Online Course Prioritization Guide

10 Strategies for Promoting Enrollment Growth and Student Success

Topics: Program Prioritization, Academic Planning, Academic Affairs, Online Course Quality, Online Education, Course Scheduling, Academic Calendar, Capacity Planning, Student Retention and Success, Degree Progress, Online Strategies

Implementation Guidelines

Course selection

When selecting candidates for an accelerated course option, prioritize lower-division courses that (a) have large enrollments, (b) enroll a higher-than-average share of students that are receiving financial aid, (c) meet a general education requirement, and (d) are prerequisites required in a major or program.

Faculty allocation

Department chairs should assess the capacity of current faculty to offer additional "withdrawal redirect" sessions:

  • How many faculty fall short of their planned course load each term?
  • Which of those faculty are able to teach prioritized courses?


Proactive and timely intervention from advisors is critical in locating at-risk students, informing them of accelerated, online alternatives, and placing them in the best option prior to the secondary term period.

  • The University of Alabama advertises "Fall II" courses in posters around campus and through advisor notifications to ensure student awareness.
  • Restrict registration for withdrawal redirect courses to the students who need them most by limiting or prohibiting proactive registration (prior to the start of a traditional term). This avoids cannibalization of existing courses and over-enrollment of students registering for convenience, rather than necessity.
  • Advanced: Automate the process by creating an automatic email message to students who drop, withdraw, or miss the registration deadline, notifying them of the institution’s portfolio of accelerated alternatives. This reduces the burden on advisors to identify and reach every eligible student.


Many institutions lack financial incentives for offering individual online courses during traditional terms (revenue splits with units, course development funds, overload pay, or per-headcount bonus pay may apply only to full academic programs or intersessions, for example), which can make it difficult to grow and sustain withdrawal redirect options over time. It is important to anticipate this and provide adequate incentive for both units and faculty to accommodate demand, either through targeted seed funding or by making these courses eligible for existing reward programs.


Often, there is no central "owner" or coordinator of traditional term online courses, as is typically the case for summer sessions or continuing education programs; adoption and implementation is left to each academic unit. It is therefore critical that the provost’s office play a role in coordinating and sustaining this activity across campus to ensure that students have the broadest menu of options available. In most cases, the College of Arts and Sciences will play the most important role in lower-division general education, so its involvement is key to success.

Problem and Strategy

Case Study