Award Recognizes Commitment to High Quality
By Jill Gambon
UMass Lowell’s Division of Online and Continuing Education has notched another award, this one for high quality programming.
The division won the Sloan Consortium’s annual Ralph E. Gomory Award for Quality Online Education. The consortium, known as Sloan-C, is an international organization that works to improve the quality, scale and breadth of online education.
The Gomory Award honors an institution for using “innovative” metrics to evaluate its programs and make improvements based on the information it culls from the evaluations. In addition to the award, the University will receive $5,000 for scholarships.
“This award affirms the work we have been doing to measure and continuously improve the online courses we offer,” says Executive Vice Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney, the program’s founder. “Our students reap the benefits with access to high quality programs and services that we have developed with our assessment model.”
Using Feedback to Design Improvements
To measure student satisfaction, the Online and Continuing Education Division introduced a custom-designed online assessment tool so students can evaluate courses and provide feedback on their experience. (The same evaluation is now used for all face-to-face classes at the University).
Faculty and administrators use the feedback gathered through the evaluations for planning, to make improvements and to track the progress of any changes, says Pauline Carroll, executive director of academic services, enrollment management and administration for Online and Continuing Education. For example, based on student feedback, a new master’s degree in information technology is being developed.
“This is a very prestigious award,” says Carroll. “It validates what we are doing.”
Launched 15 years ago, UMass Lowell’s Online and Continuing Education Division has been recognized as an industry leader with numerous awards. It is now one of the largest providers of online credit courses in New England, with enrollments of approximately 19,000. Programs offered include fully online bachelor’s degrees in fields like liberal arts, psychology and information technology.
Online graduate study options include master’s degrees in business administration and education, and there are a variety of certificate programs. Students enrolled in online programs receive academic advising and other services specially designed to meet their needs.
UMass Lowell is a pioneer in combining online and classroom learning. In these blended courses, students complete much of their instruction online and meet with instructors and fellow students several times over a semester to reinforce learning and encourage networking.