November 19-21, 2014 seasoned WCET’ers and new comers to our community gathered in Portland, OR (known the City of Roses) to exchange ideas and learn together.  Invigorated by the conversations and fueled by amazing epicurean adventures, the tenor of the meeting was electric.  Whether you were able to be with us in person or just joined the backchannel, I encourage you to share your take-aways, ahas, and favorite moments from the Annual Meeting in the comments.  And don’t forget to mark your calendars for November 11 – 13, 2015 when we’ll gather again in Denver, CO.

Mt.Hood and the Willamette River from the 11th floor of the Marriott.

Before I share a few highlights, a little housekeeping.  Whether or not you attended the meeting face-to-face, you can access the materials from the meeting utilizing our mobile app.  It’s available for download on Android, Apple and has a browser based interface.  I created instructions for accessing the materials through the web interface.  If you’re a presenter and still have resources you’d like added please email them to Megan Raymond.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

 Academic Leadership Forum

Nearly two dozen executive level leaders (provosts, vice presidents, deans) participated in the 4th Academic Leadership Forum.   The purpose of the forum is to provide academic leaders with a peer-to-peer opportunity to network and discuss issues of common interest and concern. Innovation, faculty issues, student issues, and management/outsourcing issues were the focus of small group discussions.  Some  highlights:

  • Technology is a critical component of innovation. Higher ed needs to innovate internally and externally in terms of new collaborations and partnerships.
  • An institutional leader must weigh the costs of innovation versus scale.
  • What do adjunct faculty want? They want recognition, badges, brought in as a subject matter expert, stability even on a term-to-term basis and be recognized as people!
  • Adjunct workload agreements may be at risk as institutions cost out compliance with the Affordable Care Act. The ACA may force institutions to cut adjunct faculty workloads.
  • What’s the focus at your institution? Online students get services?   Or all students get online services, including career counseling, mental health services, health care, counseling.
  • We innovate in academic affairs…how do we really innovate in student services?
  • How to grow international markets?
  • We talk about student transfer issues…what about faculty transfer issues? Is there an opportunity to explore transferability of faculty (part time) credentials and training?

Badges in Higher Education: Exploring the Policies and Possibilities

In a pre-conference session, our partners from the MOOC and continuing community Badges: New Currency for Professional Credentials, Anne Derryberry (Sage Road Solutions), Carla Casilli (Badge Alliance),  and Deb Everhart (Blackboard) were joined remotely by policy expert Mary Alice McCarthy (New America Foundation) to explore where badges are and are going in higher education and beyond.  Collaborative notes and resources from the session can be found on its etherpad.

Conversation about Student Success

In this in-depth conversation, the panel looked to answer two questions: 1. What are colleges actually doing to prepare students to be successful online learners? 2. Do we really know what works? The panel shared the results of the WCET Student Success CIG survey which addressed issues of student readiness and services offered as well as considered what is not currently being offered.

The Challenges are the Opportunities

Mike Abbiatti
Mike Abbiatti shares his vision for the future.

In January 2015, Mike Abbiatti will assume the role of WCET Executive Director.  Ahead of the opening keynote, Mike took a few moments to share his philosophy in taking the reins at WCET.  As he shared Leadership for the Future…

  1. Must be proven and trusted on a local, regional, and national scale.
  2. Must understand the difference between leadership and management.
  3. Must bring a solid history of attracting investment and sustainability.

WCET will continue to look at road blocks as opportunities for innovation and address them through collective leadership.  Mike thanked Russ Poulin and Mollie McGill for the wonderful job they have done and will continue to do through the end of 2014 as interim co-executive directors.

Innovation at Scale: Creating a Systemwide Environment

Our opening keynote was Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor of the State University of New York, who came to Portland to share with WCET’ers how SUNY is using its collective impact to create access to education from ‘cradle to career’.  Some highlights:

  • America has always been a country focused on Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals
  • If we were to continue on our current trajectory to the 60% or 65% goals for adults with higher education credentials, NCHEMS research has shown we’ll be off by somewhere between 17 years (60% goal) to 29 years (65% goal).
  • SUNY uses the word “Systemness” (the coordination of multiple components that when working together create a network of activity taht is more powerful than any action of individual parts on their own).  {Side note and apologies for the forthcoming earworm: this may be the first time I’ve ever heard Vanilla Ice at an academic conference, but the message is clear in his song and at the heart of the SUNY philosophy – Stop. Collaborate & Listen.}
  • Don’t discount ideas hatched on the back of a napkin.
  • Assemble the right people and stop the blame game.
  • Shared accountability, individual responsibility.
  • SUNY is using their capital budget to grow online.  The network is infrastructure. {This completely blew my mind.  A simple, yet brilliant, solution to being able to innovate sustainably without dependence on one-time or grant funding.)
Nancy Zimpher Follow Up Session
Chancellor Zimpher discusses with WCET members after the keynote presentation.

