IPEDS Changes Will Improve Available Data on Non-traditional Students, yet…

Today we welcome our WICHE colleague, Christina Sedney, project coordinator for the Adult College Completion Network (ACCN), as she shares with us the changes to IPEDS reporting that will improve, if not drastically at least incrementally, the data we have on non-traditional student outcomes.  This post was first published on the ACCN blog – we are so very thankful to Christina for allowing us to share it with you.

IPEDS Changes Will Improve Available Data on Non-traditional Students, yet a Comprehensive Picture Remains Elusive ­­

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is the primary source for data on colleges, universities, and technical and vocational postsecondary institutions in the United States. The system is managed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and provides publically available data on all postsecondary institutions which participate in federal student financial aid programs. NCES collects data on a variety of topics—such as enrollments, institutional prices and graduation rates—from institutions through a system of interrelated surveys. While IPEDS contains a wealth of information and serves as an important resource, it has long had a serious drawback for those interested in returning adult students. Critical topics such as graduation and retention rates have been calculated using only “first-time, full-time” students, excluding those with prior college credit who return to complete a credential. However, NCES will implement a new Outcome Measures component including non-first-time and part-time students in their 2015-2016 Winter data collection.

The addition of the Outcome Measures comes after the U.S. Department of Education’s Committee on Measures of Student Success’ 2011 recommendation that IPEDS “broaden the coverage of student graduation data to reflect the diverse student populations at two-year institutions.” The U.S Department of Education responded with the release of an action plan to improve its measures of postsecondary success (at both two- and four-year institutions). The department then convened a series of Technical Review Panels (TRPs) to develop proposed changes to the IPEDS data collection process, solicited public comments on the TRP recommendations, and ultimately received clearance to implement the new Outcome Measures in the 2015-2016 data collection.

Two- and four-year degree-granting institutions will report on four cohorts in the new Outcome Measures survey: first-time, full-time students; first-time, part-time students; non-first-time, full-time students; and non-first-time, part-time students. The inaugural survey will have institutions report on the outcomes of degree/certificate-seeking students in each of these cohorts who entered school in 2007 after six years (2013) and eight years (2015).


The Outcome Measures will track whether students: received an award within six years, received an award with eight years, are still enrolled at their initial institution, are enrolled at another institution, or have an unknown enrollment status.


The survey will not track the type of award received by the student (i.e. bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree, or certificate), nor will it track  transfer type (i.e. not differentiating between a two-year to four-year “upward” transfer and a two-year to two-year “lateral” transfer). The data will also not be disaggregated by student characteristics such as race, ethnicity, or gender – therefore, presumably also not by age.

It is also important to note that the new Outcome Measures function as a supplement to existing IPEDS data—not as a revision to their methodology for calculating graduation rates—though some groups have suggested that aligning the Outcome Measures with IPEDS graduation and retention rate components might reduce the reporting burden on institutions and produce more consistent, comprehensive data. An in-depth look at this viewpoint is available in a 2014 report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

IPEDS expects the first round of Outcome Measures data to be available around mid-September 2016 in the IPEDS Data Center. At the institution level, data will appear in the: College Navigator WebsiteIPEDS Data CenterIPEDS Data Feedback Reports, and the College Affordability and Transparency Center Website. At the aggregate level, data will appear in: IPEDS First LooksIPEDS Table LibraryIPEDS Data Feedback ReportsThe Digest of Education Statistics, and The Condition of Education.

As the Outcome Measures data are being gathered, it is worth noting that a series of voluntary data collection initiatives, such as the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA)Complete College America, and Access to Success, already exist to provide a nuanced view of how various groups of postsecondary students are faring. Moreover, many states have the capability of analyzing the success of the non-traditional students enrolled in their public institutions through their various Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) projects, which include unit-level data. To capitalize on and complement states’ SLDS investments, WICHE is leading a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange effort that will account for students who cross state lines during or after their college experiences.

These voluntary initiatives are providing valuable insight into many important aspects of higher education. Yet many experts believe that to capture a comprehensive picture of the nation’s evolving postsecondary student population a federal student unit record system is necessary. Though currently prohibited by law, a recent white paper released by Senator Lamar Alexander—chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee—raised the possibility of a federal student unit record system. This hints at an increasing openness to the idea at the Congressional level with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act on the horizon.

Despite uncertainty over the possibility of a federal student unit record system and the limitations of the new IPEDS Outcome Measures, the level of discussion around the importance of non-traditional student data is encouraging. With this increasing dialogue, growing participation in voluntary data initiatives, and the emergence of new resources such as the Non-First-Time Student dataset, it is clear that stakeholders are beginning to recognize the important role that adult students play—and will continue to play—in the higher education sector and the accompanying need for more inclusive data systems.


Christina Sedney
Project Coordinator,
Adult College Completion Network, WICHE

Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact Promotes Interstate Distance Ed and Telehealth

Thank you to Nancy Spector for her guest blog post. You can see her in the WCET Annual Meeting session on Interstate Agreements in State Authorization on Wednesday, November 11 at 3:30.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is embarking on an exciting new initiative.  In May 2015 NCSBN’s membership met in Chicago at a special Delegate Assembly and voted overwhelmingly to approve the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) and the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Compact. This was an historic moment for NCSBN as it will allow nurses to practice or teach in multiple states while holding only one license.

NCSBN’s enhanced NLC and APRN Compact are modeled after the states’ compacts for a driver’s license, a model referred to as ‘mutual recognition’  The license is obtained in the home state, and there is a privilege to practice (or drive, as with the driver’s license) in remote states.  With each model the individuals must obey the laws (in nursing the laws are in the Nurse Practice Act) of all states where they practice.Stethoscope

As background, in 1997 NCSBN’s membership endorsed the mutual recognition model, and in 1999 the first state passed NLC legislation. Nursing was the first health care discipline to adopt a compact for mutual recognition of licensure. Since 1999, 25 states have become part of this original NLC.

There were several drivers of change that have led to NCSBN developing the enhanced NLC.  While the original NLC has grown to include 25 states (see map below), adoption has slowed significantly in the recent years. At the same time, there has been tremendous growth in telehealth and distance education, which meant that if states were not a part of the NLC, the nurses employed in these roles needed to be licensed in every state where they taught or practiced.  Further, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has called for increased access to care, which frequently translates to practice, teaching and using telehealth across state lines.  APRNs are also essential for promoting access to care, therefore creating the need for the APRN Compact.

