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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
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Public policy on distance learning in higher education : California State and Western Governors Association initiatives / Gary A. Berg.
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1 of 15 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 6 Number 11June 12, 1998ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal. Edit or: Gene V Glass Glass@ASU.EDU. College of Education Ari zona State University,Tempe AZ 85287-2411 Copyright 199 8, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES.Permission is hereby granted to copy any a rticle provided that EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES is credited and copies are not sold. Public Policy on Distance Learning in Higher Educat ion: California State and Western Governors Association Initiatives Gary A. Berg Chapman UniversityAbstract The Western Governors University (WGU) and the Cali fornia Virtual University (CVU) are revealing examples of the complex issues involved in implementing distance learning on the public policy level. Although techn ology is certainly important, it has masked the fact that the WGU and CVU initiatives ma rk the rise of learner-centered higher education and the increased role of business in the academy. In comparing and contrasting WGU and CVU, it is clear that the WGU i s a more radical proposition because of competency-based credit and the connecti on with private industry. Two important issues driving public policy are raised i n these two efforts: First, are the California and Western Governors Association initia tives the product of the commercialization of education or the result of a r eform of higher education that may lead to an increased learner-centered orientation? Second, what is the appropriate role of private industry in higher education?Introduction Distance learning has become the focus of a great d eal of attention in higher education circles in the past few years. While a fa scination with the technology has led to enthusiasm from many, it has met with equally in tense opposition from others. On the policy level, the Western Governors University (WGU ) and the California Virtual University (CVU) are revealing examples of the comp lex issues involved in implementing distance learning. Although the techno logy is certainly important, it has masked the fact that the WGU and CVU initiatives ma rk the rise of learner-centered higher education and the increased role of business in the academy. In comparing and contrasting these two policy effor ts the following key issues emerge:


2 of 15private industry in higher education competency-based vs. seat time credit university governance/faculty labor issues accreditation education vs. training state residency and funding consumerism in education I will not address here the learning theory debate about the validity or value of distance learning, but will instead focus on the po licy issues, as well as the forces behind the policies. The overall organization of this arti cle is to look first at the recent history of policy efforts in California and through the Wester n Governors Association, then examine the debate surrounding key issues, and fina lly draw conclusions which point to future directions in higher education policy.History of Western Governors University The official origin of the Western Governors Univer sity was a Memorandum of Understanding that followed the positive reception of a report called "From Vision to Reality." The memorandum cited specific needs that it wanted to address including access, affordability, and certification. The strength and well-being of our states and the n ation depend increasingly on a strong higher education system that helps indi viduals adapt to our rapidly changing economy and society; and States mu st look to telecommunications and information technologies to provide greater access and choice to a population that increasingly must h ave affordable education and training opportunities and the certification of competency throughout their lives (Western Governors Association, 1996). In the subsequent Resolution 96-002 signed on June 24, 1996, the Western Governors Association also agreed to support collab oration with businesses, between universities, and among states on financial aid iss ues. The Governors charged a design team with creating a design plan for a virtual univ ersity describing how such an entity could be developed and financed. The primary elemen ts of the mission of this entity adapted from the "From Vision to Reality" document were identified as expanding access, formal recognition of skills and knowledge, shifting the focus of education to competence from "seat time," and new approaches to teaching and assessment. The strategic implementation would be based on a market -orientation that is learner-centered, accredited, competency-based, reg ional and quickly initiated. In their prospectus, the design team identified their basic approach as creating broader markets for existing educational services, fostering the de velopment of new products where unmet needs are identified, utilizing market mechan isms, and removing barriers to interstate flows of educational activities. Further they identified the role of the WGU as to provide the means for assessing an individual's competence, act as a vehicle for identifying providers of educational programs, and to provide support services. Most importantly, the prospectus advocated the crea tion of regional centers franchised by the WGU as points of access for servi ces. These regional centers would not necessarily be existing educational institution s. Organizations will apply to become


