Friday’s meeting also included updates on dean review process, Global Women’s Institute.
By Ruth Steinhardt
George Washington University’s online and distance course offerings are performing at a high level, Provost Forrest Maltzman said in a report to the Faculty Senate on Friday.
“We owe it to our colleagues to recognize the work they are doing, and we owe it to our students given the effort they are putting in to these programs,” Dr. Maltzman said.
Dr. Maltzman presented his team’s findings in response to a report by a joint task force of committees from last year’s Faculty Senate to investigate online, hybrid and off-campus degree programs at GW. Dr. Maltzman’s presentation also included suggested standards for online course syllabi and review of online programs.
In contrast to students who matriculate on campus, students who take classes remotely tend to be older and more likely to be the first in their family to pursue an advanced degree.
“Our online and distance offerings are critical to our efforts to ensure access to higher education,” Dr. Maltzman said.
Almost 10,000 students enrolled in distance and online courses in the 2016-17 academic year. GW currently offers 164 online or distance programs, 95 of which are degree granting. The vast majority of the university’s online offerings are at the master’s level.
George Washington President Thomas LeBlanc added that GW’s online programs are a way to leverage faculty resources over a larger number of students given enrollment caps at the Foggy Bottom campus, and that they give GW a visible presence in the expanding field of post-graduate online education. Online courses offer necessary opportunities not only to traditional undergraduate students but also, and perhaps especially, to nontraditional learners, he said.
“You could create an educational system where students come here for one, two, three or four years, and the other part of the time they can be geographically remote—studying abroad, doing an internship, et cetera,” Dr. LeBlanc said. “It will have a different impact at the graduate level, where the real issue you’re often dealing with is asynchronous behavior. Working professionals with families have a very hard time driving in and sitting in a classroom. … That’s a huge barrier to their participation right now.”
The task force’s initial report raised some concerns among faculty and students that it suggested online programs were underperforming, Dr. Maltzman said.
He was quick to clarify this was not the case. Per the Provost’s Office review, teaching evaluations of online programs at GW are high, as are reviews by scholars outside GW and national rankings of such programs.
Global Women’s Institute five-year milestone
Mary Ellsberg, founding director of the Global Women’s Institute, opened Friday’s senate meeting with a report on the institute’s history and achievements since its launch in 2012.
In its inaugural year, GWI conducted a broad review of university programs on women’s and gender issues to “see how GW could leverage resources we already had,” Dr. Ellsberg said. In addition to pulling together those resources and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, the institute’s goals were to establish itself as a high-quality research center, to support faculty working on women’s issues and to develop a robust fundraising mechanism.
In the years since, the program has grown exponentially, with notable achievements including the assembly of a global database of communications materials on gender violence prevention and response and a comprehensive review of violence against women and girls in South Sudan.
Going forward, Dr. Ellsberg said GWI’s initiatives will include a look at campus sexual assault prevention and response at GW and peer institutions.
President reiterates statement on offensive social media post
“This post was absolutely unacceptable,” Dr. LeBlanc said of a racist social media post involving GW students that circulated on Snapchat last week. “It was counter to our values and has a profoundly damaging effect on our community. During the last several days, we have seen the pain that this incident has caused. We have also heard from students who have voiced far deeper concerns about race relations and inclusion on our campus. We still have a lot of work to do together to build the university that we aspire to be.”
The university’s response to the incident will include mandatory diversity training for all incoming students.
Dr. LeBlanc also paid tribute to retiring Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz and updated the senate on Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting, including approval of modifications to the university’s dining plan and a new opt-in policy for students’ voluntary library gift.
Dean review process laid out, committee nominations accepted
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs Christopher Bracey updated the Faculty Senate on the status of a faculty advisory committee developing a comprehensive review process for school deans. Reviews will be a multistage process including a self-assessment and survey of school faculty and a synthesis of that and other school performance data. Mr. Bracey reported that the initial review of School of Engineering and Applied Science Dean David Dolling went well, with high survey response rates and effective communication of results.
In other business, the Faculty Senate approved two small amendments to the Faculty Code and approved all nominations to senate committees. Full details are attached to the senate’s monthly agenda.