Kaye Shelton, higher education’s score keeper

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In 2001, Kaye Shelton was one of 33 people in the United States to get her master’s degree in online learning, completely online. The accomplishment, achieved on a laptop from the bleachers of her three sons’ baseball games and between loads of laundry, making dinner for her family and consulting in the technology industry, ignited Kaye’s passion for online learning and teaching and positioned her to be a pioneer in the online educational space. Kaye then went on to pursue her Ph.D. From the comfort of her home, and as her husband drove her to see her sons play baseball all over the country (One son played for the Los Angeles Dodgers.), Kaye earned her doctorate from the University of Nebraska in educational leadership in 2010. A year later, Kaye was hired at Lamar University as a professor of educational leadership in the Center for Doctoral Studies in LU’s College of Education and Human Development.

“We have to work really hard on the online program, because we still effect the university; we still represent our university so we have to make sure we are doing that with quality. Honestly, every institution is a click away. If students see a program is not going to be quality, they may just click to another one.”

Since that time, Kaye has become a consultant for teachers and districts all over the world, a presenter, author, renowned expert in online teaching and learning and creator of a widely accepted scorecard for the administration of online education programs. “I’ve always been interested in adding to the literature, adding to the field,” said Kaye. “So, whatever I was doing, I just started writing about it and speaking about it at conferences.” Quality in online teaching became a focal point for Kaye. Her dissertation, “A Quality Scorecard for the Administration of Online Education Programs: A Delphi Study,” became the industry standard and was adopted by the Online Learning Consortium. “It’s a document, a rubric for what a quality online program in higher education should use to self-evaluate and determine where they are on those scales and where they need to be. I actually handed the scorecard to the Online Learning Consortium because they were the vehicle where it could be really moved out, so now it’s their scorecard.”

The scorecard has been translated to Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin and French, and Kaye has flown all over the world to train educators how to use the scorecard. Workshops have been built around the scorecard as well as a formal review process allowing online educational providers to become certified as quality program providers. Second to quality, Kaye’s mantra is faculty support, which she outlines in the book, “An Administrator's Guide to Online Education,” co-authored with George Saltsman, LU’s director of the Center for Educational Innovation and Digital Learning “The secret to success is faculty support and training. We need to do anything we can to look at our support services for faculty. Online education has got to be about teaching and learning and engaging the student and making the faculty member feel confident thatthey are still able to share knowledge and do it at a distance. To help administrators and faculty measure their success, Kaye developed the “Quality course teaching instructional practice scorecard,” also called QCTIP and available for download with Kaye’s other scorecards at OLCquality.org.

“We have to work really hard on the online program, because we still effect the university; we still represent our university so we have to make sure we are doing that with quality. Honestly, every institution is a click away. If students see a program is not going to be quality, they may just click to another one.” It’s a fact Kaye knows from experience. She had earned 21 hours toward her PhD when she realized faculty at her institution were not going to support her research. She switched to the University of Nebraska with the click of her keyboard and only lost three hours.

Day to day at LU, Kaye teaches educational leaders how to understand and complete a research study to meet the requirements of a doctoral program. Students from all over the world are enrolled in LU’s educational leadership doctoral program, which is quality certified personally by Kaye. Through the educational leadership program, which was one of the first in the state of Texas to go completely online in 2011, Kaye has taught Apple executives from Hong Kong and leaders of an international charter school in Malaysia. “Having that kind of impact is amazing and being able to say I was able to further them in their research so they could go back and do what they are doing. How can you argue that that is not an incredible opportunity for us as instructors?”

Kaye’s life, except for missing her colleagues and frequenting at her favorite local eatery, Katharine & Company, didn’t change much during the pandemic. Because she works fully online most of the time, her professional world was unaltered. However, she believes that the pandemic further strengthened online learning’s significance in higher education. “Online education was not a cottage industry that failed. We can’t argue with the numbers and the growth. Before Covid, we were still seeing in higher ed the number of people online grow and the number of people on campus dwindle some, not huge amounts. Higher education had a paradigm shift. They got up and moved and the thing I love the most is convincing faculty that you can do this and you can do it at a quality level and it can be even better than the classroom depending on how you do it.” As much as Kaye loves online teaching and learning, she advocates a blending of both online and face-to-face, where students can spend time on campus and have online resources also. She believes students sign up for online classes erroneously believing that online course work will be easier.

“Online is not going to be a quick ‘A.’ We are required by our accreditors to put the same content and to ensure that rigor is there so students should go in expecting that. Online is going to be just as good as face-to-face, content wise.” This is true, especially if Kaye Shelton is involved.

Category: Features , General

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