3 of 15regional centers and for-profit businesses will not be excluded. The WGU will also contract with providers of educational materials an d assessment instruments. Essentially, the WGU is promoting the creation of both a consort ium and a new educational institution which is separately accredited. The rol e of WGU will be to provide centralized governance, policy guidance and quality control. Currently, the WGU is in a pilot phase. It is formi ng the administrative staff and has received "Eligibility for Candidacy" status fro m the Inter-Regional Accreditation Committee (IRAC). Initially it will focus on the of fering of A.A. degrees and certificates rather than bachelor’s degrees.History of California Virtual University In 1989 the California Legislature approved Senate Bill 1202 which directed the California Postsecondary Education Commission (CPEC ) to develop a State policy on distance learning. The resulting report, "State Pol icy on Technology for Distance Learning" suggested a policy emphasizing equity, qu ality, diversity, efficiency, and accountability. However, largely because of the ext reme funding cutbacks in the early nineties, the distance learning plans could not be implemented by the legislature. In 1996 the economy began to turn around in Califor nia and the distance learning initiatives were picked up again. With the projecti on of 450,000 additional college-age students over the next 10 years in California by CP EC, the legislature looked at technology as a partial solution. CPEC subsequently wrote two reports, "Moving Forward: A Preliminary Discussion of Technology and Transformation in California Higher Education" (CPEC, 1996) and "Coming of Infor mation Age in California Higher Education" (CPEC, 1997), which attempted to address the need for an overall state-wide approach to technology in education. A third report from CPEC which will focus on research in connection with distance learning theor y is due to be released late in 1998. Executive Order W-153-97 established the California Virtual University Design Team with the charge of recommending a blueprint to meet somewhat vague needs. ... by which California-based institutions of highe r education may serve the needs of California students and employers through emerging technology-enhanced educational programs, as well a s reach national and global demand for such programs and content (State of California, 1997). In the 1998-99 budget, Governor Wilson has requeste d a total of $14 million to encourage distance learning, with $6.1 million spec ifically earmarked for CVU. Wilson’s plans include $1 million each for UC and C SU to develop online courses, and $3.9 million for the California Community Colleges (Coleman, 1998). Assembly Bill 2431 was introduced on February 20, 1 998 paving the way for creating standards of distance learning practice in California and establishing the Matching Grant Program to assist California institu tions in the development of distance learning courses. In the text of the Bill it is sta ted: "Distance education shall be utilized by the state to achieve its goals for education, eq uity, quality, choice, efficiency, and accountability (State of California, 1998)." This Bill also advocates collaboration between the private sector and educational institutions. In relationship to industry involveme nt, AB2431 says: The state shall encourage collaboration between the private sector and the educational institutions in the use of technology b oth to enhance the quality of education in the classroom and to expand and enh ance the delivery of


4 of 15educational services to homes and worksites. In a separate but related effort called the Califor nia Educational Technology Initiative (CETI), the CSU system proposed an agreement with c orporate sponsors to provide an infrastructure for distance learning at CSU campuse s. Under great criticism by faculty groups and parties concerned with the business ties with CSU, the proposal is being revised and Microsoft has been dropped from the lis t of partners.Analytic Comparison of WGU and CVU Efforts The following chart shows the similarities and diff erences between the Western Governors Association and California State distance learning policies. WGUCVU Competency-based credit x Inter-State x Learner-oriented x Private Industry Involvment xx Separately Accredited x Brokering Function xx Financial Imperative xx Training Orientation x Hardware Infrastructure x The Western Governors Association and California ef forts are similar most importantly in their brokering management approach. As an article called "Western Governors U. Takes Shape as a New Model for Higher Education" in The Chronicle of Higher Education reveals, the WGU sees itself to some degree as an e normous course broker: "Governor Leavitt, in fact, likens the new institution to ‘a kind of New York Stock Exchange of Technology-delivered courses (Blu menstyk, 1998)." Although the WGU is seeking separate accreditation, it remains t o be seen if it will develop its own courses to any extent. In this way, the WGU and CVU avoid obvious competitive battles with existing higher education institutions through a brokering mandate. However, this strategy also severely limits the real impact and v alue of both of these institutions. In looking at the present offerings of both the WGU an d CVU, they are not very impressive. In fact, they are little more than a ho dgepodge catalogue of previously existing courses with great differences in format a nd quality. While the number and quality of these courses is likely to improve, with out new course development and overall academic planning the curriculum is likely to remain fragmented. The Western Governors Association and State of Cali fornia both are encouraging participation from private industry, which has open ed them to criticism. Furthermore, the stated objectives of both organizations are sim ilar in their declared aims of meeting changing student and business needs, providing acce ss for the increased student population, and in increasing the quality of distan ce format courses. While there are obvious similarities between the We stern Governors Association and California State efforts at creating distance l earning institutions, there are important differences. Overall, the Western Governors Associa tion effort is both more ambitious and further developed. As reported in the "San Fran cisco Examiner," the WGU is


