Education 3.0 – Around The Globe

What do Greeks, Vietnamese, Australians, and Americans have in common? The answer is no joke…

I travel a lot. For the past several years, I have accumulated over 200,000 miles per year, going around the world to speak about education reform, effective practices, education technology, learning analytics, and neo-millennial learning, to name a few.   In fact, by my calculations I have spent over 15,000 hours in front of audiences over the past decade.

But lately, I have been socializing the concept of “Education 3.0.” I don’t know if I can say I coined the term or not – some other notable bloggers and leaders have been using it too – but in my estimation, if education was able to truly use the most effective, study driven practices from 1) neuroscience, 2) learning research, and 3) education technology, we could fix much of what is wrong with education at every level. As some of you know, my Research Center / Think Tank created a short-film (“School of Thought”), actually shooting in Hollywood last year. The premise for the 21 minute film was essentially a question: What could be, if Education 3.0 was actually implemented?

Photo of numerous motorcycles parked at a technical college in Vietnam.

Education 3.0 can be found on two wheels at this technical college in Vietnam.

While I travel, I try very hard to keep my wits about me – I try to notice what education looks and feels like in other places. I not only deliver keynotes and workshops, but I also have lengthy conversations with educators at all levels and of all types. These insiders often give amazing feedback and insights regarding the state of education today. And while I am always humbled and inspired by the simple experience of traveling abroad (if you haven’t done so, add to your bucket list touring the Acropolis, swimming off at the beaches in Perth, or taking a motorcycle cab ride in Ho Chi Minh city…), I’m most fascinated by the similarities between educational issues we all seem to share.

Neuroscience: Apply What We Know about Learning

When in Vietnam I witnessed something I had seen in other Asian countries. I walked past classrooms (both K12 and Higher Ed) where students were asleep on pillows sold specifically for that context. Why? Because in many Asian cultures learning does not end when the school day is finished. Formal learning may happen over the course of 18 hours, every day. So, students will buy these specially designed pillows as well as quality recording devices and the teachers will lecture to the devices while some students sleep, others surf the web, etc. In Vietnam, my specific consulting was around the cultural implications of a lack of interactivity between the teacher and the students, but it was obvious that a paradigm from the USA is shared by many Asian cultures: time = Learning.

We know some interesting things about time and our brains. We know that waking up during a REM cycle can potentially impair a person’s cognitive ability, equivalent to being drunk. This impairment can last for several hours. Yet we still promote and/or require students to attend early classes. We have researchers like John Medina telling us that some learners (and some teachers!) should have all learning completed before noon, while others should not start until noon. Yet we do nothing to even test which students fall into which categories, let alone to act on it.

And we all know the trouble with the Carnegie Unit. You know, the 110 year old, industrial aged model that says spending X amount of time on a subject means it has been learned. Silly, right? Yet the rules, regulations, accreditations, and policies persist. Sure, Competency Based Education is trying to fight this notion, and is making some great headway, but there is a ton of enculturation and baggage to push through.

I heard some game manufacturers recently explain that they had a product which would guarantee students to learn math faster, retain it longer, and apply it better than any college Algebra course. Yet nobody would adopt it. Why? Because the teacher had to give up approximately 40% of their traditional teaching time (classroom time) and instructors wouldn’t do so. We know more about the brain than ever before. Without using neuroscience to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0

Photo of the Acropolis in Greece at night.

Education 3.0 had its roots in Greece.

Learning Research: Apply What We Know about Teaching

The Greeks showed me much of what I consider the origins of my cultural heritage. To walk the paths and roads where great philosophers stood, where ideas like democracy were first debated, and where architectural beginnings happened was humbling! But I also heard from educators who are struggling with yet another common American problem – the lecture.

I get the allure of lectures. I do! I go around the world (essentially) lecturing. But keep in mind a few things. I’m lecturing on about 12-15 total hours of material that I’ve developed over 20 years because I only have 1 hour with which to make an argument or propose an idea. Yes, there are new pieces every time, but 90% of the lectures are polished and have gotten solid feedback. A GREAT lecture can be amazing and I try in my keynotes to deliver a great lecture.

But in my classes it’s a different story! I rarely lecture at all anymore. I have those students for 45 hours a term – I don’t need to cram anything into an hour. And I know that nobody can create 45 amazing lectures per term. In fact, after polling about 20,000 teachers and professors, the average number of great lecturers on campus seems to be 3 and the total number of great lectures any one person delivers seems to be 3.

So, despite years of research and confirmation that lecturing should be rare and surgical in its use, we still see evidence in polls like the National Survey of Student Engagement which suggests that ½ of a college student’s experiences in every class, every term is lecture. Despite the work of Dr. Eric Mazur, lecturer of the year at Harvard, who has proven that lecturing doesn’t work, many teachers still engage in the practice. Despite Richard Light’s Harvard Assessment Seminars, showing that student’s best experiences in college are the non-lecture based classes, we still over-use it to a fault. Without using learning research to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0.

Photo of an Australian beach.

Education 3.0 can be found in the beaches of Australia.

Education Technology: Apply What We Know about Technologies

I was down under very recently. I spent some time in Melbourne training faculty with regard to effective use of education technology. The people in Australia are quite remarkable. They are simply the kindest culture of people (collectively) that I’ve experienced in my travels. But that kindness cannot mask the frustration by some faculty at the notion of being asked (forced?) to use ed tech.

