Balancing the needs of students, faculty and institutions when designing online courses

Submitted by stefan.gagov on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 16:57
Students, faculty members and institutions all have different goals from their teaching and learning programmes. Thomas Cavanagh explains how to balance the needs of key stakeholders when developing online courses
Article type

This video covers:

00:54 The first step to aligning key stakeholder needs when developing online courses: understanding the institution and its mission.

01:37 What to consider when assessing the students’ priorities and goals for online courses.

02:12 How best to ensure the needs of faculty members are met when creating online courses.


If you want to create a long-lasting, sustainable online programme, one of the key characteristics you need to consider is how to create alignment for all of the various stakeholders.

Each stakeholder in the broad categories of students, faculty and the administration – or you could say the institutional needs – each of them have some particular goal that they want from a programme and finding that sweet spot, that alignment where all of those intersect, is one of the keys to making it long lasting and sustainable.

So, if you drew a Venn diagram, for example, that had students’ needs, faculty needs and the institutional needs, the area where it all overlaps, that’s the area where you want to try and focus all of your energies.

So depending on what the particular programme is – for example, a high-prestige, high-cost, very selective online programme maybe from a particular type of Ivy League institution would be very different from the institutional needs of a lower-cost, open-access maybe a community college or other type of programme – each of them have their place, each of them serves an institutional mission but their particular goals and objectives would be very different.

The kinds of students that they might pursue would be very different, the kinds of revenue expectations would be very different.

So, understanding first from an institutional perspective what are those needs and how do they intersect with faculty and students is maybe step one.

Consider the students, then. What do students want out of it? Well, maybe they want a credential that will help them in the job market; maybe they want a low-cost alternative to an on-campus programme; maybe they are a particular type of adult non-traditional learner that needs an online programme that is low cost that an employer might be able to pay for; or maybe they are looking for that prestigious, highly selective programme. Whatever it is, make sure that what the institution is offering addresses the needs of those particular students.

And then faculty? Faculty have a variety of different needs that don’t always align with the institutional or student needs. In many cases it’s identifying for faculty how can you help them accomplish these goals without putting undue burden on their already busy work schedules?

So, creating this programme, serving this type of student, expanding their particular discipline, the major that’s associated with their discipline, might lead to additional revenue that leads to new hires, new lines for their department.

All of these have advantages that can be positioned to help get faculty buy-in to support such a programme and anything that works counter to that is obviously not aligning with their needs, with student needs or with administration needs.

So, it can be a very delicate dance of making sure that the goals for all of these different constituencies are lined up and in an appropriate way without forcing anything. You want to make sure this is done in consultation with each of these stakeholders.

But there are ways to position a programme right in the centre of that Venn diagram.

When you do so, you have the administration, students and faculty all working in the same direction and that’s what makes it sustainable.

If any of those get out of alignment, suddenly you are going to have a programme that is fighting against itself and that is never a recipe for success.

This video was produced by Thomas Cavanagh, vice-provost for digital learning at the University of Central Florida.

Students, faculty members and institutions all have different goals from their teaching and learning programmes. Thomas Cavanagh explains how to balance the needs of key stakeholders when developing online courses