5 of 15seeking separate accreditation while CVU will defer to the sponsoring university for credit. The major difference between the two proposals is t hat students in the Western Governors 'distance learning' program would receive credit from the newly created 'WGU,' while those studying via t he California linkup would receive credit from participating institution s--which may include Stanford University, UC Berkeley, USC and others (R aine,1996). This necessarily gives California’s effort less imp act because students will not be able to complete a degree through the virtual university, o nly through individual institutions. Second, the WGU is a multi-state effort, while the CVU is exclusively based within California. This makes the WGU’s implementation muc h more difficult--and ultimately more important if it is successful--because it will have addressed the serious financial, funding, and transferability issues that go along w ith interstate cooperation. In addition, the WGU has a training orientation in its initial c urriculum and has decided to focus on A.A. degrees at the outset, rather than bachelor de grees. Undoubtedly this decision is a result of the influence of its corporate advisors-in particular Novell with its CNE training. It is difficult to tell if this emphasis on training and on A.A. degrees is a strategic marketing decision or an academic one. If it is an academic policy decision, the WGU has not explicitly excluded more advanced degre es from their plans at this time. Training versus a traditional education model is cl early a preoccupation for the WGU. Conversely, California’s effort focuses to a g reat extent on building a technological infrastructure for their three enormo us higher education systems. While the Virtual University catalogue in California also lists independent institutions, they are left out of the infrastructure plans. As a consorti um of various state and private institutions, the WGU has more difficulty addressin g infrastructure issues by legislative measures. Perhaps the single most important difference concer ns the issue of competency-based credit. While California State is experimenting with competency-based credit at CSU Monterey, this is no t part of the Virtual University planning thus far. For the WGU, competency-based cr edit is integral to the overall theory and implementation of their distance learnin g. The wide-spread implementation of competency-based credit would in fact be revolut ionary in its affect on higher education administration.Analysis of Central IssuesCompetency-based Credit Probably the most radical aspect of the entire WGU effort is its promotion of the complete reforming of university credit based on co mpetency not seat time. While there is some precedent for this action in terms of high school diplomas based on comprehensive testing and limited credit for "life experience" at the college level, competency-based credit faces stiff opposition in t erms of transferability and financial incentives for institutions. First, how will other academic institutions regard competency-based degrees from WGU in application to graduate programs? If the degrees are not recognized, this is going to severe ly affect enrollment. Second, how will universities be compensated for the granting of com petency credit? If an institution has no financial incentive for the granting of competen cy credit, they are likely to see this approach as very much against their interests. As t he WGU report entitled "The Policy


6 of 15Environment for Implementing The Western Governors University" indicated: The success of these new competency-based approache s will depend on changes in the financial incentives for both studen ts and institutions. If the state’s four-year institutions recognize that it is in their financial selfinterest to emphasize competencies rather than cour sespecific credit hours in looking at potential student transfers, their at titudes may change regarding students whose competencies have been cer tified through the WGU (The Western Governors Association, 1996). Furthermore, the WGU will need to develop very spec ific guidelines for the granting of competency credit. In "Concept Paper on System for Credentialing," the WGU puts forward basic premises and directions for the credentialing system they are likely to utilize. Their main premises are: 1) deve lopmental-focus on on-going diagnoses of the student, not just ending testing; 2) Non-exclusionary--open to everyone; 3) Nonpunitive--students are given credit for pas sing certain sections of tests and will not need to retake those parts; 4) Portable-trans ferable skills and knowledge which can be used in multiple settings. To any university adm inistrator looking at this list, it would be clear that this kind of credentialing is going t o involve a great deal of staff time. On-going diagnoses, nonexclusionary, modular and portable