Annual Report 2016-2017 The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service at the University of Illinois Springfield

View the 2016-17 Annual Report in MS Word.

What we do

The Center for Online Learning, Research and Service strives to empower UIS faculty in the delivery of online education, support original scholarly research, build synergies between research and online education practices, and build online collaborations.

COLRS staff actively collaborate with analogous units at the Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses.

by the Numbers

Online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield began with a grant in 1997 from the University of Illinois system offices. Since then, online learning at UIS has experienced incredible growth. Today, UIS offers 12 online undergraduate degree programs, 13 online graduate degree programs, 9 online certification programs, and 15 online graduate certificates.

Since its start in 1997, UIS Online has consistently shown year over year growth, even when numbers for higher education in the state have declined. For Academic Year 2016-17, UIS Online Course Seat Count was nearly 16,000.

For Academic Year 2016-17 at UIS, 39.2% of students took only online courses, 20.0% of students took only on-campus courses, and 40.8% of students mixed online and on-campuses courses.

The trend in course enrollments patterns over the last decade show decreasing numbers of students choosing only on-campus courses, while students choosing online only and mixed formats remains balanced.

Fast Facts: AY 2016-17

  • 2,253 online majors
  • 37.8% of graduate students are online
  • 31.5% of undergraduate students are online
  • 46.4% of credits at UIS were generated in online courses
  • 80.0% of UIS students took at least one online course

Where do online students live?

Outside Illinois

  • 48 states (not South Dakota or Vermont) plus DC, Puerto Rico & Northern Mariana Islands
  • 1 Canadian Province (Ontario)
  • 13 foreign countries in total
  • 39.8% of students are from outside of Illinois

In Illinois

  • 78 of 102 Illinois counties
  • 87.4% of Illinois students are from outside of Sangamon County
  • 81.7% of Illinois students are from outside of Sangamon County & its 8 contiguous counties

The Illinois counties that are home to the most online students are:

  1. Cook (20.9%)
  2. Sangamon (12.6%)
  3. Champaign (10.2%)
  4. Lake (7.1%)
  5. Dupage (4.4%)
  6. Peoria (4.1%)
  7. McLean (3.2%)
  8. Tazewell (2.9%)
  9. Will (2.5%)
  10. Kane (2.3%)

A more Accessible Future

Over the last year, COLRS has organized three campus-wide accessibility events. COLRS brought two accessibility and universal design for learning experts to UIS. For the third, we recruited two faculty who had successfully updated their courses for accessibility to share their best tips with the campus.

In December, Marc Thompson from the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning at the Urbana-Champaign campus presented to the Computer Science faculty on methods to make their highly technical content more accessible to students.

In March, Jessica Phillips from Ohio State presented at a Community of Practice for E-Learning event. Jessica explained the legal requirements and put a human face on accessibility movement. She focused on quick steps to take to make any course more accessible.

Michele Gribbins organized an April Faculty Development workshop featuring two UIS faculty members -- Brytton Bjorngaard and Layne Morsch. In "Making Digital Content Accessible," they offered timely "how-to" tips on topics ranging from providing alt-tags for images to captioning videos to addressing color vision deficiencies.

Top: Jessica Phillips from Ohio State presents to UIS faculty in March. Bottom left: Marc Thompson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign gave a workshop for Computer Science faculty in March. Bottom right: the UIS Colonnade with accessibility icons above it.

Dr. Vickie Cook has facilitated conversations about campus accessibility needs among various UIS departments that play a role in aspects of accessibility on campus, including Information Technology Services, the Office of Disability Services, Academic Technology Committee, and COLRS.

Vickie and Brytton Bjorngaard, Chair of the Campus Senate Academic Technology Committee have worked at the system level to craft a system-wide accessibility policy. Working with UIS administration, Vickie has secured permission to hire an important new position for UIS -- a campus accessibility coordinator. COLRS expects to fill the position in Fall 2017.

Improving Learning

COLRS staff meet faculty where they are: building solid foundations at the beginning of their online teaching journey or helping them evaluate and improve mature courses. We work with faculty one-on-one over email, the telephone, Skype for Business instant messaging, and face-to-face. COLRS staff will present to department and college meetings upon request, and offered 12 workshops and webinars for faculty during AY 2016-17.

Blackboard goals

COLRS partnered with faculty in the College of Education and Human Services and the College of Public Affairs and Administration to set up Blackboard Outcomes for select programs and courses. Once the goals are uploaded to Blackboard, faculty may align their content and assessments to run reports.

screen capture of sample goals aligned to a discussion board forum. Goals may be shown to or hidden from students.
A sample course coverage report shows where content or assessments might not be supporting the defined goals.
Other reports show how well students are achieving course or program goals.

Light Board Videos

In the Light Board video studio, faculty are able to create micro-lectures for their courses.

From the instructor’s point of view, they’re writing on a surface analogous to a chalkboard while facing a camera. From the student’s point of view, the instructor is making eye contact while speaking with them while writing in midair.

