‘State U Online’ Report Charts a New Student-Friendly, Cost-Effective Path for College

world256x256Washington, D.C. – Mention online learning in higher education and the conversation quickly turns to the explosion of Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, and the opportunities for delivering lower-cost, quality education to the greatest number of students. Indeed, online learning is increasingly becoming a permanent fixture in higher education. Yet, according to a report co-released today by the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program and Education Sector, the U.S. public higher education system has been visibly slower to embrace the potential of online learning.

The report, State U Online, examines the history of distance learning dating back to the 18th century when the U.S. Postal Service served as the primary method of administering correspondence courses. “As the need for distance education increased, so did the innovative ways in which it was administered,” said author Rachel Fishman, a higher education policy analyst at the New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program.

Each technological advance in distance education encountered barriers to implementation, and online education is no exception. State U Online identifies the most common challenges to implementing successful distance education programs. Fishman takes these historical lessons and charts a path forward for states and institutions looking to build streamlined and affordable online public higher education systems. She outlines five sequential steps toward an integrated State U Online:

  • Establish a clearinghouse where state institutions can collaborate to provide an easy-to-search library of online courses and degrees.
  • Share contracts for digital platforms such as Learning Management Systems and faculty resources like Quality Matters for more efficient course delivery.
  • Centralize, target, and share online student support services across institutions to better meet the needs of online students.
  • Create articulation agreements that allow for shared credentials or easy credit transfers among institutions within a state system.
  • Share credentials beyond state borders to allow students to take classes anywhere within the consortium of states while paying their home-state rates.

Fishman describes how each of these steps works in practice through a series of notable state and system profiles, including: University of Wisconsin System’s eCampus, Minnesota Online, Florida Virtual Campus, Georgia’s ONmyLINE and eCore, Great Plains IDEA, and others. She highlights strengths and challenges of each program and identifies areas of opportunity.

The report also makes institutional, state, and federal policy recommendations to help ensure public online programs are on strong, sustainable footing.

“A State U Online model is achievable,” Fishman said. “But only if states and higher-education institutions work together to share their resources and reduce barriers that prevent students from moving seamlessly through the system—credits in hand.”

To read the full report, including policy recommendations, please click here.

State U Online was funded though generous grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

About the New America Foundation
New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.

About the Education Policy Program 
The New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program develops ideas that advance equity, access, and excellence in education, from early childhood through elementary and secondary schools, college, and the workforce. 

About Education Sector
Education Sector is an independent think tank that challenges conventional thinking in education policy. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to achieving measurable impact in education, both through improving existing reform initiatives and by developing new, innovative solutions to our nation’s most pressing education problems.

Find the original release on Education Sector’s website.