credentialing is likely to be very time-consuming and would change the role of the institution from teaching to assessing in a large way. In California, higher education is moving much more cautiously into this notion of competency-based credit. CSU Monterey is one of the few institutions experimenting with competency-based credit in which at the end of their studies students are required to demonstrate competency regardless of accumulated credits or seat-time in order to receive a degree.State Residency and Funding Issues As they identify themselves in "The Policy Environm ent for Implementing the Western Governors University," the WGU has many pro blems to deal with in regard to residency and state funding including financial aid and residency tuition rates. The problem is that existing state policies, even i n their most fully-developed form, are increasingly inadequate t o handle new forms of postsecondary delivery that make state boundaries e ssentially irrelevant. The issue of physical presence is at the heart of t he problem...States are clearly in a period of uncertainty about how to add ress the challenge of educational programs offered through the Internet b y providers with no physical presence in the state -or in some cases within the United States. No clear legal or policy guidance appears to be ava ilable (The Western Governors Association, 1996, p. 3-4). Most importantly, state authorization also plays a critical role in determining institutional eligibility for federal student assis tance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. How is this to be done with courses offered in cyberspace? Would no federal financial aid be available? California avoids many of the problems that the WGU has by focusing on California residents. However, if the Virtual Unive rsity draws students from out-of-state to credit courses, they also will have to deal with financial aid and funding issues as


7 of 15well.Accreditation The WGU sought separate accreditation and on May 8, 1998 received notification of gaining "Eligibility for Candidacy" status throu gh the Inter-Regional Accreditation Committee (IRAC) (The Western Governors Association 1998). IRAC was formed through the collaboration of four regional accredit ing associations including North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Northw est Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Western Association of School and Colleges. As a group, the four associations granted IRAC the power to develop an a ccrediting process for WGU. This represents a real change in accreditation practice and may be the most significant policy evolution to come about from the efforts of WGU. Ho wever, serious questions remain for IRAC. Can a consortium of universities without separate faculty have its own accreditation? In addition, how will IRAC deal with competency-based credit? Financing State financing policies also are a hurdle for the WGU. Public policies regarding financing of postsecondary education, both federal and state, are usually based on a measure of clockhours of instruction. In contrast the WGU will certify learning on the basis of assessment of competencies. Consequently, it is a real question as to how states can allocate resources for the WGU.Private Industry in Higher EducationFor many critics of the use of distance learning in higher education, the issue is not the use of technology but the perceived commercializati on of the academy. The strong reaction to The California Educational Technology I nitiative (CETI) proposed by CSU to contract with four large technology corporations (Microsoft, GTE, Fujitsu, and Hughes Electronics Corp.) to provide technology and networking to CSU campuses is a current example of this reaction. The deal was put on hold at the end of 1997 when faced with widespread criticism from students and non-par ticipating companies with complaints about the privatization of CSU as a whol e. The agreement has now been delayed until the May, 1998 Board of Trustees meeti ng. However, the state’s legislative counsel, Bion M. Gregory, released a 27page revie w of the plan at the end of January, 1998, with the opinion that the deal was illegal be cause it would put the university in the role of a profit-making entity (Young, 1998). Contr ary to this opinion, others defend the agreement because it provides much needed funding f or technology infrastructure and allows for open bidding for services and equipment. Furthermore, it is argued that the agreement does allow CSU to go to other providers f or a lower price if necessary (Wilson & David, 1998, p. B15).University Governance As a Los Angeles Times article suggests, this confl ict between the corporate and academic worlds is centered on the issue of univers ity governance. Underlying the misgivings of many academics about t he trends illustrated by CETI, the THEN and virtual universities is the s uspicion that administrators, legislators and university trustees under pressure because of


