Appendix F: Distance Education Program Being Planned

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SUBMIT DATE:11/21/2013 
Constituent Institution:Western Carolina University 
CIP Discipline Specialty Title:Comprehensive Education - Elementary and Middle Grades Master of Arts in Education 
CIP Discipline Specialty Number:13.0101 
Exact Title of the Proposed Program:Master of Arts in Elementary and Middle Grades Education 
Exact Degree Abbreviation:M.A.Ed. 
Date of Initiation:11/21/2013 
Will this sequence of courses be completely individual access (e.g., Internet, videocassette)? YES 
If "yes," what will be the mode of delivery?online only 
If "no," list proposed sites. 
If short-based, length of time to complete the prog (e.g., 1 year, 18 mos.):2 years if courses are taken in the rotation as designed 

SACS/COC substantive change questions (1=Procedure One; 2=Procedure Two)

Site-based (where the instructor is present):

Is the institution initiating instruction where the student may earn more than 25% and less than 50% of credits toward a degree at a site 30 miles or more from the campus? (2) NO 
Is the institution initiating an (additional) off-campus site at which students may earn at least 50% of an educational program? (1) NO 
Is the institution adding significantly different degree programs at a currently approved site? (2) NO 
Distance learning (where instructor and student are geographically separated):
Is the institution offering its first credit courses via technology-based instruction by which students can obtain at least 25% of credits toward a degree program? (2) NO 
Is the institution expanding a previously reported program from less than 50% of credits to 50% or more of a degree program? (2) YES 
Is the institution adding a significantly different program from previously reported programs offered via technology-based instruction? (2) NO 
Does this action constitute a substantive change? If so, by what date should SACS be notified?  
1. Briefly describe the proposed program and intended audience.

 The Elementary and Middle Grades M.A.Ed. programs are currently considered residential programs offered at the WCU main campus in Cullowhee and at the Biltmore Park campus in Asheville. The proposed change is to move this ongoing program to a completely online format (distance) in order to increase enrollment and better meet the educational needs of the region. Another change we propose to the program is to revise the 36 credit hours to 30 credit hours so that our M.A.Ed. students can complete this degree in 2 years.


The target audience holds initial licensure at the elementary grades or middle grades levels and is seeking further education in order to enhance their teaching, hone their teacher leadership skills, and perhaps move into other educational positions in their schools and districts as instructional coaches, lead teachers, curriculum facilitators, literacy coaches or reading specialists, or teachers of academically gifted students. We currently have 17 students in the M.A.Ed. program and we plan to increase that number through offering this revised program in an online format.



2. Describe the proposed instructional delivery systems (e.g., on-site instruction by faculty, interactive video, Internet, etc.).

 The online program will use the Blackboard platform, which has been in use at WCU for a number of years. Blackboard allows instructors to use video, live meetings, collaborative group work space, as well as file sharing and other features that enhance teaching and learning.

3. Describe need for the program (referencing results of surveys or special studies).

 In addition to our revised content and credit hour requirement, we are proposing to put the M.A.Ed. program online to increase access of our program to teachers in our region and across the state. WCU is a geographically isolated university. Even teachers within our region still have to travel quite distance to get to classes. By putting our classes online, we will be able to take advantage of technology that allows learners from to meet, collaborate, and learn in a virtual environment. Hence, public and private school teachers (our target audience) who often find it difficult to attend evening classes will be able to access our program.  We have experienced a decline in enrollment, which could be due to a variety of factors, including current economic conditions and trying to compete with other institutions who offer online degrees. The advisory group of teachers and administrators from local school districts agreed that an online format would help attract and retain graduate students. In the last revision of the M.A.Ed. program we experimented with a hybrid format where courses were held in a blended format of meetings in Cullowhee, Biltmore Park, and online. However, the enrollment continued to decline as we lost students west of Haywood County who were unable or unwilling to drive to Biltmore Park and we lost students east of Haywood County who did not want to drive to Cullowhee. We believe that an online program would attract and retain our M.A.Ed. students. The possibility of completing this degree in 2 years with a specialty in K-9 Language Arts/Literacy or AIG Certification will be attractive to teachers who seek options for changing roles within the teaching profession.


