Authorization of Foreign Locations – The July 1 2018 Rule That Was Not Delayed

A little discussed component of the state authorization regulations is Chapter 34, Section 600.9(d) on authorizations for locations or branch campuses in other countries. Statue of LibertyIn the announcement released on July 3, the Department decided NOT to delay the implementation of that part of the regulation. Therefore, it became effective July 1 and institutions are expected to comply as of that date.

Since we, nor anyone else really, has discussed this regulation very much, we thought we would give you a brief summary of who is affected and what is required. Cooley, LLP also provided a short analysis. You may also want to review the public comments and the Department’s responses when the regulation was originally released in 2016 for additional details.

Which Institutions Must Comply?

Important points to understand about these requirements…as best we understand:

  • They are aimed at actual, physical “locations” or “branch campuses,” which are defined as:
    • A ”location” is a place where at least 50% of an educational program is offered (as defined in the Federal Student Aid Handbook 2017-18, p. 2-128).
    • A “branch campus” (as defined in 600.2) is special instance of a location that is “independent” of the main campus having its own faculty, administration, budgetary authority, and hiring authority.
  • This DOES NOT apply where:
    • The “additional location or branch campus is physically located on a U.S. military base, facility, or area that the foreign country has granted the U.S. military to use and the institution can demonstrate that it is exempt from obtaining such authorization from the foreign country.”
    • Only distance education courses and programs are offered by an institution in the U.S. to individuals in other countries.
    • The institution is engaged in a partnership with an institution located in another country to offer students international educational experiences. From the Department’s responses to comments when the regulation was released: “They do not apply to study abroad arrangements or other agreements that domestic institutions have with foreign institutions whereby a student attends less than half of a program at separate foreign institutions…”
    • The institution is offering courses, but not federal financial aid to students. Remember that these rules are all about compliance for federal Title IV purposes.A young female looking around a city

The Requirements

Institutions offering federal Title IV financial aid are expected to do each of the following for foreign locations or branch campuses:

  • “For any additional location at which 50 percent or more of an educational program (as defined in §600.2) is offered, or will be offered, or at a branch campus” (underlining added) the institution must do the following:
    • Be “legally authorized by an appropriate government authority” to operate in that country unless otherwise exempted.
    • Be able to produce that authorization upon request by the Secretary.
    • Have the location or branch campus approved by the institution’s accrediting agency.
    • Show that the location or branch campus meets any additional requirements of the country.
    • Report to the State in which its main campus is located at least annually “the establishment or operation of each foreign additional location or branch campus.”
    • Comply with any limitations its home state places on operating that location or branch campus in another country.
  • For locations or branch campuses where less than 50 percent of an educational program is offered, the institution must “must meet the requirements for legal authorization in that foreign country as the foreign country may establish.”
  • In addition, “the institution must disclose to enrolled and prospective students at foreign additional locations and foreign branch campuses the information regarding the student complaint process described in 34 CFR 668.43(b), of the State in which the main campus of the institution is located.”
  • Finally, “If the State in which the main campus of the institution is located limits the authorization of the institution to exclude the foreign additional location or branch campus, the foreign additional location or branch campus is not considered to be legally authorized by the State.”

How Many Institutions Might Be Affected?

An article on the NAFSA (the international education association) website cites research on International Branch Campuses (IBCs) saying: “The United States is the largest provider of IBCs globally, currently sponsoring 78 campuses, or about one-third of all IBCs in existence today.” A list of branch campuses identified in that research also provides links to each one. The research might not cover “locations” or sites that emerged since they conducted their analysis.

The State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement does not address activity outside the United States as the agreement is only among U.S. states.

Nighttime in Hong Kong

Nighttime in Hong Kong

Bottom line: Most institutions are not involved. But, it will be interesting when a name independent university realizes that it is supposed to follow the limitations that its state oversight board places on its creating locations and branch campuses in other countries. For example, did Duke University get approval from the state of North Carolina for its branch campus in China? Maybe they don’t offer aid to those students?

If you have a significant physical presence in another country, it would be good to check if you trigger this rule.

Good luck.

Russ Poulin
Russell Poulin
Director, Policy & Analysis
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies | @russpoulin



Cheryl Dowd
Cheryl Dowd
Director, State Authorization Network
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



Text from the regulation:

(d) An additional location or branch campus of an institution that meets the requirements under paragraph (a)(1) of this section and that is located in a foreign country, i.e., not in a State, must comply with §§600.8, 600.10, 600.20, and 600.32, and the following requirements: (1) For any additional location at which 50 percent or more of an educational program (as defined in §600.2) is offered, or will be offered, or at a branch campus– (i) The additional location or branch campus must be legally authorized by an appropriate government authority to operate in the country where the additional location or branch campus is physically located, unless the additional location or branch campus is physically located on a U.S. military base, facility, or area that the foreign country has granted the U.S. military to use and the institution can demonstrate that it is exempt from obtaining such authorization from the foreign country; (ii) The institution must provide to the Secretary, upon request, documentation of such legal authorization to operate in the foreign country, demonstrating that the foreign governmental authority is aware that the additional location or branch campus provides postsecondary education and that the government authority does not object to those activities; (iii) The additional location or branch campus must be approved by the institution’s recognized accrediting agency in accordance with §602.24(a) and §602.22(a)(2)(viii), as applicable; (iv) The additional location or branch campus must meet any additional requirements for legal authorization in that foreign country as the foreign country may establish; (v) The institution must report to the State in which the main campus of the institution is located at least annually, or more frequently if required by the State, the establishment or operation of each foreign additional location or branch campus; and (vi) The institution must comply with any limitations the State places on the establishment or operation of the foreign additional location or branch campus. (2) An additional location at which less than 50 percent of an educational program (as defined in §600.2) is offered or will be offered must meet the requirements for legal authorization in that foreign country as the foreign country may establish. (3) In accordance with the requirements of 34 CFR 668.41, the institution must disclose to enrolled and prospective students at foreign additional locations and foreign branch campuses the information regarding the student complaint process described in 34 CFR 668.43(b), of the State in which the main campus of the institution is located. (4) If the State in which the main campus of the institution is located limits the authorization of the institution to exclude the foreign additional location or branch campus, the foreign additional location or branch campus is not considered to be legally authorized by the State.

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The Announcement of the Delay was Delayed, but the Result is a Delay!

When is a “delay” not a delay? The Department of Education’s latest regulation on state authorization went into effect on July 1. The Department wanted to announce a delay of the effective date before last Sunday. They missed that deadline. The final notice of the delay was not published in the Federal Register until July 3. Not issuing the delay before July 1 caused some to speculate that the regulation remains in effect because the rules for announcing a delay change after a regulation goes into effect. Inside Higher Ed reported about two tweets opining on this issue.

If we wished to do so, we could discuss the details about the timing of the delay in many pages of analysis of procedure. Ultimately, we believe a delay (in one form or another) will move forward. If the Department’s intent is to delay, they will eventually find a legal way to do so. construction sign reading "detour" with a black arrow pointing to the right side of the sign.For example, we recall that the Department of Education announced the delay of key provisions of the Gainful Employment regulations in the Federal Register on July 5, 2017, four days after its effective date. Additionally, one of the reported tweets indicated the need for the Department to take additional steps for a delay since the effective date had passed. As happened with the state authorization for distance education regulation in 2011, the Department could choose to delay the “enforcement” of the rule. This is different than delaying the “effective” date of the regulations and an enforcement delay could be announced via a Dear Colleague Letter.

The bottom line is that institutions are extremely hampered in complying with these Federal regulations until they know what they are supposed to do. The Department has been clear that they now understand the complexity of these concepts and processes that institutions must put into place to be compliant. As we outline below, institutions are still required to implement many of the consumer protections included in this regulation.

We believe the Department will find a way to delay these regulations. We wish they would have answered our many questions much earlier (we’ve been raising these same questions since 2016) so that this regulation would have gone into effect last Sunday. But, they did not and they decided to delay.

The Delays Announced on July 3, 2018

In the announcement that was published on July 3, the Department announced the effective date of these selected provisions will be delayed until July 1, 2020:

  • 34 CFR 600.2 Definitions: State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement – DELAYED
  • 34 CFR 600.9 (c) State Authorization for distance education or correspondence courses – DELAYED
  • 34 CFR 668.50 – Institutional disclosures for distance or correspondence programs – DELAYED

The section of the regulation regarding foreign locations was not delayed. Watch for a follow-up post detailing that issue next week, but (spoiler alert) the foreign requirements are not about distance education.

jULY 2018 Calendar with 2018 crossed out and 2020 written in

State Authorization Compliance Continues Despite Delay

Regardless of the status of a federal regulation, we wish to be emphatic that every institution must thoroughly understand that compliance for out-of-state activities of the institution must be maintained per the following:

  • State regulations. For both institutional authorization on professional licensure programs, institutions need to know the requirements of any state in which they are recruiting and/or enrolling students.
  • SARA requirements (see the SARA Manual). These remain in effect for member institutions.
  • Federal regulations currently in effect (we will write more on these in an upcoming post):
    • 34 CFR 43(b) – Institutional Information (Student Complaint location);
    • 34 CFR 71 and 34 CFR 668.72 (c) (2) Misrepresentation – with specific language about professional licensure;
    • 34 CFR 17(g)(2) – at registration or enrollment, in writing, notify students of any projected additional student charges (proctoring).
  • Department of Defense (DoD) Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) requires participating institutions to comply with all state authorization requirements for providing distance education to participate in the Tuition Assistance Program for active duty military students.

These requirements did not get delayed. As a matter of fact, compliance with the above requirements and regulations should already be in place for every institution.

The Department’s Reasoning

The Department states that the reason for the delay of the Federal regulations are the concerns described in our February 2018 letter (WCET, NC-SARA, DEAC) and the February 2018 letter from the American Council on Education (ACE). The concerns raised in these letters focused on use of the word residence and proper implementation of the disclosure requirements for professional licensure, adverse actions, refund policies, and state complaint procedures. What is not mentioned is that we have been raising these questions since the summer of 2016.

The Department maintains that the clarifications needed were so substantive that a delay in the effective date is required to review and possibly revise the regulations. Providing guidance was determined not to be an option due to the complexity of the issues, the importance of input by stakeholders, and that guidance is non-binding.

Definition of “Residence” and “Reside”

The Department’s announcement points to our concerns that the definition of the word “residence” in the preamble of the Federal regulation conflicts with state laws and common practice. WCET and SAN, in an August 2017 letter to the Department, shared the following:

“State regulations are focused on oversight of institutions for activities provided in the State. Consequently, to be compliant in each State and therefore offer verification to the Department, the institution must follow the compliance process required for the activity occurring in a particular State REGARDLESS of the official residency (where the student votes or pays taxes) of the student.”