Responding to this need for mutual recognition of nurse licensure, in 2013, NCSBN convened a series of meetings with our membership to consider the best possible licensure model, and the decision was made to redraft the NLC, coming up with the enhanced NLC. Some of the provisions in the enhanced NLC include:

  • Uniform licensure requirements.
  • Grandfathering provision for states that participated in the previous NLC.
  • Authority to obtain and submit criminal background checks (CBCs).
  • Prompt reporting to Nursys® of participation in alternative to discipline programs. (Nursys is a comprehensive electronic information system that includes collecting and storing a nurse’s personal information, licensing information, disciplinary information and license verifications.)
  • Establishes a governing body for the NLC, the Interstate Commission.
  • Provides for rulemaking by the Commission.
  • Improves dispute resolution and termination, if necessary.

More information on the enhanced NLC and APRN Compact can be found on the NCSBN website.  .

In order to adopt the new enhanced NLC, a state must enact the model language into law, and it must have the ability to conduct a federal criminal background check of a nurse upon initial licensure or licensure by endorsement. The enhanced NLC will become effective when 26 states pass legislation or December 31, 2018 whichever comes first. Already several states are moving forward with legislation. NCSBN is providing states with resources to assist them with adopting this legislation, and our staff is working closely with states that are moving forward with legislation (see pending states here:  https://www.ncsbn.org/nurse-licensure-compact.htm).

In the meantime, while the enhanced NLC and APRN Compact are being adopted in states, NCSBN has developed a web page for educators teaching distance education courses so that they will be informed of any rules and regulations that they must follow in remote states.  The prelicensure web page has been developed and is updated when any state legislation is changed . NCSBN is currently working to develop the same information for APRN distance education programs.

Please don’t hesitate to contact Nancy Spector (nspector@ncsbn.org), if you have any questions or comments.  Collaboration and partnerships are crucial for the work that all of us do to promote excellence in education.Nancy Spector

Nancy Spector, PhD, RN, FAAN
Director of Regulatory Innovations
National Council of State Boards of Nursing

A Survey of Practices in Supporting Online Adjunct Faculty

Are colleges doing all they can to assure that their online adjunct faculty are successful?

Institutions employing adjunct faculty for online courses were surveyed about the practices they use in supporting them.  With the frequent use of adjuncts and growing enrollments in online education, adjunct faculty importance in the academic community is increasing. To properly support them, we sought advice on successful practices used by institutions in recruiting, orienting, and supporting these faculty.

WCET is pleased to have partnered with The Learning House, Inc. to have conducted this study over the summer. While full survey results will be released at next week’s WCET Annual Meeting, this post gives you a taste of some of a few of our findings and tells you about next steps.

Change in Percentage of Online Adjunct Faculty in the Last Year

In 2012, the Coalition on the Academic Workforce published seminal research that provided  “A Portrait of Part Time Faculty Members“. There surveys showed that roughly half of all instructors in higher education were adjunct or part-time faculty members.

We were curious about recent growth in online adjunct faculty over the past year. The responses reflected in the chart show that more than half of the institutions increased the number of adjuncts, and one-quarter increased.

While we do not have base numbers for the number of online adjunct faculty, these trends show significant growth. They also underline the importance of having good practices in on-boarding and supporting these faculty.

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Level of Customization Permitted in Courses Taught by Online Adjuncts

Some colleges expect the adjunct faculty person to develop their courses from scratch. Others provide a “master course” with all the lessons intact and allow very little customization of the course. This question addresses two very different models of how institutions interact with their adjunct faculty. For institutions that expect faculty to develop their own course, it raises expectations of additional support to help those faculty be successful.

More than half of the respondents either expect faculty to design their own courses or allow for complete customization. Just under one-quarter of respondents allowed minimal or no customization. When you see the final report, one of our main recommendations is to: “choose a model for course design and fully develop it.” We became concerned that it appeared that some colleges expected the faculty to develop courses, but provided little or no help for them.

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Limits on the Number of Courses Taught by Online Adjuncts

Administrators are very aware of the impact of crossing the part-time vs. full-time threshold in employing faculty. While there were probably other reasons (quality, accreditation concerns, etc.) for limiting the number of courses taught, the few administrators who participated in verbal interviews with us were quite aware of the full-time status.

Just under one-quarter (21%), have no limits. While the rest had limits, some of their limits were so high that they may have unwittingly passed the full-time threshold.


What’s Next?

These are just a few of the findings that will be released next week. We invite you to learn more:

  • Watch for the full release of the report on November 12. WCET members and Learning House constituents will receive notices. If you would like to receive the notice, you can pre-register to receive a copy. We will also post the link to the final survey as a comment to this blog post.
  • Attend the WCET Annual Meeting session (November 12 at 3:00 pm) in which we will talk about the results.
  • Participate in a free webcast to discuss the results on December 3 at 2:00 Eastern time.

Thank You!
It has been great working with The Learning House crew on this survey. Thank you to Andrew Magda for his tireless work and to Dave Clinefelter for his keen insights. Thank you to Cali Morrison (WCET) and Wendy Parrish (The Learning House) for their support throughout the process.


Photo of Russ Poulin with a bat.Russ Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

Support our work.  Join WCET.

EQUIP: Ed Department Seeks Experimental College-Provider Financial Aid Partnerships

Students at “non-traditional providers” of postsecondary education will have a chance to earn federal financial aid through experimental partnerships recently announced by the U.S. Department of Education. To participate, providers are expected to partner with “traditional” institutions that currently offer federal aid.

If you are interested, you should consider participating.

The Rise of the “Non-traditional Providers”

hand holding testtube.

US Dept of Ed’s financial aid experiment aims to help low-income students.

Sometimes called “alternative providers,” there has been much growth in opportunities for students to obtain knowledge and skills outside of the ivy-covered halls of colleges and universities. Examples of such providers include coding “bootcamps” (Seedpaths, Epicodus), StraighterLine, Khan Academy, and some MOOCs. There are many more.

ACE even created the Alternative Credit Project to connect students with colleges that may grant credit for courses offered by the providers. The site could be a bit more user friendly, but it’s a start.

