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Editor’s Note
: This paper presents highlights of the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET) November 2005 conference. Based on notes from the conference presentations, it summarizes the evolution of technology in 21st century education. It is republished with permission of the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications and the author. Additional information can be found at and

Invited Paper

Building the Academic EcoSystem:
Implications of E-Learning

John Witherspoon
December 2005

WCET ( is a cooperative of two-and four-year institutions (for profit and not for profit), higher education agencies, and corporations from 45 states and nine countries. Founded in 1989, the Cooperative’s mission is to advance the effective use of technology in higher education. Its annual conference, held in late fall, pulls together the field’s leading thinkers and innovators to discuss the year’s major happenings and most pressing issues, to explore key innovations and best practices, and to forecast the future.

The subtitle of WCET’S 2005 Conference, held November 2-5 in San Francisco, was Re-imagining the Academic Ecosystem [1]. It soon became clear, however, that those attending are, step by step, actively designing and constructing that ecosystem. In reporting the state of e-learning in higher education they are also, in a real sense, mapping a major direction for postsecondary institutions, faculties, and students.

WCET members are engaging a rapidly evolving and diverse student population. They are seeking best uses of the technologies now available while they develop IT’s next generations. They wrestle with institutional change and opportunities for fertile collaboration while they struggle with negative trends in funding. They are addressing change – cultural, technological, demographic, political, and financial – as they shape that academic ecosystem: tomorrow’s environment for learning.

Thus Spake Katrina. The 2005 hurricane season, exemplified by Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans – and moving WCET’s conference to San Francisco -- produced both disaster and enterprise. The disaster is evident to the world: thousands homeless, questions of whether recovery is possible, and personal responses ranging from selfless gallantry to gunfire targeting rescue helicopters. Within higher education, many colleges and universities sustained damage, but some were able to offer help: shelter in dorms, communication assistance, logistical support.

But what of the students whose education had been – at least – interrupted? There was a virtually instant response, led by Bruce Chaloux and the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) [2]. Working with the Sloan Foundation and Sloan Consortium [3], SREB initiated the Sloan Semester: online courses from many volunteering universities to enable students to stay on track during that demolished fall semester, looking toward rejoining their home institutions in the spring. It was characterized as “A bridge for students back to their home institutions.” The Sloan Foundation provided stipends to the host institutions (some declined to accept the funding). There was no charge to the students. To overcome the problem of student records during the emergency, all parties agreed to accept SREB’s VESA, The Visiting Electronic Student Authorization [4], certifying that the student was qualified to take the course. SREB’s initial canvass indicated 60 interested institutions; eventually 200 were involved. With the Sloan Semester to begin on October 10, there were a thousand online courses available by September 15, with more to come. As the semester got underway there had been 1725 VESA applications processed for 4256 “seat” requests.

During the WCET session at which the Sloan Semester was described, Mike Abbiatti [5] presided. Mike, Associate Commissioner for Academic Affairs at the Louisiana Board of Regents, drew on the Louisiana experience to urge the development of a Higher Education Emergency Management Assistance Compact – a cooperative approach to dealing with emergencies. And he distributed a parable concluding that “We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and be willing to make that extra effort to encourage one another. . . . Nobody makes the journey alone.”

Describing the Ecosystem. That sense of commitment plus enterprise was a focus of the conference.

One early indicator of commitment and enterprise came from the hard-pressed WCET staff, who scrambled against significant odds to move the whole event to San Francisco when New Orleans was inundated. That feat involved everything from last-minute negotiations to logistics to programming, and the result received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The final conference program covered the full spectrum of the emerging academic ecosystem, with the implications of it all for colleges and universities.

In these pages we’ll consolidate that diverse menu to three major sections: the student body; technology, teaching and learning; and the evolving institutions of higher education.

The Academic Ecosystem I: The Students. Time was when undergraduates enrolled as freshmen at 18 and graduated at 21. The typical curriculum emphasized the liberal arts, leavened with a bit of science and math, administered via classroom lectures, textbooks, and the library.

