Best practices for instruction in a multi-campus course format

To better accommodate students' busy schedules, Bucks County Community College introduced a multi-campus classroom format

Decreasing enrollments and an increasing pressure to offer courses at times convenient to the increasingly busy community college student presents challenges to course scheduling. Students often need specific courses to complete their program of study. To run these course, typically a class size cap must be met. To find a solution to overcome all of these challenges, Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Penn., piloted a multi-campus classroom format.

The multi-campus classroom format enables one instructor to teach students at all three campus locations. This format relies on videoconferencing technology, a learning management system, and instructional techniques to engage students despite physical distance. To test out both the technology and pedagogy, we ran a one-course pilot in spring 2016 and a four-course pilot in fall 2016. We gathered results from the pilots via surveys and informal conversations with students and faculty, which led to an improvement in the technology and pedagogical support. With improvements in place, academic areas regularly schedule courses in the multi-campus format. As a result, 51 courses successfully ran in the multi-campus classroom format that would have otherwise been canceled due to low enrollment.

Implementing a multicampus classroom format relies on the following best practices:

Faculty need technology and pedagogical support
We provide an intensive multicampus institute for faculty before they teach a multicampus course. In the institute, faculty receive training from both IT staff and learning resources faculty that includes hands-on experience with the audio/visual controls and interactive whiteboard technology. In addition to the technology training, faculty learn the basics of student-centered instructional design as well as strategies for facilitating engagement across three categories: student-to-student, student-to-content, and student-to-faculty.

Faculty also use instructional design support to build companion online course spaces. The online course spaces serve as a communication tool and classroom-management mechanism. Essentially, the online course space serves as a one-stop shop for students at all three campuses and the instructor to communicate, access lecture materials, maintain a course calendar, and manage assignments or other assessments.

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