Additionally, we shared that the use of the term “reside” conflicts with State requirements for location of activity and adds to the confusion for implementation. We expressed concern that regulators may indicate that they have no jurisdiction over institutions that are educating their students outside of their state. Due to what we believe is a flaw in the language, WCET and SAN recommended, in this same August 2017 letter, that the Department abandon this definition of “reside” and use the word “located”.

To confirm that the focus of state oversight is location of activity, we sought direction from a state regulator. quote 1Leroy Wade is the Assistant Commissioner for the Missouri Department of Education, who shared the following:

“For most states, the residency status of the student is not a particularly relevant factor. I would suggest that even where regulation is triggered by student enrollment, the state is really focusing on the delivery site. To my knowledge those states do not ask if the person enrolling is a resident just that the person is accessing the education from within that state. Certainly, in Missouri, our oversight process is triggered by the type and level of activity of the educational institution rather than the resident status of the enrolling student.”

Another state regulator, Julie Woodruff, Assistant Executive Director & Lead Attorney for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, concurred with Leroy Wade’s assessment.

Finally, the use of the term “reside” conflicts with The Department’s own previous guidance on which institutions have long relied. For example, see the paragraph from a 2011 Dear Colleague letter. While this is an “historical record,” it falls in line with the generally accepted standard of practice mentioned above. The italicized, red-lettered emphasis is in the original.

photo of quote which reads:

Disclosure Requirement Implementation

The Department acknowledges the need for further review and consideration of whether more detailed requirements are necessary for implementation of the required disclosures. The Department notes that guidance would not likely address the current gap between institutional understanding and the Department’s expectation for implementation of the regulations for proper compliance.

It is the concern about proper implementation of the disclosure requirements that our February 2018 letter addressed related to the expense to implement the regulations. The Department addresses the expense in determining authorization regarding residence, but does not acknowledge the time and expense required to interact with each state licensure board for which the institution may have programs leading to professional licensure and certification.

The interaction of the state licensure boards has been challenging, at best. Many state licensure boards were not prepared for the onslaught of calls and emails to offer guidance to institutions regarding pre-requisites. The institution’s desire is to complete this difficult task correctly the first time. The concern raised by our letter was to ask guidance to prevent incorrect implementation that would have added unnecessary expense for the re-creation of a disclosure plan to meet the Department’s expectation.

Consumer Protection

We find it unfortunate that the Department did not act on our many requests to clarify our issues before now. We agree that this federal regulation is another tool in protecting students, as we stated in our letter of August 1, 2017:

“We encourage the Department to strongly consider maintaining State authorization of distance education regulations. Requiring State compliance to participate in title IV funding will not require additional labor by the institutions, as they are legally mandated to follow the rules and laws of each state in which they enroll students. Additionally, our organizations believe that licensure-related notifications and disclosures support students’ abilities to achieve their academic and career goals. Institutions should be required to dutifully notify enrolled and prospective students participating in educational programs completed solely through distance education or correspondence of all factors relevant to their pursuit of their academic and career goals. These Federal regulations will increase the level of consumer protection to ensure students are not exposed to unscrupulous actions that could impair the student’s investment in higher education.”

We also firmly believe that lacking proper guidance, institutions would have differed in how they complied with this regulation. An institution could be found wanting for reasons that are unclear to them.

We also firmly believe that some of the provisions would have served only to confuse and frustrate students. Suppose institutions informed a student of a complaint process for the state in which she is an official resident, but she is actually receiving the instruction in another state? Imagine her frustration after calling the complaint office in her home state and learning that they have no jurisdiction in the matter and can’t help.

Let’s have rules that actually help students.

And we’ll see what happens next in the delays.

Cheryl Dowd


Cheryl Dowd
Director, State Authorization Network
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies


Russ Poulin


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



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A Consortium Closes. Wondering Why? And Why I Will Miss It.

As recently as April, I cited the Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) as a stellar example of institutions coming together to accomplish more in partnership than they could on their own.

Shortly thereafter, it was announced that CTDLC is closing this summer. I’m very sad. As I did with the demise of the University of Texas TeleCampus, I do worry that the “wrong conclusions” may have led to this decision and may result from others observing this closure.

They Did What Most Consortia Do – Plus More

In many ways they were like other consortia that provided its member campuses with services that improved the efficiency and scale of services for distance education, online learning, and educational technologies both on- and off-campus. There’s a more complete description of their services at the end of this post, but they included:

  • Technical support (hosting, outsourcing, and technologies for their colleges to use).
  • Faculty support (instructional design, faculty development, course audits, OER adoption, and consulting).
  • Student support (online tutoring services, eportfolios, and call centers).

Screen shot of webpage. Shows menu items (home, about, services, members, students, support), and various services such as Learning system hosting, online tutoring services, instructional design support, grant partnerships, k-12 courses and services, technical support.

They Excelled at Being Entrepreneurial and Responsive

Where they excelled was in their entrepreneurial spirit, necessitated by the very small appropriation provided by the state. From the beginning, they had to generate much of their own funding. In a survey that we conducted about how consortia were funded in 2008, most respondents had only one or two sources of income…typically appropriations and/or dues. CTDLC was an outlier in also having grant funds, services for sale, and gained income from services sold to non-members. They had to be responsive to the market to continue.

Some other ways in which they differ from most consortia:

  • Members. Membership was not limited to institutions in Connecticut.
  • Online tutoring. Given the high cost of third-party tutoring services, they created their own online tutoring model. Institutions could join in partnership to provide virtual tutoring support for students. Each institution contributes tutors on specified subjects. Through this collaboration, the institutions were able to cover more topics and more hours of the day than they could have done on their own. The underlying software to assist the coordination and the model were ported to Ohio, Washington, and British Columbia for use by groups of institutions in those places.
  • Call center. They created a great financial aid assistance call center that helped both students and financial aid personnel. Most financial aid calls are procedural or relatively simple. Through this service more than 90% of questions were handled by front line personnel with only the more difficult questions being referred to full-time financial aid experts. They were able to show that they increased student enrollment and retention.
  • Shared services. Over the years they shared services with other states and imported services from those states.
  • Serving other sectors. They partnered with K-12 to provide services to adult learning students who were learning at a distance. At times, they also worked with other parts of state government.

They Had Great People

I have made many good friends on the CTDLC staff. Ed Klonoski started the collaborative back in 1998 and brought to it the entrepreneurial vibe that was its hallmark. When Ed became President of Charter Oak State College, the indomitable Diane Goldsmith was a ready successor. When she left, Kevin Corcoran took over and was as gracious and thoughtful of a leader as you could find. All have served in WCET leadership positions and I respect each of them and their colleagues whom I’ve not named here.

So, What Happened?CTDLC logo

Falling enrollments and a huge impact on the state’s treasury from the federal tax cuts. Higher education in Connecticut is in bad shape. There’s no disputing that.

An Inside Higher Ed article provided some background on the reasoning behind the closure. I very much respect Mark Lieberman who wrote the article, but I let him know that I disagreed with many of the conclusions of those whom he quoted.

Pressure was placed on Charter Oak State College’s (which has fiscal responsibility over CTDLC) President, Ed Klonoski, to force the closure. Numbers presented to his Board made it appear as if CTDLC would not cover its own budget. I’m sure that the fact that they College overall was deeply in the red and facing its own fiscal challenges complicated the decision-making.

I feel deeply for Ed Klonoski as he had to be the one to close the operation he began two decades ago. He had no winning options placed in front of him.

While I have not examined every document, I still come up with questions that make me wonder if the decision was the best one for the state, or for consortia, as a concept.

Was CTDLC a Victim of its Own Success?

Remember how I said CTDLC was the most entrepreneurial consortium? Most public consortia receive the bulk of their funding from appropriations. Only a few public consortia also include dues, which are the main source of funding for consortia that serve non-profit institutions. CTDLC raised one-third to one-half of its budget from its diverse revenue streams.

It seems like the fact that it did not cover all of its expenditures on its own was used against it. But, the purpose of a consortium is to have a central expenditure that saves time and money for all.Image of a white piggy bank with the bottom open and coins spilling out

Is It about Saving Money?

Where is the analysis of what it will cost the state’s institutions to end these services?

Their decision does not seem to take into account the new expenditures that institutions will need to make to replace CTDLC’s services. Will they do it efficiently? Will it cost less? Doubtful. How will the state save money if most of the staff gets reassigned, which is what appears to be happening to them? Don’t know.

When the University of Texas TeleCampus closed down they had to reinvent a new organization to assume many of their services. Where was the savings in that move?

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions?

Speaking of the University of Texas TeleCampus, I wrote an editorial for Inside Higher Ed regarding its closing back in 2010 titled “Drawing the Wrong Conclusions.” I repeat my final paragraphs here as I’m experiencing déjà vu. You could swap out “TeleCampus” for “CTDLC” and it still works:

“What lessons can be drawn? Many theories on the TeleCampus closure have been offered, including those around financial, leadership and organizational dynamics. My sincere hope is that others do not draw the wrong conclusions from this experience in assessing the worth of their own consortium. Consortiums are unique entities. While general principles may apply, their value can be judged only in each unique, local environment. The local landscape contains political, financial and historical barriers and opportunities that do not translate well from place to place.”

“Am I saying that we cannot learn anything from this experience? No. There will be much to learn. WCET’s eLearning Consortia Common Interest Group includes leaders from many consortiums in the United States and Canada. This decision renewed efforts within the group to examine consortium success factors and to identify practices that do (or do not) work. Keep watching for developments.”

“In the end, why is the University of Texas System closing its TeleCampus? I remain perplexed, and I hesitate to guess, as I will probably draw the wrong conclusions.”

The WCET Consortia Group conducted a survey of consortia operations and we will release the results soon. We will also be hosting a workshop preconference at the WCET Annual Meeting and this closure will certainly be something we discuss.

And We All Will Miss Them…

I will miss CTDLC because they were so innovative and entrepreneurial. Higher education is in a transitional moment whether it wants to acknowledge it or not. We need collaborative new solutions to succeed.

Finally, kudos to the CTDLC staff and good luck in your new roles that you will be assuming. I join with many others who appreciate your work.



 CTDLC Services

Learning System Hosting – “Our Hosted service provides the necessary hardware and staffing for your eLearning needs. We provide 365/24/7 monitoring of your applications. We couple this service with our Support Center services to handle any questions or problems from your user community.” They also had consulting and custom development offerings.