Presidential candidates across the political spectrum have taken note. Hillary Clinton proposes increased access to federal aid for students in these programs. Marco Rubio goes farther: “Within my first 100 days, I will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers.” Not sure about our being a “cartel,” but he is referencing existing colleges and universities.

We all need to pay attention as there is much to laud and much to question with these providers. I suspect many in higher education do not have these emerging competitors on their radar. While this experimental program may ultimately be the camel’s nose under the tent, the growth of these providers is a story for another day.

The Department of Education’s EQUIP Program

A few days ago, Secretary Arne Duncan and the Department launched an “Experimental Sites Initiative” (ESI) to allow colleges to  partner with non-traditional provider. The ultimate goal is to increase federal aid for (and ultimately employment of) low income students:

“The Educational Quality through Innovative Partnerships (EQUIP) experiment is intended to encourage increased innovation in higher education through partnerships between the participating institutions and nontraditional providers in order to learn whether those partnerships increase access to innovative and effective educational programs, particularly for students from low-income backgrounds; assess quality assurance processes appropriate for non-traditional providers and programs; and identify ways to protect students and taxpayers from risk in this emerging area of postsecondary education.”

Colleges will partner with the providers to offer at least 50% and up to 100% of a program:

“The experiment outlined in this notice will allow participating institutions to provide title IV aid to otherwise eligible students pursuing a program of study for which 50 percent or more of the content and instruction is provided by one or more title IV-ineligible organizations (non-traditional providers). As part of the experiment, the Secretary will provide participating institutions with certain statutory and regulatory waivers…”

Students in a classroom from the mid -20th century. Teacher has a movie projector.

Ed Dept experiments with bringing new, innovative providers into traditional higher education.

The Fine Print

You can find the details for participating in EQUIP in the Federal Register. Meanwhile, some other details that you should know that I gathered off a call they held for interested parties on October 23:

  • On the call they really emphasized the need to serve low income students with this program. Other students may benefit, but the Department is focusing on this population.
  • It is not a grant with money attached, but merely a waiver of regulations.
  • BUT, not all regulations are waived. The waivers focus on current rules regarding minimum program length and satisfactory academic progress.
  • The college’s accreditation agency has to review the partnership “must determine and confirm in writing that the agreement meets its standards for contracting out education services.”
  • The partnership must identify a Quality Assurance Entity (QAE) that “is appropriately qualified to review and monitor such programs.” There are a long list of items that are included in the QAE’s assurance process, including: claims for learning, assessments and student work, outputs (disaggregated to identify low-income students), and management.
  • The partnership must decide if it will offer students: a) Pell Grants only or b) Pell Grants, loans, and campus-based forms of aid.
  • They plan to approve ten or fewer partnerships.
  • They hope that the partnerships selected will demonstrate diversity of geography and types of institutions.
  • The deadline for “letters of interest” is December 14. The Department does not expect that an applying partnership will have finalized every detail by that date. Promising applicants will be asked to submit a more complete proposal in the second phase of the competition.

There are many details to the proposal. Read the notice in the Federal Register. The Department is creating an FAQ. When the FAQ is published, I will attache the URL as a comment to this post. If you would like to submit a question or ask to receive more information, send an email to: innovation@ed.gov.

It’s a Start, But…

This is a start, but a cautious one. Our friends at Cooley, LLP wrote an analysis of the program in which the observed:  “Contrary to some press reports, the ESI is a very narrow program, reflecting longstanding concerns about abuse of the Title IV programs and a general discomfort within the Department over the growth of online programs and for-profit institutions.”

One concern I have is that the “regular and substantive interaction” requirement remains in place. That expectation severely limits many adaptive learning, self-paced programs, MOOCs, CBE programs, and others from participating. Additionally, I imagine that Gainful Employment requirements will kick-in for some institutions that are unfamiliar with complying with that regulation.


Even with the limitations, I urge WCET members (both institutions and “non-traditional providers”) to participate.

We gotta start somewhere.

Russ Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

Support our work.  Join WCET.


Photo credits:

Hand with testube: http://www.morguefile.com/archive/display/718592

Teacher with Projector by Public Record Office Victoria: https://www.flickr.com/photos/public-record-office-victoria/8165522990/in/photostream/


DETA Advances Distance Ed Research Through Grants and a Toolkit

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) Research Center invites you to participate in a competitive grant process. They are looking for researchers who want to conduct rigorous studies on effective course and institution practices in online learning. Even if you are not interested in the grant competition, you should review their recently-released Research Toolkit – which is great!

According to their website, the objective of the DETA Research Center is:

“…to promote student access and success through evidence-based online learning practices and learning technologies. Specifically, the DETA Center will identify and evaluate effective course and institutional practices in online learning (including competency-based education) for underrepresented individuals (i.e., economically disadvantaged, adult learners, disabled) through rigorous research.”

We have long needed replicable and scientifically-based research on the efficacy of technology-enhanced education. Kudos to the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education for funding DETA. Kudos to the work of Tanya Joosten and her UWM team in making it a reality.

Tanya Joosten in front of a screen that reads "if we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research. - A. Einstein"

Tanya Joosten explaining DETA’s research agenda and the Toolkit.

The Grant Competition

Proposals for research projects are currently being sought. Stipends to support the research work range from $5,000 to $20,000. Research conducted under this grant must use the DETA Research Toolkit (see below). Proposals must identify how they will include populations of interest (students with disabilities, first generation, and minorities) in their study. Research must be completed no later than June 1, 2016.

The deadline to submit proposals is November 1, 2015 at 11:59 CST. An additional request for proposals for research on competency-based education will be announced in late October.

Complete DETA’s form to download the Research Toolkit and the Request for Proposals.

The Research Toolkit

Last week I participated in a workshop run by Tanya Joosten in which she educated us on the grant competition and highlighted many parts of the Research Toolkit. For anyone interested in researching our field, I highly recommend downloading the Toolkit, which contains:

  • A description of their research model, including desired outcomes and research questions.
  • Guides to research including “methodological considerations in conducting experiments and “a practical guide to survey research.”
  • A section on data collection including a look at institutional warehoused data and survy instrument development. Of great help is a “Student Survey Instrumentation Packet” with examples of several tips of surveys that you can adapt and use.
  • Advice on data codebooks.
  • Additional supplemental materials, including “exempt human subjects narrative,” “sample waiver of informed consent,” and a “sample data sharing agreement.”

