Critical Issues in the Virtual World

Course Number: DEL 7910
Course Name: Critical Issues in the Virtual World (Online)
Course Description:    This course will examine various specialized and timely issues facing educational administrators in the virtual environment, such as the changing face of technology, accreditation, and sociocultural and political perspectives that affect the delivery of education.
Prerequisites:    None
Level: Graduate
Credits: 3
Format: Online

Master of Science in Distance Education Leadership
Master of Science in Organizational Change Leadership

Registration Instructions

NOTE: The information below is representative of the course and is subject to change.  The specific details of the course will be available in the Desire2Learn course instance for the course in which a student registers.

Additional Information

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, you should be able to

  • Identify and discuss issues relevant to virtual education.
  • Evaluate issues regarding their impact on virtual education.
  • Create a professional plan to stay current in the field of virtual education.
  • Identify, track, and examine trends in education.

Lesson Descriptions

Lesson 1: Connectedness 
This week's lesson focuses on Connectedness. A part of connectedness is being plugged into the 'pulse' of your professional field. What are the "hot topics"? What are the "critical issues"? Being an informed leader is crucial to your success in distance education. With the vast amount of information out there, how might we stay plugged into the most relevant and credible information out there? Professional networking is an important professional skill, especially in the virtual environment. To begin to network with your peers in this course you will start with introductions on the discussion board. Introduce yourself to the class with your name, areas of higher education specialization or interest, three topics of greatest interest to you, and what you hope to gain from this program and course. Remember to post two separate and timely responses to two of your classmate's introductions.

Lesson 2: Professional Organizations and Associations
This week you will explore several common professional organizations and associations in the field of virtual and higher education or training. This lesson is designed to familiarize you with these organizations and associations—what they have available and how they can keep you up to date with critical issues. Of course, there are other organizations out there; however, knowing these organizations and associations will prove useful to those who are in the field of distance education and/or training

Lesson 3: Education Resources and Publications
This week focuses on several standard education websites and/or publications in the field of virtual and higher education. The lesson is designed to familiarize you with these publications—what they have available and how they can keep you current with higher education topics. What do they have in common? How do they differ? What is their value to higher education administration? Their value to administration in the virtual environment? Their personal value to you as a higher education professional?

Lesson 4: Identifying and Evaluating Additional Resources
You have reviewed several online publications and organizations in the field of higher education that may serve as strong resources for education and/or training administrators in the virtual environment. This week, you have the opportunity to locate publications and organizations of interest to you. The publications and organizations you identify should provide currency for your particular areas of specialization, whatever those might be.

Lesson 5: Law and Policy Impacting Virtual Education 
Education policy includes, but is not limited to discussions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the definition of a credit hour. If you have taken the DEL Policy and Law course, you are probably already conversant with these issues. If not, a bit more research may be needed on your part. Some questions we will discuss are how is FERPA practiced in virtual education? What are the implications and challenges? How is the credit hour currently defined? What other policies apply to higher education administration in the virtual realm?

Lesson 6: Professional Ethics, Educational Designations
There are many educational institutions and training organizations that exist today. Many provide their educational services through virtual education offerings. In K-12 and higher education there exist several classifications, such as for-profit education, not-for-profit, non-profit, and public education. Gaining awareness of the similarities and differences amongst them will provide better overall understanding.
Unfortunately, questionable practices by some institutions have warranted scrutiny as to the credibility of the degrees, diplomas, and certifications offered by a select group of these organizations. Being aware of the classifications and understanding how each organization may function differently or have different laws or policies which apply to them is important for those individuals with futures in distance education leadership. With the existing demand and realized pressures, it is important that we keep professional ethics as an operational assumption at all times. 

Lesson 7: Academic Quality and Rigor
The online environment still has those individuals who perceive it as a non-traditional learning environment and question the quality and rigor that can be achieved through virtual education. Unfortunately, with the unethical practices we touched upon in the Lesson 6, these skeptics are requiring additional evidence of the viability of online or blended learning opportunities. Above and beyond the skeptics is the case in point that to best serve the learners, educational institutions must have practices in place that support the provision of quality academic teaching and learning at rigor levels appropriate for the intended audiences.

Lesson 8: Academic Integrity
Academic integrity is a concern for most educational institutions. We are determined to provide a student with the best learning experience possible and as a part of that we need to hold students accountable for their actions to provide a fair opportunity for all learners. The advancements in technology provide many opportunities for alternative assessments. However, with those advances we have also encountered some new changes with the ease of access to information. Plagiarism and online testing are critical issues of specific interest.