Online Tutoring Services – “It is a virtual program and model where institutions partner to share their tutors and expertise across one dynamic, interactive platform, providing access for students to a wide range of tutoring services and subjects across one shared schedule.” They won the 2007 WCET WOW Award for developing this service.

Instructional Design – “Our Instructional Design (ID) team performs a full needs analysis to make sure your learning objectives are met. They provide complete design and development of your online courses.” They also provided a faculty development events, course audit, and consulting services.”

Grant Partnerships – “By creating partnerships with other institutions, we create strong proposals to attract grant funding. We have been awarded federal, regional, and state grants for projects such as those that resulted in our eTutoring Collaboration, our ePortfolio platform, and our research into the technical skills of today’s students.”

K-12 Courses and Services – “Our K12 Technical Services including hosting, instructional design, and support of various eLearning applications.” They also provide students in adult education programs online courses and support.

Technical Support – “Our Support team provides personalized and managed technical and instructional support via phone, email, web-based ticketing system and support portal, as well as virtual meeting space technologies for your students, instructors, and staff.” This included outsourcing and co-sourcing.


Russ Poulin


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




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The Evolution of Librarians: Open Education Leadership

We are proud to have Tanya Spilovoy, WCET Director of Open Policy, provide periodic updates on events in the world of open education. Today’s post talks about her role in the development and teaching of a professional development program for librarians focusing on OER. Librarians have jumped to the forefront in OER planning, leadership, and organization. It is great to engage with them!

– Russ Poulin, WCET

The field of OER (Open Educational Resources) Librarianship has seen rapid growth in the past few years.

Nicole Allen and Tanya Spilovoy in photo

Nicole Allen and Tanya Spilovoy

After reading a job post for an OER Librarian that came out in November 2016, an idea came to me. I took it to the organization leading the charge for OER in libraries, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), and pitched it to Director of Open Education Nicole Allen, one of the nation’s leading OER advocates: “Let’s launch the first professional development program for OER librarians, and let’s do it in a blended online/face-to-face format so we can reach a national scale.”

The leadership program that I envisioned (and ultimately created) was developed in response to market demand and a new need that had emerged. Institutions were advertising for OER Librarians, but there was no professional training to prove competency in this field. It was time to create one.

From Idea to Implementation

This idea led to the SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, which we launched in September 2017 with fourteen pilot fellows. Nicole and I designed the program together, and I served as the Instructor. We also brought in Shannon VanHorn as an Instructional Designer and engaged some of the most experienced OER librarians in the field as mentors and peer advisors.

quote reads: The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program is an intensive professional development program to empower library professionals with the knowledge, skills, and connections to lead successful open education initiatives that benefit students. The two-semester program blends online, peer-to-peer, and project-based learning to build a comprehensive understanding of the open education space coupled with practical know-how to take action on campus and beyond. Fellows participate as part of a cohort that becomes a vibrant community of practice, enhanced by expert instructors and mentorship support. SPARC program description,

The ingredients to success included Nicole’s deep connection to the OER community, my expertise in online learning and change leadership, and the rich and supportive bonds that developed among the librarians in our first cohort. Throw in a heaping helping of mutual passion for all things Open plus a generous touch of talent and the recipe all came together!

Only 18 months since this idea struck like a lightning bolt, the first SPARC Open Education Leadership Librarian Fellows are about to successfully graduate. The graduates have accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible. It is hard to describe the pride and joy I feel when I read their final portfolios. I encourage you to visit the SPARC website to read about each student’s project and marvel at their outstanding achievements. We will welcome a new cohort of fellows in September.

Photo of the OER cohort members and instructors.

The SPARC Open Education Leadership Program Pilot Cohort at the 14th Annual Open Education Conference in Anaheim, CA, October 2017.

This blog post highlights four of our graduates who work for and implemented OER projects at WCET membership institutions. The content below introduces each WCET member graduate and includes a description (in their own words) of an exciting OER project they have implemented and answers to questions I asked them about their projects.

Forming & Coordinating an OER Working Group

Grace atkins headshot

Grace Atkins, Outreach & Open Education Librarian, University of Missouri Libraries

My capstone project explored the importance of working groups in supporting OER initiatives at the campus level. Although the University of Missouri-Columbia campus OER committee’s monthly meetings were useful in planning the big picture, they were ill-suited for addressing the smaller projects that were needed to support campus goals.

So, I formed an operations team, a working group comprising the support units and staff who worked directly with faculty in their creation, adaptation, and adoption of OER and/or with students to support their access of OER. The support units were the libraries, the bookstore, the educational technologies office, and the disabilities center. Together, the operations team and the campus committee were able to complete small projects and accomplish major goals.

What role do librarians play in leading OER on college and university campuses?
Librarians play several roles (see points below about distribution and tools). But I think that the embeddedness of librarians on intracampus projects is the real strength we bring to OER. Because librarians are often the hub of faculty, student, and staff networks, they are well-positioned to lead OER outreach efforts and coordinate campus OER committees and teams.

Talk about the intersection among the fields of technology, libraries, and OER.
Librarians play an obvious role in the distribution of OER—they provide access to OER in the catalog, create online guides, and curate their faculty’s OER creations in their library’s institutional repository. But I think there’s more opportunities to partner with educational technology offices and instructional designers on OER authoring tools and increasing accessibility for students.

What was your experience learning about OER at a distance? Talk about your experience in the SPARC OER Leadership course.
Because the cohort was so tight-knit, the OER Leadership course didn’t feel distant. The Slack channels allowed for directing messaging and creating multiple discussion threads. With so many of the fellows being active on Twitter and attending conferences, the experience transcended our online classroom. After getting a feel for our colleagues’ areas of expertise and interests, it was easy to reach out to each other with questions and ideas.

If you had a crystal ball and could predict libraries and learning resources in 5 years, what do you see?
I see libraries working more closely with educational technologies units and campus bookstores. I think there’s going to continue to be a push-and-pull with publishers in the struggle between equity and profit. I predict that libraries will need to provide more open authoring tools for OER to become more utilized than traditional, high-cost course materials.

Surveying the Campus in order to Create an Open Education Resources (OER) Initiative

Mayer headshotJen Mayer, Head of Library Research Services, University of Northern Colorado

My 2017-18 SPARC Open Educational Leadership capstone project focused on the design of two CC BY (Creative Commons licensed) survey instruments, which will gather input from the University of Northern Colorado campus community regarding Open Educational Resources (OER). The titles of the surveys are:

  • Faculty Awareness, Attitudes, and Use of Open Educational Resources (OER) at the University of Northern Colorado.
  • Textbook and Course Materials: Costs and Impacts on Students at the University of Northern Colorado.

There will be an analysis comparing institution (UNC), state (Colorado), and national-level OER survey results.

What role do librarians play in leading OER on college and university campuses?
It makes sense to me that academic librarians, who actively support student learning and success, are involved with initiatives that expedite faculty and student engagement with OER. Many librarians lead OER steering committees and partner with a variety of campus stakeholders. Others lead professional development activities, partnerships with programs such as the Open Textbook Network, and disseminate OER project grant money to support faculty in this area.

Talk about the intersection among the fields of technology, libraries, and OER.
These three areas—tech, libraries, and OER—are inseparable. Librarians have typically been early adopters of a variety of technologies related to discovery and access to information, teaching, and more. One of the many benefits of working with OER is that one does not have to be extremely tech savvy to adopt, adapt, or create them.

What was your experience learning about OER at a distance? Talk about your experience in the SPARC OER Leadership course?
Being a student in the online SPARC OER Leadership course was seamless. Slack was an ideal course platform—it was intuitive and worked well for communicating and sharing information. The course content was clearly presented and relevant to my interests. The assignments, discussions, and capstone were extremely effective. The course was a lot of work, but well worth the knowledge I gained from the instructor and members of the cohort. I am fortunate to have the course archive to refer to in the future.

If you had a crystal ball and could predict libraries and learning resources in 5 years, what do you see?
I am a librarian in Colorado and based on the positive response to OER funding from the state legislature, I envision the increasing use of OER by faculty and students in our state education system—K-12, community college, and university-wide. It is exciting to consider an environment that embraces open resources and all the benefits that open pedagogy and open resources bring with them. I see libraries increasing their commitment to influencing change for more democratic academic publishing practices, providing open access to scholarly information via institutional repositories, and of course, continuing to be a learning hub on campuses.

Open Education Symposium Toolkit

Soper headshotDevin Soper, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Florida State University

My capstone project involved convening a one-day Open Education Symposium at Florida State University on March 8th, 2018. The purpose of the symposium was to raise awareness about Open Educational Resources and their potential to support student success by reducing textbook costs and creating opportunities for open, learner-centered pedagogy. To document the symposium and facilitate the planning and promotion of similar events at other institutions, I shared all outputs and planning in an Open Science Framework project under either a CC BY 4.0 license or a CC0 1.0 public domain dedication.

What role do librarians play in leading OER on college and university campuses?
Librarians play a crucial role. Increasingly, academic libraries are creating dedicated positions to advocate for and develop services to support open educational practices. In other cases, librarians find time to advance initiatives in this area alongside their other duties and responsibilities. Either way, librarians’ have valuable expertise in finding and evaluating information sources, navigating copyright and licensing concerns, and advising on publishing platforms and best practices – all of which help to address important points of need for teachers and learners who are interested in adopting or creating OER.

Talk about the intersection among the fields of technology, libraries, and OER.
Technology has long been the lifeblood of academic libraries. Many libraries are fortunate to have in-house IT staff with expertise in systems administration and web development, while others devote resources to licensing and providing technical support for third-party systems. Perhaps more importantly, almost all libraries have tech savvy, service-minded experts who can assist with the basic technology needs associated with OER projects – an asset that teachers and learners might not otherwise have easy access to from other units on campus.

What was your experience learning about OER at a distance? Talk about your experience in the SPARC OER Leadership course?
Participating in the SPARC OER Leadership Program was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about open education and connect with a stellar cohort of colleagues working on OER initiatives at other institutions. The instructors were superb, the curriculum was excellent, and the opportunities to share and engage with other fellows were invaluable.

If you had a crystal ball and could predict libraries and learning resources in 5 years, what do you see?
My hope is that libraries will not only continue to devote people and resources to promoting open educational resources, but also collaborate with campus partners to develop sustainable, community-owned support services and infrastructure to enable broader adoption of OER at campuses across North America. That said, we must be vigilant in the face of growing investment in this area from the corporate sector, which could lead to the proliferation of expensive commercial solutions that pose risks to sustainability and student privacy, to name just two of the more immediate concerns.

