College to update online program

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Following an assessment by its e-learning committee, the online education program at Flathead Valley Community College will undergo a few updates before the fall semester.

According to Chris Clouse, vice president of academic and student affairs and one of the seven committee members, FVCC is currently the only college in the state that does not meet State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, standards with its online courses.

The state standards allow students from outside Montana to take online courses through a Montana school without the pre-approval of an institution inside their state.

Of the issues identified within the program by the e-learning task force Clouse brought together last fall, the state standards topped the list.

Along with meeting SARA standards, Clouse and the school’s e-learning committee recommended implementing an online specialist from each division of the school.

The specialists would act as a source of support and counsel for their peers to ensure educators provide the same level of education to their online students as in their face-to-face courses.

In the spring of 2016, FVCC offered 80 online courses with approximately 840 students enrolled across the board.

This spring, Clouse said, the school decreased the number of courses offered online to 60 but saw a growth in enrollment by 60 students.

“We’re doing a better job of figuring out what to offer, what students need and making sure it’s really high quality,” she said in an address to the board of trustees on Monday.

Next year, Clouse recommended that the committee be co-chaired by a faculty member and an instructional designer to ensure all aspects of online education reach their highest potential.

She also shared a recommendation for a cyclical review process that will allow for regular updates to the program and for the continued education of educators involved.

According to FVCC President Jane Karas, the board of trustees has already implemented several of the e-learning committee’s suggestions and will continue to update best practices as needed.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or

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