Kelvin Thompson, Ed.D.
In 1996, the Center for Distributed Learning (CDL) took on a facilitative role to prepare faculty and coordinate all forms of online and blended learning course and program development for the University of Central Florida (UCF). Thompson came on board in 1998 and has been instrumental in expanding online and blended learning at UCF and worldwide.
Online and blended learning has been a strategic initiative at UCF with enrollment growth rates outpacing traditional, face-to-face growth. “Last year was the first year that our face-to-face enrollments actually dipped while online and blended enrollments continued to increase,” says Thompson. More than 75 percent of the UCF student body took at least one online course last year and over one-third of semester credit hour production came from an online modality. In addition, withdrawal rates for online courses are far below the national average at less than 5 percent. This is no small feat considering UCF is the second-largest public university in the country, serving about 60,000 students. “We made an early investment to support faculty and course development when it comes to online and blended learning, and these investments have paid off,” Thompson says.
Outside of these successes, Thompson highlights two recent initiatives, for which he has been responsible, that have had a major impact on expanding learning models at UCF and around the world. Two years ago, with funding from the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) program, UCF, in partnership with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), put together a central website for blended learning resources, blendedlearningtoolkit.org. A subsection of that site, which Thompson developed, is open courseware - all Creative Commons licensed - targeted toward faculty, course developers and instructional designers looking to build and teach blended courses.
But the most exciting development is the MOOC Thompson and the CDL team created based on this open courseware. Now in its third iteration, UCF partnered with EDUCAUSE to offer a credential for people who completed the course. Course completers paid a nominal fee of $89 and submitted a portfolio to a formal review team. More than 2,800 people from around the world registered for the course. Of the 6 percent who completed the course, about half pursued the credential and of those, 92 percent passed - walking away as “certified blended learning designers” with a certificate and a digital badge to place on their websites or online portfolios.
A second initiative Thompson is working on is the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository (TOPR), a Web-based compendium of online and blended learning teaching practices. “The great thing about it is that it is completely open to the public - anybody can go through and take advantage of the resources or receive credentials to add to it. It is truly a crowd-sourced resource,” he says. The site has received more than 100,000 visits. In fall 2013, TOPR was recognized with a Sloan Consortium Effective Practices award for its reusability and contribution to the online and blended learning space.
Thompson believes that open and accessible resources are the way to truly spread innovation in education. “I think we are smarter together. When we can connect people and ideas around effective online and blended learning practices, it benefits everyone,” he says.