Documentation and Outreach: Advancing OER

Elain headshotElaine Thornton, Distance Learning Librarian, University of Arkansas

I used my OER project to focus on writing some guidelines for my campus incentive program. We needed documentation for our program and a standard workflow plan. The project allowed me the opportunity to create a living document that offers an overview of our local plan and also encouraged me to create some forms and templates that could be shared publicly with open licenses. Additionally, because raising OER awareness through faculty outreach is also important. I also set a goal to contact the campus teaching center a seek a partnership with them. This effort was successful and the OER team is set to present four faculty development luncheon sessions in September. For the project, I created a presentation outline, handouts, and additional templates.

What role do librarians play in leading OER on college and university campuses?
At many universities, librarians have taken the lead as OER advocates. Librarians have long been interested in issues related to open access publishing. OER is an extension of this. The University of Arkansas is no exception. Through a partnership with the Global Campus (Distance Learning), the University Libraries have been working diligently for about three years to advance and advocate for OER on our campus. We’ve done this by offering financial incentives to faculty who want to create, adopt, or adapt OER, working with student government on resolutions supporting OER, and by advocating for OER in any way we can.

Talk about the intersection among the fields of technology, libraries, and OER.
As the distance learning librarian, I am deeply engaged in the intersection of technology and libraries. In my position, I seek to understand and address the challenges distance learners and online teaching faculty encounter when trying to use library resources and conducting library research online. This is perhaps why OER advocacy is a natural addition to my role. It allows me to encourage faculty to consider OER, when suitable, for their distant students. The students are engaged in technology-rich environments and access to online OER course materials is a natural fit. Many of these students are adult learners who also have financial concerns as they are trying to pursue degrees while often also working full time jobs and taking care of families and homes. OER can help relieve some of the financial burdens associated with pursuing degrees online.

What was your experience learning about OER at a distance? Talk about your experience in the SPARC OER Leadership course?
I had a great experience learning about OER at a distance. I was a distant student in a graduate degree program over a decade ago and a lot has changed! As a distance learning librarian, I encounter distance learning issues and opportunities on a daily basis and help students and teaching faculty get through them. I enjoyed being on the other side of it. The SPARC OER Lead program was especially interesting to me because it was managed without a standard LMS. Yet, it ran smoothly. This was an amazing feat! I appreciate the thought, planning, and leadership that went into making the student experience so rich and engaging. I also think the cohort learning model and the experiential learning approach were also important elements of the program’s success.

If you had a crystal ball and could predict libraries and learning resources in 5 years, what do you see?
In my crystal ball, I see academic libraries continuing to engage their campuses on OER issues. I predict continued growth in academic library OER advocacy. I see OER projects created on campuses through library sponsored initiatives becoming a rich source of free and open content that is available to learners around the world.


Librarianship as a profession have evolved so much in the past 20 years, and it continues to grow and change every day. Having the chance to work closely with librarians has changed my perception of the profession. If I can illustrate in Pokémon evolution terms, my memory of the librarians at my childhood local public library is a lot like Charmander. The way I see OER Librarians today is like Charizard (minus the flame throwing). Sometimes overlooked as a key allies by other stakeholders, librarians are now a formidable force in the battle against the rising costs of postsecondary education.

If you’re interested in establishing an OER initiative at your institution, system, or state, be sure to engage your librarians. They are experts in cataloging, finding, and sharing resources. They are tech savvy professionals who care deeply about students, faculty, and education. OER Librarians are a unique specialized group who can lead various Open Educational Resources initiatives. I’m proud to share my bright students with you. I can’t wait to see the great things they do next.


Tanya Spilovoy


Tanya M. Spilovoy
Director of Open Policy
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



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Looking Back on 30 years of WCET

Happy Birthday WCET! This year we’re celebrating WCET’s 30th birthday! We hope you’ll join the celebration at the 2018 WCET Annual Meeting. Today, Rosa Calabrese, WCET’s Manager of Digital and Project Support Services, is here to review the last 29 years of WCET Annual Meeting topics and experiences. Enjoy her walk through WCET history!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

– Lindsey Downs, WCET

This coming fall, WCET will have its 30th birthday! The celebration has already started and will take place throughout this year, culminating at the Annual Meeting, October 23-25, 2018 in Portland, Oregon. We are all excited for this major milestone, and in preparation, I wanted to reflect a little bit on the last three decades.

I’ve reviewed 29 years’ worth of WCET Annual Meeting agendas to get a better idea of the changing higher ed landscape that our members have dealt with since WCET’s origination.

Photo of young girl

Baby Rosa, circa 1994. WCET was already on its 6th year.

Being three years younger than WCET myself, reading through the old technologies – and then needing to research some of them online to find out what they did – was quite fun!

While one can’t learn everything from a session title and short session description blurb, I do feel that reviewing the agendas has given me an idea of the types of technologies and topics that were really important from one year to the next.

The Early Days

In 1989, WCET – then often referred to as the Western Cooperative – had its first annual meeting. Around 150 people gathered from mostly western states in Denver, Colorado. Even at that first meeting, non-westerners were there requesting and being granted a membership status.

Since then, the meetings have bounced between different locations around the country, while our participants have come from a growing number of locations, well beyond the west. Today, we cap our annual meetings at 450 participants and we are a fully national organization.

To be honest, I was not familiar with many of the technologies (or, at least, the terms used to describe them) mentioned in the agendas for the first few years of WCET Annual Meetings: Bitnet, telecourses, the information superhighway, and interactive TV to name a few (I had to look up all of them). Mollie McGill and Russ Poulin tell me that it was David Lassner (now president of the University of Hawai’i) who kept saying that WCET should pay attention to this internet-thing…it might prove useful some day.Early computer photo

Other interesting conference sessions that I came across from the first few meetings had titles such as Sharing Programming for Educational Cable Television and Aggregate Buying of Satellite Transponder Time. I’m glad that we no longer need to deal with cable television or satellite transponder time, but that is not to say that things have gotten any simpler!

Another interesting thing about the early days of WCET is that we used to work with K-12 topics in addition to higher education. From what I gleaned in the agendas, we discussed K-12 along with higher education until around 2003, after which K-12 stops appearing in annual meeting agendas. Now of course, we are focused exclusively on higher education.

A Modern WCET Emerges

WCET, as I know it today, began to come into focus around the early 2000s. While the still-early Internet and the burgeoning streaming services and technologies of the early 2000s are vastly different than the rapidly advancing algorithms and artificial intelligence of 2018, WCET’s structure and community really seemed to solidify around that time. Plus, many of the technologies mentioned in the 90s are now so far removed from what we have available today it is, in a way, difficult to even imagine what those early days of WCET looked like.

Technologies That Have Come and Gone

In recent WCET history, MOOCs have come and gone. They made a big splash when they first emerged on the scene – one that even I remember as I was in college at the time – but the conversations around them have since tapered off. It’s not that nobody uses them anymore, but they stopped seeming so essential and radical. Similarly, early WCET meeting topics such as the idea of using voice networks was once the focus of multiple early discussions but have since become less important as voice and video technologies have advanced enormously. I wonder what technologies we are working with right now will turn out to be just a passing trend? Or what technologies will emerge and then quickly become obsolete because of other developing technology? Technologies such as compressed video have just become so commonplace inside and outside of the classroom that it is funny for me to think of a time when it was a hot new idea, but in the early 90s onward, I saw many conference session titles related to this topic.

Topics that have Persisted

Thirty years is a long time, and in that period, there are a lot of topics that have come and gone, but a few that have remained strong after all these years. One of the most dominant topics came up continuously over the years was student services. Session topics have ranged from:

  • technologies used to create online and automated student services,
  • how student services should help students, and
  • what should be included in student services to ensure the most successful student experience.

I thought it was interesting to see this topic come up so frequently over the years because it is not strictly about new technology (though it can be) and it is such an ordinary, even mundane-sounding issue. Though the fact that it does come up so often shows that it is a very important issue to higher education and that services students are offered (and the way in which they are offered) have substantial effects on their engagement and ultimately, their success.

Aside from student services, a few other topics emerged in the early days of WCET and have persisted throughout our history. The issue of copyright and intellectual property emerged in the early 90s and continues to be an issue today. Similarly, the issue of creating accessible content for students with disabilities emerged in the mid 90s (the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990) and is still an issue that is regularly revisited today, especially as technologies continue to change and require different solutions to make content accessible.

People and Technology

Another trend that came up a lot in my review was how rapidly changing technology will impact employment. Many of the discussions surround the issue of jobs being replaced by technology. It is an old anxiety, from well before WCET’s creation, and continues still today.

Specifically, we have had many conversations at our meetings over the years that express anxiety over the changing role of the college professor based on upcoming technologies. Our 1993 Annual Meeting brought at session entitled New Technologies and New Faculty Roles in Support of New Learning – a title which is still relevant today. The 1998 meeting brought another relatable session: Unraveling the Changing Roles of Faculty. Over the years, more sessions emerged focused on the adjunct professor instead of the full-time tenured professor. It is an issue we still seem to be grappling with: changing faculty roles to accommodate emerging technologies and flexible learning while maintaining a certain level of desirability among those positions to provide the best education to our students.

Man with Virtual Reality glasses.In addition to our anxiety over workplace changes, another topic has emerged: technology support. Who will support all of these innovations? The role of the instructional designer has emerged to assist classroom instructors in dealing with advancing technologies. But other questions remain: how do schools decide what technology to use? Once that technology is implemented, how do they analyze whether it is effective?

A Steady Set of Goals

Underneath all of the rapidly changing technologies of the last three decades is a steady set of goals that the WCET community seems constantly determined in working towards. Over the years, I found a few topics mentioned continuously: access, funding, and student success.

Access for the adult learner, for the rural student, for those without enough money and resources to put themselves through school, for non-white students with historically disadvantaged access to higher ed, for veterans going back to school, for students with disabilities. Funding for institutional programing, for purchasing new technology, for paying new staffers to work with the evolving tech, for providing additional resources to students who can’t afford their own. Finally, student success persists as the ultimate goal at the end of the road to lift people up from their circumstances and to build a stronger future for families and the American workforce.

The individual topics that we discuss change over time, but the goals we work towards stay the same. Education is a human issue. Technologies have come and gone and will continue to do so. But what’s left underneath all of the changing technology from cable and Bitnet to artificial intelligence and virtual reality is the struggle to attract and engage students, and to build skills for successful careers in an ever-changing world. It’s certainly a worthy cause that we have gathered ourselves around.

