Wake Tech has aggressively pursued distance education in keeping with its open-door policy and commitment to accessibility. Now, the college must give greater focus to the quality of student learning in the online environment – and EPIC is that focus. Its strategies are aimed at developing online learning skills and supporting e-learning success.
Online students are now a significant portion of Wake Tech's student population, and Wake Tech offers more online classes than any other community college in North Carolina. Student performance in those classes, however, lags behind that in traditional classes by about 5%, on average. The disparity is particularly evident in high-demand "gateway" courses, and student survey responses confirm that many lack the skills they need to do well in an online environment.
EPIC (eLearning Preparedness Initiative across the College) aligns with Wake Tech's mission of improving and enriching lives through education. EPIC has been established as Wake Tech's Quality Enhancement Plan, a requirement for accreditation by the Southern Association of College and Schools.
It aims to increase student success in online courses by helping both students and faculty become better prepared for the unique experience of online learning. The initiative provides students and faculty with specific training and tools needed to improve student performance and success in online courses.
EPIC's interactive eLearning Intro will help students build the skills they need to be successful. The orientation focuses on expectation management, basic computer literacy and understanding the learning management system (Blackboard) – three areas that have been identified as critical to success online.
EPIC's Online Teaching Certification program will help faculty develop the skills they need to teach effectively online. The program focuses on course design, instructional techniques, accessibility and understanding the learning management system (Blackboard), as well as mentoring for new online faculty.
Goals of EPIC
- EPIC will increase success in online courses by an aggregate 5% over a five-year period.
Students are given the skills, tools and awareness they need to be successful in an online course through an interactive e-Learning Intro Student Orientation Module. The e-Learning Intro orientation focuses on the three skill sets necessary for a successful online student: Expectation Management, Basic Computer Literacy and Blackboard Boot Camp. Students will have the opportunity to self-assess and remediate within the e-Learning Intro Orientation.
Student learning outcomes:
- Students will be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and remediate their weaknesses based on a review of the characteristics and skills of successful online learners.
- Students will be able to navigate the Blackboard learning management system to successfully submit assignments, take assessments and post discussions.
- Students will be able to communicate effectively with instructors in an online environment.
- Students will be able to collaborate effectively with peers in an online environment to enhance the learning experience.
Faculty develop the skills they need through an Online Instructor Certification Program, which provides instruction in pedagogy, instructional design, accessibility and advanced training for teaching online. The program also offers a mentorship in which seasoned online faculty can lead the way for newcomers to the college or to online education.
After completing the program, faculty will design online courses based on national standards of best practices and research of instructional design techniques. Courses will be designed to promote student learning to achieve identified outcomes.