Today we have the Net Generation[6], defined as those born between 1981 and 1995. At the San Francisco conference the California State University system reported a survey of 3000 students and 3000 faculty members over a three-year period. In shorthand, the Net Generation student is: Digital, Connected, Experiential, Immediate, and Social. Concerning exposure to media, this generation has: spent 10,000 hours with video games; sent or received 200,000 emails; spent 20,000 hours watching television and 10,000 hours on a cell phone; but less than 5000 hours reading.

These numbers are reinforced by a 2004 Student Monitor study [7] reported in the EDUCAUSE Pocket Guide to U.S. Higher Education. Full-time undergraduates in four-year colleges and universities spend an average of 15.1 hours per week on the Internet, up from 5.5 hours in 1997. Ninety percent access the web at least once a day.

These students are multi-taskers (at least electronically), want activities rather than lectures, and like teamwork. Unlike some previous generations, they tend to accept their parents’ values and guidance. They are happiest in groups. They want immediate feedback. They consider the faculty to be experts and assume that these experts should use technology effectively and efficiently.

Meanwhile, there’s also an increasingly diverse population of adult students whose goals are specific, targeted, and not necessarily degree-oriented. But these people have one big thing in common with the Net Generation: a recognition that higher education is a major key to success.

Seventy-five percent of today’s workforce believes they will need university-level education to advance – or even to retain their jobs. Of those between 18 and 29, 94 percent believe additional training or education is important for their success.

That belief was reinforced by Dennis Jones of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, in a conference presentation drawing on U.S. Census Bureau data [8]. The graphs showed a strong correlation between educational attainment and personal income, plus a parallel link in the relationship between educational attainment and health.

Common to students at all levels is the assumption that information technology will be integral to the academic ecosystem. Part of the California State University survey revealed that in 2005, 87 percent of students accessed the campus network from off campus, 80 percent of them with a high-speed connection. The campus network was also used on-campus by 85 percent of students. A related point from several presentations: In the current evolution of education, technology is involved essentially without question.

Among the current changes is the student’s relationship to a given “home” institution. People in the workforce are seeking institutions that can respond to a career need, and on-campus undergraduates are shopping for desired courses. As the WCET conference was underway, the Chronicle of Higher Education was reporting a study by the National Survey of Student Engagement [9], finding that “Almost half of college seniors took at least one class from another postsecondary institution before enrolling at their present institution. A third of seniors took at least one class at another college after enrolling at the institution from which they planned to earn their degree.” (Chronicle of Higher Education, November 11, 2005, p. A37)

So today’s student body is diverse in many ways. Traditional curricula are increasingly matched by an institution’s programs – on campus or online -- for working adults and lifelong learners. Oregon State University reports that the average age of its online E-Campus students is 36. Sixty-five percent are female. Most are from Oregon, but the university’s online students come from all 50 states and 12 foreign countries. From Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Metropolitan State reports an enrollment of 9100 with a median age of 32. Two-thirds of these students are part-time and most work full- or part-time. Many are transfer students. More than one in four are people of color, including immigrants from Africa or Southeast Asia.

Programs are being broadened to reach underserved populations. California’s West Hills Community College District has established a program for the area’s farm workers and packing house laborers, many of whom speak little or no English and may not have learned to read and write their native Spanish. Through the Huron Technology Center [10] they can take a variety of courses or programs – in English or Spanish -- from a number of area locations, at no charge. The program is designed to offer needed individual basic courses, high school equivalency programs and, through local universities, eventual bachelor’s degrees.

Washington State University’s Distance Degree Programs recognize that the student’s goal may not match a university’s traditional assumptions. For example, a student may define success as enough education to get a job, perhaps to return when the future requires more. To engage such off-and-on students and encourage their study, research has demonstrated the virtues of helping them to engage -- building social networks, providing advising and program information, and helping develop study skills. Accordingly, WSU has added some social elements to the ecosystem:

  • Football games and a group lunch

  • A one-credit class face-to-face in Pullman, plus a social event

  • Ten learning centers in the state providing advisers. Advisers invite students (current, prospective, and alumni) to the learning center. -Social networks including mentors; mentors are assigned to students who want them, before the semester begins. -Online chat rooms for students, mentors, and others -Virtual facilitators (students or alumni) to help develop academic skills

At Washington State University, as in peer institutions wherever they may be, the diversity inherent in today’s institutional mission brings forth strategies and services attuned to the times.

