Faculty Navigating Institutional Waters: Suggestions for Bottom-Up Design of Online Programs

Publication Title

TechTrends: Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning

Publication Date


Document Type





Program Development, Administrative Policy, Out of State Students, Faculty, Online Courses, Technology Integration, Higher Education, College Faculty, College Administration


Education | Educational Methods | Educational Technology | Online and Distance Education


Many faculty make the mistake of trying to start with an online degree. Administration, administrative policies and even other faculty are not necessarily ready for completely online programs. Large-scale programs are risky in the eyes of administration. Putting a program online will often involve decisions at multiple levels, months for business plan development and long-term marketing schemes to determine if there is an audience for such a program. By the time approval is given, the faculty members responsible for the initiative could be too worn out to follow through with the plan. Simply starting with a course or a certificate provides a less-risky approach for administration. It allows other faculty to teach a course or two to see the possibility and pedagogical opportunities with online learning and it gives time to work out the bugs associated with changing hundred-year-old institutional policies (e.g., differentiating between in-state and out-of-state students, something that is not necessarily applicable online). In this article, the authors provide suggestions for bottom-up design of online programs and discuss the technical, administrative, curricular and academic issues surrounding online education and online program development.