Indiana has become the first state to join a national initiative aimed at making it easier for distance education programs to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals when they enroll students across state lines.
Indiana’s application was approved by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact, one of the four regional higher education interstate compacts that are implementing the state reciprocity initiative, called the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements. In order to join, a state has to meet certain minimum standards in how it authorizes programs and provides consumer protections for students. The goal is to streamline the state authorization process for distance providers who face a variety of different state regulations when they want to offer online courses outside the state in which they are headquartered. Marshall A. Hill, NC-SARA's executive director, last year set a goal of 20 member states by the end of 2014.
Beyond the patchwork of state laws governing distance education, the U.S. Education Department is also in the process of rewriting a regulation that would require online programs that want to participate in federal student aid programs to obtain permission from regulators in each and every state in which they enroll students. A previous version of that rule, known as the “state authorization” requirement, was struck down by a federal appeals court in 2012.
Department officials indicated last week, in kicking of the negotiated rulemaking process for the new rule, that they are interested in considering how state reciprocity agreements should be factored into the federal government’s state authorization requirements.
2U, one of a growing cadre of companies that help colleges take their academic programs online, announced Friday that it had taken steps toward an initial public offering of its stock. 2U has sought to differentiate itself from the other players in this market by focusing on high-prestige universities. Documents filed by the company with the Securities and Exchange Commission provide some insights into the shape and scope of the market of online service providers; Phil Hill of e-Literate offers an analysis here.
The University of the People, an unusual online institution in which students pay no tuition and faculty members volunteer, has been accredited, The New York Times reported. Officials at the university have predicted that accreditation could lead to rapid growth. The university was accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.
The university's founder described his goals in a podcast interview with Inside Higher Ed in 2009.
An electronic textbook pilot has, once again, reported lukewarm interest among college students -- this time at the University of Iowa. Sponsored by Educause and Internet2, the fall 2012 pilot involved about 600 students across 17 different courses, comparing results of students using e-textbooks from McGraw-Hill Education and Courseload to students in similar courses who used print books. Most students preferred the print books, calling them "easier to access and more useful for learning," and few students used the e-textbooks' bookmarking and note taking features.
Additionally, there was "no significant difference" between the grades earned by students using e-textbooks and those using print books. Sam Van Horne, an assessment coordinator in the Information Technology Services offices, said he and the other researchers were surprised by the lack of interest in the interactive features of e-textbooks. "One conclusion of the assessment researchers was that instructional designers can scaffold the adoption of e-textbooks and their interactive tools by helping students and instructors both use the technology but also understand how the use of tools can benefit learning," Van Horne said in an email. "The assessment researchers are hoping to design and test such interventions with other users of e-textbooks."
In 2013, Iowa expanded the pilot to include products from Bioportal, Mindtap and CourseSmart. The researchers said they are in the process of analyzing preliminary data.