December 2022: A Note from USDLA executive director Pat Cassella and Edu Alliance Group exec Dean Hoke — We invite you to tune in for this month’s episode of our podcast and video show, Distance Learning Roundtable, where for 30 minutes, we gain insights from industry experts.
Meet our guest: Dr. Jennie Sanders, Vice President of Faculty Experience and Academic Services at Western Governors University based in Salt Lake City, Utah
Today’s Topic: How Western Governors University was ahead of the Pandemic Curve and how it continues that trend
Our hosts ask Jennie:
- Pat: Let’s start off talking about Western Governors University. I believe it’s one of the oldest online universities in the United States and one of the largest. Tell us about WGU and give us a profile of the institution and students. How are they different than the students who attend a traditional university?
- Dean: Jennie, in my years of working with universities, the area of student retention and academic performance has been one of the most challenging issues for any institution. For students who attend primarily online. Reports show retention rates are 20% lower in online courses than in traditional face-to-face courses. You and a colleague of yours recently presented at a conference on how WGU is addressing this issue and getting results. Tell us about it.
- Pat: WGU has over 4,000 faculty teaching online. Can you tell our viewers and listeners how you work with your faculty to be effective teachers?
- Dean: During the pandemic, it seemed very few schools were prepared for such an event and struggled for months. Since 2017, Western Governors has had an emergency disaster management student support program. How did that help you, and what were the key lessons learned in supporting your online students, faculty, and administration?
- Pat: Distance learning technology has certainly evolved since WG offered its first online classes. Can you provide a glimpse into the technology in use today by both the University and what is required by the student for a successful online learning experience?
- Dean: Jennie, your academic training is in the field of science, a Ph.D. from Cornell in Bio-Chemistry and Molecular Biology. However, rather than be a traditional professor or working as a science researcher, you transitioned into working for one of the largest online universities in America. What have you brought from the field of science that has impacted your work in online and faculty development?
About our Guest: Jennie applies a scientist’s mind with an educator’s heart to reimagine the role of faculty in learner-centered education at scale. As a first-in-family college graduate, Jennie is enthusiastically committed to creating transformative educational experiences accessible to every learner. In her role, she leads initiatives that combine the tools of digital transformation with the skills of human transformation to improve student experiences and outcomes. She holds a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Cornell University and has over 15 years of experience in higher education serving in leadership, innovation, and instructional roles. She lives in Utah and enjoys hiking, paddling, skiing, and otherwise enjoying the mountains with her husband, three sons, and growing puppy, Camus. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.
Learn more about the Distance Learning Roundtable!