You can view the full recording of Chancellor Zimpher’s presentation. After the keynote, Chancellor Zimpher joined a continued conversation with WCET members.

Open Doesn’t Have to Be Lonely

Peter Smith presented a ‘flipped session’ on the development of the Open College at Kaplan University (OC@KU) and what the openness within the program can be isolating for students and what Kaplan is doing to combat that.  His presentation was provided for participants prior to the session (available at: and the time in the session was used for discussion of how we can help ensure open learning isn’t lonely.

Opening Reception
Lively discussion abound at the opening reception!

Meeting and Greeting

Wednesday evening brought us together for the welcome reception with cool appetizers and hot higher ed conversation. During the reception, Ellen Wagner, Chief Research & Strategy Officer for the PAR Framework, made a special announcement of a new program PAR has started with an opportunity for WCET member institutions to join the  the next wave of pioneers driving measurable improvements in student outcomes through a special Student Success Membership of the PAR Framework.  If you’re interested in learning more about this offer, be sure to register for the December 10th webcast.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Do Our Students REALLY Think of Online Learning?

Student Panel 2014
Our student panel with Pat James and Phil Hill.

We talk about students all the time.  We talk about what we think they want, what we think we know about their experience, but rarely do we actually talk with current students about these things.  This was an excellent panel and one of its moderators, Phil Hill, already did a very thorough job summarizing and analyzing what the student panel shared with the audience, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel.  Go Read: WCET14 Student Panel: What do students think of online education? over on e-Literate.

Conversation about Data Analytics

A long and distinguished panel was lead on this in-depth conversation about data analytics by Linda Baer, principal senior consultant for i4Solutions.  Institutions and vendors alike shared their practical applications of data for student success. A few take-aways from the session include:

  • Action analytics means not collecting data for reporting, but for use in improving efficiency, outcomes and learning. Data doesn’t help people if we don’t put it into action.
  • In developing an analytics strategy, get your business/financial managers involved.  They can help with scaleability issues and others when considering intervention strategies.
  • “Throw one noodle at a time.”  When trying interventions, try one at a time to really determine which work.
  • Have realistic expectations, don’t expect every intervention you try to work.
  • The question was raised “how do we get faculty to take more responsibility for student success?” To which Don Norris, President of Strategic Initiatives, Inc. and one of the panelists answered, “faculty may be reluctant because of the ‘obligation of knowing.'”

Student or Imposter?  Identity, Validation, and Authentication.  

A full house at this panel presentation addressing financial aid fraud, central IT security and why institutions should consider a four-factor authentication, discussion of why student authentication and academic integrity are separate concepts and complex issues, and an overview of the Office of Inspector General’s findings and recommendations related to verification of student identity and determination of a student’s academic attendance.  A few highlights:

Formulate a plan to address financial aid fraud:

  • This is not an online problem. This is an institution-wide problem and needs an institution wide strategy.
  • Leverage your technology and your student data.
  • The plan needs to start at the point of admission.
  • Require evidence of high school diploma, GED or other prior education documentation.
  • Try to avoid barriers to legitimate students, especially in programs designed for open enrollment and low tuition.

The February 2014 Office of Inspector General (OIG) report addresses authentication of student identity and verification of student attendance.    The OIG report calls upon the US Department of Education should develop a general regulatory definition of attendance that applies to all attendance based requirements for Title IV and guidelines for what is considered acceptable attendance in distance ed programs.  The OIG report also states that identity verification through secure login and password is inadequate for verifying one’s identity.  Audience members commented on how the attendance guidelines will conflict with the design of competency-based programs.

WCET Awards Lunch

Each year, we gather over lunch to celebrate our award winners for their innovative programs and contributions to higher education and WCET.  View the video of the entire ceremony.