Finally: The traditional, revered mission of the university is teaching, research, and service. The 2005 WCET Conference demonstrated that teaching and service are melding. Colleges and universities are reshaping themselves to address the full spectrum of individual, societal, and workplace issues and requirements. But as ever, the academic ecosystem begins with students – all of them.

The Academic Ecosystem II: Teaching, Learning, and Technology. The closing session of the 2005 conference raised the biggest questions. Chaired by David Lassner, University of Hawaii CIO, the speakers were David Wiley of Utah State University and Marc Prensky of games2train. Some key points included:

  • Do classrooms make sense at all? And

  • We don’t teach; we set up conditions for learning.

The speakers particularly cited the thoughts of George Siemens concerning the learning theory of Connectivism, referring to quotes such as the following from the Siemens blog [11]:

Administrators, learning designers, and teachers are facing a new kind of learner - someone who has control over the learning tools and processes. When educators fail to provide for the needs of learners (i.e. design learning in an LMS only), learners are able to "go underground" to have their learning needs met.

This happened in a program I was recently involved in as a learner. An LMS was the main learning tool (which was a good choice for the program - many of the learners valued the centralized nature of communication and content presentation). After a short period of time, however, groups of learners "broke off" from the program and started holding discussions through Skype, IM, wikis, and other tools. Learners selected tools that were more tightly linked to the types of learning tasks occurring. When the learning was content consumption or simple discussion threads, the LMS was fine. As the learning became more social, learners started using tools with additional functionality. The learning required by the instructors – assignments, discussions – still happened in the LMS. But much more meaningful, personal, and relevant learning happened underground – outside of the course.

This was a great example of the foraging dimension of learning - we keep looking until we find tools, content, and processes which assist us in solving problems. Our natural capacity for learning is tremendous. We overcome many obstacles and restrictions to achieve our goals. It's also an example of the short-sighted nature of some learning programs. The problem rests largely in the view that learning is a managed process, not a fostered process. When learning is seen as managed, an LMS is the logical tool. When learning is seen as a function of an ecology, diverse options and opportunities are required.

However one views higher education’s technology evolution, there’s a major transition underway in functions of a student. Peter Pizor described the elements of the transition as: precise mass customization; higher levels of engagement; and a profound reframing from an instructor focus to a student focus.

We might observe that while there was not a session devoted to the iPod, the ghost of Mr. Jobs’s creation was everywhere – certainly in the evolving relationship between instructor and student.

In addition to changing the nature of teaching and learning, the development of online material introduces the prospect of sharing resources, whether through such offerings as the Open Courseware program of MIT and others, mechanisms such as MERLOT, commercial developers, or sets of cooperating institutions.

Key questions in such arrangements, however, include “What constitutes good practice?” “How can we evaluate courses effectively?” “When students use this material, does it work? Do they learn what the faculty and designers intended?” The WCET conference included presentations about major programs that address these issues. They included EduTools, a project of WCET [12]; the Online Course Evaluation Project of the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education [13]; and the International Benchmarking Project of The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education and WCET [14].

While these are distinct programs, they certainly cooperate. EduTools provides independent reviews of e-learning materials, side-by-side comparisons of products, and consulting services to assist decisionmaking. Conference participants learned of a current EduTools program to evaluate online Advanced Placement courses. It was developed in association with the Western Consortium for Advanced Learning Opportunities (WCALO) [15], WCET, and the Monterey Institute’s Online Course Evaluation Project (OCEP). The session “A Systems Approach to Online Course Evaluation” described the process of identifying course developers, applying agreed selection criteria, describing a course using OCEP procedures, and finally making successful course material available via the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) library.

In the International Benchmarking Project WCET is working with the multi-nation Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, using established processes of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. The approach is both formative and evaluative. Participating institutions go through a structured self-analysis, followed by a review by external assessors, the development of statements of good practice, a 3-day workshop involving institutional leadership, and a final report. The evaluation considers statements of good practice, ranking institutions on such points as:

The role of e-Learning in supporting the institution’s mission is included in key strategic documents. The expected goals and outcomes of technology use (i.e., increase access, increase quality, control costs) are clearly stated and understood. And e-Learning is one of the responsibilities of the chief academic officer. It is not a technical issue.