In the states, we share this trouble. I have spent over a decade “e-vangelizing” the usage of education technology. I believe it is impossible to reach all students in meaningful ways without ed tech. History has shown us that education without technology cannot scale. Yet many educators still balk at the idea of infusing technology in the classroom and if they do, most still only substitute ed tech for non-technical activities. (Instead of paper test, they’ll use a computer test, etc.)

But as Puentedura points out nicely in his S.A.M.R. model of transformative use of ed tech, it is not until we actually Modify and/or Redefine our activities, making use of the power, scalability, and connect-ability of these tools, that we start to see substantive, meaningful changes for our students. Until we use education technology to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0.

Let’s Strive for Education 3.0

I’m honored to have been asked to share some thoughts with the WCET community. It’s been a few years since I spoke at your conference and I hope to do so again soon! But as we all strive to fix our own corners of education, I really hope we’ll start to let the same important frameworks and research-driven practices inform those fixes. I hope we’ll all start to strive for and use Education 3.0. There is a lot at stake.

Good luck and good teaching my friends.

Dr. Jeff D Borden

Photo of Jeff Borden.

Dr. Jeff Borden (@bordenj), Pearson’s VP of Instruction & Academic Strategy is a consultant, speaker, professor, comedian, and trainer, all while leading the Center for eLearning (an Academic research center and think tank). As a University faculty member of 18 years and past college administrator, Jeff has assisted faculty, administrators, executives, and even politicians in conceptualizing and designing eLearning programs globally. Jeff has testified before the U.S. Congress’ Education Committee, blogs for Wired Innovations, provides global keynote addresses, promotes research findings from the academic think tank he directs, and has been asked to help determine the “Academic Vision” for Pearson Higher Education. To read Jeff’s blog, follow the cMooc his research group is building, or get more information, check out:

To see the Short-Film “School of Thought” that Jeff wrote and produced:


The Evolution of Education

This year, the WCET Annual Meeting will kick off with a keynote from Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY).  Today she shares with us how her team is addressing three fundamental principles in education – access, completion and success. 

The Evolution of Education: Responsibilities for Post-secondary Education in a New Age

Education as we know it is rapidly evolving. From the earliest stages through post-secondary, some gaps in the pipeline have persisted as educators, administrators, parents, and students play catch-up with advances in technology, teaching methods, higher standards, and an increasing need for critical thinking guided by the STEM disciplines. As the world adapts to this new age, the mission of higher education has pressed beyond teaching and learning to include a more encompassing fate—the reliable delivery of education and job training that directly supports the innovation-driven 21st-century economy and today’s careers.

More so than any other sector, higher ed is equipped to lead the nation’s work to seal the leaks in our education pipeline. As anchor institutions founded on answering society’s highest needs while improving quality of life by creating a skilled workforce, colleges and universities have deep roots in local communities and, collectively speaking, we are perhaps the nation’s most reliable and powerful force of economic development.Road Map by Teijo Hakala

We have always been that engine. What’s new, though, are the creative, evidence-based, scalable interventions that are fueling our evolution. Applied learning, digital access, seamless transfer—these are the kinds of transformational changes that our sector should be implementing as we embrace our role in the education of every student, from cradle to career.

SUNY has developed a roadmap for what we view as the future of public higher education in the U.S. It is guided by three fundamental principles—Access, Completion, and Success.


With our cradle-to-career partners across the state, SUNY brings the opportunity of college to every New Yorker regardless of their background, family income, or other factors that may deter a student from pursuing a degree. We partner with schools and communities across the state—particularly those in our most challenged zip codes—to reach every student as early on in the pipeline as possible and see to it that they have access to the teaching, mentoring, and out-of-school support they need to prepare for college and career. These “cradle-to-career” partnerships utilize the StriveTogether collective impact approach to improving education outcomes.

We are doing what we can to reach non-traditional students too, such as returning veterans and adults who have life commitments such as a family to support and a job (or jobs) that keep them from believing college is an option. Open SUNY, our new platform for online education, allows us to vastly increase access to courses from across our 64-campus system and to power certain high-demand degrees with online “anytime” access as well as various supports for students and faculty that contribute to their success in this environment. With digital courses ready to take any time day or night, Open SUNY gives us the capacity to adjust to the schedules of our students and not the other way around.


Through a number of initiatives, including one of the nation’s foremost student transfer policies, we are also helping all students finish school faster, because cutting time-to-degree is still the number one way to cut costs. We have made it seamless for students to transfer credits all throughout our system of 64 colleges and universities. There is no valid reason why the nation’s institutions of public higher education can’t collectively do the same.

Today, the average SUNY student takes 4.4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree, and New York ranks fourth in the country for students graduating within four years—after only the smaller states of Delaware, Virginia, and New Hampshire. Part of that success comes in the form of awareness—doing all we can to be sure students know what it takes to earn a degree not only academically but financially. National focus on cutting college costs has led to our pairing of one of the most affordable educations in the country with one of the most aggressive financial aid transparency campaigns, SUNY Smart Track. We comprehensively show students what college is going to cost, detail for them their financing options, and support them as they decide how much to borrow and develop a plan to pay it back. SUNY Smart Track follows every student borrower from their decision to enroll through graduation and even as alums. As a result, SUNY students incur less debt than the national average, our loan default rate is significantly lower than average, and 40 percent of our students graduate with no loan debt at all.