Looking Forward

Thirty years ago, could anyone have imagined how technology would change and develop and lead us to where we are today? Or how the higher education landscape would have changed in the public eye? Could we foresee one-third of all students taking at least one distance education course? The issues that we face are the product of the intersections of rapidly changing technologies well beyond the classroom, and continuously fluctuating political and economic climates that value our higher education systems more or less from one year to the next. Many of these changes are well beyond our control, but it is our reaction to these changes that will play a major role in determining the success of our students.

Banner reads: Celebrating WCET 30 years of serving higher ed in north america. WCET 30th annual meeting October 23 -25, 2018 portland OR

Who knows what the next 30 years has in store for higher education and technology? I hope you will join us in exploring and mapping this future in order to support better opportunities for students in the future. See you in Portland at the next WCET annual meeting! Registration is now open!

Photo of Rosa


Rosa Calabrese
Manager, Digital and Project Support Services
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



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WCET’s 7th Annual Leadership Summit

summit logoWe just got back from the annual WCET Leadership Summit in Newport Beach, CA where we deliberated on how digital learning can help higher education can embrace:

  • Equity as a demonstrated priority for the institutions’ students, faculty, and staff.
  • Accessibility as the lens through which the institution examines its resources, policies, services, and infrastructure.
  • Data and evidence-based decision making for student success and ethical questions underlying analytics engines and edtech products.

We quickly changed this from digital learning to learning in general. With that shift, we were able to truly focus on the broader aspects of the impact of equity and access programs and how we can help students succeed.

What are WCET Leadership Summits?

WCET Leadership Summits typically go beyond the conference mold. Held each spring, they designed to bring together educational leaders and practitioners actively engaged in pursuing answers on a limited number of big focused questions in higher education.

The Summits have ranged in topics, from leading innovation, credentials, adaptive learning, data, and digital learning content.

We got great feedback this year! Attendees particularly appreciated the networking opportunities, the inclusive WCET community, sharing ideas with others, the group dinners (organized reservations at local restaurants that attendees sign up to join), and our outstanding panelists. “Networking” was a common phrase used by those who indicated the biggest value of the event.

Since it is hard to communicate the learning realized from the many small group and sidebar conversations, I will review the panels and breakout sessions. Thank you to my WCET team members who contributed their notes, comments, and editing skills to today’s post.

word cloud with words: inclusion, financial aid, learning, worstudy, data, equality, faculty, studnet, diversity, skills, future, access OER, equity, digital, accessibility, success, technology, diverse, innovation, competencies, highered, worforce, education,a chievement, committment

Opening Panel – Inclusion in Higher Education: Beyond a Promise to Action

With his usual inspirational flair, Mike Abbiatti, Executive Director of WCET, opened the Summit with a challenge to all of attendees: during the sessions, networking opportunities, and reflection times, make sure to ask: “what if” and “how?” And, most importantly, make sure that we all leave the Summit with actionable plans to take back to our institutions and organizations.

Mike’s opening was followed by our opening panel. Mike remained on the stage to moderate a great start to our Summit with panelists Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and Jose Fierro, President and Superintendent of Cerritos College in California. Kim and Jose discussed examples from working with institutions on inclusion. Kim started by reviewing Colorado’s work to erase equity gaps. Some of this work includes using a Lumina grant and state funding to increase work study, increase need-based aid, and begin their statewide OER initiative (check out a report on this initiative, worked on by WCET’s Director of Open Policy, Tanya Spilovoy).

Cerritos College in California is a minority serving institution. 75% of their students qualify for a fee waiver, 60% of students are first generation, and 35-45% live below the poverty line. As Jose said, equity and access conversations are very real because of the population they serve. Their institution has diversity and equity plans built into hiring and student success practices. They’ve even involved their community in developing such plans. We had great discussions about hiring practices, helping students believe in their own success, faculty support, using data and metrics, and obtaining executive level/higher-up support.

What is our hope and future for higher education? Kim advised that our guiding star should be a future where education is accessible by anyone and everyone.

What a start to our summit!

Panel 2 – Institutional Exemplars: Digital Learning Implementation Strategies to Improve Student Success

The second panel of the day included the following higher education leaders:

  • Fred Corey, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, Arizona State University
  • Julie Greenwood, Associate Provost, Transformative Learning, Oregon State University
  • Jon Oelke, Assistant Professor, Wheeling Campus Academic Lead, and Psychology Content Lead Pathways Program, National Louis University
  • Karen Vignare, Executive Director, Personalized Learning Consortium, APLU (moderator)

We started by learning more about each institution’s various learning programs, such as Oregon State University’s Adaptive Learning Ecosystem, National Louis’ redesigned undergraduate program, and the Adaptive and Interactive classroom learning models used at Arizona State.

The panelists also described the high impact elements of their programs. Immediate feedback through adaptive, digital technologies makes a strong and lasting effect on student success. The use of data allows institutions to analyze programs, initiatives, courses, and strategies. And if those initiatives/programs, etc. aren’t working, stop doing them! Data can tell you if you’re investing appropriately for all students. Data can also be used to find which of your instructors are having the most success and apply what they do in their classroom to other classes.

collage of the summit dinner groups. several people standing in front of restaurants or sitting at tables eating.

WCET Summit Dinner Groups

Panel 3 –  Ethical and Effective Uses of Student Data (by the Institution, Faculty, and Students)

Our first afternoon panel included:

  • John Fritz, Associate Vice President, Instructional Technology, University of Maryland Baltimore County.
  • Timothy Harfield, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Blackboard Analytics.
  • Iris Palmer, Senior Policy Analyst, Education Policy, New America.
  • Van Ton-Quinlivan, Executive Vice Chancellor, Workforce and Digital Futures, Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges.
  • Phil Hill, Co-Publisher, e-Literate (moderator).

We learned that ethical and effective uses of student data require a sound data governance structure. This structure should include a data dictionary, so all stakeholders are speaking the same language. If a campus is using data analytics well they are extending the use beyond a single course.

A large part of the conversation centered on student data and accompanying interventions. I enjoyed the discussion of the ethics of student nudges (or the ethics of not intervening if the data seems to say you should). As our panelists asked, “what is an institutions’ ethical obligation of knowing?”

As many who participated in the Summit twitter backchannel noted, a huge takeaway from this panel was the significance of how to word interventions for true effectiveness in helping students without hurting them.

It’s also important to use data to “share a light on success,” as this is the way to “change the culture” for our campuses.

Panel 4 – Moving Towards a Campus Climate of Universal Access for All

This panel included:

  • Michele Bruno, Director, Accessibility Program, Cengage Learning.
  • Van Davis, Principal, Foghlam Consulting.
  • Mark Jenkins, Director, e-Learning/Open Education and Coordinator, Accessible Technology Initiatives, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
  • Cheryl Pruitt, Director, Accessible Technology Initiative, Chancellor’s Office, California State University System.
  • Tom Cavanagh, Vice Provost for Digital Learning, University of Central Florida (moderator).

The key takeaway for me from this session were:

  1. Every learner is in a different place in their educational journey. Our job is to give them the resources they need to be successful.
  2. I loved how the panelists focused on accessibility and universal design as an opportunity, as Mark Jenkins put it, to reflect on what you are doing from a compliance or inclusive standpoint.
  3. Often, campuses wait to act on accessibility issues until compelled to act due to a legal challenge. While litigation can be a great nudge to get us started in the right direction, isn’t it better to create proactive policies and initiatives instead of waiting for litigation or compliance issues?

Panel 5 – Reducing Equity Gaps for All Learners: How to Get Started, How to Get Everyone Involved, How to Track and Measure Success

The panelists included:

  • Andriel Dees, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Capella University.
  • Jill Leafstedt, Executive Director, Teaching and Learning Innovations, and Senior Academic Technology Officer, California State University, Channel Islands.
  • Gonzalo Perez, Associate Vice President, Academic Affairs, Coconino Community College.
  • Sally Johnstone, President, National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (moderator).

The panelists discussed how their institutions are working toward reducing equity gaps. Each of these institutions had large populations of underrepresented and underserved students. Jill made a poignant statement about the impact of education, not only for each of our students, but on their entire family tree. Students receiving an education change the lives of everyone in their family (those family members are potential students as well!). Andriel spoke of Capella’s “Pyramid of Inclusion” and how they address equity gaps through curricular cultural competency, work study programs, career development, and assistance with “anything that goes into that journey to your doctorate.”

I particularly enjoyed the video about how Coconino Community College is literally flying through the Grand Canyon in helicopters in to assist rural communities who do not have any access to education! Gonzalo also spoke about using data to highlight success rates and the outstanding success they’ve had with dual enrollment courses (which have grown 64% in the last year alone!). Their model for dual enrollment instruction (the college instructor is the instructor of record and guides the instructor, but the local high school instructor augments that instruction in the high school classroom) sounds like the best of both worlds and will address some of the accreditation challenges with dual enrollment credentialing.

Panel 6 – Thinking Beyond the Institution: Other “Actors” to Advance Ethical and Equitable Access to Education and Opportunity (a Spontaneous ‘Design Thinking” Discussion)

The panelists included:

  • Fred Corey, Vice President for Undergraduate Education, Arizona State University.
  • Jose Fierro, President/Superintendent, Cerritos College.
  • Sharon Leu, Senior Policy Advisor, Higher Education Innovation, Office of Educational Technology, U.S Department of Education.
  • Cecilia Retelle Zywicki, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Wiley Education Services.
  • Michael Berman, Chief Innovation Officer and Deputy CIO, Chancellor’s Office, California State University (moderator).

I was struck by one of the first comments of the panel: why should we care about the equity gap? Because, we’re human.

We were reminded that by 2020 60% of jobs will need a postsecondary credential. But we have a long way to go if we’re going to meet that requirement (good point Cecilia!). Jose pointed out that we need to change our funding model if we really want an educated population from one that focuses on mere headcount to equity-based funding.

Sharon advised that today’s students and today’s educational opportunities are not the same as those in the past. We cannot use the past to help us solve the problems of today. We need to change the language we use and the culture around education, so we can address systematic inequalities. Jose continued this line of thought by encouraging us to decrease the stigma around trades related education. We need to showcase the value of this education and these jobs. Finally, Fred asked us to focus our attention on students that truly need us; those who are refugees, those who are hungry or have no homes, the students that really need our societal help.

Breakout Session Conversations

photo of several attendees sitting outside under colorful umbrellas discussing topics.

Breakout group meeting outside in sunny CA!