Green Screen & Shaky Hand Videos

Green Screen

The green screen studio can help faculty appear anywhere -- from the inside of a CPU to the middle of the Emiquon field station, all while comfortably in the COLRS video studio. Once the faculty has recorded their lecture, COLRS staff drop images or video behind the professor to support the lecture content.

Shaky Hand

The shaky hand format allows faculty to demonstrate models, draw graphs, or solve math problems. Students see the instructor's handout moving objects and hear their voice. It's a quick and effective format to resolve muddiest points.


The COLRS Faculty Fellows program coordinates, facilitates and advocates for research on online and blended learning. The goals of the COLRS Faculty Fellows include:

  • To stimulate and support research on online and blended learning
  • To foster inter-institutional collaborative research projects
  • To explore the application of educational technologies in online teaching and learning
  • To investigate and advocate for the quality and effectiveness of online and blended course offering
  • To document the impact of online instruction on teaching and learning
  • To disseminate UIS’ research findings
  • To lead and support efforts to secure grant funding for research that supports the mission of COLRS
  • To provide mentorship to faculty teaching online

2015-2017 Fellows

Dr. Harshavardhan Bapat, Associate Professor in Chemistry, is investigating the usage of adaptive learning software in Chemistry courses. He plans to assess the effectiveness of adaptive learning software as related to competency-based learning, using its data analytics features, and in-class assessment of student learning.

Dr. Anne-Marie Hanson, Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies, is investigating the quality and effectiveness of using online coursework in helping students gain practical skills for environmental careers. She is also researching the use of online resources for digital storytelling of place-based environmental issues.

Ranjan Karri, Associate Professor in Management, is researching the impact of blended environments for undergraduate and graduate learning. He aims to develop a theoretical model to describe the relationship between student characteristics, delivery mode, and effectiveness.

2016-2018 Faculty Fellows

Osiecki, Chen, Day, and Rigsbee

Dr. Cheng-Chia (Brian) Chen, Assistant Professor of Public Health, will explore the application of educational technologies in online/blended teaching and learning environments. He will research the use of online debate and its impact on student satisfaction, as well as the effectiveness of gamification in the context of learning and student performance.

Dr. Scott Day, Professor and Chair of Educational Leadership, will investigate design-based approaches to improving online courses using peer review and analytics, from incremental course changes, developing communities of inquiry in online courses, and pedagogical approaches to massive open online courses.

Dr. Kristin Osiecki, Assistant Professor of Public Health, will investigate the use of app-based resources for learning and the impact they have on student performance and interaction. In addition, she plans to develop eText resources for the Introduction to Environmental and Occupational Health Course.

Dr. Carolee Rigsbee, Assistant Professor of Management, will be undergoing the Quality Matters quality assurance process for her online courses in the College of Business and Management. As part of this process, she will quantify the benefits of a Quality Matters assessment for instructors and students. In addition, she will research change management in online teaching and learning to identify potential best practices.

2017-2019 Faculty Fellows

2017 Faculty Fellows: Egbe Egiebor, Carol Jessup, Layne Morsch, Laurel Newman, and Kim Wiley

New fellows are selected each March in a competitive application process. 

College of Business and Management Quality Course Initiative

COLRS staff continue to work with a small group of faculty in the College of Business and Management on a quality course initiative. The group -- Laurel Newman, Carolee Rigsbee, Carol Jessup, and Donna Rogers -- have met monthly to develop a plan to improve their course quality and collect research on the process. They are combining Quality Matters and Community of Inquiry to determine course quality and facilitation experiences, respectively. Students also complete the Core Self-Evaluation and the Proactive Personality Scale to determine if they may be moderating variables. Thus far, the group has presented at five regional and national conferences.


Book Chapters

Schroeder, Ray. and Cook, Vickie (2016). "Why New Modes Are Not New Bottles for Old Wine." Change We Must: Deciding on the Future of Higher Ed.

Journal Articles

Cook, Vickie. (2016) Leveraging Organizational Learning and Best Practices in Online Leadership: Do It, Be It, Know It, Test It, Revise It. The Evolllution.

Cook, Vickie and Stoner, Gayla. (2016) Continuing Education Divisions as Impact Agents in Online Initiatives. The Evolllution.

Schroeder, Ray, Kidwai, K., and Cook, Vickie. (2016) "U.S. News & World Report’s Rankings of Online Programs." Unbound. University Professional & Continuing Education Assoc.


Inter-Campus Partnerships

SLATE and Coordinators

Online Program Coordinators have been piloting drip marketing campaigns for the campus. Working with COLRS and the Office of Admissions to implement best practices learned in the STAMATS training, they have developed detailed and specific interactions that are automated through the SLATE admissions platform. The program aims to increase the rate at which student inquiries become registered students.

Selfies with a selfie stick at Commencement 2017.