Of course, the advent of technology in the digital age has been a significant boon to our efforts as well. Open SUNY is aiding our completion agenda, but it’s just the beginning. We are on the cusp of implementing web-based degree planning and auditing software that will track classes and degree requirements for students, enabling them to quickly see what courses they still need to graduate and when and where they can take them, be it at their “home” campus, a potential “transfer” campus within our system, or through Open SUNY. This will also be a powerful new tool for parents, faculty advisors, and admissions counselors as they assist students.


Today’s high-tech, global economy is fast-paced and moving forward every day, and we have to ensure that, above all else, we are preparing our students to be a part of it. That’s why there is so much hype— and justifiably so—surrounding the expansion of applied learning opportunities in college, including everything from clinical placements and cooperative education to service learning, volunteerism, student research, and field study.

At SUNY, we believe in the power of learning by doing, and we are retooling our workforce development programs en masse to take these approaches to the broadest possible scale. We are expanding our prior learning assessments so incoming students don’t have to re-learn what they already know. And through innovative on-the-job training programs like apprenticeships, internships, and co-op across our system, SUNY faculty are working side-by-side with the state’s employers to craft new, engaging curricula that integrates classroom study and (often paid) work experience. So our graduates have a significant advantage as they enter the workforce. Importantly, we are tailoring our applied learning offerings to meet the unique community and workforce needs of regions throughout New York State, so truly, everybody wins.

Through this education evolution, the core purposes of our sector remain, and traditional classroom settings are by no means extinct. But higher education in its finest, most effective 21st-century form integrates real-world work experience, modern technology, cradle-to-career networking, and other systemic evidence-based reforms as much as possible. The challenges that post-secondary education faces in a new age are daunting, but with creativity, openness, and a commitment to collective impact, higher education can rise to the occasion.


 Dr. Nancy ZimpherNancy Zimpher


State University of New York





Road Map Photo Credit: Teijo Hakala

You can learn THAT online?!?!?

Online learning has been popularized through programs in business, technology, education and even nursing.  However, over the years, the diversity of programs you can take online – even those which require extensive clinical hours – has grown.  For a little fun this summer, I dug around to find the most unusual online learning programs from an accredited university or a recognized industry association I could.  Here are some of the programs I unearthed:

  • Enjoy a frosty craft brew? Perhaps you’d like to learn the business of craft brewing before moving your operation out of the garage and into the public. There’s a certificate at Portland State University to help you with that.
  • Can you spot a diamond in the rough? Perhaps you’d like to become a Graduate Gemologist.
  • Maybe you’re into Casper and friends and want to go the Paranormal Investigation route.Organic Farmer
  • Maybe you’d like to learn to grow your own organic vegetables, but don’t have your own row to hoe. This program at Washington State University allows you to learn the basics and then intern with an organic farmer, organic business, or organic certifying agency to get your hands dirty.
  • You can become a leader in the energy industry, with a bachelor of applied science at Bismarck State College.
  • Learn to help people undergoing dialysis by earning a certificate that provides both theoretical and practical training. Or become a surgical assistant and support surgeons in fields from obstetrics to neurosurgery.
  • You can move up the healthcare ladder by earning your Nurse Practitioner degree through Duke University or Georgetown University
  • Perhaps you’d like to be among the first Canadian Architects trained online?
  • Maybe your heart resides with the animals and earning a veterinary technician degree would help you put your compassion to work.
  • You can even learn to become a professional pilot, prior pilot’s license not required but can be applied towards prior learning credits.

I also found lots of programs from unaccredited institutions in everything from blackjack dealing to tarot reading to becoming a wedding minister.  There is that saying that ‘you can be anyone online’ or as Brad Paisley said “I’m so much cooler online.”  So, what about your institution?  What is the most unusual program you offer online?  What isn’t offered online right now that you’d like to see offered online? UConn eCampus Puppet Arts

I’ll leave you with one idea – Coming this Fall from UConn: an online graduate certificate in Puppet Arts.

11:25am edit: *This is by no means an exhaustive list, I’m sure there are lots of other good programs in these fields and other unusual programs – please, add them to the comments – join the fun!

Photo of Cali MorrisonCali Morrison

Communications Manager, WCET

Email Cali

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Photo Credit: Steve Hanna

The Starbucks Plan: A Big Step Forward, But Challenges Remain

Our WICHE Colleague, Patrick Lane, senior policy analyst and the project coordinator for the Adult College Completion Network, shares with us today a recap, originally posted on the ACCN blog, of what the Starbucks-ASU partnership means for employees and how for many of them, as adult students with many commitments, there are still barriers the program doesn’t address.

The Starbucks-Arizona State University (ASU) partnership that will provide tuition reimbursement for employees in their last two years of postsecondary education garnered a good deal of press recently. The program has many interesting components that will benefit a broad range of students who are employed by Starbucks, but this post focuses on the implications of this new program for adults with prior college credit but no degree. Looking more closely at the agreement  highlights the importance of several policies and practices that can be barriers to adult degree completion.

First, here’s a quick recap of the benefit, which is linked to ASU’s online program, and what it offers to Starbucks employees:

  • Employees who work at least 20 hours per week and have at least 56 credits accepted by ASU are eligible for College Achievement Plan (CAP) reimbursements to cover tuition and fees. Starbucks will reimburse them after accounting for federal financial aid, military benefits, and institutional financial aid.
  • ASU will give enrolled employees a “CAP Scholarship” that effectively reduces employees’ tuition.
  • Eligible employees will receive reimbursements after completing certain academic milestones. As envisioned, reimbursements would come after students reach 21-credit “milestones.”
  • Employees will be required to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Starbucks Baristas Bozeman, MT

None of the baristas in Bozeman are taking advantage of the ASU program yet, but they had heard of it.