Throughout higher education’s ongoing methodological evolution the issue of quality is a constant. There was consensus among the speakers in a conference session on quality assurance that quality is developed not by one faculty member acting independently, but by standardizing the course outline and general approach by the institution; that is, by the faculty as a whole, with expertise in course content, learning theory, and the range of elements that are involved in creating a course. This approach is hardly traditional, but perhaps the home institutions of these panelists provide examples: they represented Capella University, the University of Phoenix, and the University of Maryland University College (UMUC).

While technology applications often focus on course development, assessment, and availability, other issues and opportunities also receive attention. One of the conference’s caucus sessions touched on the implications of increased connectivity, linking institutions within systems, states, or regions. In addition to course-related issues, there arise questions concerning credit transfers and student records, adoption of common or compatible technologies, and many more.

Student services has become one of the most promising areas for the effective application of information technologies. A major example: conference participants learned about a promising, research-based development. The Center for Transforming Student Services (CENTSS) [16] is a partnership among WCET, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and Minneapolis-based Seward, Inc., a developer of ROI-based strategies related to e-Learning.

CENTSS is developing a national resource on best practices in online student services programs. Based on research regarding 20 student services, those developing the Center focused on the undergraduate student’s perspective: What works? What really helps? Assessment of an institution’s online student services includes a web-based audit tool, developed from research identifying the critical components of each service and examining them at increased levels of sophistication. The audit may be a self-assessment using the audit tool or an outside independent audit conducted by CENTSS.

The Center also provides best practice profiles about online students services, a range of publications and presentations, consulting services, and webcasts and workshops.

Throughout the discussions of a technology’s potential, its quality of service, and the spectrum of possible applications, there arises, properly and inevitably, the issue of cost. Conference participants got an update on WCET’s Technology Costing Methodology (TCM) [17], which permits institutions to compare possibilities and make reliable estimates of the costs of alternatives. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, WCET has produced a set of tools enabling an objective look at that ever-present elephant in the room: cost.

In summary: there is no longer a question of whether a college or university will make information technology an important part of its future. Instead, the questions are How best to apply these technologies? For what services? Under what administrative structures? How to achieve maximum benefit? For whom? With what tradeoffs? At what cost? Such questions are shaping tomorrow’s academic ecosystem.

The Academic Ecosystem III: Institutions and Issues. It’s a truism that colleges and universities face trying times. While maintaining their historic mission to educate students broadly -- reinforcing the foundations of a civil society -- they are crucial to development of a diverse, qualified (and, one hopes, prosperous) workforce. Student demographics have changed dramatically: commonly, only one in five college students fit the traditional image of an 18-22 year old living on campus and attending fulltime. Outreach and access are increasingly important. Technology is changing everything from pedagogy to system-wide decision-making. There is an ever-stronger emphasis on quality and accountability. Meanwhile, funding, particularly from state and federal appropriations, seems on a path from problematic to dismal.

The key issue of access and outreach has been addressed in some detail by the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) in an action agenda for states, colleges and universities, and the region. The plan, distributed to those attending the 2005 conference, was designed for southern college and university and state leaders, with help from SREB, to work toward four priority areas as they apply technology to extend access to higher education. The plan’s ideas, however, are applicable far beyond SREB territory:

  • Extend citizen and student access in infrastructure, programs, services and training. To achieve that priority: Expand access to high-speed Internet service for homes, libraries, and community organizations, especially in rural areas. Support the need for increased training and assistance for faculty and a higher level of service for students. Increase available financial aid for part-time distance learning students and working adults. Focus programs on areas with critical personnel shortages.

  • Take advantage of regional resources that can be shared. To achieve that priority: Adopt an electronic tuition rate policy that allows colleges and universities to set prices for distance learning that are the same for all students, regardless of where they live. Develop agreements that make it easier for students to transfer their courses from institution to institution. Designate certain colleges and universities as “degree completer” institutions, where students’ credentials from various education providers will be certified, motivating students to complete degrees. Develop and improve joint academic programs delivered by distance learning.