The breakout sessions this year were a bit different. Instead of smaller sessions on different topics, the sessions were opportunities for deeper dives with the panelists. While many of the discusses entered into what I will call “no tweet zones” (and therefore, I don’t feel comfortable summarizing them here either), here are some of the topics discussed in the sessions I attended:

  • Student engagement tools: these tools are becoming more engaging. Students can become more involved and have fun in the classroom.
  • Data: the most effective use, particularly of data dashboards, is when faculty understand them and are empowered to act upon what the data says.
  • BYOD: despite many (MANY) conversations around whether to allow technology devices in the classroom, our participants believe that faculty who embrace device use in the classroom (by involving devices in their instructional activities) are more engaging and the devices become less of a problem).
  • Student accommodations: Accommodations include environment accommodations, like not using chairs that swivel or make strange sounds. Accommodations like this decrease distraction and make environments more comfortable for all learners.
  • Online education can be a great equalizer. Students with disabilities can participate in educational opportunities that were previously not open to them. But, online environments may also hide disabilities (and instructors may not know students need accommodations).
    • A suggested solution: Don’t just offer accommodations when a student discloses a disability. Instead, offer accommodations as options for all students. For example, allow students to select how they will receive feedback (via video, meeting, written feedback, etc.), or let them choose the format for their final project.
  • We learned about Wichita State’s accessibility programs, particularly their work to train students to make their class presentation accessible for all learners. “When you make material accessible for one, you make it better for everyone.”
  • When implementing a new initiative, keep in mind that the focus should be on the people and not the technology. The leadership to run an implementation can happen from all levels; from those at the top to those who are on the front lines and have the tools to make the project happen. Highlight champions to encourage grassroot efforts.
  • To use data effectively, encourage participation with your faculty and students. While many faculty may have a “gut feeling” about how their course is going, the data may not represent that. Have a conversation with faculty about data and what it means for them and their students. Data by itself is not very interesting. It’s the words, the visualization, and the contents that tells the real story.

Closing Session – Our Incoming Freshman Class of 2022. What Will Your Institution Do to Best Serve these Students? How Do Your Faculty Utilize All of the Digital Learning Resources that May Improve Student Engagement and Learning?

Our closing session focused on the future. How can institutions prepare to best serve tomorrow’s students?

The final panelists included:

  • Andriel Dees, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Capella University.
  • Jill Leafstedt, Executive Director, Teaching & Learning Innovations, California State University, Channel Islands.
  • Kim Hunter Reed, Executive Director, Colorado Department of Higher Education.

I was particularly thrilled to experience a closing panel of all women at this conference. Conference panels often lack diversity, but I’m proud that the Summit was different.

All three panelists focused on building momentum and closing equity gaps. Is the future focused only on bachelor’s degrees? Or can we serve all our students, even those who aren’t gaining a bachelor’s?

We also discussed digital literacy and digital citizenship. We need to teach our students, starting when they are young!, how to be citizens in this digital world of ours.

A major takeaway: let’s change the thinking away from “equitable access” and focus more on “equitable success.” We’ve go to be all-in in our approach and include everyone on our campus in helping increase equity and student success.

photo of the closing panelists sitting on stage

Final/closing session with Mike

Remember Mike’s challenge? To ask the tough questions (why? and how?) and to learn practical, actionable steps to take back home? I feel the panels provided examples for those action items and the breakout sessions provided ample opportunity to ask questions.

Mike closed the Summit with some closing reflections: “This work is about people (leaders, teachers, and students) not about hardware and software. This work is about student success and empowering faculty and staff to help students succeed.”

In that spirit, it’s time to get stuff done!

If you haven’t, check out the twitter hashtag #WCETSummit for amazing quotes and comments from our attendees.

We also combined all resources mentioned during the sessions into a document. Check it out!

Thank you for a great Summit,


Photo of Lindsey Downs
Lindsey Downs
Manager, Communications
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



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Student Device Preferences for Online Course Access and Multimedia Learning

What technology devices do you have close to you right now? I have a desktop computer, two laptops, a Smartwatch, and a Smartphone. Students also have a numerous devices which they use for a variety of different purposes. But do you know what devices your students prefer? Do these preferences change depending on the reasons they are using the device?

Luckily, Oregon State University Ecampus recently released a study on student device ownership and device preferences. Here to tell us all about the report are Mary Ellen Dello Stritto and Kathryn Linder, from the Ecampus Research Unit at OSU.

Thank you both for telling us about this great study!

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

~Lindsey Downs, WCET

Do you know what devices your students are using to access online course materials? Do you know why they are choosing to use those devices?

Multimedia developers at Oregon State University Ecampus were curious about the range of devices that students were using to access their online courses and to view video and other multimedia content. They were also interested in exploring why students preferred a particular device to engage in online learning.

To help answer these questions, Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit staff helped them develop a 20-item online survey to gather data to address these questions.

Oregon State University Ecampus comprises online students from all 50 states and more than 50 countries. In spring of 2017, our survey on device preferences was completed by 2,035 Ecampus students who had taken one or more online courses in the current or previous term.

The following is a summary of the key findings from this study. The full report can be downloaded from the OSU Ecampus Research Unit website.

Device Ownership

 The survey results on device ownership showed that smartphones and laptops were pervasive among our responding students. Out of the 2,035 respondents, all but two reported owning a smartphone, and more than 99% owned laptops. More than half owned tablets, but just over one-third of the respondents owned a desktop computer (see Figure 1).

Graphic showing device ownership: 99.9% respondents own a smartphone, 99.9% a laptop, 56.3% a tablet, and 34.9% a desktop computer

Figure 1: Percentage of students who owned each device type

Device Preferences for Different Purposes

Students were asked what devices they preferred to use when accessing the learning management system (LMS) homepage, when viewing video content, and when learning with simulations and games. Laptops were preferred across all purposes. Nearly three-quarters (73%) preferred laptops for accessing the LMS, 68% preferred laptops for viewing video content, and 59% preferred laptops for learning with simulations and games (see Figure 2). Less than 10% of students preferred smartphones and tablets for viewing video and for learning with simulations and games.

Chart showing Percentage of students who preferred laptops for different purposes - 73% preferred using a laptop for accessing a LMS, 68% for viewing video content, and 59% for learning w/ simulations and games.

Figure 2: Percentage of students who preferred laptops for different purposes

In addition to being asked what devices they preferred, students were also asked what devices they thought were ideal, regardless of whether or not they used the device. When asked about what devices were ideal for viewing video content, more than 60% indicated laptops were ideal (see Figure 3). In contrast, 24% indicated that desktops were ideal for viewing video content. Only 9% indicated that tablets were ideal for viewing video content.

Chart showing the percentage of students indicating devices that are preferred and devices that are ideal for viewing video content. 67.6 indicated they prefer desktop, 19% prefer laptops, 6.5% prefer tablets, and 5.5% prefer smartphones. Students were also asked which devices were ideal for viewing video content. 60.1 felt desktop computesr were ideal, 24% laptops, 9% tablets, and 5.5% smartphones.

Figure 3. Percentage of students indicating devices that are preferred and devices that are ideal for viewing video content

 Reasons for Choosing Preferred Devices

We also asked respondents about their reasons for choosing their preferred devices for accessing the LMS, viewing video content, and learning with simulations and games. Overall, regardless of what devices were preferred, effectiveness, convenience, and ease of use were all important reasons for students’ choices of preferred devices.


Of those students who preferred desktops, effectiveness was the most frequent reason chosen for preferring that device across the three purposes: accessing the LMS (82%), viewing video content (82%), and learning with simulations and games (80%). This pattern of responses was similar for those who preferred laptops, with effectiveness as the most frequent reason chosen for preferring the laptop across the three uses: accessing the LMS (73%), viewing video content (73%), and learning with simulations and games (69%).

Of the four devices, smartphones were least likely to be chosen as effective for accessing the LMS (14%), viewing video content (17%) and learning with simulations and games (17%).


Of those who chose desktops as their preferred device, between 40% and 41% indicated that convenience was the reason for preferring that device for accessing the LMS, viewing video content, and learning with simulations and games. For those who chose laptops, between 52% and 56% indicated that convenience was the reason for preferring that device across the three purposes.

While smaller numbers of students preferred tablets (range of 59 to 132 respondents) and smartphones (range of 89 to 130 respondents) across the three purposes, convenience was the most frequent reason for preferring those devices.

Convenience was a significant reason for the preference for smartphone. For accessing the LMS, convenience was chosen by 98% of those preferring smartphones, and for viewing video content, convenience was chosen by 87%. A smaller percentage of those preferring smartphones for learning with simulations and games chose convenience (70%).

Ease of Use

Across all four device types, between 42% and 52% of students indicated that their preferred devices were easy to use for accessing the LMS and for viewing video content. However, for learning with simulations and games, ease of use was chosen by 71% of those preferring tablets.

New Device Purchasing for Education

Students were also asked about purchasing a new device for different uses. The largest percentage indicated they would be most likely to purchase a new device for their education (39.3%), followed by work/job (35.5%), games/entertainment (14.6%), communication (4.9%), and other (3.6%) (see Figure 4).

Chart showing the Purpose for which students would most likely purchase a new device. Education = 39.3%, work/job 35.5%, games/entertainment 14.6%, communication 4.9%, and other 3.6%

Figure 4: Purpose for which students would most likely purchase a new device

Three-quarters (74.8%) of the student respondents indicated that they would consider buying a new device if they thought it would benefit their education.

Finally, more than one-quarter of students (26.9%) indicated they would purchase a new device to benefit their education, if they could afford it.

Results Inform Course Development

 Understanding why students use different devices can make a significant contribution to our course design and multimedia efforts.

 These data are useful for our instructional design and multimedia teams at Ecampus because they inform their work on providing high quality learning materials for our students who take online courses. Given that this study showed lower preference for mobile devices and lower ownership of tablets, these results can inform broader organizational discussions regarding the development of online course materials for the mobile environment.

For more information, see the full report.

 About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit: The OSU Ecampus Research Unit makes research actionable through the creation of evidence-based resources related to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of OSU’s Division of Extended Campus, which houses Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider.


Mary Ellen Dello Stritto


Mary Ellen Dello Stritto
Assistant Director
Ecampus Research Unit, Oregon State University

Linder headshot


Kathryn Linder
Ecampus Research Unit, Oregon State University



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UDL in Action in College Online Courses

Do you have much experience with Universal Design? Today we’re thrilled to welcome a guest author who has not only implemented UDL on her own, but is assisting her colleagues in applying the principles in their classrooms as well.

Tianhong Shi, instructional designer with Oregon State Extended Campus, joins WCET Frontiers today to tell us about her journey learning about UDL, applying the concepts in a variety of learning settings, and expanding the design across the OSU campus.