Starbucks certainly deserves commendation for making an aggressive move to support employee education, regardless of whether or not it benefits the company’s bottom line. (Some research shows that tuition reimbursement programs can have a positive return on investment mainly due to lower recruitment costs and increased retention, but typically those programs have a smaller overall reimbursement than imagined here.)

Still, like many other tuition reimbursement programs, the Starbucks-ASU program presents some barriers for potential returning students, but also highlights some promising strategies.

The up-front costs for students will be high. If employees only receive reimbursements each time they complete 21-credit chunks, they will be on the hook for a portion of tuition and fees even after accounting for Pell grants and other sources of financial aid. This burden will likely reduce the number of Starbucks employees who take advantage of the benefit. The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) has found that eligible employees are much more likely to take advantage of tuition assistance programs when those benefits are prepaid compared to when they are on a reimbursement basis. Their research shows participation in prepaid programs at 14 percent of eligible employees compared to 5 percent for reimbursement-based programs.

Starbucks – and other employers offering tuition reimbursements – could reduce this burden by converting the program to “tuition assistance” that is distributed when the employee has to pay his or her tuition bill. Other incentives or mechanisms to require repayment if the employee does not complete the milestone could be put in place to achieve the same ends without unduly burdening the employee.

Coaching can pay off. Part of the arrangement calls for Starbucks to pay for students’ retention coaches. Research on coaching – which typically involves intensive advising focused on managing commitments within and outside of postsecondary education, navigating the college bureaucracy, and focusing on post-graduation career goals – has shown some evidence of success, with students who receive coaching being more likely to persist and graduate.

Evaluation of transfer credit is crucial. It is probably safe to assume that many of the Starbucks employees hoping to take advantage of the program have earned college credit at institutions other than Arizona State University. Like many other non-traditional students enrolling at a new institution, the amount of time they will need to spend to finish their degree will depend a great deal on how their transfer credit is evaluated and applied (or not) toward a major. Rejecting credits or granting only elective or general education credits can cause returning adults to spend significant extra time finishing a degree.

Competing demands on students’ time may make completion difficult. Some of the press commentary and critiques have noted that employees working 20 hours a week or more may find that it is difficult to fit in the necessary coursework to finish a degree. This is hardly news for those who work with adult students, and not really a valid critique of Starbucks’ benefit, but more a reflection on what working adults returning to college regularly face. Generally speaking, institutions can adopt policies and practices that make it easier to manage these demands, such as advising options outside of business hours, having business and financial aid offices open longer hours, or providing “concierges” to help guide students through the difficult process of reenrolling. As an example, ASU provides ways for students to talk with financial aid staff 24/7.

Overall, Starbucks’ offering has (for the moment) shined a bright spotlight on the challenges faced by adult students, as well as some of the promising strategies to help them succeed. It will be interesting to watch to see whether other companies begin to adopt similar programs and to what extent this affects the broader landscape of adult education.

Patrick Lane HeadshotPatrick Lane

Senior Policy Analyst
& Project Coordinator
WICHE Policy Analysis & Research

Email Pat

This Summer, Online Collaborating is Hot!

It has been a good summer and a good year for colleges finding ways to work together online. I’ve been meaning to note this development for some time, but this week’s developments with California State University Online prompted me to share my observations. Meanwhile, there have been exciting advances with inter-institutional partnerships, both old and new.

Reboot of CalState Online
Our friend, Phil Hill of the e-Literate blog, wrote an excellent piece It’s the End of Cal State Online As We Know It… that found:

In a letter to campus leaders, Cal State University system office last month announced that Cal State Online will no longer operate as originally conceived.

Based on their work, Inside Higher Ed wrote: “California State U System Nixes Online Degree Arm for Shared Services Model“, which said:

Photo of jalapeno peepers arranged to spell the word "hot"

Online Collaboration is Hot!

The California State University System is replacing its distance education portal with a shared services model less than two years after its launch, as the system’s campuses decide they would rather do the work on their own.

What seems to be happening is that they are moving from an ambitious plan to “create a standardized, centralized, comprehensive business, marketing and outreach support structure for all aspects of online program delivery for the Cal State University System.” Although they ae abandoning much of the centralized academics, a shared services model was always part of the plan. It now appears like it will be the central focus. That may be what is politically feasible.

We will know more about next steps in the next few months. First, CSU officials will conduct a “listening tour” of each campus, gain advice from a new Commission on Online Education, and obtain feedback from an online discussion forum.

Some “Partnerships” Don’t Work As Expected
Please take one minute and 10 seconds to watch the U.S. Congressional leaders hold hands and sing “We Shall Overcome.”

That looked more uncomfortable than wearing Brillo underwear.

Colleges are Having Better Luck Singing in Harmony
While politicians seem to have an increasingly hard time in working in concert, there have been several recent announcements about colleges singing in unison:

Unizin emerges from the shadows and has big goals in sight
A partnership among several large universities was highlighted by the e-Literate blog in May and was officially announced in June.   They have ambitious goals that they could reach: “…we want to bias things in the direction of open standards, interoperability, and scale. Unizin is about tipping the table in favor of the academy by collectively owning (buying, developing, and connecting) the essential infrastructure that enables digital learning on our campuses and beyond.” See their website for more details.

