Monday, November 12, 2007

Sloan Consortium Award Presented

By Courtney Westlake

From the time that UIS began as Sangamon State University, there has been an emphasis on access to learning through whatever technology is available at the time.

"Given this history, it was natural in the late 1990s for UIS faculty to engage in the latest emerging technology: web-based construction, online education," said Provost Harry Berman. "Over time, some of our best teachers found that this new medium of instruction had its own distinctive strengths."

On Monday, November 12, the campus community celebrated the steady growth and excellence of UIS' online learning with the presentation of the Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching & Learning Programming award, given by the Sloan Consortium.

The Sloan Consortium is a national organization dedicated to quality online teaching and is comprised of more than 1,200 institutions and organizations of higher education engaged in online learning. The award to UIS was among six given by Sloan this year for exceptional online education, and UIS was the only institution to receive an award for institution-wide teaching and learning programming.

The award was given on Nov. 7 in Orlando at the annual Sloan-C International Conference on Online Learning, which draws more than 1,000 attendees both nationally and internationally.

The Sloan Consortium's awards programs were started in 2001 to recognize excellence in online education and include five awards: two for individuals and three given to institutions, said Burks Oakley, UIUC Professor Emeritus and charter board member for Sloan-C.

"I'd like to point out that the Sloan-C awards are selected by a very distinguished panel of our peers ," Oakley said. "So it's especially rewarding that our peers think so highly of what we are doing. It's also very important for our online students because they're going to be able to say they earned their degrees from an institution recognized nationally for its quality, scale and breadth of its online learning."

The award is an honor to everyone: students, staff and faculty, who really bring the meaning of "blended campus" to life, Chancellor Richard Ringeisen said.

"What has skyrocketed is how the online development we have here has really blended into the campus, and that the technology that's been used to develop this wonderful online learning is present not just in online learning but all throughout campus," he said.

Currently, Berman acknowledged, online majors make up more than 22 percent of UIS enrollment and about a third of the credit hours generated from the last academic year were online classes. This fall, half of UIS students are taking at least one online course and half of UIS faculty regularly teach online courses.

"That's an awful lot of extension of this new technology into everything we do on campus," Berman said. "Online learning has fundamentally changed UIS."