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OSU to expand its distance education profile

Expanding Distance Education Opportunities


About OSU Distance Education

Associate Vice President - Michael B. Hofherr

Frequently Asked Questions

About OSU Distance Education

Ohio State is preparing to expand its profile in distance education.

To ensure that distance learning is fully integrated with all other academic planning, the university established the Office of Distance Education and eLearning on December 1, with programs to be available in summer 2013. The university’s distance education and eLearning programming will be known as Ohio State Online.

The new office will allow Ohio State to provide all forms of distance education and eLearning, including degree offerings, credit courses, non-credit certificates, iTunes U offerings, and hybrid as well as pure distance programming. It will provide students with more options for interacting with course content, participating in hybrid learning models, and using the tools that will make them leaders in Ohio and around the world.

Michael B. Hofherr, formerly senior director of learning technology, has been tapped to lead the office as associate vice president. He will report to the executive vice president and provost.

With its focus on academic advancement through technology, the new unit will also support the delivery of all forms of distance and eLearning. It will be located in Mount Hall on West Campus in space that will allow for the creation of an educational technology hub.

Hofherr says he is extremely excited about this opportunity to work directly with the faculty and collaborate to enhance the teaching and learning experience. “We have the greatest faculty body in the world. I see it every day. Through Ohio State Online, my team and I look forward to providing the opportunities, tools, and knowledge to help them deliver the world-class education that defines Ohio State.”

The Office of Distance Education and eLearning integrates the university’s current distance education initiatives, presently housed in the Office of Extended Education, with the learning technology group, now a part of the Office of the Chief Information Officer. This integrated approach will, for the first time, provide colleges, departments, and individual faculty members with a centrally supported infrastructure that will help them take full advantage of new technologies to enhance student learning and expand the impact of Ohio State's unique programs.

Wayne Carlson, vice provost for undergraduate studies and director of extended education, explains the importance of the creation of this new office. “Last year, as part of extended education’s reorganization, distance education was located with us while plans for its permanent home took shape. Now, as a stand-alone initiative, the Office of Distance Education and eLearning can help make the Ohio State learning experience still more responsive to the needs of both students and faculty.”

According to Provost Joseph Alutto, the time has come for Ohio State to consolidate its distance education and eLearning efforts into a one-stop shop. “Mobile devices, digital textbooks, online environments, and other eLearning tools have permeated every corner of higher education,” Alutto says. “Our faculty are eager to embrace these technologies to enhance their teaching—and today’s tech-savvy students are ready to use them in the learning environment. We have the know-how to respond to those needs and to make bold strides in eLearning. That is why we have created the Office of Distance Education and eLearning—and we have done so by leveraging existing resources and providing additional central funding.”

This effort represents a $13.8 million investment, which Alutto says will allow Ohio State to appreciably and appropriately enhance student learning through digital technologies. Although he will step down as provost in June 2013, Alutto will continue to serve Ohio State as a special advisor to the president working on a number of initiatives, including distance education.

The Office of Distance Education and eLearning has a firm foundation from which to launch broader efforts. The university last year entered into a collaboration with Apple. The resulting Digital First initiative promotes technology enrichment, with the iPad serving as an enabling technology for the end-user. In the College of Social Work, for example, Dean Tom Gregoire has provided iPads to faculty and staff to enhance teaching and also to help bring technology to the communities and agencies they serve. The instructional arm of Digital First is Ohio State iTunes U, an online learning system that is free to learners across the world. Instructors can place their lecture videos, audio recordings, presentations, and other digital artifacts into the system for public consumption. Dr. Matthew Stoltzfus of the Department of Chemistry is incorporating the “flipped classroom model” delivered via iTunes U. In this “flipped” model, students watch his lectures before attending class in order to have more meaningful discussion and learning when in the classroom.

But faculty have been advocating for more. According to Scott DeWitt, associate professor of English and vice chair of rhetoric, composition, and literacy, “These are exciting times to explore new ways of delivering instruction and content to our students and to reconsider when, where, and how we convene with our students. Digital and online course content gives us the opportunity to reach new populations in exciting new ways. For me, the logical next question is to ask, 'What are the emerging forms of knowledge and content we want our students to produce in our courses?' With the launch of Ohio State Online, OSU is perfectly poised to take on this work and answer these questions.”

Online courses will be developed by the colleges whose faculty are providing them, and they will go through the same rigorous approvals process as all other OSU courses. Thanks to the creation of the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, faculty will have expert help in putting courses on line. Says Associate Vice President Hofherr, “Over time, we will look for niches in which our brand has particular value and where long distance efforts build off our existing strengths. We will also seek innovative ways to use distance education to enrich our existing programs.”

Associate Vice President - Michael B. Hofherr

Michael B. Hofherr was named Ohio State’s associate vice president for distance education and eLearning on December 1, 2012.

In that role, Hofherr will oversee all forms of distance education and eLearning at Ohio State, including degree offerings, credit courses, non-credit certificates, iTunes U offerings, and hybrid as well as pure distance programming. He will also be responsible for supporting the delivery of distance and eLearning efforts.

Prior to this new appointment, Hofherr had served for nearly two years as the senior director for learning technology in the Office of the Chief Information Officer, where he helped transform the educational technologies offerings on campus. He spearheaded the Digital First initiative, expanded the Impact Grants program, and led a classroom technology transformation that resulted in more than $2 million in savings while improving services. As senior director for learning technology, Hofherr also oversaw Carmen, the university’s learning management platform, and the Digital Union

Hofherr came to Ohio State in 2011 from Penn State, bringing an extensive background in managing and leading all aspects of learning technology projects. Earlier, he had served as a training consultant for Arthur Andersen.