As participants in the workshop asked questions, it was amazing how many times Tanya could point to resources in the Toolkit that would help in designing or conducting the research.

DETA logo


We have all heard the complaints about the lack of research of the efficacy of technology-mediated education. We need well-designed, replicable research studies. DETA allows us to create the repository of studies that are needed.

The best way to answer our critics is by doing the necessary research work. Thank you to DETA for providing the tools to make that happen.

Now we need you to participate. As a lead to research topics that are of interest, see the top research questions generated at the DETA summit held earlier this year.

Learn More at the WCET Annual Meeting

At WCET’s Annual Meeting, Tanya Joosten leads a hands-on Workshop on the DETA Research Toolkit and helps you in designing your own research. The workshop is free to anyone registered for the Annual Meeting. See you in Denver on Thursday November 12.


Russell Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies

If you like our work, join WCET!

Making a Business Case for Joining or Not Joining SARA

To join or not to join…. that is the question.  The answer, like everything else related to state authorization is….it depends!  This blog post will identify the factors that an institution faces in making that choice.

Begin with Internal Analysis

Each institution must look at its own institution’s out of state activities and then analyze the costs to decide if the scale will tip toward being a member of SARA or not being a member of SARA.  The bottom line is a cost/benefit analysis.

SARA ScaleRegular readers of this blog will recall that the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA) was created to provide a more uniform list of activities for which an institution may participate without applying for authorization in the SARA states.  While SARA does offer a more consistent path to state compliance for many institutions that manage out of state activities, not all activities are subject to SARA purview.  Additionally, while the list of SARA Member States is growing, not all states belong to SARA.  It should be noted that institutions that join SARA could be managing authorization through SARA and through traditional authorization pathways at the same time depending on the activity and the state for which the activity is taking place.

Understand the Costs of Joining SARA

In considering SARA membership there is still a cost.  A membership to SARA requires a national fee of $2,000-$6,000, depending on the institution’s FTE.  Some states are imposing an additional fee to the institutions above the national fee. These state fees range from negligible to quite high. A SARA institution may find that there will be a national fee, state fee, and compliance fees to some non-SARA states depending on the location and type of out of state activities of the institution.

Review Your Institution’s Current and Desired Out-of-State Activity and Where

An institution’s analysis of out of state activity is likely familiar to most institutions.  This was a first step in state authorization management to determine the institution’s footprint outside of the institution’s home state.  A careful analysis of the institution will result in responses to the following non-exhaustive list of things to be considered:

  1. Where are students participating in online courses?
  2. Where are students participating in field experiences (i.e., practicum, internships, externships etc.)?…..including experiences stemming from a face to face program in the home state.
  3. Does the institution market/advertise out of state? Direct marketing or National advertising?
  4. Does the institution hire faculty who provide online services from another state?
  5. Does the institution have a physical location in another state? …for instruction, administrative offices, or other support services?

Determine Whether Your Institution’s Activities are Covered by SARA

When considering SARA for an institution, one should carefully read the full Policies and Standards document for SARA.  Generally speaking, online courses, field experiences, online faculty, marketing, and recruiting are all activities subject to SARA purview and therefore do not require a SARA institution to follow the state’s traditional authorization process if the activity takes place in a SARA state.  Activities not described in the Policies and Standard document as “covered” by SARA, are subject to the traditional authorization process.  For example, a SARA institution will not be deemed compliant through SARA membership in another SARA state if the institution requires students to meet in person for monthly face to face group sessions related to an online course.  This monthly face to face activity is not among the activities permitted through SARA and therefore the institution will be required to pursue the specific state’s authorization process or be subject to consequences for not being properly authorized in that state.

Be Aware of Fee Structures for States Where Your Institution’s Activities Occur

As of this date, there are 29 member states in SARA with several more expected to join by the end of the calendar year.  Managing SARA authorization in member states and seeking traditional authorization in other states comes with a price.  Remaining a Non-SARA institution also comes with a price.  You should note that several SARA states changed their fee structure to manage Non-SARA institutions after their state joined SARA.  Please review the state process changes for states such as Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Oregon and more.  Regulations in each state are still going through revisions and must be reviewed on a regular basis.

Chart and Calculate

Not only should an institution analyze the amount of activity and where, but also analyze the annual cost. I suggest a chart that compares the institution’s annual costs as a SARA institution and the annual costs as a Non SARA institution.

The institution should add:

NC-SARA fee + State fee (if any) + fees in any non-SARA state where a fee is imposed for your institution’s activities. 

 Compare that total to the costs to remain a Non-SARA institution by calculating:

All fees and related costs (bonds, travel to the state for meetings, etc.) imposed by all states that your institution participates in activities.

Variables such as staff time required to manage state authorization (research & reporting), ability to market programs across more states, and the number of students who are impacted are also considerations to the basic equation.

Perhaps your institution is similar to one of the following scenarios when calculating and comparing annual compliance costs:

SARA- Large Public graphic


SARA- Small Private graphicResult

So, how does the scale tip for your institution?  As you see, the institution must determine its own financial benefit and whether that benefit coordinates with an institution’s out of state activity goals.  An institution with a small presence outside of their home state will find it financially prudent to only seek the compliance process of the few states the institution finds necessary to pursue.  However, SARA can provide a more concise path for state compliance IF the institution is seeking a way to effectively manage compliance in many states.

The Bottom Line

Although we would all prefer an easy process that that will rid institutions of the need to actively manage state authorization compliance, there is no magic process. To join SARA or not to join SARA is a question that requires you to continue to review and assess the types of out of state activities, locations, and the goals of your institution to understand the institution’s compliance requirements.  After that review and assessment is completed, your institution can determine and compare the costs and plans to accomplish these needs. The State Authorization Network is available to support your institution in your research and best practices to help manage compliance through SARA, through traditional individual state compliance, and a combination of both!  The good work continues!



Cheryl Dowd
Director, State Authorization Network




Graphic Credit: OpenClipart

Federal Enforcement Activity Focusing on Accessible Technologies

Thank you to Nancy Anderson and Paul Thompson of the Washington, DC law firm, Cooley, LLP. Over many years, Cooley has been of great service to WCET members in keeping us abreast and advising us on how federal regulations will affect the use of educational technologies in the United States. As part of our month of focusing on accessibility issues, Jarret Cummings informed us of upcoming legislation. We’re pleased to have Nancy and Paul inform us of how current regulations are being enforced.
Russ Poulin, WCET

cooley-logo-black-2015_250pxDespite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) being on the books for a quarter century, affording every learner accessibility to education remains a critical issue.  The rapid evolution of new technologies and online media, which has been seen as a key solution to reaching learners, has given rise to significant challenges for students with various disabilities, a population that has grown as more people become aware of their rights under the ADA and other laws.

