eLearning realignment places Spain in forefront

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain will accept the interim administrative position.

As MU looks to realign its eLearning program, Provost Brian Foster appointed Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jim Spain to serve as interim Vice Provost for eLearning last week.

“Distance education and eLearning have become central to higher education and must be integrated into our campus complete,” Foster said. “Having distance education as a separate enterprise worked well 10 years ago, but the environment has changed. Currently, electronic communication is being used in a vast majority of courses and will be used eventually in all courses.”

The campus chose to shift two of its distance education programs — MU Direct and the Center for Distance and Independent Study, which had formerly been housed in the MU Extension — to the provost’s office.

“We have these two organizations that were in extension, but they have been removed from Extension,” Spain said. “Now, we’re not exactly sure where they’re headed.”

Tom Henderson, former director of MU Extension and former assistant to the provost for economic development, will oversee a committee that will look at eLearning, or as he prefers to call it, online learning. He said the latter term better incorporates students on- and off-campus.

“In general, we’ll be looking at the missions, goals and strategies we want to have employed for the future on campus,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the committee will look at how current units can be integrated more effectively for different functions on campus, such as admissions and advising. The committee is in its beginning stages, and it will begin meeting soon.

The decision to remove MU Direct and the Center for Distance and Independent Study from the MU Extension was made long before he was chosen to chair the committee, Henderson said.

“That being said, the idea is also to look at how we can make the most out of this opportunity,” Henderson said. “We want to see how we can position ourselves for other chances to do this in the future.”

Spain will serve as a part of this committee.

“While Dr. Henderson’s group is deciding how to strategically realign these two distance education programs and how were going to blend that with the academic program of the campus, that group needed an administrative liaison,” Spain said. “So, they need somebody to respond to staff or student concerns. I’ll serve that role in support of the two programs.”

Foster said selecting Spain for the position was simple, given his ongoing support for eLearning.

“The realignment of distance education has been an important discussion for the past two years,” Foster said. “We want to build on the extraordinary successes of CDIS – which has nearly a century of tradition – and MU Director. Dr. Spain is a natural choice for this position, as ET@MO, MU’s main eLearning support group, reports to him currently. He’s been deeply involved in eLearning the last three years.”

Spain said he is looking forward to the new role.

“The campus needs to build from this, blending online, distance instruction programs with our face-to-face teaching,” Spain said. “I look forward to working with administrators, faculty and the CDIS and MU Direct staff and their stakeholders to achieve a successful transition. Our goal is to establish a system that continues to extend our teaching and learning programs beyond the traditional classrooms to students here on campus, across the state and around the world.”

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