For well over a hundred years, various futurists have given us vivid illustrations of what the future of a technologically enhanced education will look like. One of the earliest of these illustrations is Jean-Marc Côté’s depiction of the 21st century classroom, At School, displayed as a part of the 1900 Paris World Exhibition. Although his depiction is a bit cheeky—no one seriously thought that books would be fed into a hopper that would somehow magically transmit the information to students via headphones—it does speak to this emergent belief that the future of education will somehow leverage technology for mass education.
On November 8, 1965, in a crowded gymnasium at his alma mater Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University), President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 proclaiming, “I want you to go back and say to your children and to your grandchildren, and those who come after you and follow you—tell them we have made a promise to them… And tell them that we have opened the road and we have pulled the gates down and the way is open, and we expect them to travel it.”
Since that fall morning, the HEA has served as the primary federal legislation governing student financial aid and higher education regulation. It has been reauthorized several times – most recently in 2008 – and is several years overdue for reauthorization. And although Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, and his co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) have been vocal about their commitment to reauthorizing the act, it was Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, who released the first draft of a bill to reauthorize HEA last Friday.
A little over two weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its long-awaited and much anticipated financial aid audit of Western Governors University (WGU). Since then, there have been a number of great discussions of the report as well as its potential impact on higher education. Today, in the third post of our series on the audit, we are going to take a trip down memory lane and revisit a post that we wrote last year that reviewed all of the available information at that time on “regular and substantive interaction,” the issue at the heart of both the audit findings and the source of much discussion among online educators.
It has been more than a week since the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued its Final Audit Report declaring that “Western Governors University Was Not Eligible to Participate in the Title IV Programs.” Both of us (Russ Poulin, WCET and Van Davis, Blackboard) have been following the activities surrounding the audit (competency-based education, regular and substantive interaction, the definition of faculty) for some time. Last year we wrote a post trying to compile and interpret previous OIG and Department of Education information about “regular and substantive interaction.”
This is the second in a series of blog posts on the OIG Report. This post begins with some additional background. We also want to be the first to provide advice as to what this means for distance educators and suggest some issues you and your institutional colleagues should consider.
Our world has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. In 1997 the internet was still in its infancy with only around 119 million users. Distance education – a concept that began in Sweden during the mid-19th century – was only beginning to transition from analog to digital delivery. Today, we live in a much different world where the Internet has not only radically transformed the way colleges and universities teach, but has greatly expanded access to education around the globe. At Blackboard, we are proud to be a part of this journey.
Today we released Future Forward: The Next Twenty Years of Higher Education, a series of interviews with American higher education leaders. We asked this group of leaders to reflect on the last 20 years of higher education as well as consider what the next 20 years might hold. Forecasting the future is always a difficult affair, especially in this age of rapidly changing technology. Across the interviews, however, we heard several themes emerge time and again.
Apprenticeships, which are training programs that combine on-the-job training with accompanying study, have functioned as pathways to careers since the Middle Ages. These programs are especially popular in a number of European nations as an alternative to higher education for career development. Although apprenticeship programs have long been a part of the landscape in the United States, there is renewed interest in how they might be used to address our rapidly evolving workforce needs.
This renewed interest was recently on display as President Trump signed the Presidential Executive Order Expanding Apprenticeships in America on June 15. Proclaiming, “In today’s rapidly changing economy, it is more important than ever to prepare workers to fill both existing and newly created jobs and prepare workers for the jobs of the future,” the executive order instructs the Department of Labor to promote the development of new and existing apprenticeship programs. Trump echoed these sentiments in his address prior to signing the executive order when he said, “Not only will our apprentices transform their lives, but they will also transform our lives in the truest sense. Today’s apprentices will construct the roads and bridges that will move our citizens, they will bend the metal and steel that shape our cities, and they will pioneer the new technology that drives our commerce.”
Recently I reviewed how education fared during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Today we’ll take a look at the recent Congressional budget continuing resolution and what to watch for during the next 100 days.
The budget deal
Earlier this year the White House released its FY 2018 proposed “skinny” budget, America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, which proposed a $59.5 billion increase for the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security. In order to offset the increase, the proposal also included cuts from fifteen different agencies including a 13 percent reduction to the Department of Education’s budget. And although we are a long way off from reaching a deal on the 2018 budget, the recent FY17 continuing budget resolution (CR) to formalize appropriations for the remainder of the fiscal year gives us some ideas of how Congress might respond to President Trump’s proposed education cuts.
Saturday, April 29, marks President Trump’s 100th day in office. The first 100 days of a new president is often considered a bellwether for the remainder of the presidency; it can serve as a general indicator of the administration’s priorities, tactics, and relationships with Congress. In the case of President Trump, many hope that it can aid their understanding of a president who is still largely seen as an unknown quantity. Candidate Trump gave little attention to education during his campaign and President Trump continues this practice.
So what has happened during Trump’s first 100 days regarding education?
“Higher learning has been central to the American story, written over centuries, empowering individuals not only to advance their own station, but also to engage in our democracy – to preserve and protect those freedoms.” – Ted Mitchell, Under Secretary of Education, retrospective address at Northeastern University, January 12, 2017
Every four or eight years our nation’s capital undergoes a changing of the guard as the president and their administration is replaced by a newly elected president with their own staff and political appointees. Some years the change has little impact on education policy, but some years, like this one, the change is likely to be significant. As America watches a new administration take office Friday, it’s an excellent opportunity to look back at the Obama administration’s higher education policy and anticipate what the future will hold under President Trump.
As greater numbers of students move into online and competency-based education programs, we have seen new interest in understanding the Department of Education’s regulations. In particular, faculty and administrators seek to understand how the Department interprets rules requiring courses to include “regular and substantive interaction,” especially in distance and competency-based education.
Those of us in online education have long known that interaction between faculty and students as well as among students in both online and face-to-face courses can be the difference in whether a course is a quality learning experience. In fact, ensuring meaningful interactions among class participants should be a priority for any modality—be it face-to-face or online.