Check Out My SELFIE Project

The SELFIE project is a COLRS effort lead by Tammy Craig to integrate employability skills and awareness in the class. Several online program coordinators are offering the program's modules to their students in Blackboard. The acronym SELFIE represents:

  • S = Scholarship
  • E = Exploration
  • L = Lifelong Learning
  • F = Focus
  • I = Initiative
  • E = Employability
  1. Connected Learning: Educate students about the process in how to analyze and connect learning (regardless of how they obtained the knowledge - course, employment, volunteer, co-curricular activity) that are most beneficial to achieve academic goals and prepare students for employability relative to established career goals upon graduation. Educate and provide resources about global workforce trends for the 21st Century.
  2. Soft Skill Development & Applied Learning: Incorporate various real-world scenarios, case-studies, projects, simulations that provide students with opportunities to apply knowledge acquired and practice soft skills. Soft skills are complementary to a liberal arts education.
  3. Building/Maintaining Effective Relationships & Branding: Creating opportunities early and throughout their education to establish a network consisting of peers, alumni, faculty, employers and other professionals to use for acquiring personalized knowledge and/or future partnerships in areas such as academic/career/industry information, internship/employment searches, business collaborations, professional development opportunities, civic engagement opportunities, etc.
A student presents at the STARS 2017 symposium.


Koch Presented 11th Hour Award for Leadership

In March 2017, Chancellor Susan Koch was awarded 11th Hour Award for Leadership from the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA).

Schroeder awarded Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education

In August 2016, Ray Schroeder was honored with the Wedemeyer Award for Outstanding Practitioner in Distance Education at the annual Distance Teaching and Learning Conference in Madison, WI.

Wedemeyer (1911-1999) is considered the father of modern distance education. As director of UW-Madison’s Correspondence Study Program, he revolutionized education by advocating adult, distance, open, and independent learning. He saw technology as a tool for increasing access to education.

Schroeder named to U.S. Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame

In May 2016, Ray Schroeder was named to U.S. Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame at the USDLA annual conference in St. Louis.

UIS Awarded UPCEA Award for Strategic Innovation in Online Education

In April 2016, UIS was awarded the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) Award for Strategic Innovation in Online Education in San Diego, CA.

The award recognizes an institution of higher education that has set and met innovative goals focused on online education and been strategic in the planning, development, implementation and sustainability in the line with the institutional mission.

UIS Awarded Innovation Initiative Award for Massive Open Online Course

In February 2016, the Illinois Council on Continuing Higher Education (ICCHE) awarded UIS the Innovative Initiative Award for the One Patient – One Team: Palliative Care Approaches Across the Continuum MOOC. UIS partnered with the Illinois Hospital Association, SIU School of Medicine, and the Illinois Homecare and Hospice Council for the project.

3 UIS Colleagues Awarded OLC Effective Practice Award

In November 2015, Laurel Newman, Carrie Levin, and Emily Boles were awarded the Effective Practice Award for the Community of Practice for E-Learning at the Online Learning Consortium's annual conference in Orlando, FL.


Student Technology, Arts & Research Symposium

For STARS 2017, Michele Gribbins worked with the technology group to support, record, and facilitate the Skype sessions and make sure they went smoothly.

Tammy Craig worked on the website, supported the field trip to Therkildsen Field Station/Emiquon. She organized the registration table and distributed the promotion materials. Tammy assisted with outreach to employers and UIS alumni. She also worked with the UIS Office of Admissions to give prospective students -- from both high schools and community colleges -- a campus tour.

Service in Professional Organizations

Online Learning Consortium

Vickie Cook serves as a reviewer for the Online Learning Journal, a premiere journal for the field of online teaching and learning.

University Professional and Continuing Education Association

Michele Gribbins serves as a track chair for the national UPCEA conference.

Illinois Council on Continuing Higher Education

Michele Gribbins serves as treasurer for the organization. John Freml serves as webmaster.

FSI Conference

Emily Boles serves on the steering committee for the annual conference. In 2017, she also served as co-chair for the Exhibitors and Sponsors Committee.

Illinois Association of Community Action Agencies (IACAA)

Vickie Cook and Ray Schroeder provided training in online learning and assisted the organization in writing a grant application.

Grant Work for Community Oriented Policing Policing Services (COPS)

During Spring 2017, COLRS staff worked with staff from the UIC Center for Public Safety and Justice to adapt their courses to an online format for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) in the U.S. Department of Justice.

The team adapted courses that promote community policing and procedural justice in U.S. communities, including Coffee with a Cop, Recruiting and Hiring, and Community Connections.

Police Officer in Santa Rosa, CA, at a Coffee with a Cop Event.

National Distance Learning Week

For National Distance Learning Week, COLRS shared facts about online learning at UIS with the campus community, including a series of mini-infographics and video stories of UIS students.

Center for Online Learning, Research and Service

University of Illinois Springfield

1 University Plaza, MS-BRK 425

Springfield, IL 62703

217-206-7317 | colrs@uis.edu

Created By
Emily Boles

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