A Proposal to Establish an Expanded Online University Presence
January 15, 2008
UNB Online represents an initiative by UNB to create the next generation
online learning environment, greatly enhancing online learning opportunities
for its students. More specifically, it represents an agreement between CEL
and CETL to create and staff an initiative that will combine the best practices
of the two, and integrate these with fresh approaches. The initiative will open
the door to greater markets and will better serve learners with rich online
Additionally, “UNB Online” will represent the marketing identity for these
The goals of UNB Online are:
1. Increased number of online courses and programs: to provide a
larger number and variety of online learning opportunities at UNB.
2. Increased number of distance students: to attract increased
numbers of distance students to UNB.
3. Community of online learners: to provide the environment for
collaboration, collegial learning, interacting, and engaging with others
in the university.
4. High quality education: to provide students with a top quality
5. Improved online delivery infrastructure: to facilitate and
coordinate the planning, development and implementation of an
appropriate online delivery infrastructure, in partnership with academic
and non-academic units.
An additional overriding goal of UNB Online is to propel UNB into a clear
leadership role in online learning among Anglophone New Brunswick
The goal is that the UNB Online management and infrastructure could
coordinate, house and support all English language online post-secondary
learning in the province, as was recently recommended in the PSE Review.
The recommendation of this leadership role in such an important inter-
university partnership recognizes the significant work that UNB has already
done in online learning, and affirms the importance of a renewed investment
and expansion of this delivery medium.
Draft – For Discussion Purposes Only 1
It is obvious that traditional enrollment (from high school students) is
declining at UNB and in the region. The main reason is demographic. The
number of students available and interested in a university education is
simply becoming smaller. To reverse this trend, UNB needs to reach further
afield and attract students outside its normal geographic and age borders. In
addition, it needs to reach those within the traditional age and geographic
region who haven’t come to campus, while also retaining those who would
otherwise withdraw. Online learning can extend UNB’s reach in all these
There are many examples of online learning activity currently occurring
across UNB. In terms of fully online and distant course offerings, CEL offers
72 Open Access (OALP) courses, which allow students to start at any time
and progress at their own pace, with about 1200 registrants annually. In
addition to these courses, there are over 20 term-based fully online courses
with nearly 700 registrants. Of the nearly 2000 registrations, about 78%
are enrolled as part-time and 22% are enrolled full-time, taking online
courses to supplement their on-campus programs.
Currently, few online programs exist at UNB. The few distant programs that
involve online learning include:
- Bachelor of Integrated Studies (BIS)
Jointly offered between CEL and Renaissance College, students are now
enrolled and progressing through this degree program. It is receiving
favorable reviews from mature students and employment counselors with the
Provincial Government and Canadian Forces.
- Trinidad BEd program
Offered by the Faculty of Education. A hybrid model of e-learning is used
where both text-based communication via e-mail or Blackboard and intensive
on-site sessions by UNB Faculty are used.
- International BBA program
Business Administration offers several partly on-line programs with Trinidad,
Egypt and Poland. Courses in these programs use text-based e-mail and
Blackboard as the delivery mechanism as well as periodic face-to-face
intensive sessions by UNB faculty and on-site instructors.
- Master of Nursing
In conjunction with CEL, Nursing provides a distant course-based master’s
degree that relies primarily on audio technology. The Nursing Faculty is
beginning to update and change this program to an e-learning format.
- Master of Education
The Education Faculty in collaboration with CEL is developing an on-line M.
Ed. Program. Its first intake was in September 2007.
- Technology, Management and Entrepreneurship (TME)
The 5-course diploma offered by the Faculty of Engineering through the J.
Herbert Smith Centre and CEL is available online or in-situ.
- Certificate in Health, Safety, and Environmental Processes
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Offered through CEL in collaboration with Don Sayers and Associates, a
private-sector provider of health and safety consulting, this program attracts
health and safety officers from the manufacturing, utilities and transportation
Plan for Success
In order to succeed, UNB Online must have comparable services, support and
resources as are available to on-campus students. UNB Online will operate as
an interdependent unit involving all Faculties, ITS, the Office of the Registrar,
Financial Services, Student Services, and Libraries.
