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Online Learning Task Force Outlines Steps To Advance Distance Education

The Inter-Organizational Task Force on Online Learning, consisting of representatives from six different national organizations for online and e-learning in higher education, has released a report outlining the steps it plans to take to advance online learning in higher education.

The task force was formed at the Future of Online Learning Summit in Chicago in September 2011 and funded through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). Task force members are representatives from the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), the Association of Continuing Higher Education (ACHE), Educause, the Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C), UPCEA, and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET).

"Each of these organizations is deeply engaged in the development, delivery, and support of high quality online education," said Robert Hansen, CEO of UPCEA, in a prepared statement. "This report lays the foundation for working together with the goal of advancing the interests of the students and institutions we serve through quality online learning."

According to the report, education is critical to both individual prosperity and national economic growth but "traditional models of instruction have resulted in only a minority of the population holding a college degree of any level." The report suggested that online learning can enable universities and colleges to meet rising demand for higher education without expanding physical campus infrastructure.

The report outlined six steps towards achieving the task force's goal:

  • Create the capacity to better inform online learning policy-making and regulation by establishing a formal alliance of organizations dedicated to advancing online education;
  • Inform public policymakers and higher education leaders of the fundamental importance of online learning in serving the new "traditional" student: the adult learner;
  • Make the connection between online learning, the economy, workforce development, and access, and communicate that connection to policymakers and higher education leaders;
  • Give presidents and provosts the information and tools they need to make online education a key strategic asset for financial sustainability and mission fulfillment;
  • Engage policymakers and other key stakeholders in conversations about new opportunities for innovation afforded by e-learning; and
  • Use the overwhelming body of research demonstrating the quality of online learning to dispel the lingering skepticism of policymakers and the public at-large.

The full report is available online through the UPCEA site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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