(WFRV) – A $2 million grant from a confidential donor is aimed at helping the University of Wisconsin System and its 13 universities strengthen its online teaching and ensuring students have access to necessary technologies.

According to a release from the UW-System, the Online Learning Initiative is funded through the $2 million gift, which was prompted by the rapid transition to remote instruction in March.

“Last March, our faculty, staff, and students did a great job adapting to online teaching, advising, and learning and UW System laid the groundwork to make a rapid pivot successful,” said UW System President Tommy Thompson. “The Online Learning Initiative will give us the tools to get better.”

The UW System has already announced its intentions to welcome students back to campus this fall. UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay have also released their plans for the fall return.

According to the release, many classes will have an online component with some being taught completely online.

The Online Learning Initiative has four parts, according to the UW System:

  • Faculty Professional Development
  • Professional Development for Student Support Staff
  • Needs-Based Access to Technology
  • Best Practices in Online Learning

‘Faculty Professional Development’ entails a continual focus on faculty development on the best practices in online instruction, retooling existing courses, creating new materials across multimedia platforms, delivery of synchronous and asynchronous learning, and effective support for student learning.

The UW System says that the Teaching and Learning Centers at each university are leading professional development for faculty on each campus with $1.5 million in financial support from the Online Learning Initiative.

The Initiative will focus on best practices in student coaching and data-based intensive advising in online learning as well as provide students who lack the financial means to access information technology access to laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi networks, and hotspots.

Up to $500,000 in financial support will be provided to the Senior Student Affairs Officers for this aspect of the Online Learning initiative.

The UW System says the UW Extended Campus delivered four professional development courses for faculty and student support staff, focused on best practices in online learning. Three courses relate to online course planning, development, and instruction, and one course relates to student coaching.

As a result, UW System campuses may freely use the resources delivered by these courses. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has engaged in initial discussion with the Online Learning Initiative to determine how school districts all across Wisconsin may freely use these resources. The Online Learning Initiative also will develop a certificate program based on the courses so that any UW System faculty and student support staff member can become certified in online instruction and student coaching.

“The goal of this initiative is for faculty and staff at each campus to develop best practices in teaching and student support so that quality online education scales across the entire UW System, while also ensuring access and equity so that all students succeed,” said Anny Morrobel-Sosa, vice president for academic and student affairs. “UW System is proud to work with our campus partners on this important endeavor. We are excited to see the results this fall.”

Latest Stories