Washington’s community colleges partner on competency-based learning
A dozen of Washington’s two-year colleges are partnering to create a competency-based degree that will increase student completion and speed student’s time to completion. They will rely on adaptive learning. Working together makes sense as it is project that is probably larger than any one institution could tackle and it leads to creation of compatible competency modules from the start.

eCampusManitoba is a new one-stop shop
Students will be able to access one portal to learn about online offerings from institutions throughout the province.

The University of Missouri System begins course sharing
By working together, they plan to allow students to enroll in courses at any of the four campuses. The goals are: “to create an online alternative for classes that typically have low enrollment, to broaden access to unique classes and to give partnering faculty members time to work on other projects, such as research, because they’re ideally alternating semesters of teaching their online courses.”

Pat James to head new California Community College System collaboration
Former WCET fellow Pat James will head the Online Education Initiative, which has at its goal to: “dramatically increase the number of California Community Colleges students who obtain associate degrees and transfer to four-year colleges each year by providing online courses and services within a statewide CCC Online Education system.”

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
This seems like a remarkable amount of activity and we are not even to August yet. Add to that the expansion of eCampusAlberta to more institutions and BCcampus continuing to expand its open textbooks.

Keeping with the collaborative theme, at the WCET Annual Meeting we will be featuring Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY). One of the items she will discuss is Open SUNY, which is “a seamless way for you to access the courses, degrees, professors, and rich academics of all 64 SUNY campuses flexibility.”

We have been updating our profiles of e-learning consortia, but we have much more work to do. If you know of a partnership that is missing or if one needs to be updated, let us all know.Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat

Collaboration is hot!


Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

If you like our work, join WCET!



Photo credit for peppers: Morgue File.

State Authorization: Education Pauses, Defense Follows, and We Webcast It All

It has been a few weeks since Ted Mitchell, the U.S. Department of Education’s Under Secretary for Postsecondary Education, announced that there will be a “pause” in proposing new federal state authorization regulations for distance education. According to Inside Higher Ed, he said: “It’s complicated, and we want to get it right.”

In this blog post, I comment on the future of the Department of Education’s “pause” and what this means for those signing the Department of Defense’s MOU. We also announce a partnership to bring you a series of two webcasts to help bring clarity on these (and many other) state authorization issues.

The U.S. Department of Education Regulation on “Pause”

As of last week, there were no immediate plans by the Department to move forward in issuing a new proposed language for the regulation. The official word is that they are on “pause” with the federal state authorization regulation. My guess is that they do “want to get it right” and that they take their time to create a new process.

Graphic of a pause button.

The federal state authorization regulation has hit the “pause” button.


  • There is no federal deadline for compliance with state authorization regulations for distance education.
  • Don’t get confused by the Department’s letter announcing a one year “delay” on enforcing the part of the state authorization regulations. That letter references sections 600.9(a) and (b), which are about regulating institutions within a state and is NOT about distance education.  You can learn more about the differences in a blog post that Greg Ferenbach of Cooley,  LLP wrote for us earlier this year.  In brief, some states are still confused about what the Department wants in terms of authorizing colleges within their state and they needed another extension. Otherwise, some colleges would have lost their financial aid eligibility.
  • It is unclear what next steps the Department will take. It is likely that they may wait until after the elections this fall before moving forward.
  • Finally, state regulations are still in force. States expect you to be in compliance prior to enrolling students, marketing, or performing any regulated activity in their state.

The U.S. Department of Defense’s Memorandum of Understanding Joins the “Pause”

The Department of Defense issued a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that institutions must sign if they wish to offer Tuition Assistance to their students in the military.  We received questions about how to interpret the state authorization language, which, in part, refers to the U.S. Department of Education regulations.  Of course, Education’s distance education regulation is on “pause” for now.

Thank you to our friends at the Cooley LLP law firm who led us to a new FAQ from the DOD on the MOU.   How’s that for a mess of letters?

Question 29 addresses state authorization. Both Cooley and we (at WCET) are taking that response to mean that the Department of Defense will follow the Department of Education’s lead in the “pause” on enforcing state authorization. Since Defense has been referencing Education’s state authorization regulation all along, it makes sense that they wait until the Department of Education issues the new regulation.

Announcing Two State Authorization Webcasts

Need more updates and details? WCET partners with the Online learning Consortium, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association, and the Midwest Higher Education Compact’s State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement to offer two informational webcasts:

  • August 14: State Authorization for Distance Education:  The Future for REGULATIONS
    Covers the latest on the state, federal, and military regulations.  It also advises colleges on what to do next.
    (2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / Noon Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific)
  • August 19: State Authorization for Distance Education:  The Future for RECIPROCITY
    Everything you ever wanted to know about the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
    (2:00 PM Eastern / 1:00 PM Central / Noon Mountain / 11:00 AM Pacific)

Learn more about these free webcasts. Separate registration is needed for each event and we do expect that they will fill-up. An archive of each webcast will be made available.

It is great that these organizations are working together to give you these updates.

Meanwhile, have a great summer!Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat


Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

If you like our work, join WCET!