Lesson 9: Faculty Issues (i.e. Compensation, Status)
For those in education, specifically higher education, critical issues that surround faculty are a hot topic. The topics of compensation and status top the list. Compensation varies greatly amongst institutions. Variations can be determinant upon delivery modality, rank, status, and so forth. There a several designations for faculty and the interpretation of these designations also vary amongst educational institutions. Full-time and part-time statuses appear to be where some of the great discrepancies reside, in addition to tenured, tenure-track, or contingent (adjunct) faculty. The topics that surround faculty can become extremely heated and politically charged. It is important to maintain a civil and professional dialogue in these discussions.

Lesson 10: Educational Assessment
Assessment has a variety of definitions in education. Assessment as we know it as learners is the evaluation of our performance on assignments or activities related to a specific course or program. For educational organizations, assessment can expand beyond the classroom to evaluations of all areas of the operation. We will use this week to explore assessment, its various definitions, and how the results may be used.

Lesson 11: Student Affairs and the Nontraditional Student
The American Heritage dictionary defines, "traditional" as a practice pertaining to the custom or standard practice. The nontraditional student was originally defined as one who was older than the standard late adolescent aged 18-22 years, did not live in residence on the campus, and did not go to school full-time. Traditional and nontraditional students have different approaches and motivations to learning, and this is a concern education professionals must address.

Malcolm Knowles was a pioneer in what has been described as the "adult learner," or a nontraditional college student. According to Knowles, six principles define the education of an adult learner:

  • Adults are internally motivated and self-directed.
  • Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences.
  • Adults are goal oriented.
  • Adults are relevancy oriented.
  • Adults are practical.
  • Adult learners need to be respected for the experience they bring.

Is the nontraditional learner still the nontraditional learner? How do the trends in online education relate to the traditional learner versus the nontraditional learner? What are the implications of both groups for higher education administration in the online or blended learning environments?

Lesson 12: What’s hot now? MOOCs, Social Media
So you hear MOOCs are all the rage, but what are they? MOOC stands for "massive open online course." How do MOOCs compare and contrast to a standard online course offering? We often hear about them leveling access to education and being free; however, what does it really cost to offer a MOOC?

Another hot topic is social media. Everyone is doing it, are you? Social media provides many opportunities, with some risks associated as well. Exploring the many faces of social media and the impact on virtual education is worthwhile with the widespread adoption of sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and so forth.

Let us take a look further into the perspectives that span the spectrum on the value in MOOCs and in the application of social media for educational and professional development purposes.

Lesson 13: Competency-based Education
On the job experience is invaluable and often helps conceptualize many of the ideas that would be covered in educational coursework. There is also the chance that topics or situations may not arise in certain jobs in certain areas, so individuals may be highly qualified but in a very specific area with a targeted audience. On the flip side, they may also experience things never discussed in classrooms at all, unless learners have individuals who bring that tacit knowledge into classroom discussions. Nonetheless, we are aware that learning and achievement has occurred to some level of mastery in these situations.

Lesson 14: Evidence-based Practice 
Evidence-based practice has correlations to the Unit 2 topic area of policy; however, it is such an extensive topic area, it deserves its own time for discussion. Evidence-based practice began in the field of healthcare, but has been extended into higher education. You will notice that several of the resources in earlier weeks have reference to evidence-based practice. Let's take some time to explore what it is. What is the value of evidence-based practice to education? How does it apply to higher education in the online or blended environments? How might a virtual administrator implement evidence-based practice?

Lesson 15: Trends and Projections in Virtual Education
The identification of trends in virtual education is important for the purposes of strategic planning and assessment. Knowing what data to collect and analyze is important for organizations to properly assess performance and make projections and strategic plans for the future. Historical information provides perspective, while an awareness of critical issues that may impact forecasts and influence future directions enables a leader to take appropriate actions where necessary. Risk analyses are more complete and strategic proposals more comprehensive.

Lesson 16: Course Wrap-up (none provided)

Grading Information

Assignment Points Possible
Weekly Discussion Posts (15 @ 20 pts. each) 300 points
Synchronous Seminar Participation (6 @ 20 pts. each) 120 points
Critical Issue Article Reviews (2 @ 25 pts. each) 50 points
Synchronous Seminar Article Review Presentations & Discussion Facilitation (2 @ 25 pts. each) 50 points
Final Project - Topic Proposal Essay 20 points
Final Project - Annotated Bibliography 50 points
Final Project - Research Paper Written Draft with Peer Review and Reflection 20 points
Final Project - Research Paper 300 points
Final Project - Presentation (Synchronous) 50 points
Professional Development Journal Reflection 40 points
Total: 1,000 points

Grading Scale
A 940 - 1,000 points
A- 900 - 939 points
B+ 870 - 899 points
B 840 - 869 points
B- 800 - 839 points
C+ 770 - 799 points
C 740 - 769 points
C- 700 - 739 points
D+ 670 - 699 points
D 640 - 669 points
D- 600 - 639 points
F 0 - 599 points


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