  • Use state and institutional financing policies to more effectively support distance learning. To achieve that priority: States create start-up loans for new distance-learning programs. Include major technology infrastructure and equipment purchases in capital budgets, thus easing swings in budgets for operations. Provide centralized funding for support services. Take advantage of joint purchasing cooperatives. Focus resources on areas likely to produce significant cost savings, either for the student or the institution. Focus special technology investments on projects that accomplish important statewide goals.

  • Provide more and better information for quality improvement and accountability. To achieve that priority: Provide better information about transferability of courses; articulation agreements should support easy transfer. Establish course ratings and evaluations to which prospective students have ready access. Ensure that data are collected and can be compared with data from other states. Use effective evaluation procedures to measure results. Use costing methodology models to better understand costs and assess distance learning’s “value added.”

The issue of collaboration – clearly crucial to the SREB plan – was echoed in numerous WCET sessions. At one, the speakers noted that in the University of Texas System Telecampus, like the programs described by representatives of Washington State University and Maryland Online, individual campuses provide courses while the system provides support services. At the UT Telecampus, for example, degrees may be based on courses from multiple campuses; some campuses don’t offer a degree in a given area but may offer courses pertinent to the degree offered elsewhere.

Collaboration is a critical component internationally. The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) [18] involves 53 countries, in which there are 22 open universities (many with enrollments over 100,000). There’s an emphasis on technology for distance learning, with media chosen to suit the situation. India has a dedicated satellite, shared with Africa, but Sierra Leone, with limited electronic access, emphasizes print. Several countries use radio. Asha Kanwar, representing COL, noted that not all collaborative efforts begin with western assumptions: Many small countries, especially in Africa, are seeking to invent themselves and choose not to use western institutions or models.

Sharing the session with Asha Kanwar was Svava Bjarnason, representing The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (noted previously) and the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU). She reported that higher education is now on the agenda of the Commission for Africa, a G-8 initiative encouraged by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Of particular interest is the open university – open source movement [19].

A key component of inter-institutional cooperation is the trend toward accelerating connectivity. Mike Petersen of the Utah Education Network observed that in the Utah network traffic doubles every 18 months to two years, raising its own set of administrative issues.

Meanwhile, a set of regulatory and funding issues are upon us. One historic part of U.S. telecommunication regulation provides for the Universal Service Fund, originally intended to make telephone service feasible in rural areas. What is its future in an increasingly market-based industry? And what about the increasingly important issue of making the Internet as well as basic phone service available to these hard-to-serve areas? The E-rate regulations were established to help provide telecom service to K-12 schools and public libraries. Will such subsidies be eliminated? If they remain, will higher education be included? (Higher education originally opposed the E-rate idea.)

CALEA (the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act) was originally intended to require technical support for telephone wiretaps when legally authorized. Now there is a prospect that CALEA will be broadened to include Internet ISPs and institutions including colleges and universities, creating a long list of technical and legal issues.

The changes within institutions – and the forces bringing them about – have personnel implications as well. There is a major and continuing shift in the ratio between adjunct and fulltime (potentially tenured) faculty members. With the demand for well-qualified adjuncts rising dramatically, WCET launched AdjunctMatch, an online service that makes it possible for institutions to search a database of over 25,000 candidates, applying specific qualification criteria, to locate the adjuncts they need.

But of course all of the preceding involves the increasingly difficult problem of funding. State appropriations are dwindling, philanthropy is often problematic, federal support has its own targets and hurdles, and there is widespread alarm that rising tuition rates will be detrimental both to students and to the core mission of public higher education.

A preconference workshop was designed to help attendees address part of that problem. It was essentially a short course in grantsmanship, conducted by three veterans of the funding wars. They covered such issues as sources of support and the sources’ priorities, effective development of proposals, evaluation issues, budget development, and the top 10 reasons for rejection.

Critically related issues were addressed in a major general session, “What Does Higher Education Reauthorization Mean for the E-Learning Community? Chaired by David Longanecker, Executive Director of the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE), the session’s speakers were Sally Stroup, Assistant Secretary, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education; Steven Crow, Executive Director of the Higher Learning Commission; and George Mehaffy, Vice President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

Sally Stroup noted that the reauthorization was taking time but would be completed. She described the Distance Education Demonstration Project as small but doing well. That project authorizes selected institutions to demonstrate distance learning elements beyond the statutory boundaries imposed on the community as a whole. Ongoing problems involve student aid, definitions of campus and distance operations, and the difficulty of measuring outcomes.

