Data & Trends
Online Learning

Navigating for Success: Launching a Field Education Program Online (Part Two)

05/24/19   |  
Mallory Schindler

Education is changing, so don’t be left behind. 

This statement is pushy, forcing administrators globally to evaluate their program and determine when they want change to occur; when being the keyword. Yes, you can determine if it is on your watch or not, but it will happen and, in most cases, adapting sooner rather than later to online is better-- so why not take credit for progress?

Higher education is one of the remaining fields where tradition and ongoing learning are cornerstone to its continued existence. Learning often contrasts with tradition, because to learn is to change. A fellow educator Leo Buscaglia once said, change is the end result of all true learning. If that is true, why are institutions so hesitant to change? It is fear? Motivation? Conflict aversion? Finances? That is the first question that needs to be asked when evaluating whether to take a traditional field education program online.

"When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.”

-Paulo Coelho

When most folks enter educational leadership it’s because they either loved education or they realized their life’s passion in the field and wanted to share it through teaching the next generation of workers. While everyone’s path is different, all educators are charged with a singular mission: to promote academic excellence, enhance educational opportunities and improve learning through their leadership. Similar to the Hippocratic oath, educators are ethically charged with serving their field and community to the best of their ability. If the mission is truly to enhance educational opportunities and promote accessible education, wouldn’t expanding a traditional program online be a no brainer? While many discuss this point until eternity, some (many!) are taking action. They act to progress their field and expand access to care by educating more workers. For others, it’s about legacy building and securing a future for the University/program; a stance of progressive leadership. They are striving to be good stewards of the program, to leave it better than they found it. However, they arrive at the decision to go online, they have some tough questions to address. This second blog installment aims to showcase some common questions that are being addressed in the process. 

1. How will going online change the program/faculty?

In short, it will drastically change faculty in a positive direction! Yes, there are always speedbumps i.e. the folks that resist change, but that passes once a program is underway and faculty begin seeing the limitless tools for teaching in the online space and the new students it attracts. Akin to a parent exposing their child to new life experiences for their development, the department leaders should be doing the same. Leaders are responsible for faculty development within the institution and taking a program online guarantees growth and preparedness for the future of education.

While the unknown is scary for many faculty, it is important to remember that the online students met the same requirements as the campus students, they are just more diverse in terms of where they live, where they went to school and their work experience. Expanding your program promotes new faculty voices and new students, many performing at a higher caliber and engagement level than those on campus. In some online programs, the online students are achieving higher board pass rates than the campus counterpart. Why? Diversity of experience, especially in the field/clinical courses, enhances learning, better preparing them more for the field. In addition to it being a more dynamic learning experience for students, going online will generate more revenue for program leadership to invest in research, professional development, and additional staff, which promotes quality and makes everyone happy! 

2. Is an online program compliant, meeting licensure requirements in other states?

Universities are experts in their field of study and what the accrediting bodies deem compliant for their state and we are the same except on a national scale. In partnership, we will map the parameters for remaining compliant and to ensure students are prepared for their licensing exams and futures in the field. The rules are clear, and in most states, programs can confer degrees and operate with students not currently residing in the University’s home state. The beauty of partnering with an OPM is that we are experienced in national and state requirements, making this question important, yet a non-issue. 

3. Are the current program processes friendly to online students?

In many cases, no. While we won’t sugarcoat the fact that it takes work to bring a field education program online, the good news is we have best practices and experts with comprehensive checklists to ensure that the online offering mirrors the campus program. Why should schools care about this? Both populations are the University’s students! It is important to provide an experience that embodies the existing program culture, preparing both campuses equally for their futures.  Unequal treatment threatens the program’s reputation; which is why we work to address this before the programs admit students.  

5. Can the field learning experience for online students be as good as the campus experience?

This is a very important question, because a program’s success, particularly in regard to placement, weighs heavily on the fact that leadership believe in the online delivery, the same way they believe in their placement experience for the campus students. Yes, things will be different, but with every component lost, you gain in another area. Our approach to mapping a placement program online is tedious. We go through and discuss each component of the program and process. Once the initial mapping is done, we revisit the flagged items that need some fine tuning, such as site visits, advising meetings, disciplinary issues/guidelines and submitting field materials for grading. Every school is different in the level of changes that need to be made, but in many cases, once the mapping is complete, our partners find themselves not just defining the “online” but also updating their campus processes and procedures. The end result is an engaged, efficient and scalable extension of the campus program.  In the end, it isn’t as much about the process than it is about mindset. We guarantee a program will thrive online if a partner is equally dedicated to making it a success.

6. How do you place students in other states?

Many universities have never needed to look for placements outside of a 100 miles radius from campus. While some campuses border state lines and have a field supervisors/preceptors list that is multi-state, the list is small and gets smaller the further away from campus. This is a major barrier when you are taking a field education program online because there is no network or complete database to help students find placements. As we worked with our initial field education programs, it became evident that we, the partner, needed to source placement sites if a program was going to be successful and scale nationally. We created a quality baseline of placement services that are flexible enough to compliment a partner’s current processes. We have a sliding placement service suite to fit the University’s brand and needs, not the other way around. Other OPMs can offer placement services, but it is their way or no deal, which strips the program of their culture and quality. Our team is different, a seamless extension of the University’s team, adhering to process and promoting the brand and culture as it exists today. 

Have additional questions specific to your program?

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