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Lander Establishes a New Center for Online and Innovative Learning

Lloyd WillisThis summer Lander University took a big step toward the future of learning by creating a new Center for Online and Innovative Learning.

The new center, under the direction of Associate Professor of English Dr. Lloyd Willis, will serve to promote all educational pursuits that fall outside conventional delivery, including e-learning, weekend programs, evening programs, and faculty training for online teaching.

"If people know nothing else about online learning, they know that online courses offer flexibility," said Willis, a longtime proponent of online learning who will act as the center's initial director. "And this center is going to benefit Lander in a number of ways."

For example, Willis pointed out that in conventional classroom learning, some students will remain silent all semester.

"But this isn't possible in online courses," he said. "Students must engage, participate and invest in the experience."

Professors will be able to foster this engagement through the use of discussion boards and forums that require student participation.

"And with tools like video-recorded lectures and demonstrations, online students can watch them again and again," Willis said.

Other advantages of the new center include:

  • Week-to-week student flexibility in scheduling academic work;
  • Student and faculty training for online teaching;
  • Information to help students learn what is required in online courses;
  • Alternatives when students need to overcome online learning challenges; and
  • A guarantee that Lander is meeting the requirements of all state regulatory and accrediting agencies, such as the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

"These agencies require online students to have access to all the services available to on-campus students, like tutoring, counseling and library access," Willis said. "We currently meet those requirements, but the center will oversee compliance going forward."

Faculty response to the new center has been encouraging.

"As Lander grows, we are finding more ways for students to learn and connect," said Dr. Lillian Craton, director of the Honors College and associate professor of English. "The Center will help us make sure that we give students the best possible experience in their courses whether they meet in a traditional classroom setting or not."

Willis added that in all the years he has supported online learning, the first year of the new center might be the most exciting yet for all Lander professors.

"Many of us have been teaching online for years with varying amounts of training and a lot of experimentation," he said. "This center will provide support to help faculty members work through the challenges of online delivery, and everyone seems eager to have that support."