• Erin Gratz

Thinking about the Dimensions of Online Education

Over the last year, the CORAL crew has been diving into the realm of organizational

Image by Oberholster Venita from Pixabay

design and structure of online units of higher educational institutions. But what does that even mean? If you are a person in online learning you are well aware that online learning touches all aspects of the college or university. Moreover, online units do not necessarily have a singular face. There is a wide range of what online units entail, their scope and breadth, and the positions that make up the unit.


So, with that in mind CORAL started to brainstorm to identify the Dimensions of Online Education. Through reflection of our own experiences and deep discussion and consideration, we developed four broad dimensions of online education, each dimension has smaller components that make up that dimension, and indicators (or descriptors) of those components. The four primary dimensions we identified are Academic Functions, Student Onboarding, Student Support Services, and Administrative Functions (see image below).


Each of these dimensions are broken into four or five components that make up what we have defined to be housed within each dimension. For example, the Academic Function includes: Curriculum, Programmatic Oversight, Instructional Design, Quality Oversight, and Professional Development & Support. Then, each of these components are more fully defined through the indicators.


With that said, colleges and universities are complex institutions, and the way individual institutions have laid out their organizational charts and workflows may not be ubiquitous. Additionally, there may be other areas, we haven’t even thought of, depending on your institution. In our discussions of organizational structure, identifying these areas or dimensions, helped us to focus or define what we are talking about when discussing online units and how aspects of organizational design fit together.


Take a look at the image below. Do these dimensions resonate with you? Do you see aspects of online education (in the BIG sense) that we are missing? We’d love to know your thoughts.




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