Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Thoughts on “State U Online”
These are real issues, but they’re signs that Fishman’s report is asking a host of great questions. It’s thorough, thoughtful, and incredibly timely. It’s even concrete, in a lot of ways. Read it, argue with it, build on it. I don’t know that I’m entirely ready for a “State (or National) U,” but at least I understand the question better now. Nicely done.
Before I retired, I taught at an institution that was a part of the Sakai consortium, which is a group of schools that developed thier own on-line course management system. (Here's a list of all the institutions that use the system: http://www.sakaiproject.org/organization-list)
My thought was that, as these institutions moved into more solely on-line instruction, it should be possible for a student at any of the participating institutions to take a wholly on-line course at any of the other participating institutions. The interface would be the same, the system would work the sme way, and so on. (There are issues of revenue sharing between institutions, but that could be worked out.)
Doing this means being enrolled (home institution) in a Sakai participant, but it would create the possibility of a much wider range of choices for students.
I suggested it to the people in charge of such things at my institution (and got no response at all, so it was obviously a terribly popular idea); it now appears that my former institution may be moving away from the group anyway.
But something similar could be done by Blackboard institutions, or Moodle institutions, so far as I can tell...
Even nationwide accrediting organizations (like for engineering) recognize the need for diverse institutions that can reach the same end with very different means. For example, they allow a wide range of liberal arts courses that sets a minimum for the purely technical colleges (like the Colorado School of Mines) while including colleges and universities that require a broad foundation in the liberal arts for all students.
It is important to note that, at present, even in systems that have a strong state-wide articulation plan built on pre-defined equivalent courses, universities still retain the power to decide which of many similar courses to use (the experimentation you mention) and control when students can take courses at a different institution. I agree that this is good, but also see that universities should be able to defend idiosyncratic criteria.
Finally, in my experience dealing with all sorts of transfer students using my CC as a stepping stone from one university to another, the single biggest problem is the coexistence of quarter and semester systems with the assignment of fractional credit when a student has only completed (say) 1/3 of a sequence that is only taught in halves. That has nothing to do with the "credit hour" and would have to be the first wall knocked down to create a more transfer-friendly system. States with really strong articulation and transfer agreements forced a uniform calendar on all state schools.