Online Learning Initiative

By: Peter Williams and Alan Young

The January 6 announcement of the expansion of BYU-Idaho is remarkable as we think of the additional students who will be able to receive a BYU-Idaho educational experience. As was announced, online learning is one of the methods for accomplishing this expansion. An online course development and delivery system has been created to build the BYU-Idaho online learning presence.

In his inaugural response, President Clark said: “I see ahead a great season of creativity and innovation, a season of powerful new ideas and new curricula. In a day not far from now, we will be able to break down the barriers of time and space…and create outstanding, interactive educational experiences [where] students will teach one another in new and powerful ways…. The capacity to educate effectively across time and across space will allow us to leverage the capacity of the university and reach many more young people” (Kim B. Clark, Inaugural Response).

By 2012, approximately 140 online courses will have been developed. Currently, 28 courses are in some phase of the development process. Though the university has over 2,000 courses, the 140 online courses are being strategically chosen to provide 20% of the university’s total student credit hours (SCH) online.

The key elements of the online learning effort are integrated curriculum and distributed delivery.

Integrated Curriculum

Online courses will mirror their face-to-face equivalent, with identical outcomes, assessments, and content. While some of the specific teaching strategies may differ to accommodate the different environments, the core curriculum will be the same. As resources (such as readings, audio/visual objects, assignments, rubrics, etc.) are developed for the online environment, they will be available for use by those teaching in the face-to-face classroom.

The development of online courses differs from the development of face-to-face courses. Deans Council prioritizes and selects the courses and faculty teams. Online courses are developed by these teams of full-time BYU-Idaho faculty working with a full-time curriculum development team. All BYU-Idaho online courses follow a curriculum development process and course design quality standards.

The following are characteristics of the new-style of online courses:

  • Online courses are built around the Learning Model principles and process.
  • Teach One Another” is a hallmark characteristic of the online courses, with significant personal contact in a course between students and their peers and with their instructor.
  • Online courses are cohort-based. The class members interact with each other throughout the semester in structured learning activities. (Online courses are offered on a semester or block time schedule).
  • Online courses are organized around closely interacting groups of 10-15 students, with no more than 60 students in a section.

Distributed Delivery

Another key part of the online initiative is distributed course delivery involving remote adjunct instructors. Instructors for the online courses will typically not come from the Rexburg area. Special emphasis will be given to hiring and training instructors that are (1) academically qualified in that subject, and (2) adept at teaching in the online environment. Qualifications to teach online for BYU-Idaho include: a masters or doctorate degree in the subject to be taught, teaching experience, ecclesiastical endorsements, and a love for the students and mission of BYU-Idaho. Each new online instructor will participate in a 40-hour online instructor training program. Online instructors will also be part of an online teaching group each semester.

Departments will have oversight of their online courses, while day-to-day management of the courses will be handled by the Division of Continuing Education’s online learning department. For example, Department Chairs select the academic criteria for new online instructors, approve online offering schedules, and review regular reports; the online learning department hires, manages, and trains instructors, facilitating all of the scheduling, contracting, and payroll logistics.

Additional information about online learning at BYU-Idaho can be found at

Online Course Development
Alan Young
Director, Curriculum Development

Online Course Delivery
Peter Williams
Online Learning Coordinator, Continuing Education

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