Saturday, November 22, 2008

MN Governor wants 25% of credits online

This is certainly an interesting report. [Also see the Governor's press release and a Chronicle article.]

If all goes as their governor hopes, our colleagues who support learning technologies (including Desire2Learn and Moodle) in Minnesota are headed for an exciting and challenging future.

Minnesota's governor Tim Pawlenty is calling for students in the Minnesota State Colleges and University system to receive 25% of their credits online by 2015. The report states that currently, 9% of all MnSCU credits are received online.

The governor's initiative also calls for increased online offerings by the University of Minnesota which is not part of MnSCU. His plan also impacts secondary education, reportedly changing high school graduation requirements "to require every student to participate in online education."

As for the obvious question about funding, the report states

Pawlenty offered no information on the money such an effort would cost or save.

The governor did say he’ll expect to see progress on online education in the future when MnSCU and the U of M ask for bonding and general fund dollars.

“As we think about funding and bonding decisions … we’re going to be asking how MnSCU and the university are meeting this goal that we are outlining today,” Pawlenty said.

From a Wisconsin/UW-Madison/UW System perspective, I wonder how our neighbor's initiative might influence our own governor Jim Doyle and our state legislature. Might they be tempted to legislate online education as a cost-saving measure? As excited as I am about an administrative investment in learning technology and online education, I am skeptical about rigid degree requirements. Does this mean that students will be scouring for courses based on their delivery mechanism rather than their content? How will statewide sharing of online courses be made easier, or even possible? What investment in infrastructure (both technical and faculty development) will be needed?

I'm optimistic that Minnesota can get this right. Pawlenty's rhetoric, at least, is an encouraging start.

“We believe this is just a change in the way the service is delivered. Faculty will be as engaged, perhaps more so, in this type of delivery of services than they would be in the traditional program,” Pawlenty said.

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