The Lumina Foundation is putting $2.3 million behind a growing effort to reduce the regulatory burden on institutions that offer online courses to students across state lines, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.
Four regional commissions, including WICHE, and a number of other higher education officials want distance ed programs to be regulated by the state where they are based instead of by every state where they operate, a plan some hope will solve the longstanding, knotty problem of regulating cross-state institutions. Existing regulations requiring online programs to register in each state where they have students are simply being ignored.
Lumina is funding a voluntary solution, which mirrors recommendations from a report issued in April. The so-called State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, or SARA, would create a national series of reciprocity agreements. States would be responsible for regulating distance ed institutions based in their states. Other states would rely on that home state's work. Distance ed providers, including traditional universities and for-profit providers, could expect a decrease in their paperwork and required fees. SARA would require states across the country to change their laws to accommodate the new regulatory framework.
The head of the New England Board of Higher Education said SARA is a workable solution.
"This agreement provides a timely and voluntary means by which state authorizers and postsecondary institutions nationwide can collaborate to address key challenges, including the ongoing profusion of online learning, the misalignment of state policy requirements, and the need to expand online access and program quality," Michael K. Thomas, NEBHE’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
The University of California Academic Senate has adopted an open-access policy under which future research articles by professors at any of the system's 10 campuses will be available free and online in a university depository. The decision was reached after six years of deliberations and represents an advance for advocates of open access. Chris Kelty, associate professor of information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles and chair of the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication, said: "This policy will cover more faculty and more research than ever before, and it sends a powerful message that faculty want open access and they want it on terms that benefit the public and the future of research."
The University of Maryland University College -- an institution known for distance education -- has announced that it will award academic credit to those who complete six massive open online courses and who pass tests offered for those courses, CBS News DC reported. The MOOCs are introductory mathematics and science courses, and are offered by Coursera and Udacity.
Anant Agarwal, president of edX, one of the major providers of massive open online courses, appeared on "The Colbert Report" this week, where he faced some questions on MOOCs that journalists had previously failed to ask him, at least not the Stephen Colbert way. After Agarwal explained the basic concept of MOOCs, Colbert asked if he was talking about the University of Phoenix. After Agarwal explained that MOOCs are free, Colbert said that if he owned a shoe store, and Agarwal was an employee and suggested giving away shoes for free, "I would fire you and throw shoes at your head."
Harvard University acted in "good faith" in conducting secret searches of e-mail files of some instructors, an outside report has concluded, The Boston Globe reported. The outside report, by a law firm, was commissioned amid widespread faculty and student anger over the e-mails searches, which were conducted as the university was concerned about leaks about a cheating investigation. Administrators believed at the time that they were acting in ways consistent with university policies, and administrators did not read the e-mail messages in the accounts that were searched, the report said.
Seven branches of the Indian Institutes of Technology plan to embrace the concept of massive open online courses, The Economic Times reported. They plan to produce a series of courses that, if taken together, could help students qualify for various jobs. An initial series of courses will be in computer science. Organize think that more than 100,000 people could benefit from the offerings.
American research universities are coming under increasing cyberattacks, most likely from China, forcing them to step up security, The New York Times reported. The article cites institutions facing as many as 100,000 hacking attempts a day, and quotes an Educause official saying that the attacks have "outpaced our ability to respond."
Blackboard, the classroom software company, may be heading in the right direction, judging from a question and answer session with top executives the company hosted for customers on Thursday.
The unusual ritual at Bb World of subjecting executives to public and not always positive feedback from clients has served as a big griping session for perturbed customers in previous years. The company has lost market share over the last several years, according to annual surveys by the Campus Computing Project, though Blackboard remains the largest provider of learning management systems to American colleges.
This week, clients who stood up to talk to the executives generally tossed aside those overarching gripes as things of the past. Blackboard CEO Jay Bhatt joined the company seven months ago following the departure of Michael Chasen, a co-founder.
Jean Mankoff, the director of learning technology support at Texas Woman's University who has attended 14 of the company's conferences, praised Ray Henderson, who joined the company four years ago. She said the company had lost its collegial feeling for several years until recently.
The company is not without issues, however. Mankoff said the company had too many different product lines and sometimes she feels like she is working with different companies when she tries to purchase each product. That's something Bhatt said he is working to fix. Another user complained a featured in one of the disparate product lines had been neglected.
Another customer complained the software has become so feature-laden that faculty have trouble using it, something Bhatt also said he is working to deal with.