in a high quality fashion,” Director of Online Learning and Institutional Technology Carrie Meyer said.
While in the process of improving its online programs, Taylor underwent their 10-year re-accreditation review in the spring of 2018. In their report, the HLC identified five areas within Taylor’s online learning experience which had room for improvement.
In response to the areas of concern, Taylor assembled a group of faculty and staff.
This team was tasked with writing an Interim Report detailing their plan to address the five areas of concern, as well as highlight the successful parts of the online learning operation.
However, before Taylor could implement the team's plan, the HLC first had to approve the plan.
Meyer said she cried when she received the good news that the HLC had affirmed the team’s report on Oct. 31.
“I feel like we can take a deep breath and celebrate that and then we need to just get busy about the work of implementing,” Director of Assessment and Quality Improvement Kim Case said. “I like to think that even if we didn't have accreditation, we would still care about quality, we would still care about continuous improvement and excellence, and as we focus on those things it just so happens that we also can meet accreditation requirements.”
Case said it is not uncommon for a university that undergoes the accreditation process to have areas of improvement, but the team was particularly pleased that online learning was specifically targeted, as this was an area in which the university was already seeking to grow.
Professor of Communication Jeff Groeling said the standard of being an accredited university is continual improvement. The goal is to be able to take the information that the assessment provides and apply it to the areas of concern.
“That's part of our calling is to be more like Christ tomorrow than we are today,” Groeling said. “So continuous quality improvement in everything that we do fits right into that.”
It was the job of those who worked on the Interim Report in addition to Case, Groeling and Meyer — Director of Academic Enrichment Center and Associate Professor of Higher Education Scott Gaier, Dean of Faculty Development Barb Bird and the Taylor University Online staff to design a plan detailing how Taylor intends to address these concerns.
These five areas of focus are meant to ensure standardization of the classroom experience, which promises the same consistent high quality of Taylor academics through online courses.
“I think that we have an opportunity to take the quality of a Taylor University education and offer that to even a wider audience, based upon online learning,” Case said.
Meyer’s next step in ensuring this process is to implement a review system for each department that has an online counterpart. This review will be in the form of quality score cards that Meyer hopes to roll out next semester.
The purpose is to gain an understanding of where each department is in relation to where they want to be, in order to meet all five objectives that cover online learning by the next assurance review in 2021.
After this, the HLC will conduct another survey detailing Taylor’s success in implementing their Interim Report and ensure that the school has addressed the areas of improvement.
Case said that the goal is to have concrete stories and examples to present to the HLC as evidence to show that Taylor is on the right track toward quality improvement.
“There's still more work to do, but I'm really thankful for the team that worked on this and helped put it together,” Provost Michael Hammond said.