The issue of accessible technology that supports educational programs has not gone unnoticed by regulators. The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) are increasingly focusing on this issue, with DOJ recently terming the use of inaccessible technologies in higher education an area of “great public importance.”

Disability Actions Include Online Course Offerings and Inaccessible Technologies

The ADA, and its sister law, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, generally prohibit excluding otherwise-qualified individuals from any covered program or activity or denying such individuals the benefits of any program or activity because of their disability. Cooley has been closely tracking both DOJ and OCR enforcement in this area, and we have issued Alerts describing two notable developments in DOJ’s enforcement trends.

Here are the headlines:

  • While the ADA and Section 504 have always been understood to apply to traditional brick-and-mortar institutions, the applicability the laws to Internet-based learning has been less certain. DOJ’s recent enforcement activity against edX—one of the largest and earliest distributors of MOOCs—makes clear that DOJ intends to construe disability laws to apply to online service providers that conduct instructional activity, regardless of whether the entity is an institution in the traditional sense, and regardless of whether it receives federal funds. You can read our full alert on the subject here.
  • DOJ’s new enforcement activities focus on holding institutions responsible for any inaccessible technology incorporated into curricular and co-curricular activities, even if that technology is created by a third party. While in principle this is not a new position, DOJ’s recent decision to intervene on behalf of a student who claimed to have been denied educational services due to inaccessible technology is instructive. The agency has filed its own complaint in the case, focusing on the many types of software and technology-based services that may not be compliant. You can read our full alert on the subject here.

Both Colleges and EdTech Companies Need to Address Accessibility

These developments pose important challenges both to traditional institutions and to other entities, such as edX, that the agencies classify as places of education. Traditional institutions that have significantly increased their online programs to enable them to become engaged in a range of educational initiatives face unique challenges associated with growing size and scope, such as controlling the many entry points for technology and promptly identifying and meeting student needs. Institutions of all types should take note: any technology that provides or enables online learning needs to be accessible. This means that, at a minimum, online content should meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards, which outline technical guidelines for making web content accessible.

With respect to non-traditional entities such as online coding academies and companies marketing web-based platforms to K-12 and postsecondary schools alike, DOJ’s new position will require small companies and startups to commit more of their limited time and resources to ensure that the use of their product can result in effectively reaching students.  As institutions increasingly focus on adopting technology that contains proven accessibility features, failing to consider accessibility when designing a platform could leave many companies with an unmarketable product.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.



Nancy Anderson




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Paul Thompson


Faculty Skills for 21st Century Learners

WCET Steering Committee member Preston Davis guest blogs today about the skill requirements for modern faculty. After reading his post, join him on October 6 as he leads a Google Hangout addressing the question:  “is there a digital divide between Millennial students and today’s traditional teaching faculty? And what do we do about it?” Thank you Preston for raising these questions in today’s post and in next week’s Hangout discussion.
Russ Poulin

Earlier this year, I hosted a course development workshop for a group of faculty to promote collaboration. These faculty were experts in their disciplines, and highly capable teachers.  As the group began to collaborate on creating some instructional materials, I found that nearly half of the group did not know how to create, edit, or share a Google Doc. It just so happened that the night before, my daughter was working on an assignment in Google Docs and needed my help finding a specific image to attach to her document before submitting it online… to her 3rd grade teacher.Hand holding two cell phones. The screen on the first phone reads "Technology is a given." The second phone reads "not a debate."

Our workshop facilitators were able to get everyone collaborating in Google in a relatively short time, and with relatively few calls to simply let them use Word, but this stuck with me. This was a very impressive group of highly respected and expert educators, who were current in their academic fields, yet behind in a current instructional technology tool widely used by K12 teachers and students.

The Rift: The growing digital divide between Higher Ed faculty and millennial students

Higher education has made some significant advances in the 21st century. Online learning has gained legitimacy within the academy and institutions are innovating in many interesting and creative ways. But one of the key technology platforms of the last century that helped to extend teaching well beyond the classroom, the LMS, has become somewhat of an obstacle to the expansion of learning. The need for a closed system for instructional materials has been replaced by a collection of resources and opportunities that reside in an expanding open ecosystem.

Young students are thriving in this evolving open digital landscape, but many higher education faculty find the digital frontier overwhelming and seek comfort in the more closed and controlled environment of yesterday. Comprehensive faculty development programs can have a significant impact on bridging the technology skills gap between faculty and students, but only if faculty have the necessary tools and are willing participants.

I am witnessing the growth and development of bright young millennial students in my own home. I watch my daughters go online to access assignments and materials for homework. There is not a single textbook to be found in either backpack. The school system’s LMS contains basic information, but the learning takes place outside of the LMS. Students are connecting to information, and to each other, in very different ways than when I was a student…which was not that long ago.

Take it to the Bridge: Digital Literacy and Openness

TES Global surveyed 1000 US teachers as part of a global Teachers and Technology Survey presented at the 2015 SXSWedu conference. Results showed that 96% of U.S. teachers surveyed agreed that technology plays a significant role in their classroom, 83% use technology to deliver group or differentiated instruction, and 69% said that open educational resources (OER) are used more often than textbooks. Textbooks are increasingly becoming optional purchases for students.

Innovative educators are linking technology with pedagogy, and the results are impressive. Some institutions are replacing static textbooks with dynamic digital and/or open educational resources for entire degree programs, or are spinning off entire units as for-profit Ed Tech startups companies. Some academic departments that were assessing learning outcomes with throwaway assignments are now assessing demonstrated mastery of applied competencies that match employer needs.

We live in a complex information age where instant access to information is available to us anytime, anywhere. Young millennial students are much more at ease in this digital, connected environment than are many of their Gen X faculty. These digital natives will soon be entering our institutions, if they aren’t here already, and we need to be able to engage these students in meaningful ways both inside and outside of the classroom.

Preston Davis holding a WCET WOW Award.

