Article

Academic continuity and integrity: oversight for online course delivery

Authored by Adrienne Larmett, John Park and Jennifer Romano

An increasing number of “black swan” events such as natural disasters, weather and political unrest have necessitated colleges and universities to enhance their learning and business continuity plans. Unfortunately, recent concerns related to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) have compelled institutions to test their plans in real time. As the number of institutions forgoing in-person classes and transitioning to remote learning increases, perhaps for extended periods, the ability to move fluidly from brick-and-mortar classrooms to online learning platforms is vital for continued success in instructional continuity (and institutional survival). This shift has emphasized the importance of a sound online learning framework, including appropriate approval and monitoring mechanisms along with compliance with accessibility requirements. While developing new or transforming existing courses into an online environment may be complex and time consuming, as current events have demonstrated, it is critical for institutions to be prepared to respond quickly and maintain course quality, academic integrity and meet institutional standards.

Potential risks related to online learning management

  • Reputational damage due to negative publicity
  • Instructional interruptions
  • Academic dishonesty
  • Inaccessible course curriculum
  • Legal risks related to noncompliance with Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act
  • Impacts to student and/or faculty wellness sanctions

Challenges with online learning and considerations to address and manage risk

Evolving curriculum and transitioning to online learning and virtual platforms requires both initial and ongoing investment of institutional time, effort and resources. With these investments comes the risk of financial and/or organizational setbacks. Familiarizing yourself with potential pitfalls can help to improve your institution’s likelihood for success. To manage the challenges and risks related to online learning, institutions should ask themselves whether they are doing the following, or should consider the following:

Baker Tilly can help

We can help you take a proactive approach to evaluating your institution’s online learning framework.

What we do

  • Assess your institution’s people, processes and technology related to online learning requirements, training and education
  • Capture the roles and responsibilities between offices that oversee online learning
  • Evaluate current procedures to assess compliance with institutional policies and procedures including compliance with Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act related to accessibility

What you get

  • A facilitated discussion with key process owners to foster communication across groups and encourage collaboration
  • Clear understanding and communication of program goals, policies, processes and procedures
  • A review of the readiness and effectiveness of the current state of the institution’s online learning framework
  • Guidance on potential problem areas for further consideration and assessment
  • Recommended approaches to address identified challenges, risks or enhancement opportunities

For more information on this topic or to learn how Baker Tilly specialists can help, contact our team.

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