Guest column by John Kilroy, Ph.D., director of Academic Innovation
As one year closes and another begins, it is good to take time to reflect. If we didn’t, it would be easy to miss the connection of the past to the present, and how God’s blessings have prepared us for the growth to come. This Connecting Points attempts to link FPU’s past with its future in an area that is growing in importance. While not the whole story, it is a crucial chapter in our history.
Over a decade ago FPU launched its first online program, and by 2016 we offered seven degree programs and a variety of general education courses. During this same period, FPU instituted online individualized courses to enhance the knowledge of career professionals. Through the Internet, students who may never have visited FPU became as connected to our mission and values as students attending class at one of the five campuses.
Though offerings were limited, FPU’s mission was extended into the Internet environment, and those who initiated this venture were missionaries into a strange and unforeseen new land referred to as Online Education. “The tip of the spear” was a phrase often used to encapsulate a calling for FPU to not only deepen its outreach in the Valley, but also to broaden it beyond those borders. Over time, a structure for online education was developed and laced into the strategic plan. With the encouragement and approval of the FPU Board of Trustees, a new future for online degrees, general education courses and continuing education offerings was launched in the spring of 2016.
As student demands change from specifically seeking a degree to wanting/needing individualized courses and specialized certifications, it will require flexibility in content and delivery to meet a generation whose communication style and techniques are different from what has been the “norm” or standard of the past. It is neither wrong, nor less than, it is simply different. Their borderless community, their “friends” and their sources of information are in the cyber environment. In order to reach these students, we must communicate using the technology they find commonplace. If we fail, the door to their minds and hearts will not be open.
In January 2017, FPU, in collaboration with its online management provider (OPM), will add four new degree programs to our current portfolio: three undergraduate programs (organizational leadership, management and health care administration), a master’s degree in leadership plus the general education (GE) courses offered in support of the undergraduate programs. Two additional degree programs, a B.A./B.S. in Computer Information Systems and an MBA, will begin in fall 2017.
Academic Innovation (AI) is the online environment that will convey FPU’s history and mission to a generation that will carry that essence to the nation and the world. AI also includes the Office of Continuing Education (CE) and the Center for Online Learning (COL). CE currently serves over 10,000 students across the nation, and has plans in 2017 to increase the number of courses and alternative credentialing options. COL is at the heart of the transition, providing instructional design support to the new online degrees and to programs across all campuses, allowing program directors to increasingly enhance their content and classroom environment with technology, including the Learning Management System (LMS) interface for traditional undergraduate, degree completion and grad programs.
However, CE and COL are not the whole story. Our accomplishments in enhancing online education are the result of a campus-wide focus supporting the strategic plan. From IT, to the Registrar’s Office and program managers, multiple university departments and leaders have all actively helped us assume this place in FPU’s forward-reaching history.
In addition to our internal efforts, our OPM partner has involved an equal number of its own employees: recruiters, student success advisors, instructional designers, web designers, digital marketing experts, program researchers and program forecasters all support FPU’s growth online.
What begins in January 2017 will continue FPU’s past efforts and serve as prologue for our expanded online future. This will be a continuing process of reaching and influencing people for the mission God has given FPU.
For the time being, we can only see dimly into the future, but our father sees clearly. The pioneering servants in 1944 could never have envisioned the Fresno Pacific University of 2017, as we reach students with knowledge and wisdom for their minds and souls through the online environment.
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.” – 2 Corinthians 9:15