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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

Distance Learning

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Final Report

Members of the Taskforce 2004-2005:

Lisa Baures, Diane Berge, Fernando Delgado, Don Descy, Kathleen Hurley, Elena Ivanova, Mark Johnson, Rosemary Kinne, Patricia Lipetzky, Scott Page, Glen Peterson, Ann Quade, Joan Roca, Warren Sandmann, Kathleen Trauger, Paul Wyss

Summary Statement of Taskforce:

The Distance Learning Taskforce was formed as a response to Minnesota State University, Mankato's Strategic Priority 3: Establish a Distance Learning Plan. The original Distance Learning Taskforce formed during the 2002-03 academic year. After initial discussions, the DLTF met under the leadership of then-Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research in Fall 2003. To address the objectives of the charge to the taskforce, committee membership had university wide representation. Of this representation, a number of sub-committees were formed to address particular issues and make recommendations and proposals.

Summary Statement of Future Directions 2010:

A review of historical documents of MSU indicates that in the 1970s, a high percentage of students were considered "off-campus" students. As the university positions to become the first and the best of Minnesota State institutions in online education, it becomes possible to again have increased enrollment and significant involvement in new markets resulting in enrollment increases similar to those experienced in 1975. It is projected that by 2010, University Extended Education will generate enrollments of 1700 students for an MSU enrollment of 15,000. Many of these students will be online students. The previous work of the Distance Learning Taskforce as described below and current demographic trends indicate that an aggressive growth plan could be successful. But without critical, timely attention to sustainable funding issues, infrastructure development and access issues, online/distance education could become just another good idea rather than an integrated instructional delivery method opening new venues and providing growth for MSU. See Taskforce recommendations for details.

Online Enrollment Projections:

Table 1: Enrollment Projections

ProgramsSectionsEnrollmentsCredit hoursFYE UG/Grad
Year18 481200360039.6 / 118.8
Year212721800540059.4 / 178.2
Year3171022550765084.0 / 252.5
Year42213233009900108.9 / 326.7
Year527162405012,150133.6 / 400.9

Table 1 identifies the number of programs and course enrollments needed to reach the over all enrollment target.

Original Charge to the Taskforce:

Minnesota State University, Mankato will create an administrative structure and funding mechanisms that will support high quality distance learning instruction.


  1. Create an administrative structure that enables the creation of (or further development of currently existing) technology, e-learning, and mediated distance courses in 3-5 programs.

    Taskforce actions:

    • Extended Campus/Continuing Education separated from the College of Graduate Studies and Research, becoming a separate unit named University Extended Education and headed by a dean;
    • An instructional designer and distance learning librarian were hired;
    • The Distance Learning Taskforce served as an advisory and recommending group for online learning;
    • Student and faculty needs analysis were developed and refined with various strands implemented or scheduled for implementation in the 2004-2005 academic year;
    • Coordinated and unified university student and faculty support services for online students;
    • Accreditation for blanket approval was applied for from the Higher Learning Commission. Following a site visit September 14-16, 2004, accreditation was received;
    • MSU provides the system wide Help Desk for D2L.

    Taskforce recommendations:

    • Develop an online orientation for students and faculty;
    • Develop an accelerated undergraduate admission process;
    • Develop more sophisticated readiness and assessment tools;
    • Continue investment in faculty development;
    • Increase instructional design support and library support to develop new programs and enhance existing programs;
    • Provide centralized coordination of instructional design;
    • Develop and implement a marketing plan to increase enrollment in online courses and programs.
  2. Create a funding mechanism that enables the creation of (or further development of currently existing) technology, e learning, and mediated distance courses in 3-5 programs.

    Taskforce actions:

    • Incentive funding for new program development used one time funding from various reserves.

    Taskforce recommendations:

    • See attached funding recommendation;
    • Eliminate out-state tuition (non-resident) tuition for online courses (media code 03)
  3. Identify 3-5 programs to create or further develop a critical mass of technology mediated distance courses. Programs will be selected based on market studies, replicability, possible additional external funding, and college and department leadership and willingness to develop technology mediated distance courses.
  4. Implement and evaluate the courses in the three to five programs.
  5. Identify and add additional programs based on the experience with the first 3-5.

    Taskforce actions:

    • A total of eleven online or hybrid programs have been allocated small amounts of incentive funding for development. A 12th program was funded by the College of Education;
    • In the first cycle (fall 2003), five programs received funding. In the second cycle (spring 2004), four programs received funding. In the third cycle (fall 2005), two programs received funding;
    • All programs have met or are currently meeting their goals;
    • As programs end their funding cycle, each program will submit an evaluation of processes and outcomes of the program. The first five evaluations, from the originally funded programs, will be submitted to the Dean of University Extended Education in spring 2005.

    Taskforce recommendations:

    • Develop continuation of RFP process for new program development.
    • Develop funding process for program enhancements;
    • Implement program readiness assessment;
    • Implement program and institutional assessments.
  6. Communicate the plan and goals to the campus community.

    Taskforce actions:

    • A final plan will be submitted and open forums will be presented to the university community.

    Taskforce recommendations:

    • Form a representative group from each academic and support unit to serve as an ongoing communication link;
    • Form Sub Meet and Confer for University Extended Education.
  7. Prepare and submit a resource need analysis and funding plan for all recommendations and goals.

    Taskforce Actions:

    • See attached.

    Taskforce recommendations:

    • Continually re-visit and revise funding plan.

Summary of Distance Learning Taskforce Accomplishments:

  • Creation of an administrative structure, University Extended Education;
  • Creation of infrastructure to support online/distance education (ITS, Library, Registrar's Office, Bookstore, Student and Faculty Sort Services);
  • Received institutional Higher Learning Commission accreditation for online programs;
  • Through three funding cycles, provided development funding for 11 programs;
  • Developed course and program readiness guidelines;
  • Implementation of enhanced online services through student services area;
  • Development of an Intellectual Property Policy, currently in the review process;
  • Provide system wide D2L support;
  • Active participation in the Minnesota State MnOnline initiative.

Critical Outstanding Issues:

  • Sustainable funding for ongoing program support, infrastructure development and new program development;
  • Eliminate out-state (non-resident) tuition for online courses (media code 03);
  • Develop accelerated admission process for undergraduates;
  • Develop institutional assessment tool for the online initiative;
  • Complete identified student and faculty services for online courses;
  • Continued development, implementation and adaptation of faculty and student support services;
  • Continuing need for instructional design support and centralized coordination of instructional design support;
  • Market planning and implementation;
  • Respond to the MnOnline recommendations from the Fall 2004 HLC visit.

Future of the Distance Learning Taskforce:

The Distance Learning Taskforce recommends that its work be carried on by a new Sub Meet and Confer, the University Extended Education Committee and Sub Meet and Confer. A draft charge for this Sub Meet has been prepared, has been approved by the DLTF and submitted to the Faculty Association Executive Committee. Final action by the Faculty Association should be taken in the spring 2005.