8 of 15mounting technology expenses, are capitulating to t he high-tech industry’s political agenda, which is clearly hostile to educa tional principles such as faculty governance and social critique. In other wo rds, some academics are starting to view their institutions as emergent clo nes of market-driven high-tech companies instead of as universities and colleges. Recent attacks on tenure across the country--a principle not coinc identally reviled by many high-tech leaders--only fuel such suspicions (Chapm an, 1998, D6). While there are real academic autonomy and quality issues at stake in this debate about the involvement of business in education, it is bec oming increasingly clear that this is at least partially a labor issue. In fact, the stronge st critics of CETI in California have been faculty groups. David Noble to some extent voices t he viewpoint of some faculty members in seeing new technology as a tool in labor /management struggles: "As in other industries, the technology is being deployed by man agement primarily to discipline, de-skill, and displace labor (Noble, 1998, p. 7)."Conclusion--Towards a Policy on Distance Learning i n Higher Education What are the political forces driving these two pie ces of higher education public policy? For David Noble, distance learning is drive n by business and university administration collaboration seeking profit and con trol: "a battle between students and professors on one side, and university administrati ons and companies with ‘educational products’ to sell on the other (Noble, 1998, p.1)." Do students want distance learning, or is it being forced on them by administrators and hi gh tech corporations? In spite of Noble’s argument, it is hard to ignore indicators s uch as the finding in the 1995 study from Washington State University which stated that "Teaching conducted only in the traditional campus classroom will not meet the publ ic’s demand for tailored educational services (Dillman, Christenson, Salant, Waner, 1995 )." Furthermore, when the University of Colorado at Denver began to offer onl ine courses this past year it found that out of 609 enrollments, 500 where also enrolle d in regular courses and therefore did not need to take the courses because of geographic distance--they in fact for one reason or another preferred this delivery method (Guernsey 1998). For Utah Governor Michael O. Leavitt, the people are demanding a virtual univ ersity: "This isn’t something that we’re inventing. The market is driving it. People a re demanding it (Blumenstyk, 1998)." There are two central questions in this debate: Fir st, are the California and Western Governors Association initiatives the product of th e commercialization of education or the result of a reform of higher education which ma y lead to an increased learner-centered orientation? Second, what is the a ppropriate role of private industry in higher education? In attempting to answer these questions, we need to examine the evolving role of higher education in society, the relationship betwe en education and business, and the administrative structure of universities. For David Noble, the adoption of distance learning leads to the commercialization of higher e ducation. For reformers such as Carol Twigg from EDUCOM and a member of the WGU design te am, the traditional system is operating under a manufacturing model in which educ ational products are created and then pushed onto the marketplace regardless of stud ent needs. Our institutions are reminiscent of other kinds of industrial age organizations such as the factory and the departmen t store--characterized by


9 of 15size and centralization--in contrast to the distrib uted, networked organization and mail-order shopping services of th e 1990s (Twigg, 1994, p. 4). In business terminology, what Twigg is advocating i s a marketing or pull strategy, rather than a manufacturing or push orientation. However, Noble and Twigg are talking from two completely different frames of reference. Noble sees higher education as being automated by distance learning, while Twigg envisio ns a redirection of education through technology so that it is more oriented towa rds student needs. This automation versus redirection analogy is a rev ealing one because it is very much at the center of the debate regarding the impl ementation of distance learning in universities. Many of the issues and problems surro unding distance learning are a result of conceiving of the use of technology to automate traditional teaching. While there is a great deal of evidence and experience to show that distance learning through videotape and the internet can be very successful, conceiving of it as an imitation of the classroom experience leads inevitably to negative comparisons In contrast to this, Twigg emphasizes an opportunity to employ a constructivis t, learner-centered learning approach through the use of technology. In fact, co nstructivist learning theory is specifically mentioned in both CVU and WGU document s as an advantage of the use of educational technology in higher education. The pub lic preoccupation and fascination with technology has masked the fact that the WGU an d CVU initiatives are indicative of a broader debate about faculty-centered versus lear ner-centered education on both the level of learning theory and management in higher e ducation. What are the political forces which are putting the se policy initiatives in the limelight? The single most important factor is the changing demographics of higher education leading to a great increase in the averag e age of students in higher education. One-third of all undergraduate-level and two-thirds of master’s-level enrollments are part-time. The largest single demographic group amo ng part-time degree students is women over the age of 35 years old (NUCEA, 1994). T he Fielding Institute which offers PhDs through an innovative distance format program reports that their average student age is a remarkable 46 years old (WASC Annual Confe rence, 1998). Increasingly, the needs of the traditional 18-22 year old college stu dent are being overwhelmed by a much larger and more demanding group of adults needing a nd wanting lifelong educational opportunities. This extreme change in the compositi on of the student body of the university is having a dramatic affect on higher ed ucation, one which is likely to be even more important than the effect of the G.I. Bill