“We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change. The world is simply moving too fast.” University of Virginia Board of Visitors Rector Helen Dragas
The Board of the University of Virginia, called the Board of Visitors, rather suddenly fired (or requested the resignation of) University President Teresa Sullivan. Given the furor the firing has created, especially among faculty and students, they are currently reconsidering their decision. Apparently, from news reports, disagreement over online education was at the core of the Board’s dissatisfaction, with the Board wanting more change (although what change is not clear) and the President resisting such changes
This is curious. Oregon education, both higher ed and K-12, is doing nothing to capture costs savings and only modest efforts to expand opportunities with online education. I recently wrote the Oregon Education Investment Board saying (here):
You as a Board cannot get Oregon to the goals you have set without immersing yourselves in the emerging potentials of online learning. One of your tasks is figuring out how to do that. You cannot avoid it and do anything meaningful.
Yet the OEIB, as well as the Oregon Board of Higher Education, does nothing. There are no committees nor staff report to examine the potential and chart some choices. Nothing. They are flying blind. Further, the OEIB recently hired a Chief Education Officer for Oregon without any public discussion with him about his views on online education. Similarly, the Board of Higher Education recently hired a President for the University of Oregon. Again, there was no public airing of his views on online education and its place in the future of the University of Oregon, or higher ed in Oregon more generally.
The Board of the University of Virginia may have overreacted, but at least they are concerned and engaged in the issues of online education. Oregon educational leaders are living in denial. I know of no online education efforts in the Oregon University System aimed at cutting the costs of higher ed. Oregon is adrift and this needs to change!
From the Inside Higher Ed article “The E-Mail Trail at UVa” by Scott Jaschik (here):
E-mail messages were flying among leaders of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia in the weeks leading up to the ouster of Teresa A. Sullivan as president of the university. The e-mail messages show that one reason board leaders wanted to move quickly was the belief that UVa needed to get involved in a serious way with online education.
The board leaders traded articles in which various pundits suggested that online education is the only real future for higher education -- and the e-mail messages suggest that board members believe this view. On May 31, for example, Helen Dragas, the rector (UVa-speak for board chair) sent the vice rector, Mark Kington, the URL for a Wall Street Journal column about online education. Dragas's subject line was "good piece in WSJ today -- why we can't afford to wait." The column, a look at the MOOC (massively online open course) movement in higher education, has the subhead: "The substitution of technology (which is cheap) for labor (which is expensive) can vastly increase access to an elite-caliber education." …..
The column argues that the MOOCs have the potential to change the cost structure in higher education, as long as institutions are willing to replace some in-person education with online education. "[I]n this way, college X might have its students take calculus, computer science and many other lecture courses online from MIT-Harvard (or other suppliers), and have them take other classes with their own local professors for subjects that are better taught in small seminars. College X can thus offer stellar lectures from the best professors in the world — and do locally what it does best, person to person," the column says.
And from The Nation article “Sullivan Resignation Spotlights Debate About Online Education” by Charlie Tyson (here):
Emails from Board of Visitors Rector Helen Dragas and former Vice Rector Mark Kington obtained Tuesday by The Cavalier Daily through a Freedom of Information Act request suggest the two believed the University should become more amenable to online learning — and quickly.
On May 31, Dragas sent Kington a Wall Street Journal op-ed discussing the “coming revolution” in higher education. The article detailed how universities could become “much more productive” by replacing human labor with technology. The subject line of Dragas’ email was “[W]hy we can’t afford to wait.”
The world is simply moving too fast’
The role of online delivery in higher education has sparked contentious debate among academics in recent years. Many public universities are flailing under state budget cuts — state funding accounted for a mere 9.5 percent of the University’s academic operating budget this past academic year, down from 10.5 percent the year before. And with students facing swollen tuition rates and record-high unemployment numbers for recent college graduates, proponents of online learning point to higher education as a system seemingly in danger of collapse. Meanwhile, defenders of brick-and-mortar schooling, fearing a lapse in quality as courses go virtual, protest. They say the in-person exchange of ideas remains the time-tested way to impart deep critical-thinking skills.
At an institution that reveres tradition, Dragas and Kington wanted change — and more than just “incremental” change, as Dragas said in her June 10 remarks to vice presidents and deans, hours after announcing that University President Teresa A. Sullivan would step down Aug. 15.
“Higher education is on the brink of a transformation now that online delivery has been legitimized by some of the elite institutions,” Dragas said in her remarks that day. “We do not believe we can even maintain our current standard under a model of incremental, marginal change. The world is simply moving too fast.”