Enjoy the read and enjoy your day,

– Lindsey Downs, WCET

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a practical tool for guiding course design to ensure that every learner succeeds, based on scientific insights into how humans learn ( There are three main principles of UDL:

  1. multiple means of representations,
  2. multiple means of engagement, and
  3. multiple means of expressions.

UDL has roots in Inclusive pedagogy, which started around 1970s in the United States and as early as 1918 in the United Kingdom.

Graphic representing UL design. Three boxes reside in acircle. Box 1 says

Why UDL?

With the multiple means of presentation, engagement and expressions, UDL strives to make content accessible to all learners, it stimulates interests and motivation for learning and it provides a pathway for every learner to succeed (;

By teaching students according to their individual needs, we make sure that every student succeeds and prepare them for the future (versus preparing for our own past by teaching them how we were taught) (Katie Novak, Why UDL).

“You don’t just get kids in the driver suit of learning; you get expert drivers once you use UDL” (Bill McGrath at UDL-IRN Summit 2018).

My Journey in UDL

In 2017, as part of the ID2ID program (a peer mentoring program for instructional designers organized by EDUCAUSE and Penn State University), my mentee Irene Knokh and I identified UDL as a learning topic. We read books such as Universal Design In Higher Education-Promising Practices, completed a free Canvas UDL training course (designed and taught by Eric Moore), browsed web resources (UDL at glance, UDL Center), and attended a webinar on Implementing UDL by Thomas Tobin.

Designing Courses Using UDL Principles: Removing Barriers

After intensive self-directed learning on UDL for several months, I started to promote UDL among online instructors at Oregon State University. My greatest gratitude goes to Oregon State University (OSU) online instructors Ted Paterson, Victor Hsu, and Yvette Gibson who allowed me to share with them what I learned about UDL and started implementing the principles in their online courses in the Spring 2018 term. There are many applications of UDL design principles in some of OSU’s Spring 2018 online courses.

During my meetings with Ted, Victor, and Yvette, we identified barriers and challenges to learning and designed courses to remove such barriers.

  • For Ted, the biggest challenge is the intensive reading and writing in managing ethics study. So, we added estimated average reading time for each reading assignment and created animated videos to explain complicated yet crucially important writing assignments.Screenshot of a week one of the class. Text reads
  • For Victor, the challenge to his students was the abstractness of biophysics concepts in macromolecular structure study. To overcome this barrier, we designed simulation videos to explain the concepts and used graphics to illustrate other concepts. Students were assigned to use video, graphics, and texts to explain key concepts in meaningful ways.
  • For Yvette, the challenge was how to make learning meaningful and applicable in shrubland ecology study. We used learner-generated content as the main teaching strategy for the course and students were assigned to co-write portions of the textbook and create resources that will be published for public use upon instructor approval.

Examples of class activities in Ted’s Managing Ethics course:

  • Text reading (Chapter 1 of textbook).
  • Listening to podcast (Ponzi Supernova podcast audio from Radio-lab).
  • Watching videos of instructor lectures.
  • Watching animated video explanation of a 7-page instruction for the term writing project.
  • Discussion forums: students post answers to prompts; students reply to peer classmates’ posts.
  • Student developed Personal Ethical Action Plan (instructor provides feedback for students to incorporate prior to final due date).

Examples of class activities in Victor’s Macromolecular Structure course and Yvette’s Shrubland Ecology course:

  • Create a three-dimensional image.
  • Create a video to explain what “reciprocal space” means to the individual student.
  • Complete a literature search and review.
  • Write a letter to a relative to explain why the Fourier transform is so important to NMR spectroscopy.
  • Co-author part of course textbook.

Example of the class rubric. includes the criteria for core values, a tale of two stories exercise, and the edited copy. Next column describes the ratings for each critera/exercise. The last column has the point value for each of the exercises (38 points, 38 points, 4 points).

UDL Implementation Success Tips

Promoting the implementation of UDL is bound to be a rough journey that is full of challenges. Why is it still worthwhile to do it? By adopting UDL principles, you will aid in a student’s efforts to become expert learners.

Consider the following:

  • What challenges am I overcoming?
  • How could UDL add value to the learning design?
  • Implement one thing at a time (suggested by Thomas Tobin).
  • Consider UDL as operating system, not just as a framework (suggested by Bryan Dean) in the days when you feel your UDL pioneering journey is becoming too rough: it is at work without you noticing it!

The College STAR program offers free access to UDL- Based teaching practices for faculty and staff members to implement in their college courses. College STAR also provides Incentive funding for faculty members to join Virtual Learning Communities and submit proposals which will be developed into online modules and case studies. Learn more about College STAR.

Here is a list of some tools that can help instructors implement UDL and several additional UDL resources for you to use and share.

Poll & Reflection Sharing

I would like to end this post with a simple poll (based on Katie Novak‘s presentation at UDL-IRN Summit 18) and a reflective question for us all to ponder:

“In your UDL journey for the next two years, what would you hope to be and how would you achieve that?”

Feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on this padlet wall.


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Tianhong Shi
Instructional Designer
Extended Campus – Oregon State University


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WCET 2018 Summer Reading List

Hello and welcome to WCET’s annual summer reading list! We have compiled a list of enticing reads to get you through those lazy summer days. several books standing in a bookcase

I plan on making a pitcher of iced tea, sitting back in the sun, and enjoying these great books!

Enjoy these reads and your summer!


Professional Development Reads

Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work

Author: Todd Davis

DEAC was so pleased to welcome author Todd Davis to provide the Keynote Address at its 92nd Annual Conference this past April and hear about his book, Get Better. Todd Davis rightly asserts that an organization’s greatest asset isn’t its people, but it’s the relationships between its people that make the greatest contribution to success and effectiveness. Get Better offers practical suggestions that leaders at all levels of an organization may use to improve the quality of interactions with others. I think his principles are particularly effective and relevant for organizations that use technology as their primary means of communication. This book is now one of my all-time favorite resources for effective leadership and sound communication. The insights are universal and applicable to any aspect of interacting with others. Even if you think you already know everything about effective leadership and communication, reading this book is time well spent.

– Leah Matthews, Executive Director, Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and WCET Steering Committee Chair


Wired to Resist: The Brain Science of Why Change Fails and a New Model for Driving Success

Author: Britt Andreatta, Ph.D.


As change agents in our institutions, we are always looking for ways to help our initiatives succeed. This book strikes a chord in harnessing brain science as a method for successful implementation of new initiatives. Andreatta uses brain science to provide guidance along the change management journey. From meeting people where they are to helping them climb the hill of change, she provides guidance along the way to help you be a more effective leader through change. One of the best aspects of the book is the end of chapter “Your Learning Journey” application tasks that enable you to apply what you just learned to your own work. I’d love to hear if you read and implement some of these strategies in your work over the next academic year and hear about the impact of using these brain-based strategies to guide change.

– Brenda Boyd, Senior Academic Director: Program Services, Quality Matters, WCET Steering Committee member


So You Want to Talk About Race

Author: Ijeoma Oluo

So You Want to Talk About Race is exactly what the title implies. It is a chapter by chapter description of major issues related to race in America today, how those issues have impacted the author herself, and how those issues have impacted America as a whole. Oluo explains in detail the implications of historical racism and the ways in which that history is still felt today. She explains major topics in race related discussions such as microaggressions, privilege, cultural appropriation, and intersectionality. She also focuses on issues related to the workplace, to education, to politics, and to pop culture. All these topics and settings that she discusses helps the reader to understand the ways in which race is involved with all aspects of life.

Oluo concludes her book by suggesting that talking about race isn’t enough and that it must lead to action. She gives specific advice at the end of the book regarding specific action that one can take, but the entire book contains many prompts regarding ways that talk can be made into action. Here in higher education, there are many race related conversations and actions that we should be taking, whenever possible. Personally, I cringe to think of the mistakes that I have made when discussing race in the past, and I cringe even more in imagining what mistakes I will make in the future. As Oluo notes throughout her book, the discomfort – and inevitable mistakes – that come along with talking openly about race is far from an excuse to avoid the topic. On the contrary, our discomfort shows why we need to discuss it.

– Rosa Calabrese, Manager, Digital and Project Support Services, WCET


The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters

Author: Priya Parker

I came across this book the day it came out actually (May 15, 2018). It was recommended in my Audible book recommendations, though I decided to read it on my Kindle. A book about “The Art of Gathering” definitely sound right up my alley. I’m someone who enjoys hosting get togethers at my home (enjoys and stresses about), planning large gatherings (wedding planning is a secret love of mine), and who likes to help as much as I can with our WCET Summit and Annual Meeting. The author starts by letting us know that our gatherings have become dreary, outdated, and archaic, especially those infused with tradition. Do we ever ask ourselves WHY we do some of those big traditions at various gatherings? Perhaps our traditions don’t fit the needs of today. Can we find ways to bring some of the tradition in to the modern world (or adapt the traditions to fit the needs/wants of those attending your gatherings?) Parker walks us through identifying a purpose for each of your gatherings, which will guide every detail about the gathering. The purpose must include why the gathering is different from other gatherings of a similar nature. My favorite part was when she brought up a phrase from 16th century Japan: Ichi-go ichi-e, which means “one meeting, one moment in your life that will never happen again.” While we may gather at the same place, same people again some other time, we must praise the uniqueness of this gathering today, because it will be different next time.

Parker is a great author, she has background in conflict resolution and now works with groups to plan a variety of different kinds of gatherings. She uses stories from her own childhood and examples from her work to demonstrate how to implement her suggestions. Large piles of books.With other great tips (such as spicing up a gathering by creating “an alternative world” and even some ways to make sure any kind of gathering “sucks less”), I enjoyed this book and hope to employ some of the tricks for future meetups.

– Lindsey Downs, Manager, Communications, WCET


“Fun” Reads

The Nix

Author: Nathan Hill

This book was named Entertainment Weekly’s “#1 Book of the Year” for 2016 and I finally got around to it a few months ago. Its many intertwining stories set around college life in the 1968 and in the present day. There’s a beleaguered college professor who never lived up to his initial literary promise, a woman who “attacks” (with a few pebbles) a presidential candidate, and childhood friends of the professor who have an impact on his whole life. The story travels back and forth between the past and present to uncover clues to the story’s main mystery. Warning, it does take a while to get started, but later unexpected turns are worth it…and there’s a cliffhanger moment that is left unresolved for several hundred pages.

