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WCE Receives National Recognition for Online Courses; Rapid Growth Continues

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

WCE Receives National Recognition for Online Courses

The Watson College of Education is ranked 35th in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 Best Online Program rankings. The ranking is shared with seven other universities including NC State University.

The rankings, released in January, are for online graduate programs offered by colleges of education. A total of 179 universities are ranked, with additional schools listed but unranked. In developing the list, U.S. News evaluated schools in five categories that include student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, admissions selectivity and peer reputation.

The recognition comes at a time of significant growth in e-Learning. Since 2007, UNCW’s online course offerings have increased from 91 to 389, and the Watson College now offers more than 300 online or hybrid courses.

“This ranking confirms what we know to be the case, that our faculty and staff have made extensive efforts to make our academic programs more accessible online to our students while not sacrificing the quality for which they are known,” said Watson College Dean Kenneth Teitelbaum. “It is of course gratifying to learn that we are tied with North Carolina State University as the number one online program in education (graduate) in North Carolina.”

Faculty member Salena Rabidoux, who is also an instructional designer in the Education Technology Unit (ETU) at WCE, said e-Learning takes many forms at the Watson College. Several projects are underway to move more classes online, use e-resources to replicate real world classroom situations, experiment with the flipped classroom model, develop simulation experiences for the students and incorporate the use of digital resources such as blogs, wikis, digital stories and other web-based tools in traditional classrooms as a first step toward integrating e-Learning into daily practices.

The doctoral program in Ed Leadership offers a cohort hybrid model that combines online and face-to-face learning.

“The model gives students flexibility, but also the opportunity for a collaborative learning environment. The program has been very successful,” Rabidoux said.

Fully online courses appeal to working professionals, and the growth in offerings has helped the college grow enrollments in graduate programs such as the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). Online courses and technologies like state of the art microphones, high definition cameras, WebEx software, and technician support to help with connectivity and student engagement also meet the needs of distance learners, including students enrolled in the UNCW Onslow Extension Site based in Jacksonville.

“A growing number of courses are now offered online or include an online option that enables students to participate in the class from any location,” Rabidoux said.

In 2004, the Watson College introduced its first Distance Education (DE) classroom equipped with innovative and state of the art technologies to serve as a virtual classroom and video conferencing center. Today, the college has a total of five DE classrooms and two mobile DE units that can facilitate a DE classroom environment. Two additional DE classrooms and an additional mobile DE unit are currently proposed for fall 2015 integration to meet growing demand for e-Learning environments. WCE’s online course offerings will continue to grow because distance learning is a strategic area of focus for UNCW, Rabidoux said

In addition to Rabidoux, the ETU Team includes director Jeff Ertzberger, senior web developer Krystine Wetherill, technology support analyst Daniel Beguhl and three graduate assistants. Together, they support WCE faculty and WCE’s public school partners’ use of technology to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in both traditional and virtual classrooms.

The ETU Team is committed to supporting faculty with best practices in online and blended learning to keep the quality of course offerings high, Rabidoux said.

In 2014, Rabidoux received the Robert Tyndall Service Award in recognition of the outstanding instructional design support she provides to Watson College faculty. The award is given in alternate years to an employee who exemplifies the attributes of dedication to the field of teaching, commitment to the mission of the Watson College, ability to work with all constituents, and an ability to lead his or her area in a new direction.

Rabidoux is also the recipient of UNCW’s 2014 Excellence in e-Learning award. The award was created in 2013 to recognize excellence in online and web-enhanced course design. Winners are selected by a committee of volunteer faculty reviewers and instructional designers from UNCW’s Office of e-Learning.  Courses are rated using the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (ECP) rubric.

View instructional video developed by Rabidoux here: http://youtu.be/_KUtek4-0j4

View information on WCE’s online programs included in the U.S. News and World ReportBest Online Programs in Education (Graduate) here: www.usnews.com/education/online-education/university-of-north-carolina-wilmington-OEDU0842/education