Congratulations to the 2014 WCET Outstanding Work award recipients:

  • Capella University: FlexPath
  • Colorado Technical University: intellipath™ for MBA preparation
  • Excelsior College: Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) Extended Learning Institute:NOVA’s OER-Based Associate Degree Project
  • University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee: U-Pace

You can view the videos submitted by our WOW winners about their programs on our YouTube.

Mollie McGill, Michael Goldstein, Russ Poulin and David Longanecker celebrate the 2014 RJ award.
Mollie McGill, Michael Goldstein, Russ Poulin and David Longanecker celebrate the 2014 RJ award.

Congratulations to our 2014 Richard Jonsen Award winner, Michael Goldstein, of Cooley, LLP, who was honored for his commitment to e-learning leadership.  As a pioneer in the development and rational regulation of higher education, Goldstein’s lifetime contributions to the field and to WCET as an organization make him a natural fit for this, WCET’s top award. Learn more in our press release.

Conversation about Competency-based Education

Putting on my best moderator cap, I helped guide a diverse, knowledgeable panel of subject matter experts through this in-depth conversation on competency-based education (CBE).  Our goal for this session was to look beyond the questions of “Is CBE worth it?” and “What is CBE?” to look at how does an institution make CBE a reality on their campus.  We divided the session into four sections:

  • Change Management
  • The Academic Model
  • Technological Supports for CBE
  • Regulatory Approvals

Some key take aways from the session:

  • There is a lot of misunderstanding from faculty on CBE, but once they understand the focus on quality learning outcomes, they are open to the idea.
  • CBE begins with strong assessment and a shared understanding of how learning will be measured.
  • Some institutions need to tweak faculty contracts when moving to CBE, but it really depends on the academic model.
  • Quality = Alignment. (Directly attributable to Stacey Clawson and the most tweeted statement of the session.)
  • Make competencies real – align them with the world of work.
  • Understand that disruptive innovation requires significant investment. (Jeannie Copley)

Resources from WCET, including a forthcoming document from the subject matter experts in this session, are on the CBE Issues Page.

Net Neutrality to Enable Classroom Reality

Mike Abbiatti, SREB and Dave King, Oregon State University were lead in a conversation by Phil Hill, MindWires Consulting regarding the growing issue of how broadband infrastructure will affect e-learning.  As they deemed it – a digital range war – net neutrality could limit a student, or faculty member’s, ability to access course materials.  A couple of take-aways:

  • Bandwidth is the currency of education. (Mike Abbiatti)
  • Frame net neutrality more as keeping our promises to students, less as a technical issue. (Phil Hill)
  • On the net neutrality issue, EDUCAUSE is one voice on behalf of higher ed but others can also help to frame the issue so that the FCC and Congress better understand the impact of net neutrality decisions on the delivery of higher education programs and services.

The Ivory Tower

This new CNN film was mentioned by our opening keynote, Chancellor Zimpher and happened to be airing during the Annual Meeting.  So, WCET arranged a room for attendees to watch together and discuss.  Check out CNN’s Ivory Tower page for more details.  Chancellor Zimpher also wrote a thoughtful response to the film – We Are More Than An Ivory Tower.

Friday, November 21, 2014

DIY U: The Education Revolution

kamenetz talk
Education futurist Anya Kamenetz had an engaged crowd.

Our closing keynote was Anya Kamenetz, education blogger for National Public Radio (NPR) and education futurist.   Some key points of Anya’s talk:

  • Cost+Access+Relevance = Case for Radical Innovation
  • @shannonmedows asked Is it possible to change the economics of trad higher education instituitons under the existence of a faculty governance model?
  • “58% of grade school kids will be employed in careers that don’t exist today.” – Cathy Davidson Now You See It
  • Every discipline is rapidly changing, not just higher education.  Anya has a job that didn’t exist shortly ago – education blogger for a national RADIO station.
  • We don’t want to be preparing people to do things that computers do better. There will always be things people can do better than computers.  Moving forward higher ed should focus on a combination of people and practices.
  • Unbundling, mass customization, networked learning: 3 priorities for the future of higher education.
  • DIY U 2.0:
    • Affordable, Accessible, Relevant
    • Meet me where I am (online/offline)
    • Take me where I want to go (experiential, aspirational, curational)
  • It’s not just about your ship (tools, technology). It’s about the course that you set.  Be true to your mission.
  • Create a culture where curiosity, vulnerability and contributions are rewarded.
  • There is not ONE future for higher education – the strength of the future of higher education is in its diversity.

You can catch the whole session recording of Anya’s talk here.

