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Chancellor Huckaby Seeks Broader Role For USG In Online Learning

Atlanta — February 16, 2012

Technology is the latest focus of University System of Georgia efforts to meet aggressive targets for increasing the number of Georgians who complete college.

USG Chancellor Hank Huckaby has announced a new group that will look at how the System’s colleges and universities currently use the technology of distance education, also known as online learning, and make recommendations on how to better serve students.

“The economic future of Georgia depends upon more Georgians completing some level of college education,” said Huckaby. “We have to make better use of our distance education resources and ramp up our efforts to help us meet state workforce needs.”

Southern Polytechnic State University President Lisa Rossbacher will head up the new Distance Education Task Force created by Huckaby. Georgia Perimeter College President Anthony Tricoli and eight other members from throughout the University System will join her.

Task force members will work with Jon Sizemore, recently appointed interim assistant vice chancellor for Distance Education, and others in the system with expertise in the areas of distance education, academic programming and delivery and information technology.

“We will identify key goals for distance education that will advance Complete College Georgia, help our campus consolidation efforts, and support the regents’ mission of creating a more educated Georgia,” said Rossbacher. “This is an exciting opportunity to work together as a system to develop a broad statewide plan for how we use technology in the classroom.”

As more individuals seek a college degree, the use of technology to deliver courses has emerged as a critical strategy for college access and degree completion, said Sizemore. “Online programs will be an integral part of the USG’s expanding efforts to serve military, adult learners and other groups in achieving the goals of the Complete College Georgia plan,” he said.

Complete College Georgia is a statewide effort being coordinated through Governor Nathan Deal’s office. It calls for the state’s public and private colleges, universities and technical colleges to increase the number of Georgians with some level of college completion from a current level of 42 percent to 60 percent by 2020, a goal necessary to meet Georgia’s workforce needs based on projections from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

Distance education uses technology to enable students to enroll in academic courses and provides flexibility in the time and location of learning.

The University System has been involved in distance education for more than a decade and, over the years, the number of online degrees offered has increased to more than 230 programs with 5,000 online course sections offered each semester.

Online content has become an integral part of classroom instruction as well, and more than 330,000 students, faculty and staff use the University System’s online learning management system.

The learning management system provides a virtual classroom space where students and instructors can interact, post information online, read lecture notes, view presentations, hold class discussions, submit assignments and take online quizzes or exams.

In recent years, the University System has made a significant effort to encourage institutions to collaborate in the development and delivery of online resources, said Rossbacher.

The University System’s online core curriculum, called eCore®, is a collaborative effort among USG institutions that has expanded to eight colleges and universities in 2012, with more than 5,000 annual student enrollments. The core curriculum is required courses that all students must complete. The Distance Education Task Force will explore how to further expand eCore® and other collaborative efforts to make the best use of System resources, Sizemore said.

While USG institutions continue to increase the use of distance education, Huckaby observed, “There is a lack of consistency in the effort across the state. Our campuses must take advantage of every opportunity to serve their students, faculty and staff. ”

Rossbacher said the task force will create a framework to better coordinate and guide the System’s future use of distance education in ways that ensure consistently high quality throughout the 35 colleges and universities.

In addition to Rossbacher and Tricoli, other members of the Distance Education Task Force are:

• Dr. Nelson Baker, vice provost for Distance Learning and Professional Education at Georgia Tech;

• Dr. Melanie Clay, executive director of Extended Learning at the University of West Georgia and dean of eCore®;

• Dr. Micheal Crafton, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Clayton State University;

• Dr. Pamela Deal, director of Academic Technology at Georgia Southern University;

• Dr. Elke Leeds, interim executive director for Distance Learning at Kennesaw State University;

• Dr. Gerald Merwin, director of Adult Academic Degree Completion & Professional Development Programs at Valdosta State University; and

• Dr. Tonya Strickland, vice president for Academic Affairs at Bainbridge College.

The task force plans to complete its review of the system’s distance education efforts and make recommendations to the Board of Regents by the summer of 2012.

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