Hofherr holds a BS in communications media from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and an MS in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What’s happening?

In order to ensure that distance learning is fully integrated with all other academic planning and to meet the changing technology needs of faculty, students, and staff, the university has established the Office of Distance Education and eLearning. The new office, called Ohio State Online, combines the Learning Technology group and its services with Extended and Distance Education teams. This centrally supported infrastructure will help colleges, departments, and individual faculty members to fully utilize new technologies, which will enhance student learning and expand the impact of Ohio State's unique programs. Michael B. Hofherr, associate vice president for Distance Education and eLearning, will lead the new organization. He will report to the executive vice president and provost.

2. What does this mean for our students?            

Ohio State Online will enhance the student experience by providing our faculty with the resources they need to provide the world-class 21st-century learning environment that characterizes Ohio State. Students will have more options for interacting with course content, will participate in more hybrid learning models, and have greater exposure to the tools that will make them leaders in Ohio and around the world.

3. What is the connection between our efforts in Ohio State Online and our participation with Coursera, iTunesU, Digital First, Digital Union, and Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO)?

Ohio State Online will continue a strong relationship with OCIO through the use of the many core information technology related services they provide.

The goals of Ohio State Online are to:

  • Enhance student learning through the use of technology in partnership with faculty to support classroom coursework and curriculum;
  • Enable Ohio State to become a global leader in eLearning;
  • Build on the Digital First initiative to create a robust presence in open courseware;
  • Grow distance education to extend Ohio State's outreach globally; and
  • Create financial sustainability through educational innovations. 

To do this, Ohio State will participate in all forms of eLearning, including hybrid, hyflex, distance and open formats, as well as new opportunities that help us reach these goals.

4. What resources will be available for course delivery?

We will be expanding the instructor tool set to meet the needs of our faculty and to assure they have the necessary educational technologies to ensure a world-class student experience. Updates to Carmen (Desire2Learn) that will accommodate distance and mobile educational resources, AdobeConnect, and Media Services will be available spring 2013, and pilots for NBCLearn and Lecture Capture will be completed in May for summer implementation. Central investment in standardized tool sets will allow colleges to spend local dollars on specific needs.

5. What will the relationship between the colleges and Ohio State Online look like?

The effort must be integrated with all academic planning of the university, yet be sufficiently independent to act quickly and flexibly in a very dynamic environment. Ohio State Online will rely on the colleges’ spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, with curriculum development completed at the college level. Ohio State Online will provide the technical infrastructure, enrollment process (for nontraditional students), marketing analysis, instructional development, multi-state authorization, 24/7 helpline, and quality assurance. Course development and instruction will be done by faculty within their academic units. Faculty will also participate in the quality assurance review and will provide insights into market analysis.

6. Have faculty been consulted? How will they participate in future governance?

A cross-section of faculty leaders has been engaged from the beginning. Presentations have been conducted with faculty leaders, University Senate fiscal representatives, deans, department chairs and the Council on Academic Affairs (CAA). In addition, informal sessions have been organized through the faculty advisory committee of the Digital First initiative and open faculty forums have occurred.

Faculty will play a key role on Ohio State Online’s steering committee. Two faculty representatives from the Council on Library and Information Technology (CoLIT), two faculty leaders, and two faculty members selected by the provost will serve on the steering committee. This steering committee will also include administrators and students.

7. Will there be training and support for faculty to develop courses? How will the University Center for the Advancement of Teaching (UCAT) participate?

Yes, training will be offered. Training and support for faculty will be provided through Ohio State Online by instructional designers and educational technologists. These teams will work closely with UCAT to ensure faculty have the resources they need to deliver an exceptional student experience.

8. Who will oversee quality and approval of Ohio State Online courses?

Approval for courses and programs will follow all Office of Academic Affairs (OAA) and Council on Academic Affairs (CAA) processes. Existing protocols, like Quality Matters, will ensure Ohio State University’s expectations of rigor and quality are met.

9. Will we focus on complete programs, or individual courses that are part of a residential student option?

Ohio State will participate in all forms of eLearning. These include enhancing new and existing undergraduate and graduate courses; moving existing degree programs online (often niche programs); and creating new degree programs based on combinations of courses, new degree and certificate programs to fit employer needs, and interchangeable learning modules.

10. Will this be run as a separate college such as, for example, the Penn State World Campus?

No. Curricular knowledge and faculty reside within the colleges. The effort will be integrated into the normal college structure engaging faculty by using existing approval process and procedures.

11. What are the sources for funding distance education and will it become self-sustaining?

Ohio State Online will leverage the existing capabilities and resources of the OCIO's eLearning units and the Office of Undergraduate Education's Extended Education Office. Additional resources will be allocated centrally by OAA to support the development of a university-wide technology platform, faculty grants and support services, and additional learning technology specialists. 

The newly integrated Distance Education and eLearning unit will be expected to partner with academic units to move our distance education offerings towards financial sustainability. We will work with the University Senate Fiscal Committee, OAA, and the Office of Business and Finance to fully develop the long-term funding model.

12. Is this effort impacting the revenue stream of on-campus course offerings?

No. Working with colleges and academic units, we will develop distance education offerings and eLearning courses to supplement what we currently offer in traditional formats. Ohio State Online will allow us to attract new student populations, adding to our existing enrollment base.

For more information contact:  osuonline@osu.edu