 Final Thoughts

This great quote was shared by Deb Gearhart, Vice Provost for eLearning and Strategic Partnerships, Ohio University and vice chair of the WCET Steering Committee:  “I came away from the WCET Annual Meeting with a recognition (and confirmation that I am not alone) that all types of institutions are dealing with the issues of their technology infrastructures and processes not meeting their needs.  There is a huge opportunity in higher education for someone to make university systems talk and work with each other.”

And our friend Lisa Johnson made an amazing Learning Summary from her time at WCET:


You can also check out the Storify of the social media from the #WCET14 hashtag for more insights into even more of the annual meeting.

Obviously, I couldn’t be all over at once, so I’d like to thank Mollie McGill for sharing her notes with me as well as all the tweeps who fed the backchannel.  Without you all this would not be near as robust.  If you have learning not reflected here that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments!

And finally, we’d love to see YOU next year at our 2015 WCET Annual Meeting in beautiful downtown Denver, Colorado November 11 – 13, 2015.

Cali Morrison VooDoo Donut
By the glow of the neon, I enjoyed my classic maple bacon VooDoo Donut.


Cali Morrison
Communications Manager





Lisajohnsonphd. (2014, November 23). WCET 2014 conference learning summary [Video file, 22:40]. Retrieved from


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,397 other subscribers

Archive By Month

Blog Tags

Distance Education (316)Student Success (295)Online Learning (228)Managing Digital Learning (218)State Authorization (214)WCET (211)U.S. Department of Education (204)Regulation (197)Technology (168)Digital Learning (149)Innovation (125)Teaching (121)Collaboration/Community (114)WCET Annual Meeting (105)Course Design (103)Access (98)Professional Development (98)Faculty (88)Cost of Instruction (88)SAN (88)Financial Aid (84)Legislation (83)Completion (74)Assessment (69)Instructional Design (68)Open Educational Resources (66)Accreditation (65)COVID-19 (64)SARA (64)Accessibility (62)Credentials (62)Professional Licensure (62)Competency-based Education (61)Quality (61)Data and Analytics (60)Research (58)Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (57)Reciprocity (56)WOW Award (51)Outcomes (47)Workforce/Employment (46)Regular and Substantive Interaction (43)Policy (42)Higher Education Act (41)Negotiated Rulemaking (40)Virtual/Augmented Reality (37)Title IV (36)Practice (35)Academic Integrity (34)Disaster Planning/Recovery (34)Leadership (34)WCET Awards (30)Artificial Intelligence (29)Every Learner Everywhere (29)State Authorization Network (29)IPEDS (28)Adaptive/Personalized Learning (28)Reauthorization (28)Military and Veterans (27)Survey (27)Credits (26)Disabilities (25)MOOC (23)WCET Summit (23)Evaluation (22)Complaint Process (21)Retention (21)Enrollment (21)Correspondence Course (18)Physical Presence (17)WICHE (17)Cybersecurity (16)Products and Services (16)Forprofit Universities (15)Member-Only (15)WCET Webcast (15)Blended/Hybrid Learning (14)System/Consortia (14)Digital Divide (14)NCOER (14)Textbooks (14)Mobile Learning (13)Consortia (13)Personalized Learning (12)Futures (11)Marketing (11)Privacy (11)STEM (11)Prior Learning Assessment (10)Courseware (10)Teacher Prep (10)Social Media (9)LMS (9)Rankings (9)Standards (8)Student Authentication (8)Partnership (8)Tuition and Fees (7)Readiness and Developmental Courses (7)What's Next (7)International Students (6)K-12 (6)Lab Courses (6)Nursing (6)Remote Learning (6)Testing (6)Graduation (6)Proctoring (5)Closer Conversation (5)ROI (5)DETA (5)Game-based/Gamification (5)Dual Enrollment (4)Outsourcing (4)Coding (4)Security (4)Higher Education Trends (4)Mental Health (4)Fall and Beyond Series (3)In a Time of Crisis (3)Net Neutrality (3)Universal Design for Learning (3)Cheating Syndicates Series (3)ChatGPT (3)Enrollment Shift (3)Nontraditional Learners (2)Student Identity Verification (2)Cross Skilling/Reskilling (2)Virtual Summit (2)Higher Education (2)Title IX (1)Business of Higher Education (1)OPMs (1)Department of Education (1)Third-Party Servicers (1)microcredentials (1)Minority Serving Institution (1)Community College (1)