in altering the composition of American universities. What this means is that because the s tudents are different their needs are different, and the function of the university is ch anging along with the new student body. The historical role of liberal arts institutions to provide a broad-based education which prepare young adults to become productive citizens is no longer appropriate for the majority of higher education students. Many of thes e students are already accomplished professionals with families who often are already a ctively involved in American society, and more importantly, the political system. A second force behind public policy in higher educa tion is business and the increased need for a skilled workforce. In The Monster Under the Bed Stan Davis and Jim Botkin argue that we are seeing a transition of higher education from government control to business control as a result of the chan ging needs of students and the role of education moving increasingly towards preparation f or a job. On local, state, national, and international scales, the demand for higher edu cation is pushing universities to become more productive and efficient. Consequently, public policy makers are looking


10 of 15increasingly towards business for answers. Universi ties are enormously labor-intensive endeavors as presently constructed. Faculty and sta ff costs make up approximately 80 percent of the budget of colleges and universities (Twigg, 1996, p. 5). It is a frequent complaint that the use of technology in higher educ ation (and business for that matter) has increased expenses instead of lowering them. Fu rthermore, distance learning courses usually end up requiring more, not less faculty tim e. However, distance learning methods still offer the possibility of dealing with the enormous labor expense in a business-like manner by creating educational capita l through technology products. As Carol Twigg points out in "Academic Productivity: T he Case for Instructional Software, A Report from the Broadmoor Roundtable": ... colleg es and universities need to find ways to substitute capital for labor in order to im prove productivity (Twigg, 1996, p. 5)." Of course, this attempt to make higher education ef ficient by reducing labor costs is exactly why faculty members feel threatened. More i mportantly, it remains to be seen if technology will ever effectively reduce faculty lab or expenses. A third reason for this new "consumerism" in educat ion is the ascendancy of the baby boom generation to political power. A highly e ducated group--not long removed from the curriculum power struggles of the 60s and 70s and often with college-age children--they are determined to see educational in stitutions become more responsive. While this generation does have respect for notions of academic freedom and the value of intellectual pursuits, they are suspicious of wa steful bureaucracies. These educational consumers see a great deal of inefficiency in tradi tional higher education and an alarming lack of attention to undergraduate educati on. Some might argue the following: Surely a changing s tudent population isn’t reason enough in itself to reformulate what has bee n a very successful university system in the U.S. Presumably, students still go to school to learn from faculty. Students are not going to teach themselves. Students do not always u nderstand a given academic field well enough even as adults to make good decisions a bout their own education. What is important here is to distinguish between learner-ce ntered and learner-taught higher education. At a recent WASC annual conference (WASC Annual Conference, 1998) Carol Twigg responded to a similar challenge by rai sing the analogy of the doctorpatient relationship. While patients do not want to perform surgery on themselves, in an age of managed-care dominance, they do want hospita ls to be more responsive to their needs. The comparison is apt. For the most part, st udents do not want to teach themselves. However, to take this analogy further, do we want decisions made about our health and education based on the bottom line of a business? Isn’t it important that some key areas of human endeavor be protected to some de gree from the inevitable excesses of capitalism? Some might argue that nonprofit hi gher education institutions are already dominated by financial decisions, and of co urse it would be very nave to believe otherwise. However, non-profit institutions regular ly make decisions which benefit and enrich their students based on their overall instit utional missions which have nothing whatever to do with the bottom line. It is doubtful that profit-making educational institutions would act similarly. On the other hand non-profit universities do have a great deal that they can learn from businesses, sta rting with the marketing principle of staying close to the customer (student). Additional ly, the interests of businesses and non-profits do come together in the common goal of creating an educated workforce. Corporations have moved reluctantly into the busine ss of educating and training their employees; and if higher education institutions bec ome more responsive, businesses will gladly give up this role. On the public policy level, the California and West ern Governors Association initiatives reveal two different kinds of approache s to distance learning. While some