Fresh air, Fresh ideas

As military boot camp serves to bulk up the physical endurance and mental preparation for combat service, WCET’s data boot camp brought together cross-functional teams to bulk up their knowledge and preparation to build analytics capacity at their specific institution.  Unlike other events where the focus is on keynote speakers, the boot camp allowed for valuable networking and group problem solving by using small group break-outs, subject matter expert led discussions, and plenty of time for beneficial conversations.

Networking begins at WCET Boot Camp in beautiful Vail, CO.

Networking begins at WCET Boot Camp in beautiful Vail, CO.

As the character of the boot camp was centered on conversations, what you will not find here, or on the boot camp resources page, are video recordings or a blow-by-blow of who said what when.  Rather, the purpose of the event, and the true value, was for attendees to take away their personalized plan for implementing data analytics on their campus.  In that frame of reference, what follows are some highlights of information shared by our subject matter experts (SMEs) – I have tried to credit direct quotes but have often taken ideas from several people and condensed them into one point. For more direct quotes and learning be sure to check out the Storify of the tweets using #wcetbootcamp!

  • Postsecondary institutions need to examine the validity of our work – are we measuring the right things? Are our programs adding value for students and is it worth the cost?
  • Are institutional innovations sustainable once grant and other one-time funding are gone?  Dennis Jones noted “A really good innovation is of little use if it isn’t economically viable.”
  • The key to success for innovations is creative use of human resources – using existing team to work on innovations by shifting small amounts of time to it.  The only outlay of cost is time, no other monetary investment. (As Linda Baer called it… “skunk works projects” – done under the radar and eventually funded when they become necessary.)
  • Develop a short term plan (3-5 years) that aligns with your institutional strategic plan which is accepted by all stakeholders and has specific deliverables for design, pilots, scaling to the entire population and measuring, monitoring and optimizing moving forward.
  • Keep it simple and focused – determine your strategic need and pose the question you’d like to answer using the data before you start. As Mike Sharkey shared on twitter “If you don’t know where to start, think of a single use case to help narrow the scope.”
  • Accept imperfection.
  • Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis – move from analysis to action.
  • Identify the low-hanging fruit – find ways to develop small wins.
  • Coordination and documentation of the data collection processes are key to building a sustainable analytic culture on campus.
  • Get approval from your institutional review board early in the process so you can avoid the “we can’t do it because of FERPA” detractors.
  • Communicate the plan with all stakeholders – don’t leave anyone out of the implementation planning.  Strong communications will support cultural change within your institutional culture.
  • Look all around your institution for experts to support your analytic endeavors.  There are smart faculty and practitioners in all disciplines from math to academic advising to English and geography.  You don’t necessarily have to depend on outside expertise.
  • If you do hire consultants, the best consultants are always working themselves out of a job – they come in and build capacity within your institution so you can be self-supporting.
  • As Vernon Smith noted, “Innovation meets a need in a new way. Be prepared to fail. Then fail fast and move on.”
Next steps discussion led by SMEs Vernon Smith, Lisa Foss, Ellen Wagner, Mike Sharkey and Linda Baer.

Next steps discussion led by SMEs Vernon Smith, Lisa Foss, Ellen Wagner, Mike Sharkey and Linda Baer.


We invite you to join or continue the conversation at WCET’s 26th Annual Meeting in Portland, OR November 19-21, 2014.   If you have an analytics story, or other projects, research or practices in e-learning to share, be sure to submit your proposal by Friday, July 18th.


Special thanks go out to all of our SMEs for sharing your experiences and knowledge and participants for your active participation in WCET’s data boot camp!




See you in Portland!

Photo of Cali MorrisonCali Morrison
WCET, Manager, Communications
Support our work.  Join WCET.

U.S. Department of Education ‘Pausing’ on State Authorization

In an address to the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) yesterday, Ted Mitchell (Under Secretary for Postsecondary) Education announced a ‘pause’ on state authorization.  This announcement was reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed today.  I’ll share what I know about this.

The Department’s Earlier Announcement of a Delay was Not about Distance Education

The Department of Education published a notice a few days ago that it will delay the deadline for state authorization compliance by another year.  The letter references sections 600.9(a) and (b), which are about regulating institutions WITHIN A STATE and is NOT about distance education.  You can learn more about the differences in the two types of ‘state authorization’ in a blog post that Greg Ferenbach of Cooley,  LLP wrote for us earlier this year.  In brief, some states are still confused about what the Department wants in terms of authorizing institutions within their state and they needed another extension or some of their colleges would have lost their financial aid eligibility.The words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.

There Has Been Considerable Contact with the Department about the Distance Ed Regulation

WCET joined with Sloan-C and UPCEA to write a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Under Secretary Mitchell about our concerns with the direction the Department was taking and to give recommendations on how the Department might proceed.   I have also been talking with numerous groups and individuals that have been writing their own letters or have used their contacts.

On Tuesday of this week, Marshall Hill (Executive Director of the National Council on State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements) and some high-ranking members of the National Council leadership board met with Mr. Mitchell.  According to Marshall, Mr. Mitchell was aware of many of the concerns that they raised and was very supportive of reciprocity.  From that meeting, Mr. Mitchell indicated that more work needed to be done, but did not suggest the delay.

Mr. Mitchell’s reference in the Inside Higher Ed article about addressing a “specific problem” showed that our message was being heard.

Ted Mitchell’s Announcement to CHEA

The original timeline was for the Department to issue proposed distance education regulations for public comment in July or August.  They would address the comments and issue a final version of the new regulations by the end of October.  That date was important, as it is the deadline for regulations that are to be implemented by July 1 of next year.

