North Central Self Study
Chapter 5: Criterion Three
The institution is accomplishing its education and other purposes.
Other Academic Initiatives
UNK has sponsored a number of initiatives to enhance the educational experiences for all of its students. These initiatives, though not tied to any formal degree program, are coordinated within the auspices of the Office of Academic Affairs. These initiatives include: the First Year Program, the distance programs managed by the Division of Continuing Education, and the various undergraduate and graduate research initiatives under the auspices of the Office of Graduate Studies and Research.
First Year Program
The First Year Program is the newest initiative at UNK. The primary focus of the program is to facilitate the integration of first-time freshmen into the campus environment. The planning process, undertaken in 2001-2002, involved creating a First Year Program ad hoc committee charged with developing a program. The committee reviewed programs at other universities and analyzed needs at this campus to develop a program unique to UNK. A proposal was developed which focused on student outcomes that were intended to enhance academic skills needed by freshmen, promote student involvement in the campus community, develop an understanding of campus resources for students, and integrate Academic and Student Affairs support for students. Ultimately, the committee integrated these outcomes into activities found in existing freshman level General Studies or major courses.
Faculty participating in the program received training on how to integrate into the courses activities to meet the outcomes. Each faculty member also used a Student Peer Leader, who was an upper-division student with prior experience in the course, as an aide or assistant to work with the students. The program was piloted in seven courses during the Fall Semester of the 2002. The student, faculty, and Student Peer Leader evaluations indicated that the program helped with promoting student involvement, understanding of resources available, and with enhancing academic skills. The faculty participants indicated that the collaboration between the Academic Affairs and Student Affairs divisions was quite helpful. Follow-up survey results indicated that participating students had more positive feelings about their initial experience at UNK then did the respondents in general at UNK on the National Survey of Student Engagement administered in Spring 2002.
The program has been continued and expanded by adding faculty and sections during the 2003-04 academic year. The goal is to be able to offer 45-60 sections so that all freshmen may be enrolled in the experience.
The Division of Continuing Education has been serving the needs of individuals, agencies, and organizations throughout Nebraska for the past three decades. Non-interactive telecourses were introduced in 1985 and interactive telecourses were first offered in 1994. Since that time, UNK has expanded its distance offerings through various technologies:
- IP (internet protocol)
As a result, UNK now provides graduate and undergraduate courses, as well as a variety of workshops, conferences, and seminars at many locations throughout the state. For example, courses are now offered live over the Tri-Valley network to schools located in Central Nebraska, and asynchronously over the internet.
Because all four colleges have participated in enhancing the variety of course offerings delivered online and by interactive video, recent enrollment figures and course listings reflect the continued growth and expansion of distance learning opportunities. The College of Education has shown the most impressive increases in both numbers of offerings and enrollment figures. During the 1998-99 academic year the College of Education offered 13 interactive video courses with a total enrollment of 237 students; during the 2002-03 academic year, this college offered 29 online classes and 15 interactive video courses with a total enrollment of 878. Similarly, in 1998-99 the College of Fine Arts and Humanities offered four telecourses with a total enrollment of 45 students, but during 2002-03, it offered six web-based courses and fourteen interactive video courses which served 128 students. Finally, from 1998 to 2003, the College of Natural and Social Sciences has regularly offered courses in math and social sciences while the College of Business and Technology provided an average of 19 distance learning courses with annual enrollments ranging from 203 to 296.
All distance education courses are taught by UNK instructors, many of whom have benefited from Distance Learning Development Grants offered each summer by the Division of Continuing Education. These summer stipends provide faculty with the opportunity to improve a course using information technology or to convert a course to a full distance learning offering. Applications are reviewed by the Faculty Senate Continuing Education Committee.