Thursday, October 31, 2013

Video: I Will Not Let an Exam Result Decide My Fate

Don't forget that you can go "full screen" by clicking the four-cornered box in the lower right corner of the video screen! Just type the ESC key to return to the normal blog view.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

State Authorization Update

We attended a statewide meeting in Montgomery, Alabama last week to discuss the state authorization issue and its latest implications for those serving online education on postsecondary levels.

For those new to the term "state authorization," this simply means the seeking and granting of permission for colleges and universities to "do business" outside of their states' boundaries. In order for us to teach online students outside of the state in which we operate, we must have permission (via a license or exemption, depending on the state) to serve the residents of each particular state represented by our students. If want to teach students in New York, we must have New York's permission to do so, either with a license or an exemption to the license.

That said, the issue very quickly gets complicated (and expensive!) as we navigate the unique and discrete requirements of each of the other forty-nine states in which we want to enroll students. The processes and costs are to be renewed at the end of each license period, which also varies by state. In the state of Alabama, as an example, an institution can expect to spend between $2,500 and $15,000 every two years to maintain license to teach Alabamians online.

In fact, the issue is so complicated that the legal mandate is yet to be set in stone. Courts have been knocking the issue around for a few years, and we do our best to keep up. In that spirit, I have added a "State Authorization" section to this blog (see navigation bar on RIGHT of screen) and will continue to add key links there that will help anyone who wants to learn more or keep a close eye on the state authorization issue as it evolves.

For the time being and for any players new to the game, I recommend a review of the history (beginning with links I've provided before generalized Web searching) and current state of the issue as well as the beginning (or continuation) of good faith efforts at compliance.

While reciprocity agreements are being negotiated and developed, state-to-state licensure is going to continue to be an issue that will require some level of documentation and investment, whether to individual states or to a collective representing an coalition of states. In either case, it's best that the relevant discussions and the consideration of processes, stakeholders and outcomes begin as soon as possible, if indeed they have not already begun.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Faculty Organizations Take on MOOCs

This article published by Campus Technology illustrates a growing anti-MOOC sentiment among faculty across public higher education. While on the one hand, there is legitimate concern for the privatization and the quality of online programs, aiming the 'quality control' issue at MOOCs as a movement—and online learning in general—seems disingenuous to me.

I don't believe it's appropriate here to throw the baby out with the bathwater with wholesale condemnation of the MOOC movement and online learning in general. While I understand the threats that the open education movement represents to public higher education in general, I believe there is great potential for the revitalization of public higher education to be realized through the thoughtful integration of open educational resources—especially MOOCs and their wide-scale accessibility—into the teaching and learning we do at public colleges and universities.

Fighting against online education and MOOCs will not serve these faculty opponents well in the long run, I predict. As long as we view public higher education and the MOOC movement as mutually exclusive, someone has to win and someone has to lose. Neither holds enough cards to claim a winning hand since traditional education has become so expensive and out of reach for so many, and in many public higher ed environments, technological integration is woefully absent. On the other hand, what MOOCs offer in affordability and accessibility cannot compensate for the limited human interaction they offer. So what's a learner to do? If I were shopping for a degree, I would choose an environment where my traditional human faculty have chosen to embrace technology and open access education, and where I would have access to the best of both worlds. The universities and faculty who make that choice for integration of traditional and online/technology-based learning will reap the greatest rewards in terms of enrollment, retention and learning outcomes. And then we have to consider our charge for preparing our learners for the real-world workforce that awaits them.

Although the private e-learning sector arguably has questionably high influence in the movement, I don't believe that privatization is really the core issue in this debate. Before we decide who else to invite to the table, we have to first decide if we ourselves are going to accept the invitation to step into the exhilarating-albeit-sometimes-scary world of new millennial e-learning and MOOCs.

The water is rising, though. And I really don't think there's going to be any option for going back.

What do you think?