Given that Mr. Mitchell is new in his position as Under Secretary and the great concern from all sectors about both types of ‘state authorization’ regulations, it is understandable that the Department would wish to put a pause on proposing a new regulation.  Additionally, the “reauthorization” of the higher education act (which governs the federal financial rules) is now getting underway.  State authorization has already been a political football in those discussions.

It will be interesting to see if this issue is left for reauthorization or if they will create another process to address this issue. I will let you know what I learn.  Meanwhile, I’m having conversations with organizations of states about engaging with the Department on real dialogue on this issue.  As we suggested in our letter, if the Department has concerns about what states are doing or not doing, they should directly involve the states in seeking solutions.

State Regulations are Still in Place

As a reminder…there is no pause or delay on state regulations.  States expect institutions to follow their laws and regulations before enrolling students or performing any other regulated activity in that state…whether there is a federal regulation or not.Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat


Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

If you like our work, join WCET!

Limited Time Offer!: Using Retail Marketing Tactics to Get Adults Back to College

Connecticut’s innovative new program to attract students with some credits, but no degree has had amazing success in grabbing the attention of its target audience.  Thank you to Ed Klonoski, President of Charter Oak State College, who describes “Go Back to Get Ahead,” which started only a few weeks ago.
Russ Poulin

I am here to tell you a story that contains the seeds for a new and powerful approach to degree completion.  It is my hope that this description of Connecticut’s Go Back to Get Ahead program will provide the key elements necessary to rolling out a successful statewide program in your locality.

Thanks to the work of Lumina Foundation, the idea that American higher education must find a way to educate more working adults in order to provide the economy with a sufficiently skilled workforce is now gaining traction among the political class (i.e. governors).  We also know that today 40% of college students are over age 24 while only 15% are 18-24, residential and full time.  The current student population is part time and older; in fact, this is the new majority.  And to make that change even more important, in Connecticut, we are seeing a 1.8% annual decline in our eighteen year olds.

These three facts, when taken together, make this the perfect moment to get serious about adult degree completion.  Lumina talks about raising the postsecondary attainment level of our workforce to 60% by 2025.  In Connecticut, because we have no natural resources (gas, oil, timber, farming, etc.), we believe we must hit 70% degree attainment in our workforce within the next decade.

Nationally, the work in degree completion has been gaining strength in the past five years thanks to efforts like the Adult College Completion Network and the The Graduate! Network, Inc..  When planning the Connecticut initiative, I spoke to program directors in states including Indiana, Georgia, and Texas.  My own institution, Charter Oak State College, has been focused on helping adults complete a degree for 40 years.  But I am here today to tell you about a new program that our Governor launched which is helping shape a dynamic new approach to re-enrolling returning adult students.Go Back to Get Ahead logo

Connecticut Targets Students with Some College but No Degree

The Go Back To Get Ahead program is a direct result of Connecticut legislation: “An Act Improving College Completions.”  The bill, which went into effect July 1, 2014, seeks to encourage Connecticut residents “who previously enrolled in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program, but left such program prior to its completion, to return to an institution of higher education to earn a degree.” The bill was amended to add residents who completed associate degrees but did not go on for their bachelor’s.

Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy has been the driving force for this project.  The Governor is a strong supporter of workforce improvements and, as a result, he proposed $20 million for this program; $2 million for administration and the remainder to provide financial incentives.  The program will pay for up to three free courses plus standard fees at the part time rate.  The money is paid to the colleges and deducted from each student’s bill.  To receive this incentive, students must matriculate and carry a minimum of 6 credits per semester.  Students will receive the first incentive in their first semester, the second in the next semester, and the third in their final semester (to drive completion).

The Connecticut State College and Universities system gave the project to Charter Oak State College to manage, and we began our work while the General Assembly was still debating the budget.  In May, the legislature passed a budget that included $6 million for Go Back To Get Ahead, and the program launched on June 2—just 120 days after the Governor first announced it.

The program will accept returning students from any regionally accredited institution, but only allows them to receive the incentive to return to one of the 17 colleges in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (4 state universities, 12 community colleges, and 1 online college).  So GBTGA is the key enrollment growth strategy for our system.

How We Organized Go Back To Get Ahead

As I mentioned, the program is being administered by Charter Oak State College (COSC).  A small, dedicated Go Back To Get Ahead enrollment staff was hired by COSC to advise all the returning students and support the business office processes.  The Provost of COSC is the project manager.  COSC staff are taking the lead roles in marketing the project, purchasing and setting up the CRM to manage the project, training staffs at the 17 colleges to manage the referral funnel and to use the CRM, and training staff on the reimbursement process.

The Provost and her staff have committees with representation from each of the 17 colleges to develop processes, program guidelines, and eligibility requirements.  The Provost has developed a communication structure to keep the 17 colleges informed.  Charter Oak staff (the President, Provost, Marketing Director, Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Information Technology, and Director of Admissions) meet with the President of the Board of Regents regularly to keep them updated and to affirm decisions. The Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) is providing its Call Center to support call overflow and off hour calls.  The program is determined to answer every call in real time.

Telling Students about Go Back To Get Ahead:  Act While Supplies Last!

