University restructures online education programs under CELT umbrella

Iowa State announced a plan this month to restructure its online education staff from academic colleges into a single new unit -- Iowa State Online -- which will become part of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT).

According to provost Jonathan Wickert, expanding Iowa State's online education programs is an institutional priority consistent with the university's and state Board of Regents' new strategic plans. The unit received $600,000 in "jump start" funding from President Wendy Wintersteen to support its planned Jan. 1, 2023, launch.

"Iowa State Online will be a seamless integrated unit for course design and delivery, new program and market development, and a consistent brand for our online programs," Wickert said. "This is an exciting opportunity to bring together all our faculty and staff, across all disciplines and modalities, to best serve students and instructors, and align our efforts with the best practices of other institutions."

The creation of Iowa State Online also is responsive to two recent review efforts: the Online Learning Strategy Task Force, which completed a thorough analysis of the university's online learning environment; and the regents' Distance Education Task Force.

Restructuring details

CELT org chart

Expanding CELT to encompass online programs creates four pedagogical focuses:

  • Iowa State Online, including marketing, new programs, corporate outreach, business development and student success functions.
  • Instructor development, including core support for instructors, training for faculty and graduate students, faculty fellows, and the inclusive classroom program.
  • Course design and quality, including instructional design, quality and faculty support.
  • Enterprise instructional technology, including media production, Canvas administration and learning tools integration, and the online testing centers.
Sara Marcketti head shot

Sara Marcketti

CELT's mission will be strengthened with the addition of distance and online support staff currently serving in academic departments or colleges. CELT director Sara Marcketti will continue to lead the unit with a title change to become assistant provost and executive director of CELT. Susan Arendt, who currently serves as provost's faculty fellow for online education, will serve as the inaugural director of Iowa State Online.

The combined unit, including CELT staff currently housed in Morrill Hall, will relocate to Howe Hall later in the fall semester and during winter break.

Preparing for the future in online education

Ann Marie VanDerZanden, associate provost for academic programs and architect of the restructuring effort, notes the creation of Iowa State Online will enable the university to pursue emerging opportunities in online education.

"We are focused on the entire range of programs, from undergraduate and graduate degree programs to certificates and stackable 'micro-credentials' that help working professionals develop additional skills and grow their careers, to services for adult learners and degree completion programs," she said.

VanDerZanden, who represents Iowa State on the Iowa Business Council's Business Education Alliance, also sees a future for customizable programs that leverage faculty expertise to address the specific needs of Iowa employers.

Next steps

The office of the senior vice president and provost has been working with university human resources and an Iowa State Online implementation team over the last several months to update position descriptions and job profiles, including creating several new manager and supervisor positions.

Additional elements in the timeline are:

  • August: Individual meetings with staff, posting of all positions, interviewing for manager positions.
  • September: Interviews for supervisor and other positions.
  • October: Training for new roles/employees, determining staff plan and support for Winter Session.
  • November: Current CELT staff move from Morrill Hall to Howe Hall.
  • December: Staff currently serving in college units assist faculty with end-of-semester issues and finalize courses/projects for spring semester; all other staff move to Howe Hall during winter break.