Preston with NVCC’s 2014 WCET Outstanding Work Award


Wm. Preston Davis, Ed.D.
Director of Instructional Services
Northern Virginia Community College


Photo Credit: John Biehler https://www.flickr.com/photos/retrocactus/7179067109

Universal Design: An Accessibility Philosophy that Helps Everyone

Thank you to Howard Kramer from the University of Colorado-Boulder for this interview on Universal Design’s power to assist those with accessibility needs…and to benefit everyone else in a course. Howard is a cofounder of the annual Accessing Higher Ground Conference: Accessible Media, Web & Technology. Thank you to Howard for agreeing to add this interview to WCET’s month focused on accessibility issues…and to Sheryl Burgstahler for sharing her expertise.
Russ Poulin

With WCET’s focus on accessibility for the month of September, I thought it timely to discuss the concept of Universal Design and how it can be applied to online education. This recalled a recent interview I conducted with Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, the Director of Accessible Technology Services at the University of Washington and an expert in Universal Design in Education. She also is the director of the DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) Center, funded by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and other funders to offer outreach to other post-secondary institutions, K-12 teachers, technology companies, and students with disabilities. DO-IT increases the success of people with disabilities, particularly in high tech fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Photo of a curb cut on the side of a road and through a median.

Curb cuts are an example of universal design that helps more than just the physically challenged.

Universal Design incorporates accessibility in its approach but aims to go further by considering the diversity of audiences from the beginning of the design of a website, environment, product, or course. Since Universal Design takes a more proactive approach to accessibility I thought it would be useful to review some of the key points from my recent conversation with Dr. Burgstahler. The interview with Dr. Burgstahler will be followed with some suggested resources for both course accessibility and accessibility to electronic resources in the post-secondary environment.

Defining Universal Design…

Howard Kramer: I gave a very brief introduction on Universal Design. For those who may have never heard of the term, can you describe what Universal Design is and how it’s implemented in higher education?

Sheryl Bergstahler: Let me start with a basic definition. But, pause for a minute—so what is the typical way that we provide access to students with disabilities, particularly at post-secondary institutions but specifically in online learning? We tend to provide accommodations. Which means a student with a disability will provide documentation that shows they have a certain disability and they’ll request an accommodation in an online learning class or an onsite class to make it more accessible to them.

This might involve a sign language interpreter, taking inaccessible files and converting them to accessible format, providing extra time on tests, and so forth.  So that’s the typical approach.  We look at the individual with a disability, we determine what their functional limitations are, and then we adjust the class or the facility or whatever so that they have access.

In contrast, Universal Design is the development of products and environments that are usable by all people to the greatest extent possible without the need for an adaptation or a re-design. When universal design is applied to education, it takes the form of developing educational products, such as curriculum and environments like an online class or a science lab, that are usable by people, primarily students, but could be faculty and staff as well… usable by everyone without the need for re-design or some type of an adaptation or accommodation.

So, you can see it’s a proactive approach to access rather than the reactive approach seen with the accommodation model. Universal Design can be applied to any product or environment in postsecondary education or any other educational program.

Universal Design Helps Everyone

Howard: Key to Universal Design is that there are different types of learners. Can you explain this and also how Universal Design for Education aims to address this diversity?

Sheryl: What we’re talking about today is primarily universal design in an instructional setting.  And there a central characteristic of universal design: you provide multiple ways to gain knowledge, multiple ways to demonstrate that you have knowledge according to the topics in a class, multiple ways to interact, and so forth.  You have multiple ways to do things and to show that you have learned whatever the content is in the class.

An example of a Universal Design feature is captioning videos. Offering video content in an online class can provide another way to gain knowledge – by listening and viewing a video in addition to reading printed material. But if you don’t caption the videos, then it’s not accessible to some people in your course, such as students who have hearing impairments. Once you caption your video, then you’ll see it not only benefits someone who’s deaf but it benefits someone where English is not their first language. It benefits someone who just wants to see the spelling of a technical word you might be using, or people whose written understanding of English is better than their verbal comprehension, and those that have audio processing issues that make it better for them to access content in writing. So, if you caption your videos, then it benefits everyone—a large portion of your class, not just students who are deaf.

This is in contrast to an accommodation approach, which would wait until a student who is deaf enrolls in your class and then find some way—often scrambling—to find some way to provide access to that video very quickly.

Have a Clear Syllabus. Provide Options for Student Communication and Assessment.

Howard: You mention captioning and the universal benefits it provides. Can you discuss some other approaches and tips for implementing Universal Design?

Sheryl: As an example, in online learning, or any type of class, I recommend that people take a Universal Design approach starting with the syllabus, making a very clear syllabus where it’s easy for students to know how to communicate and reach the instructor. For a student with a disability there’s a statement that suggests how they can request accommodations from the disability services office. But also how you would like input from them about the accessibility or usability of your course, which may or may not be disability-related.

Key is the idea that you stay open to improving your course so that more people can access the important content that you’re teaching. That’s important—your syllabus should be organized in discrete sections or modules with a good outline of the topic—maybe week to week even would be good, but at least the different modules in your course so that people can look ahead to what they’re going to be learning. Make your assignments clear—in most cases you could describe your assignment very specifically in your syllabus even though students will not need to start working on it for weeks to come. Some students may want to be starting on it right away. And have a rubric for how you’re going to grade those assignments and the points the students are accumulating, and how you’ll formulate the final grade in the end.

Making things really clear and easy to follow in the syllabus is your first step. Then be really thoughtful throughout your course regarding acronyms and specialized terminology. When we’re teaching a course, some terms—like universal design, in my case—are so obvious. We use it so often we kind of forget that most of the people that are in our course, at least some of them, are not able to understand those acronyms – so describe them. Be careful of both the use of acronyms and jargon. Did you really need to use an acronym in that case when you’re only going to use the name of that organization once or twice? Why not just spell it? And, as far as jargon, sometimes the jargon we use isn’t essential to the course and so avoid it. But if it is important to the course, then define it, maybe even several times in several different ways.  Maybe even include a link to a resource that would give further description of that concept. Organize your material in a meaningful way as well, dividing blocks of material into short sub-sections that are easier to scan and read.