11 of 15might describe the differences as being a centraliz ed versus decentralized kind of opposition, they might better be described as facul ty-centered versus learner-centered. The CVU is obviously much more conservative and anc hored in the control of the existing educational institutions with its faculty governance schemes. Under this model, technology will be used to augment traditional clas sroom courses and probably only have widespread use through continuing education, w hich is historically much more marketdriven and flexible. Clearly, with a propos ed $6.1 million in the coming fiscal year for the UC, CSU and community college system, the California Virtual University is a small effort. While it is difficult for anyone in the California Legislature to argue against technology in higher education, it is hard to not view this effort as something of a cynical public relations effort with little real consequence. It is unlikely that as presently conceived that the CVU will have much imm ediate impact on access to degree credit courses in California and will certainly hav e minimal effect in meeting the increased enrollment projections of Tidal Wave II. As CPEC concluded in its 1996 report "Moving Forward," California needs more aggr essive leadership in higher education. There appears to be widespread agreement among educ ational planners working on a regional basis that what California ne eds is leadership that moves public colleges and universities to a complet ely new paradigm that is studentcentered (California Post-secondary Educat ion Commission, 1996, p. 15). The California Virtual University clearly does not represent an instance of this kind of leadership. On the other hand, the WGU effort has higher educat ion reform at its philosophical roots with the insistence on its own accreditation, competency-based credit, and partnerships with businesses with an ey e towards training instead of education. Of course, because it is more ambitious, the WGU plans are going to be more difficult to implement. Nevertheless, the WGU is li kely to have a greater impact on the future of higher education in the United States. However, the WGU reliance on competency-based grant ing of credit is not without philosophical problems. Testing in educatio n in America has reach epidemic levels, from continual preoccupation with the class ification of K-12 students to graduate admissions tests. Traditionally, tests are designed to assess what students know, not what they have learned. In this way we are in fact already using a competency-based model in higher education. The difference is that w e are also requiring a certain amount of seat-time regardless of ability or non-academic background. I think that the WGU competency-based model puts an unfortunate emphasis on competency instead of the learning process. Because the WGU is placing so muc h emphasis on a competency model, the assessment instruments used are going to have to be more than behavior-oriented standardized tests. While the WGU planners seem to recognize this in their planning documents, I think that it is going to be very easy to slip into a standardized test model. What is really missing in the assessment emphasis is adequate assessment of incoming students on a course-by-cour se basis. Certainly faculty members have been assessing students needs on an ongoing ba sis in the classroom for years. If you remove the immediate contact with the instructo r, how can higher education truly address individual needs without adequate up front assessment? Finally, can computer-based programs accurately assess the kind of complex knowledge striven for in higher education? On a practical level, this kin d of assessment both incoming and


12 of 15outgoing is likely to be very expensive if it is us eful. On the policy level, the most important new initiat ive would be one which gives funding to research projects leading to a better un derstanding of technology-enabled learner-centered education. In some ways the need i s presently out-running the knowledge base in terms of the use of technology in the classroom. Some critics feel that institutions are jumping into distance learning bef ore really understanding its value as an approach to learning. While there are thousands of research studies and many years of experience in various kinds of distance learning, t here is a certain amount of justification in this viewpoint. Educational technology is still in its infancy. In many ways we are at a stage in education very similar to that of the earl y film industry, which began by simply recording Broadway stage plays. We are still imitat ing the classroom with educational technology and consequently offering once-removed i mitations of the in-person experience. It was a number of years before film de veloped its unique language and power as a medium, and educational technology as a new medium faces this same developmental challenge. While we are still develop ing the language of technology-mediated education, the best use of publ ic funds for distance learning might be in gaining a better understanding of these impor tant new tools through research. In looking to the future, public policy in relation ship to distance learning must address the key issues of credit, transferability, financial aid, and interstate enrollment policies. These are all issues that the WGU is addr essing and they are consequently playing an important role in the history of higher education. In terms of leadership at the policy level, the CVU represents a very modest effo rt to automate the existing faculty-controlled academic institutions. In the fi nal analysis, the marketplace for education is going to be the most important factor, not public policy. If the state and federal government do not respond to the increased demand for learner-centered models of higher education, more flexible independents and forprofit institutions will meet the need. In fact, this is already happening. Neverthel ess, I think that it is important on a policy level that