As a result of university-wide program prioritization, the M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education and M.A.Ed. in Middle Grades Education were placed under an action plan. The WCU Program Prioritization Task Force noted troubling trends in this program's metrics, notably in declining enrollment. The WCU Task Force noted that these programs show potential for improvement in growth and other notable metrics, particularly in a hybrid/online model. Steps already taken toward additional improvements are commended. However, the program should be placed under a comprehensive action plan. The WCU Task Force recommends that the Elementary and Middle Grades Education M.A.Ed. programs develop a comprehensive action plan that will document growth strategy, demonstrate quality outcomes, and further develop regional partnerships. The plan should span two academic years, developed in the Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 semesters, with progress assessment in Spring 2014 and Spring 2015, as determined by the Office of the Provost in consultation with the Dean(s).


Strategic Goals from the WCU Task Force:

·       Develop a clear plan and mission for a hybrid online curriculum/distance program including development of regional partnerships and definition of program niche;

·       Increased student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates;

·       Enhanced program marketing to reflect redirected program mission and goals.


The Elementary and Middle Grades Education program faculty formed a sub-committee to explore possibilities for revising the M.A.Ed. programs and to seek input from an advisory group (teachers and administrators from local school districts) regarding these possible revisions.


With input from the faculty, the sub-committee revised the required courses for the M.A.Ed. and created a course rotation plan to illustrate how a student could complete their M.A.Ed. from WCU in 2 years. The proposed revisions to the M.A.Ed. in Elementary Education and M.A.Ed. in Middle Grades Education would result in 30 hours instead of 36 hours. Twelve credit hours would be required for the required “core” courses, 12 credit hours would be devoted to the selected “track”, and six credit hours would be devoted to the capstone research project. The cluster of “core” (required) courses focus on research, leadership, diversity, technology, and assessment. In addition to the required “core” courses, students would select a “track” for their specific area of focus. Completion of these tracks would enable our graduates to have mobility in the field of teaching, so they could become instructional coaches, lead teachers, teachers of academically gifted students, or choose to remain in their classrooms. Currently we propose two “tracks”, one in AIG certification and another in Language Arts/Literacy. The AIG certification is an existing track in place through the special education program. The Language Arts/Literacy track will meet the needs of the Middle Grades M.A.Ed. students because they need at least four courses focused on a single subject area for advanced licensure. Educators from the elementary and middle grades have inquired about a literacy track and we believe this will draw new students to WCU. This track will help teachers implement the expectations of English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, which place a heavy emphasis on literacy learning across all content areas.


Implementing the online format and revised courses in the new course rotation plan will help recruit and retain students. The online designation and offerings of special “tracks” will help recruit students to the M.A.Ed. programs in Elementary Education and Middle Grades Education. Offering the courses in a set rotation and highlighting that students can graduate in 2 years will promote retention because students want to earn their degree in a timely manner. Additionally, we can offer greater support for our students through more frequent communication from their advisors. The sub-committee is currently planning with the WCU College of Education and Allied Professions advising center (TRACS) to assist with advising the M.A.Ed. students.


The sub-committee has assurance from The Graduate School and from Distance Education that marketing resources are available for recruiting students to the Elementary and Middle Grades M.A.Ed. program. Once we have approval for the distance designation and have approval from the various curriculum committees (School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Allied Professions, and University), then we can begin recruiting students for this newly revised program.



4. Projected total annual enrollment:
Year 1:14 
Year 2:18 
Year 3:20 
Year 4:20 
Year 5:25 
his intent to plan a new distance education degree program (or program site) has been reviewed and approved by the appropriate campus committees and authorities.
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
Contact Name:Kim Ruebel 
Contact Title:Provost Fellow for Curriculum