Provide multiple communication options, particularly if you’re having a small group discussion. If you have your students organized in small groups, don’t require only one way for them to communicate (such as using Skype), because that may not be accessible to all the participants.  But you can ask your students to, as their first item of work in their small group, to decide what technology they’re going to use to engage in that small group. Students then do not have to disclose their disability but if a student is not able to use Skype because of a disability, they will promote some other way to communicate in their group. There are things you can build into an assignment like that that will assure that there’s accessibility without requiring that the student disclose their disability.

Provide outlines—that goes along with organizing your content by outlines of things, maybe as a preview of what’s to come. And make sure that your assessments are universally designed. Don’t just assess one way, assess multiple ways. Again, give people multiple ways to demonstrate their knowledge. So you might have a choice that students can have in how they’re going to be assessed by doing a project, creating a video, doing a power point, or taking an online test, or whatever. Or if everyone is taking the same test, consider different ways for them to share their knowledge: a short answer part, a multiple choice part, a true and false part, an application part, etc. And then, as you’re teaching the class, make sure that they’ve had a chance to practice sharing that content in the format that you’re using in the test so it isn’t a big surprise when you ask certain questions in a particular format.

How Can I Learn More about Accessibility and Universal Design?

Howard: We have only a limited space for this discussion and although we’ve covered some important aspects of universal design I know there’s much more to learn. Where can readers go from here to learn more?

Sheryl: There are some good resources online about universal design to continue the conversation that we’re having right now in this particular topic (see url for this resource and others below).  There is a National Center for Universal Design where you can find out about the history of universal design. There’s a national center that focuses on universal design in education that’s actually housed here in the DO-IT Center at the University of Washington.

There’s the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) —we’re on version 2.0.  It’s very technical but has excellent guidelines on how to make your websites and related products like videos accessible to people with disabilities. If you find WCAG too daunting, another organization, WebAIM presents much of the WCAG concepts into easy-to-follow tutorials.

We have here a project called AccessDL, which is access to distance learning. On the AccessDL page you’ll have an opportunity to join a community of practice, an online community for people who want to continue this discussion about making online learning courses more accessible to students with disabilities.  You’ll see a lot of links to other resources, such as the great resources at CAST that are primarily focused on K-12 education and universal design.

Howard: Thank you Sheryl. Any final comments before we close?

Sheryl: My final thoughts on universal design are to think about universal design in this way:  it is an attitude—it’s very inclusive.  It’s a goal.  You’ll probably never reach it; you’ll probably never ever create a course or any other application that’s fully accessible to everybody in the world.  But you can be looking at that as your goal as you take incremental steps to more inclusive design.


Below are listed some the resources mentioned in the interview. I am also including links to an upcoming conference that I coordinate: Accessing Higher Ground, an upcoming MOOC on Basics of Inclusive Design Online, a course I’m developing with two colleagues, and some other relevant resources.

AccessDL – The Center on Accessible Distance Learning – http://www.washington.edu/doit/programs/accessdl

Accessing Higher Ground: Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference – November 16 – 18, 2015, Westminster, CO – http://accessinghigherground.org/

Basics of Inclusive Design Online – check for this MOOC on Coursera.org in late October or email hkramer@colorado.edu for information

CAST – http://www.cast.org/

EasyChecks – an easy to follow guide on getting started with web accessibility based on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 – http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/preliminary.html

Universal Design & Accessibility for Online Courses – a set of guidelines and tutorials developed for Online Credit at CU-Boulder – http://webdevgroupcu.org/conted/

WebAIM – Web Accessibility in Mind – http://webaim.org/ Howard Kramer

Howard Kramer
Accessing Higher Ground, Conference Coordinator
Lecturer, University of Colorado-Boulder

Sheryl Burgstahler

Sheryl Burgstahler
Founder and Director, DO-IT Center and Director of Accessible Technologies, University of Washington


Photo credit: By Andrew Bossi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Progress on New Federal Electronic Instructional Materials Accessibility Legislation

In today’s blog post, we have a conversation with Jarret Cummings, EDUCAUSE’s Director of Policy and External Relations. Jarret has helped lead negotiations on new federal legislation that would facilitate the development of voluntary accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related technologies in higher education. We thank Jarret for this update as part of a series of webcasts and blogs during WCET’s accessibility month.

Russ Poulin:  Jarret, you’ve been part of the ongoing discussions regarding the accessibility of educational technologies in higher education. EDUCAUSE, your organization, the American Council on Education, and other higher education associations have been working with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) on new legislation. The discussions seek to find a compromise position among organizations with diverse constituencies on the development of voluntary accessibility guidelines for postsecondary electronic instructional materials and related technologies. What started this process and how has it unfolded?

Jarret Cummings:  Thank you for inviting me to discuss this, Russ. I really appreciate it. In terms of the genesis of the process, NFB and AAP began collaborating in 2012 on a bill that they named the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education—or TEACH Act. It was an outcome of the Postsecondary Accessible Instructional Materials Commission that Congress chartered under the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. That Commission looked at instructional considerations related to higher education and developed some recommendations.

ipad anita hart 400 pxOne of the Commission’s recommendations was that the federal government foster the development of voluntary accessibility guidelines for instructional materials in the postsecondary space.  Following the release of the Commission’s report, NFB and AAP started working on a bill to implement that recommendation. They were able to have the bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in late 2013 and subsequently in the U.S. Senate early last year. EDUCAUSE, along with a number of other higher education associations, took a look at the proposal and felt that it actually would not lead to the voluntary guidelines it was intended to produce. We chartered an expert analysis to determine if those concerns were valid, and it confirmed the problems we thought we saw in the bill.

When we started sharing the results of our analysis with the broader higher education community and others, we unfortunately ran into some miscommunication with NFB and AAP about the nature of our concerns. We were trying to get across that we shared the goals of the original legislation, but didn’t think the bill, as then constructed, would lead to workable, voluntary guidelines. Once we got past that initial miscommunication, we were able to sit down with NFB and AAP and agree to work together on a joint bill that would establish a process for developing the guidelines that all three communities could support.

On behalf of a number of other higher education associations, a small team from ACE and EDUCAUSE has been working with NFB and AAP representatives since late last year to develop a joint legislative proposal. We started by developing a shared concept outline for the bill, which we finished earlier this summer, shared with a range of stakeholder groups, and then revised based on their feedback. Since late July we’ve been working on translating that concept outline into an actual bill. The process is well underway; we’re actively working on edits as we speak. Hopefully, we will be able to release a public draft of the bill later this fall.