UNB Online will be positioned as a new and dynamic initiative. It is critical
that this initiative is not just a fresh branding of the existing programs and
structures. Best practices from existing operations in CEL and CETL will be
adopted into new models that will be better placed to achieve the goals.
The proposed governance structure for UNB Online depicts this
Strategic VP-F ED-CEL D-CETL VP-SJ AVP-ITS Librarian
Developmental/ Developmental Advisory Ongoing Operational
Operational Committees composed of Advisory Committees
Committees Faculties, Libraries, composed of
Service Units, and/or Faculties, Libraries,
Administration Service Units, and/or
Implementation ITS Distance and Online Instructional
Group Coordinating Development and Design and
Liaison Delivery Group Support Team
ITS CEL CETL
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The roles and responsibilities of each of the groups identified in the above
diagram are described in the following section.
Executive Leadership Team
Overall strategy and general management of the initiative will occur through
the Executive Leadership Team composed of the VP-Fredericton, Executive
Director of CEL and the Director of CETL. This team will develop an annual
business plan which will guide the activities of UNB Online, to be submitted
and approved by the Strategic Advisory Group. This team will also hold
responsibility for key decision-making to guide the initiative.
Strategic Advisory Group
In addition to representation from CEL and CETL, this group will include
members from ITS and the libraries, ensuring that the initiative and its
general strategies are in keeping with the capacities and parameters
governing their individual units. Additionally, the VP-F and VP-SJ will serve
on the Strategic Advisory Group to ensure that the initiative meets the
general aspirations and needs of both campuses. The Strategic Advisory
Group will be headed by the VP-F.
Various other committees will also play an advisory role facilitating the
strategic decision-making involved with UNB Online’s development and
operations. These committees will be either developmental or ongoing in
nature to provide input toward business processes, academic processes,
quality assurance standards, and communications strategy. These
committees will include representatives from Faculties and/or other units on
campus. The composition of each committee would vary depending on its
nature. The Executive Leadership Team would determine the necessary
advisory committees and their general composition.
The implementation of developmental and operational priorities will be the
responsibility of the UNB Online Implementation Group. This special team
will be composed of those staff from CEL, CETL and ITS whose responsibility
in their home units is entirely or largely dedicated to the development,
implementation and support of UNB’s existing online and distance offerings.
The salaries of all Implementation Group staff members will be funded by the
CEL’s distance and online development and support teams will participate
fully in the UNB Online Implementation Group as will CETL’s instructional
design and support teams. ITS will contribute a coordinating liaison to the
Draft – For Discussion Purposes Only 4
initiative, to ensure that all system and infrastructure issues associated with
the project’s development are carefully coordinated within the larger context
of ITS’ overall development efforts.
The Project Manager will be responsible for the success of UNB Online,
accountable for all associated financial and human resources, and ensuring
the coordination and communication between all elements of the initiative
and for the direct oversight of the Implementation Group staff. This
coordination will occur according to the parameters and priorities set by the
Strategic Advisory Group, the Leadership Team and the various committees.
The project manager will develop and operate in line with a business plan
which will be approved by the Strategic Advisory Group. After the initial
phases, where investment will be required, the business plan will be
developed on the premise that net revenues from online offerings will fund
UNB Online. In addition, other efforts will be made to find non-program
related funding for UNB Online.
The Project Manager will work closely with the Executive Director of CEL, to
ensure that UNB Online programs align with and complement other CEL
offerings. The Project Manager is responsible to the Executive Director for the
use of substantial human and financial resources that CEL is contributing to
The Director of CETL will be seconded half-time to act as Project Manager for
the startup phase of UNB Online (3 years).