Working with the information technology, institutional research, and other staff at each of the 17 colleges, COSC developed an unduplicated list of potential students (over 80,000) to invite to return to college.  A personalized letter signed by the Governor and the President of the Board of Regents (BOR) was sent during the month of June to this list of potential returnees.  This is being augmented by a statewide media campaign comprised of radio spots, social media, Internet ads, etc. and a public relations campaign featuring the Governor, President of the BOR, and other college presidents.   The campaigns and marketing will drive the potential students to a URL or phone number so they can begin the process of returning.

The project is designed to encourage the students to take action.  Students must matriculate by September 30, 2016.  The program will end June 30, 2018.  However, once the money is depleted, no additional students will be admitted.  This is the retail nature of the incentive.  It is literally, “buy one get one while supplies last.”  The early results were spectacular because this “act now” message really worked.  For Charter Oak, it was remarkable to see adult degree completers acting quickly—this never happens to us in our normal recruitment conversations.

The Response from Students Has Been Huge

Let’s look at the data.  The program is in its third week as of this writing.  Our current count for inquiries is 3,141 and we have referred 1,185 students to one of the 17 institutions.  We are converting 37% of our inquiries to referrals.  The success rate for the online inquiry form is 95.4%. That means almost everyone who starts the form finishes it.  We put a special source code on the letters we mailed to our dropouts and 885 of the inquiries are from those letters (28%).  That means that more than 70% of the inquiries are from students who heard about the offer from the media or from recipients of the letter.

It is too soon to measure the conversion rate from referrals to matriculants, but we have insisted on a 48 hour turn around for contacting referrals, and that has happened.  The institutions in our system were concerned that Charter Oak would harvest all the returning students because like Excelsior and Edison, Charter Oak State College is a degree completion specialist, with a 6 credit residency requirement, extremely flexible course transfer policies, and an aggressive approach to Prior Learning Assessment strategies (tests and portfolios).

So far Charter Oak is averaging 22% of the referrals, which seems reasonable.  That number may increase slightly over time, but students are choosing from all 17 of our institutions.  What Charter Oak provides is low cost, online, and completion friendly solution for students who are very close to attaining either the Associates or the Bachelors.  In my opinion, this is part of the special sauce that makes this program work.

What We’ve Learned So Far

So to wrap this up, the Go Back To Get Ahead program is succeeding (we may actually run out of money for free courses in 45 days at our current rate of success) because the program included the following elements:

  • Gubernatorial support (Governor Malloy is doing press conferences for the program).
  • A lead organization that can manage the project planning and deployment.
  • Retail marketing incentive (buy one, get one free).
  • Both direct mail and targeted statewide media marketing.
  • Centralized CRM system for managing enrollments, communication, and reporting.
  • An institution that specializes in degree completion (low residency requirements, liberal credit transfer policies, and adult student focus).Photo of Ed Klonoski, president of Charter Oak State College

I hope this short program description generates some interest in the topic.  I will be happy to report back in the fall when we have numbers on enrollments, institutional choices, and cost per enrollment.  Then next semester I will have numbers on persistence.  If asked, I can also share our eligibility requirements (the small print that is part of every buy one, get one offer).

Ed Klonoski
Charter Oak State College

Sloan-C, UPCEA, and WCET Partner on State Authorization Policy Recommendations

For the first time, WCET partnered with UPCEA and Sloan-C in providing recommendations on distance education policy.  We stated our positions in a letter delivered on Friday to Secretary Arne Duncan of the U.S. Department of Education.  In the letter we addressed the upcoming state authorization regulations that the Department is expected to release for public comment this summer.

Our hope is to influence the process prior to the Department publishing the regulations for public comment.  In the letter, we…The words "state authorization surrounded by all the state names.

  • Acknowledge the federal court’s recognition that the Department has the authority to issue such a regulation.
  • Express our concern that the Department’s intent to ask states to change their review procedures will cause confusion and added costs for students.
  • Present recommendations including that the Department return to the 2010 propose regulation that said that the Department would simply check that colleges are following state laws.  In addition, we also supported military exemptions (for active duty soldiers, their families, and Veterans Administration facilities), an exemption for institutions with only a few students in a state that would work better than the one currently proposed, and a requirement for notifying students about licensure requirements.  We also suggest that the Department work more directly with the states if it has concerns about existing state regulations and new federal regulations that would conflict with state requirements.

Thank You to Our Partners for Their Leadership

Mollie McGill and I wish to express our gratitude to Kathleen Ives (Sloan-C) and Robert Hansen (UPCEA-University Professional and Continuing Education Association) for their work and support in being co-sponsors of this letter.  We also with to thank our friends from the Distance Education and Training Council, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, Presidents’ Forum, and the United States Distance Learning Association for agreeing to lend their names as supporters.

We understand that not all of our institutions will agree with every recommendation in the letter.  We balanced several factors in our decision-making including:  existing state and federal laws, the Department’s need to protect federal financial aid funds, institutional burden in compliance, and protecting students as consumers.  The impact on students was paramount in our thinking at all times.

We Will Have a Greater Impact if Institutions Express Their Opinions

We invite you to weigh in.  You can do so now or use language from our letter.  If you prefer, you can wait until the proposed regulations are published (probably in July) and submit reactions to specific language then.  Or you can do both.

The Honorable Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education
Office of the Secretary
United States Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue S.W., Room 7W301
Washington, DC 20202

We encourage you to let your opinion be known.

And I look forward to our groups working together in the future.Photo of Russ Poulin with baseball bat


Russell Poulin
Interim Co-Executive Director
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies


If you like our work, join WCET!


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