Russ: I’m taken by the term “voluntary” guidelines. Why have those negotiating the bill focused on “voluntary” guidelines and how do those organizations see those guidelines coming together?

Jarret:  I think AAP and NFB focused their initial legislative proposal on voluntary guidelines because they recognized how fluid and complicated a space this is.  As you know, the range of disciplines and pedagogical considerations that electronic instructional materials and related technologies must address in higher education is extremely broad as well as extremely deep.  A rigid regulatory approach to try to advance accessibility in that context would likely generate significant unintended consequences that could limit the availability and effectiveness of teaching and learning with technology for all students, including students with disabilities.

So, on the higher education side, we thought the original idea that NFB and AAP had about addressing these issues through voluntary guidelines was a good one. In our view, voluntary guidelines would raise awareness and inform decision-making while also preserving institutional flexibility to meet students’ unique needs.

Taking that as our starting point, AAP and NFB joined us in agreeing that the process needed to be more clearly stakeholder-led and stakeholder-driven. One reason this matters from a higher education perspective is that any discussion of instructional materials and technologies necessarily involves pedagogy. The higher education community wanted to make sure that the process for producing effective voluntary guidelines wouldn’t negatively impact institutional oversight of the teaching and learning mission, which the federal government has long agreed should remain higher education’s responsibility. A stakeholder-led process with equal representation from higher education leadership ensures that the guidelines will develop in a balanced, well-informed context, which will also ensure that institutions genuinely have the flexibility they need to meet student needs to the extent they reasonably can.

Russ:  Given that negotiations are still ongoing, what else can you say about what we’re likely to see in the bill that will be submitted to Congress?

Jarret:  I think the most important point about the bill is that it isn’t intended to set the voluntary guidelines itself.  Rather, it’s designed to create a process for developing voluntary guidelines for postsecondary instructional materials and related technologies that the major stakeholder groups involved can all agree will successfully do that.  As envisioned, it asks Congress to charter an independent commission with equal representation from the disability advocacy community, publishers and technology producers, and the higher education community. The resulting commission will have about 18 months to two years to produce guidelines with the support of a technical expert panel, which itself will also have equal representation from each community.

Another important aspect of the process is that the guidelines will not recreate the wheel when it comes to IT accessibility standards. There are already well-established national and international standards, such as for web accessibility. We don’t need to develop general IT accessibility standards specific to higher education. If anything, that would probably severely complicate the ability of higher education to produce accessible environments because the marketplace for digital content and technologies is quite large. In some sense, when you think about the overall market for publishing and technology, higher education is not that big a piece of the pie.  Separating higher education off into its own sphere, specifically for technology accessibility, would probably be fairly detrimental to us all, because it would limit the applicability of materials, technologies, and innovations in the broader market to higher education, and vice versa.  All of the groups realize that there are aspects of pedagogy that might lead to considerations about accessibility that fall between the gaps of these general standards.  The idea is that the commission will look at these general IT accessibility standards in relation to pedagogical needs and concerns and develop voluntary guidelines to help institutions, publishers, and technology producers bridge those gaps.

I think another benefit of the process is that the bill will call for the commission to leverage its review of those general standards to also produce a reference list of general IT accessibility standards. Included will be notes for institutions on how those standards might apply to specific needs in the higher education context.

Russ:  These efforts all arose out of a concerns regarding how well colleges serve students with disabilities. In focusing on those students, how will these guidelines benefit them and the institutions that serve them?

Jarret:  I think the guidelines will give institutions, as well as publishers and technology providers, more information with which to address accessibility needs in relation to teaching and learning in higher education. Current law recognizes that not all disability needs can be addressed in a general manner, given the unique requirements that an individual disability may pose in a given context. This is especially true in relation to a particular discipline, how that discipline is taught, and what materials and technologies are used to support that teaching and learning process.

So, in short, the guidelines will help institutions make decisions about adopting materials and technologies that take accessibility into account to the extent possible, which in turn will better enable institutions to help students with disabilities achieve their academic goals.

Russ:  Great!  Do you have any recommendations about what colleges should be doing now or how they can keep updated on the progress of your joint proposal?

Jarret: First, I would encourage everyone to participate in the EDUCAUSE Live! webinar that I’m conducting on September 22nd with my colleague Jon Fansmith from ACE. We’re going to discuss the current state of the process in greater detail and what we think the likely outcomes are.

I also provide updates via the Policy Spotlight blog on the EDUCAUSE Review website. Those updates cover major developments in the process and, as I mentioned earlier, we’re hopeful that later this fall we’ll actually have a public draft of the bill to share. Once we do, the Policy Spotlight blog is probably one of the first places that information will become available.

In terms of what institutions should be doing now, I think it’s important for institutions to assess the accessibility of their technology environment generally and on a regular basis to make sure that they’re in compliance with current law and regulation. Institutional personnel may want to look at some of the consent agreements that other colleges have entered into with the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and groups like NFB to help inform their thinking. The background slides for a panel on “accessibility in the cloud” that I moderated at the 2015 Internet2 Global Summit highlight a few examples. I would also encourage anyone with questions about how to assess their institution’s approach to IT accessibility to get in touch with the EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Group. Group members are IT accessibility professionals representing a wide range of colleges and universities, and they’re always happy to help colleagues at other institutions.

Russ: WCET can also help with that as we’re set to host a webcast on September 29 about “turning a negative into a positive.” Accessibility leaders who helped Penn State University (although he’s now at Rutgers) and the University of Montana in creating new strategies to serve disabled students will give their advice on what colleges should be doing.

Jarret: That’s great – Penn State and Montana have been very proactive since they came to fully understand the issues that led to their consent agreements. I think they’ve really embodied the spirit that higher education generally is striving to achieve in this area. By and large, institutions involved in consent agreements just didn’t have a complete awareness of the nature of their accessibility problems and what those problems meant for their students. Once they did, they’ve generally taken the responsibility to address those problems very seriously, and others can learn a great deal from their example.

Russ: Agreed. Jarret, on behalf of our members, thank you for your work in negotiating the new bill. And thank you for updating us on its current progress. We look forward to hearing more in the future.


Photo of Jarret Cummings.Jarret Cummings

Director, Policy and External Relations



Photo Credit: Anita Hart


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