WolfWare Expands: DELTA now Hosting an Enterprise Moodle Server Supporting Non-Credit Course Offerings

As part of its land-grant mission, NC State reaches out beyond its campus borders. With the outreach and extension areas of campus growing, a comprehensive collection of services supporting non-credit online offerings was needed.

For years, the College of Textiles hosted a non-credit Moodle server used by Textiles Extension, Industry Expansion Solutions (IES), and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

According to Director of Educational Technology Services Lou Harrison, DELTA had plans to offer an enterprise-level server when the university settled on a common registration and billing system. Due to shifting priorities at the College of Textiles and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Extension server needed to be retired; so DELTA accelerated the timeline to provide a Moodle server dedicated to the delivery of non-credit courses. After partnering with Textiles, DELTA developed a plan to stand up an enterprise service ahead of the scheduled deployment of a registration system to help fill the void.

The new service, called WolfWare Outreach, extends the enterprise services DELTA was already supporting to include non-credit fee-based offerings. Initially, partners are using a manual enrollment process and limited scope of overall services. This endeavor looks toward a future with streamlined enrollments and non-credit access to the entire suite of WolfWare tools, DELTA’s enterprise suite of academic technologies and tools in a cohesive online environment.

"It doesn’t make sense for another organization on campus to host a non-credit Moodle server if DELTA can do it at an incremental cost along with the other enterprise systems we are hosting," said Jeff Webster, senior associate director for Applications Development.

In support of the university’s goals to both enhance organizational excellence and to enhance local and global engagement combined with DELTA’s own goal to leverage technologies to support Extension, Outreach and Engagement activities, this was a match that made sense.

In planning for the WolfWare Outreach service, DELTA had to understand the differences between credit and non-credit course offerings. Non-credit classes are not offered on a semester schedule and are available for a broad range of audiences everywhere. Many offerings may be traditional courses, while others may be modules with a certificate awarded after completion, although not for academic credit. "Some modules may be bundled or co-branded and sold to other universities or developed with corporate partnerships or federal contracts," said Associate Vice Provost for Marketing and Partnership Development Kay Zimmerman.

"We worked very hard to develop a cost recovery model that is simple, transparent and equitable." — Jessie Sova

In planning for the transition from the Extension Moodle server to a limited enterprise service, in August 2013, a group of extension and non-credit thought leaders gathered to discuss, evaluate and recommend how to proceed with a holistic, sustainable model for the online delivery of non-credit courses. Members of the Critical Thought Leaders Group, which eventually became the WolfWare Outreach Steering Committee (WWOSC), consisted of stakeholders from the Extension Moodle server, the Office of Information Technology, faculty members already using the server to deliver non-credit course offerings, and others.

The WWOSC considered if a non-credit, online course delivery market existed to the extent that offering a service was warranted, and what a future market might look like for non-credit offerings. Since university departments are seeking alternative revenue-generated income, non-credit online classes could become a large market for NC State, and a way for our university to fulfill the outreach and extension components of our land-grant mission.

During the 2014-15 academic year, DELTA completed the first year of a two-year pilot established to determine if offering this service would be sustainable. According to Zimmerman, DELTA staff forecasted the total cost of ownership for WolfWare Outreach and maintenance of the non-credit server, the equipment needed and the staff required to support this endeavor.

"We worked very hard to develop a cost recovery model that is simple, transparent and equitable. The model is accountable and financially reasonable," said DELTA Assistant Vice Provost for Business Operations Jessie Sova.

Since non-credit classes are a revenue-generating opportunity and not funded in the same manner as the courses DELTA supports for academic credit, DELTA will charge clients to recoup the costs to remain revenue neutral.

A Phased Approach

The first phase of the transition was quietly conducted in Fall 2014. Courses hosted on the College of Textiles’ Moodle server began migration to the new DELTA server. By January 2015, all courses had been moved to the new non-credit Moodle enterprise server, with proposed new courses beginning to use the server as well.

Zimmerman works with interested faculty who wish to offer non-credit fee-based online courses. She assists with identifying target markets and shared opportunities. She can work with faculty who want to take their current credit classes and move them to offer in non-credit modules.

As for longtime Extension server user Wendy Laing, director of Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) Professional Learning, she said, "We had a wonderful transition and I appreciate the College of Textiles’ and DELTA staff that facilitated the process with us."

Several clients using the server now include:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Natural Resources
  • College of Textiles
  • Industry Expansion Solutions
  • Institute for Transportation Research and Education
  • Poole College of Management, and
  • The McKimmon Center for Extension & Continuing Education
    • Office of Professional Development
    • Technology Training Solutions.

Laing said, "I got involved with the WolfWare Outreach project in the Spring of 2014 but became very active working with the transition of the Extension Moodle server to DELTA in June 2014. I served in the capacity of business user for IES and subsequently became a WolfWare Outreach Coordinator for IES."

What’s Next?

Moving forward, each college/unit can establish a WolfWare Outreach Coordinator (WOC) who signs a service-level agreement (SLA) with DELTA to offer non-credit online courses for a fee. The WOCs for each college (or in some cases, units) have a responsibility for the overall SLA support for the non-credit offerings in their areas.

More integration with the current WolfWare platform will be coming. This fall, DELTA will begin shadow billing partners for using the WolfWare Outreach server with actual billing to begin spring 2016.

And soon, the new non-credit registration system will be folded into the mix to make the service universal. Dr. Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff, Vice Provost for Outreach and Engagement and executive director of IES, is leading the effort to secure the Activity Information Management System (AIMS). The system will track all NC State outreach and engagement activity for mandatory reporting to UNC General Administration. The side benefit to the WolfWare Outreach service is the automatic student course enrollments with a planned integration to begin implementation by Spring 2016.

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