Implementation and Resourcing
Technical implementation of UNB Online will be done by existing ITS, CETL
and CEL staff who currently dedicate all or a majority of their time to the
development, support and delivery of distance technology and web mediated
The experience of CEL and CETL staff in creating new programs, managing
existing online courses and programs, implementing new learning
technologies, and providing instructional design leadership will prove
invaluable in this effort. The resources for a core team will be leveraged
primarily from CEL, especially its Degree Credit Division, and also from CETL.
Especially during the first two years, additional staff will be needed to
supplement the core team, in order achieve the objectives.
CEL will also contribute its market research, communications and business
development expertise to this initiative.
Draft – For Discussion Purposes Only 5
Much of the groundwork for implementing UNB Online can be found in the
June 2007 draft report entitled “Building UNB’s e-Learning Community: A
Strategy for the Future,”, which was created by joint effort between CEL and
CETL, with broad input. As that draft report notes, UNB’s current e-learning
administration is not working in a coordinated manner that allows and
encourages our potential to be realized. The roles and responsibilities of the
e-learning partners in the university are not clear, participants are scattered,
and no central organizing authority exists. UNB Online can bring together
the primary players, including the Faculties, UNB Libraries, Integrated
Technology Services (ITS) and, as appropriate, the Registrar's Office and
UNB’s current business model for online courses was developed under a
premise that e-learning would be course-based and driven by the interests of
individual faculty members. Given the proposed shift in emphasis to
programs driven by Faculties, UNB Online will develop a more up-to-date
supporting business model for UNB Online. This model will motivate and
reward successful development and delivery of e-learning programs.
UNB Online will create an e-learning community where learning is accessible,
easy to use, resource-rich, and collaborative. An initial step in fostering this
community is to create an on-line space for users to aggregate, obtain
resources, and share knowledge, experiences and ideas. UNB Online will
develop a web portal, or community system, that serves as a hub or central
location from which students can easily access all the learning resources they
need. Our portal will have the following attributes:
- Available to both UNB and non-UNB people with access determined by
- Meets the needs of the user (i.e., comprehensive)
- Provide continued access beyond graduation (alumni, lifelong learners,
- Tied to UNB’s enterprise Learning Management System
- Offer an e-portfolio feature that is publicly accessible
In this swiftly evolving field, we cannot remain static. In order to meet
student expectations, maintain quality, and keep market share, innovation is
necessary to “stay in the game.” UNB Online’s primary emphasis will not be
basic research in e-learning. Instead, we will focus on innovative application
of technology—contextualizing, integrating, applying, and testing it in ways
that will make us perform better. UNB Online will combine new and existing
technologies in creative but practical ways to make e-learning effective and
efficient for students and instructors. We will collaborate with individual
researchers at UNB, the NRC-IIT, and other research centres to bring the
advances made in these spheres into our reality.
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In order to move forward, UNB Online will require a commitment of financial
resources. The annual operation of UNB Online will be paid out of the
revenues attracted to this unit. For the additional investment required during
the first three years, CEL is commiting up to $500,000 from its development
fund as supported by a solid business plan.
Additional funding will be required in order to meet the plan, and we will
support efforts to engage with the Province, and other “investors”, to fully
resource UNB Online for success.
During the first three years, profits from the operation will all be put back
into the effort. The reinvestment of those net profits as well as the $500,000
investment will facilitate a strong start, with the development of new
programs, refurbishment of existing courses, and the enhancement of online
The financial accounting and net of the effort will be rolled up under CEL’s
larger budget to reflect how this ties in to the external revenue mandate of
Conclusion – Next Steps
Implementation of UNB Online as described in this document will bring many
benefits to UNB. In order to proceed in the next fiscal year (08-09), the
following will need to occur quickly:
Review and support of the proposal by VP-F and VP-SJ
Vetting of proposal/plan by UNB stakeholders
Formal support by UMC
Integration into 08-09 budget
Initial market research
Development of a more detailed financial model, and business plan
The business plan will identify “early wins”, and action items which can be
started immediately. These may include:
New training program for online instructors
Identify first courses to move from audio-conferencing to Elluminate
Review existing OALP course offerings
Identify and begin development on new programs
Draft – For Discussion Purposes Only 7