The report, from the New America Foundation, suggests collaborative approaches that would help more students find an affordable pathway to a degree.
Public colleges and universities, which educate the bulk of all American college students, have been slower than their counterparts in the for-profit sector to embrace the potential of online learning to offer pathways to degrees. A new report from the New America Foundation suggests a series of policies that states and public higher-education systems could adopt to do some catching up.
The report, "State U Online," by Rachel Fishman, a policy analyst with the foundation, analyzes where public online-education efforts stand now and finds that access to high-quality, low-cost online courses varies widely from state to state.
Those efforts fall along a continuum of organizational levels, says the report. At the low end of the spectrum, course availability, pricing, transferability of credit, and other issues are all determined at the institutional level, by colleges, departments, or individual professors, resulting in a patchwork collection of online courses that's difficult for students to navigate.
Some states, though, have taken "a series of steps that build on one another to make public online higher education more rational and accessible for different student populations," Ms. Fishman writes. "Taken together, these steps result in something that looks less like an unorganized collection of Internet-based classes, and more like a true public university."
That "something" is a model she dubs "State U Online," in which "students can move freely among institutions within a state and eventually beyond state lines."
he report identifies five cumulative steps that build toward State U Online and gives an example of a state or system at each step. Each example illustrates how that state or system overcame such obstacles as cost, getting faculty buy-in, and assuring course quality.