Discussing the forthcoming Commission on the Future of Higher Education [20], she described its key challenges as “Where is change necessary?” and “What is the appropriate federal government impact – where is it needed?” She acknowledged that accrediting bodies are important, but observed that many people need to be convinced concerning quality in distance education. A key point: how do we know that the person who took the test is the same person who registered for the course?

Steve Crow listed as the accreditors’ issues:

  • How to evaluate learning

  • What must be widely disclosed (a historically sensitive issue in accreditors’ evaluations)?

  • Issues concerning transfer of credit

  • Roles of distance education, with associated difficulties

He noted that in considering the new commission’s agenda, accreditors agreed to support the matter of establishing student authenticity as part of a compromise on other issues.

George Mehaffy led his remarks with a key comment on funding and higher education’s cost to students: We are going to balance the books in this country on the backs of students. Too many can’t afford college, and the rest are building too much debt. And he said that we need to do better with student records; at present we can’t track records from several institutions over time.

The Mehaffy evaluation of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education was that it’s a good idea, but limited. The important issue overall is accountability: What to account for? To what institutional mission? Establishing student success by what measure?

For colleges and universities, then, the higher education reauthorization discussion is one more indicator: it is indeed a new millennium. Many of the issues, agonies, and opportunities described at this year’s WCET conference would not have appeared on the radar screen when many of today’s academic leaders began their careers. The ecosystem is a-changing.

So in Conclusion . . . At the 17th Annual WCET Conference builders of the emerging academic ecosystem met to report accomplishments and symptoms, raise difficult questions, and attempt some answers.

Hurricane Katrina wrought almost inconceivable damage but also spawned such creative responses as the Sloan Semester for displaced students. Technologies and the Net Generation of students produce such questions as whether classrooms still make sense, as pedagogy moves toward customization, higher levels of student engagement, and from an instructor focus to a student focus. One speaker suggested, “We don’t teach. We set up conditions for learning.”

Opportunities for learning are increasingly available as institutional networks and the Internet make higher education feasible for more people and make institutional collaboration both possible and economically desirable. Colleges and universities continue to create ways to reach new, previously inaccessible students and help them succeed.

Creative applications of technology have affected much more than courseware. Student services become increasingly personal; eventually they’ll be customized for student interaction. Administrative networks facilitate everything from credit transfers and student records to financial aid.

Issues of good practice, accountability, evaluation and assessment, always on the table, have become more urgent. What will the Commission on the Future of Higher Education propose? And over all is the specter of funding, with public support generally shrinking, costs rising inexorably, and students – able or not – bearing more of the burden.

Finally, then . . .The academic ecosystem is complex and ever-changing. With every new year both the mission and the clientele of higher education become more inclusive, more diverse, and more important for our nation’s future. And as higher education responds, the effective use of technology is critical to it success.


[1] WCET 2005 Conference: Re-Imagining the Academic EcoSystem, San Francisco, Nov. 2-5, 2005.

[2] Southern Regional Education Board.

[3] The Sloan Consortium: A Consortium of Institutions and Organizations committed to Quality Online Distance Education.

[4] Visiting Electronic Student Authorization (VESA) for the Sloan Semester following Hurricane Katrina.

[5] Louisiana High Education Response Team, September 22, 2005 Meeting.

[6] EDUCAUSE, Net Generation.

[7] EDUCAUSE. The Pocket Guide to U.S. Higher Education 2005, 69 p.

[8] The NCHEMS Information Center for State Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis

[9] National Survey of Student Engagement. NSSE 2005 Annual Report: Exploring Different Dimensions of Student Engagement:

[10] California West Hills Community College, Huron Technology Center.

[11] George Siemens. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age,

[12] WCET EduTools: Providing Decision Making Tools for the E-D-U Community.,

[13] Monterey Institute for Technology and Education, Online Course Evaluation Project.

[14] The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, International Benchmarking Project.

[15] Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE),

[16] Center for Transforming Student Services.

[17] Western Cooperative for Education and Technology, Technology Costing Methodology.