For WCET members, I highly recommend Chapter 3, section 2 and the character of freshman university student Laura Pottsdam. Her feeling: “The reason college was so stupid was due to learning things she would never need in life, ever.” She goes on to detail how she is cheating in each of her courses:

  • For an online humanities class, she would take screen grabs of the quiz, unplug the computer (which was interpreted as network failure), she would look up the answer, and retake the quiz.
  • For the large biology class, she paid her roommate to record summaries of the lectures and she would listen to those while taking the tests next to the wall and halfway down her 300 person lecture hall.
  • For a macroeconomics class, she had a friend scan a cheat sheet onto a Lipton Green Tea bottle.
  • For her English class (taught by the beleaguered college professor mentioned above), she plagiarized a paper. When caught she finagled a way (the professor did not provide a “safe space” for her) to redo the paper. When that solution also included a mediation session with the professor, she then resorted to even more unsavory means to get him fired.

“Did Laura feel bad about all this cheating? She did not. That the school made it so easy to cheat meant, for her, that they tacitly approved of it, and moreover it was actually the school’s fault for making her cheat by (a) giving her so many opportunities, and (b) making her take so many b******* courses.”

– Russ Poulin, Director of Policy and Analysis, WCET


The Secret Life of Bees

Author: Sue Monk Kidd

I bought The Secret Life of Bees on a 45 min. layover in Atlanta. I was on the phone with Russ, juggling a too-full handbag and a venti coffee. Desperate for a book because I’m too cheap to pay for airline Wi-Fi, I scanned the table at the front of the bookstore; it had a pretty yellow cover. I put it on the counter with a Godiva dark chocolate, payed, and sprinted to my flight, all during a meeting with my boss. I had no idea what book I purchased until I was forced to begrudgingly stow my bulging Kate Spade under the seat, fasten my belt, and put my iPhone in airplane mode.

Here is why I recommend you read The Secret Life of Bees this summer:

  1. You’ll enjoy the characters. I fell in love with the main character Lily Owens. I wanted to rescue her, mother her, and keep her safe. She’s like the baby robin I once found after it had been attacked by a neighbor cat; I simply had to take it inside, grind up worms, and feed it 8 times a day. That’s how Lily hooked me—right by the heart. I found myself wishing I could spend a day with August and Rosaleen and the Daughters of Mary. I wanted to punch T. Ray in the face.
  2. You’ll learn about bees. Each chapter is prefaced with a quote about bees–something factual that also foreshadows the story. It’s a clever literary trick. And because I used quotes of poetry before each of my dissertation chapters in a similar fashion, I immediately respected Sue Monk Kidd’s writing style. Besides reading a great story, you’ll learn a lot about bees. And with world bee populations declining, we could all educate ourselves about these fascinating insects. Bees are super cool.
  3. You’ll feel some real feels. You’ll be reminded of the parent or lover who left you, the guilt of hurting someone else, loss, and the grinding angst of being powerless to fix it. There’s all sorts of angry and lonely feels in this book. But you’ll also find hope and love and redemption.
  4. It’s set in 1964 Carolina. The book is full of racial and sexist injustice. It’ll remind you of how far America has come and how very far we still have to go to achieve equality. It strengthened my resolve to make education more accessible, equitable, and inclusive. I hope it makes you want to stand up for what is right.

That’s all I should say because I don’t want to give it all away. But if you read The Secret Life of Bees, stop me at the WCET Annual Conference in Portland. We can sit and have a cup of coffee and discuss the book. I’d like to know if you think Zach and Lily will ever be together…and if she can ever truly forgive.

– Tanya Spilovoy, Director, Open Policy, WCETposter reading keep calm and read on with a pile of four books


Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel.

This book was a best seller a few years back but I’m just now reading it. It’s a great, engaging novel that explores life after a pandemic flu has wiped out most of humanity and society as we know it has collapsed. I particularly enjoy the way the author reflects on our current relationship with technology via the viewpoints of characters living 15 years after most modern technology no longer works.

– Chuck Hayward, Assistant Director, Digital Learning Solution Network, WCET


The Wright Brothers

Author: David McCollough

Thank you to Cheryl Dowd for recommending this engaging account of innovators Orville and Wilbur Wright. Cheryl lives only minutes away from the bicycle shop where the brothers gave birth to modern aviation. For those in the innovation business, this is a great story about the perseverance, ingenuity, research, trial-and-error, and guts it takes to make an impossible idea a reality. Making the reading joyful is David McCollough’s expertise in telling a story. It is always a pleasure to read great writing. The brothers, and their ever-present sister (Katherine Wright Haskell), sometimes remind me of an early-day Sheldon and Leonard (yes, that’s a Big Bang Theory reference). Once they get an idea, their lives can be consumed at devising a way to make it work. One of them pursued a law degree for the sole purpose of suing someone who wronged him. When he won the suit, he quit the practice of law. They were unlike many of their contemporaries, who opted for trial-and-error processes. The brothers would conduct enormous amount of research and would try ideas only when they had reason to believe the innovation would work…and they were not always right. WCET members will learn much about what is required to overcome the physical and political barriers to succeed.

– Russ Poulin, Director of Policy and Analysis, WCET


Other Suggestions:

  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Ronnlund, and Ola Rosling (recommended by Laura Pedrick, WCET Executive Council).
  • The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss (recommended by Laura Pedrick, WCET Executive Council).
  • Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (recommended by Laura Pedrick, WCET Executive Council).
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (recommended by Laura Pedrick, WCET Executive Council).

From our Digital Learning Solutions Network (DLSN) members:

Recommended by Bill Gates (his “5 Books Worth Reading this Summer.” Check out his descriptions of each book):


Do you have quite a list for this summer? I know I do! Both Rosa and I are also re-reading the entire Harry Potter collection this summer, but I’m sure we’ll have space to fit in some of these other great options! Check out the 2017 list if you need even more to read.

Have additional ideas for summer reading that we missed? Comment below or tweet your recommendations to us @wcet_info!


Photo of Lindsey Downs


Lindsey Downs
Manager, Communications
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



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State Authorization Federal Regulation (Almost) Delayed…What’s Next?

Our holiday message arrived! The Department announced in the Federal Register on Friday, before the holiday weekend, that the Secretary proposes to delay until July 1, 2020, the effective date of the final regulations regarding state authorization of distance education that were published December 19, 2016. Several detour signs with different arrows facing different directions.The reason for proposing a two – year delay is to provide adequate time to conduct negotiated rulemaking to reconsider the final regulations and possibly revise the regulations.

Officially, the Delay Is Still a Proposal

You may be thinking, the Secretary PROPOSES a delay? You mean the regulation is not actually delayed, yet? Right, there is a process that must be followed. To change the details of any regulation (in this case to delay the effective date), there must be an actual rule created to make that change.

This process includes a short public comment period for the proposed delay. The comment period is currently open and will close on June 11, 2018. While they are accepting comments, we can’t imagine any arguments arising from the comments that would keep the Department from implementing the delay. We’ll give you more information on commenting later in this post.

Reasons for the Proposed Delay

The Department revealed that two letters specifically prompted the proposed delay. We are very pleased that one of the letters was the February 7, 2018 collaboration from WCET, NC-SARA and DEAC. In that letter, we raised concerns about public and individualized disclosures, refund policy requirements, and the definition of “residence”. We indicated that it was important to have a clear understanding of the Department’s expectations, because we were aware that the institutions we represent were desiring to comply. Because there is a cost to implement new processes, there was a need for clarification from the Department, so that the complicated processes are done correctly from the start.

Although we communicated with the Department on several occasions (both before and since the December 2016 release of the final regulations), we did indicate in the February letter that the Department had three options going forward. a small clock sitting on a wooden desk.They could: “(1) delay the rules and submit the issues to additional negotiated rulemaking or (2) issue clarification via a dear colleague letter on USDE’s expectations for compliance. A third option would require Congress to take action to delay or suspend implementation.” The Department has chosen to pursue a delay.

The announcement explains that the clarifications were so substantive that the Department did not believe that guidance would be sufficient. Negotiated rulemaking is deemed by the Department to be the desired route to address the issues that the Department admits are more complicated than they expected.

As for the Congressional option to act on this issue, it would likely come in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We are not anticipating final passage of that legislation any time soon.

The Negotiated Rulemaking Process

The Department of Education will convene a panel to propose changes to the state authorization. As described in the Department’s FAQ on the process, the panel includes “representatives of the parties who will be affected significantly by the regulations” and a representative from the Department. All parties must agree on the ultimate proposal or the Department can create its own proposed regulation. The results are submitted to the public for comment, those comments are considered, and the Department issues a new final regulation.

We are expecting an additional announcement soon that will detail what will be considered, the timing of the negotiations, and call for nominations for panelists.

A woman in a bridal gown staring out the window.

Typically, the negotiations take place over the winter ending in the Spring. Therefore, the results of this process will probably not occur until well into next year. Anticipating the call for a rulemaking panel, we have already begun talking to National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) leadership about whom we might nominated to serve on the panel.

Commenting on the Proposed Delay

WCET, SAN, NC-SARA, and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) plan to submit a joint comment on behalf of our members in support of the delay. While we may have preferred receiving clarifications in time for institutions to act on the original deadline, a delay is the only choice now.

Should you wish to submit your own comment, remember that they are asking only about comments on the proposed delay.

comment nowWe suggest that you focus on:

  • Support for the delay, as there are several details within the regulations released in December 2016 that need to be clarified to assure that you are in compliance with their expectations.
  • It takes time and effort to obtain approvals from states for professional licensure/certification programs. While institutions are working on these approvals to meet state and SARA requirements, the Department underestimated the effort involved. Their requirements appeared to differ (we weren’t exactly sure) in significant ways from SARA requirements, but it was hard to proceed without clarity.

If you are commenting as an institution or organization, be sure to get the approval of the appropriate leadership. If you are commenting as an individual, you can mention your position and your employer, but do not submit the comment on institutional letterhead without approval. Follow the comment submission directions as described in the Federal Register announcement. Essentially, you may submit comments electronically through the eRulemaking Portal, postal mail, commercial or hand delivery. Comments by fax or email will not be accepted.

This Does Not Negate the Need to Stay in Compliance with State Authorization Laws

While the Federal regulation delay and negotiated rulemaking processes are being finalized and implemented, institutions cannot become complacent. As you have heard from WCET and SAN in the past, “the foundation of regulatory compliance for out-of-state activities of the institution is the state.” Institutions must continue to be compliant with state laws and regulations as well as SARA requirements. You may also wish to review our previous post on reasons to notify students about professional licensure requirements.

We will continue to inform you about developments along the way.


Russ Poulin smiling while holding a small bat


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



Cheryl Dowd


Cheryl Dowd
Director, State Authorization Network
WCET – WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies



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