Johnson College had been interested in making online learning available to students for the past few years. During the 2015-16 academic year, the vision became a reality after forming a new Office of Online Learning and integrating a new learning management system, Desire 2 Learn (D2L) into existing curriculum.
The College is always looking to make its educational experience unique to students and started exploring online class options in the fall of 2012. A task force was assembled and tasked with researching learning management systems which would allow for collaboration between instructor and student, online. The task force first came to the table with about ten options, from those options, they narrowed down to three. Throughout the 2013-14 academic year, the three were tested and the task force decided to take D2L to the sandbox, or testing, stage. During the sandbox, faculty were able to begin using the functions with students for a year. Many students, especially in the business program, had the opportunity to work with D2L which gave great insight for instructors when considering the functionality. The sandbox test phase proved to be a success and in the fall of 2015, D2L went live for the entire College. Currently five courses are available completely online and many are available as hybrid classes. Hybrid classes allow for some class sessions to compliment an online curriculum.
Online learning has made a Johnson College education more attainable than ever. Although no programs are entirely online, the course offerings available are proving to be thorough and convenient for students. Online learning benefits the College’s students in two ways, through added flexibility and expanding capacity. With online classes, students are not required to be on campus, so it is easy for them to read class materials and complete assignments from home during a time that is best for them. Many students have jobs and families and online learning helps them stay enrolled in the required amount of classes and allows them to determine the days and times they can devote to schoolwork. As far as capacity, online learning frees up more classrooms on campus and thus, allows the College to have more students enrolled at one time since they are not all on campus at the same time.
Like many colleges, retention is an important factor when rolling out new education methods. To be sure that distance education will best serve the student, Johnson College has taken a few measures to prepare for student success. First, all freshmen are required to take Student Success Seminar in their first semester at the College. In this class, instructors begin to acclimate students to the functions of D2L and require that all assignments be submitted online. The freshmen begin to utilize uploading functions, discussion boards, and quizzes. After completing Student Success Seminar, students are given an option to complete a training which will qualify them to enroll in online classes. The training can be completed once a student has achieved 12 credits, has a minimum GPA of 2.0 and is granted permission from their advisor as a satisfactory candidate. The one-time, technical training takes approximately one hour and successful completion qualifies them to enroll in online courses. Johnson College has reported that since this vetting process has begun, they are seeing great success of online students.