[18] The Commonwealth of Learning.

[19] British Open University - Open Source.

[20] A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education,

Table 1
Presenters and Presentations at the WCET 17th Annual Conference.

Searching for Funds: How to Land the Big Bucks
 Brian Lekander, Sue Maes.

Designing the Future: Courses & Programs for Online Learners
 Gary Brown, Theron Desrosier.

Catching the Wave: Strategies for Expanding the Role of e-Learning in Workforce and Economic Development
 Michael Abbiatti , Bruce Chaloux, Dennis Jones.

Responding to a Major Disaster: Lessons Learned from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
 Michael Abbiatti, Bruce Chaloux, Kathleen Gay, Will Monroe.

Roundtable - Open Source: Is It the Learning Management System You Wanted?
 Sylvia Currie , Dennis Hood, Scott Leslie, Roy Ramsey

Beyond E-llusions: Opportunities and Challenges for E-Learning in Global Markets
 Stephen Guild, Richard Hezel, Josh Mitchell.

Distance Learning - Where Does It Fit?
 Marie Cini, Curt Madison, James Monaghan

Quality Assurance in Distance Education: Who Sets the Standards
 Nicholas Allen, Michael Offerman, Craig Swenson.

Introducing the Center for Transforming Student Services
 Darlene Burnett, Vicky Frank, Patricia Shea.

Showcase - Bring the Fun Back into Your Lessons: Engaging Students with Multimedia
 Ean Harker, Kenneth Janz, Flora McMartin, Ellen Wagner, Svava Bjarnason.

Roundtable - Integrating E-Learning & IT into Campus Operations: Benchmarking the Progress
 Sally Johnstone

Full-Service or Self-Service? What's the Best Approach for Course Development?
 Mary Jane Clerkin, Charlotte Dowd, Carol Gering, James Monaghan.

A Dialogue with Regional Accreditors
 Steven Crow, Sandra Elman.

Comprehensive Student Service Models for Online Learners
 Kay Bell, Carol Lacey, Gayle Logue.

Planning for E-Learning Success: A Business Approach
 Mark Brodsky, Patricia Lipetzky, Warren Sandmann.

Showcase - Artificial Intelligence and Leading-Edge Technology
 Paul Brown, Kay McLennan, Beverly Woolf.

Roundtable - Critical Higher Ed Issues for the Upcoming Telecomm Act
 David Lassner, Mollie McGill, Steve Smith.

Slipstreaming: Leveraging Digital Resources
 Gerard Hanley

Service-Learning and Internship Opportunities: Enriching the Distance-Learning Experience while Reaching Out to the Local Community
 Leslie Costello, Barry Dahl, Darcy Hardy.

Universities Creating Public Tools for High School Students' Success
 Charles Masten.

Price, Funding, and Cost: Different Markets, Different Models?
 Nancy Parker

Showcase - Bridging K-12 to Higher Education
 Linda Braddy, Thomas Luba.

Roundtable - E-Portfolio Triumphs: A Value-Added Service
 Diane Goldsmith, Bruce Landon, Kathleen Willbanks.

Unprecedented Partnership to Boost Adult Literacy
 Douglas Glynn, Wesley Lawton, Elise Lowe-Vaughn, Susan Lythgoe.

Engaging Students in Large Online Classes
 Sallie Johnson, Sheryl Martin-Schultz.

Expanding E-Learning Activities in Canada and Mexico
 Dominique Abrioux, Patricio Lopez.

The Art of Playing Well Together
 Connie Broughton, Wendy Gilbert, Susan Smith.

Showcase - Closing the Opportunity Gap through Curricular Flexibility and Technological Synergy
 Bill Pepicello, Jason Scorza.

Roundtable - Addressing Quality and Retention Issues
 Janet Kendall, Muriel Oaks.

Inter-Institutional Partnerships and Intra-Institutional Politics: A Practical Guide
 Dawn Anderson, Paula Mochida, Donna Schaad.

Digital Learning Objects Repositories: Picking a Winner in the Software Derby
 Scott Leslie, Phil Moss, Frank Prochaska.

How to Cheat Online
 John Krutsch, Mark Sunderman.

