Category Archives: Federal Policy

EQUIP Round-Up: Slides, Articles, and Links

EQUIP, or Educational Quality Through Innovative Partnerships, is a new program from the U.S. Department of Education. The department will provide access to Title IV funds to chosen partners (both traditional and non-traditional), while waiving the rules about the use of content from other entities.

The goal of this experimental program is to allow traditional schools to lower educational costs and increase access by partnering with nontraditional providers, such as MOOCs or code academies or boot camps, by creating hybrid programs that are eligible for enrolled students to access financial aid.

Introductory PowerPoint slides created by the Department of Education are embedded below:

Want to know more? Here are some starting points:

Link & File: WCET, OLC, and UPCEA Partner on Higher Ed Act for the 21st Century Learner

Three key organizations in the field of online learning have partnered together to produce a two-page handout that summarizes emerging issues, in the hopes that those concerns can be addressed in the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This partnership hopes to create “a unified voice on pending federal regulations for today’s higher education students.”

Read more on the WCET blog, or view the handout below.

Link: The Quest for Demonstrable Outcomes

Schejbal, D., (2015) The Quest for Demonstrable Outcomes.

There is a buzz, even a frenzy, about competency-based education (CBE). Brought together by the Lumina Foundation-sponsored organization C-BEN (the Competency-Based Education Network), 30 institutions and 4 university systems have developed or are developing competency-based programs. About another 600 schools have claimed to be developing CBE programs, though there is no accurate data to substantiate that number. Why and why now?

File: UPCEA and OLC Issue Joint Letter to Congress on Integrity of Online Learning

In August, UPCEA and OLC sent a letter about online learning to the leadership of the House Committee on Education and Workforce as well as the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in response to recent public statements which appear to question the integrity of online education.

As early as 2010, a Department of Education meta-analysis of research into the relative effectiveness of online and classroom-based learning put to rest any remaining question that what goes on in a classroom is inherently superior to what can be accomplished online; indeed, that study, and others that have followed, indicate that online learning is often superior in achieving measurable learner outcomes2. To question the inherent “integrity” and “quality” of online learning in 2015 is simply unsupported by overwhelming evidence.

UPCEA and OLC Joint Letter to Congress, August 28, 2015.

Link/File/Video: A More Uniform Way of Recognizing Online Degree Programs Across State Lines, With SARA As A Focus

Hill, Marshall. “A More Uniform Way of Recognizing Online Degree Programs Across State Lines, With SARA As A Focus.” American Council on Education, August 2015.

If we want distance education to play a substantial role in increasing postsecondary attainment in the United States, we need a better approach. The current process is too varied among the states to ensure consistent consumer protection, too cumbersome and expensive for institutions that seek to provide education across state borders, and too fragmented to support our country’s architecture for quality assurance in higher education—the quality assurance triad of accrediting agencies, the federal government, and the states.

ACE’s latest “Quick Hits” white paper is an updated overview of the history, goals, and recent developments in State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements regarding online/distance education. Excellent national overview for anyone new to SARA.

In addition to making this content available in PDF, ACE put together a 2.5-minute “visual brief” that presents the core points in animated format.

Link: Defining Competency

Fain, Paul. “Defining Competency.” Inside Higher Ed, June 17, 2015.

New letters from the U.S. Department of Education and the seven regional accreditors that make up the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions articulate a common framework for the assessment and approval of competency-based academic programs.

In addition to describing what, exactly, constitutes a direct assessment program — which has been an area of confusion for some — the department’s letter touches on the faculty role in competency-based programs, many of which are online only.