the non-profit nature of higher e ducation be protected. Higher education is simply too important on both a personal and soci al level to leave to the mercy of the free marketplace. The right of citizens to access a ffordable, quality education must be protected. However, those in non-profit higher educ ation must make the argument that they offer something that the for-profit model will not or cannot. It must prove its value and not simply retreat into a divisive faculty labo r stance that the public will view as self-interested. Furthermore, it must pay attention to the learner-centered demands of the public because the needs of the students have chang ed. Technology can help with this transformation and non-profit higher education woul d be best served by embracing these new tools rather than engaging in a self-destructiv e fight in which students will be the big losers.ReferencesBlumenstyk, Goldie. (February 6, 1998). Utah’s Gove rnor Enjoys Role as a Leading Proponent of Distance Learning. The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 6, 1998, p. A23.Blumenstyk, Goldie. (February 6, 1998). Western Gov ernors U. Takes Shape as a New Model for Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education. February 6, 1998, p. A21.California Post-secondary Education Commission. (19 97). Coming of Information Age


13 of 15in California Higher Education.California Post-secondary Education Commission. (19 96). Moving Forward: A Preliminary Discussion of Technology and Transforma tion in California Higher Education.Chapman, Gary. (January 19, 1998). Will Technology Commercialize Higher Learning. "Los Angeles Times"., p. D1.Coleman, Donald E. (January 9, 1998). Wilson Pushes Cyber Education in Budget. The Fresno Bee.Davis, Stan, & Botkin, Jim. (1994). The Monster Under the Bed Touchstone. Dillman, Christenson, Salant, Waner. (1995). What t he Public Wants from Higher Education. SESRC.Guernsey, Lisa. (March 27, 1998). Colleges Debate t he Wisdom of Having On-Campus Students Enroll in On-Line Classes. Chronicle of Higher Education Noble, David F. (1998). Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education. (Available online: _1/noble/index.html). NUCEA. (1994). Lifelong Learning Trends Raine, George. (October 3, 1996). California Virtua l Would Offer Courses, and Credit, From Many Colleges. "San Francisco Examiner".State of California Assembly Bill 2431.State of California. (1997). Executive Department. Executive Order W-153-97. State of California. (1998). Wilson Announces Corpo rate Sponsors of California Virtual University. Press Release. January 12, 1998.Twigg, Carol A. (1994). The Need for a National Lea rning Infrastructure. Educom Review Volume 29, Numbers 4, 5, 6, 1994. Twigg, Carol. (1996). Academic Productivity: The Ca se for Instructional Software: A Report from the Broadmoor Roundtable. July 24-25, 1 996. Twigg, Carol A. and Oblinger, Diana. (1996). The Vi rtual University: A Report from a Joint Educom/IBM Roundtable. November 5-6, 1996.WASC Annual Conference. (1998). Newport Beach, CA. April 16, 1998. The Western Governors Association. (1996). Concept Paper on System for Credentialing.The Western Governors Association. (1996). Draft Me morandum of Understanding. The Western Governors Association. (1996). Learner Support Services of the Western Virtual University.


14 of 15 The Western Governors Association. (1996). Resoluti on 96-002. The Western Governors Association. (1996). The Poli cy Environment for Implementing The Western Governors University.The Western Governors Association. (1996). The West ern Governors University: A Proposed Implementation Plan.The Western Governors Association. (1997). A Propos ed Academic Infrastructure for Credentialing at the WGU.The Western Governors Association. (1998). Western Governors University Granted Eligibility Status. Press Release. May 13, 1998.Wilson, Blenda & Ernst, David. (1998). Accessing Ex cellence at CSUN. Los Angeles Times". January 25, 1998, p. B15.Young, Jeffrey. (1998). California System Delays Te chnology Deal Anew, as State Official Says It’s Illegal. The Chronicle of Higher Education February 4, 1998.About the AuthorGary A. BergDirector of Extended EducationChapman University333 N. Glassell StreetOrange, CA 92866email address: Gary A. Berg is currently Director of Extended Educ ation at Chapman University and has worked in adult education administration fo r twelve years at Chapman University, the California School of Professional P sychology, the Directors Guild of America, and UCLA Extension. He is involved in vari ous forms of distance learning administration, has written articles on new media, and is currently a doctoral student at Claremont Graduate University.Copyright 1998 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-2411. (602-965-26 92). The Book Review Editor is Walter E. Shepherd: The Commentary Editor is Casey D. Cobb: .EPAA Editorial Board


15 of 15 Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Andrew Coulson Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Marshall University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Richard M. Jaeger University of North Carolina--Greensboro Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Rocky Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education William McInerney Purdue University Mary P. McKeown Arizona Board of Regents Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson Arizona State University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers Ann Leavenworth Centerfor Accelerated Learning Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois--UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education Robert T. Stout Arizona State University