Finding the Right Software and Migrating!
 Amber Dailey, Richard Fasse.

Showcase - Workforce Development
 Barbara Hoskins, Gerald Rhead.

Dumb is Smart: Learning from Our Worst Practices
 Myk Garn, Ed Klonoski.

Roundtable - Multimedia, Myth or Magic
 Linda Passamaneck, John Ruttner.

Videoconferencing Technology is better than Ever!
 Ritchie Boyd, Janis Hall, Tim McGee.

The Next-Generation Organization: Strategic Planning for Smart Change
 Linda Baer, Ann Hill-Duin, Donald Norris.

Competencies and Online - Do They Work Together?
 Stacey Ludwig, Phyllis Okrepkie.

A Systems Approach to Online Course Evaluation
 Lisa Cheney-Steen, Bob Threlkeld, Diane Threlkeld

Showcase - Is There Life (Oops)...a Living Wage after College? Career Tools and Research
 Cynthia Grua, Jean Mandernach, Ann Motayar

AdjunctMatch: Your One-Stop for New E-Learning Instructors
 Joseph Pensa, Lenore Simonson.

Roundtable - International 101
 Svava Bjarnason, Asha Kanwar.

Evaluating E-Learning in Louisiana: An Institutional and Statewide Model
 Michael Abbiatti, Bruce Chaloux, Rhonda Epper.

Distance Learning: Dollars, Cents, and Benefits
 Terri Gaffney, Katrina Meyer, Emilio Ramos, Barry Willis.

What the Research Tells Us: Three Studies of Online Students
 Ed Hight, Herbert Muse, Thomas Peterman.

WOW Now: Lessons from the Recipients of the 2005 WCET Outstanding Work (WOW) Award
 Kay Kane.

Showcase - Teaching and Learning in a Digital Age: What Do Students Know and How Can They Help Each Other?
 Anita All, Cheryl Bowles, Joeann Humbert, G. Andrew Page.

What Does Higher Education Re-Authorization Mean for the E-Learning Community?
 Steven Crow, .George Mehaffy, Sally Stroup.

Roundtable - How Do Foundations Decide What to Fund?
 Catherine Casserly, Dewayne Matthews.

Instructional Design Support Strategies for E-Learning
 Susie Feero, Sidne Tate.

Serving Rural Learners
 Tricia Donovan, Chris Lott, Maggi Murdock.

The Net Generation: Facts and E-Llusions
 Patricia Cuocco, Steve Daigle, Gordon Smith.

Unbundling: Shifting Faculty Roles, Work-Load, and Scalability
 Dennis Bromley, Peter Pizor.

Showcase - Electronic Bouillabaisse: A Variety of New Applications and Tools Explored and Exploited in Distance Education and Technology Settings
 Paul Marquard, Rick McDonald, Dana Owens.

Roundtable - The Impossible Degree
 Farah Chase-Dunn David Litchford

Advanced Research and Education Networks: Global Collaborations
 David Lassner, Steve Smith.

Academic Efficiencies: Using Technology to Promote Collaboration
 Jo Lynn Autry Digranes, Chuck Cooper, Amy Smith

Does Quality Suffer when Adjuncts and Consultants Design Courses? Continuing Concern for Faculty Development
 Stephen Guild, Marty Hill

If Content Is King, Why Student Services Are the Heir to the Throne
 Paul Wasko.

Showcase - Supporting Instruction across the Curriculum One Student at a Time: E-Tutoring and Distance Library Services for Ensuring Student Success
 Lea Briggs-Simon, Christa Ehmann Powers, Tim Tirrell.

The Future is Now (And It's Even Coming Slowly to Education!): Strategies for Reaching Today's Students
 Marc Prensky, David Wiley.

About the Author


John P. Witherspoon

John P. Witherspoon is a Senior Advisor, WCET Cooperative Consulting, and Professor Emeritus of Communication, San Diego State University.

He was founding General Manager of KPBS-TV/FM, the public broadcasting stations in San Diego; founding Chair of the Board of Directors, National Public Radio; the first principal executive for television of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting; President of the Public Service Satellite Consortium; and has served as a consultant to numerous universities and nonprofit organizations concerning educational and public service applications of information technologies.

This site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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