Sometimes it helps to revisit the basics to remember why we are in a dialog about distance education. At the University of Arkansas, our dialog started this way:
Much of what we do in higher education–from the way we teach to the administrative structure we use to carry out the mission–has been around for hundreds of years and perhaps even a thousand years, going back to the formation of Oxford and Cambridge. So the question then becomes, is that structure appropriate for the challenges facing higher education both within the state of Arkansas and indeed across the nation?
When Dr. Bobbitt asked that question, we began the dialog of what online learning can and should accomplish within our state. What are the components of a global approach to education for more of the citizens in Arkansas? And why is it important for us to be asking questions about the role of distance education?
You can find some of the reasons to ask questions in the The Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2010 College Completion report, where data is provided on college graduate rates. For Arkansas, the 2010 figure was 19.7 percent four-year graduate rate for students seeking a bachelor’s degree. The six-year graduation rate is 38.7 percent, which places Arkansas ahead of Idaho, Alaska and the District of Columbia.
More reasons to ask? According to U.S. Census Bureau data, slightly less than 14 percent of Arkansas residents (ages 25-64) have a bachelor’s degree. College degrees, whether associates or bachelor’s degrees, are required for an increasing number of jobs within our state and across the globe. And from Governor Beebe’s 2011 State of the State Address:
Our woefully low rates of degree completion must change if we are to truly claim educational success… I am committed to seeing increased responsibility for results. I want to tie funding for higher-education institutions more closely to coursework completion and graduation rates, not simply to enrollment. These tax dollars must produce college graduates, not just fill up seats. We can and must double the number of college graduates by 2025, if we are to stay competitive.
Being global in our approach to doubling the number of college graduates is the call we’ve been given, with the additional criteria that the approach(es) be “robust, inclusive, comprehensive and, indeed, cost-effective.” Without diluting the brand of the University of Arkansas, we need a more comprehensive and global portfolio of educational offerings.
What are your thoughts?