University System of Georgia

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Regents Hear Demand High for Georgia G.L.O.B.E., Distance Learning

Atlanta — November 9, 1999

Contrary to popular views about Georgians’ educational and career aspirations, new data indicates that Georgia citizens are interested in using the Internet and telecourses to acquire more education in fields where the state is experiencing shortages of educated workers.

The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents learned today, at their monthly meeting in Atlanta, that over 40 percent of Georgia adults would be interested in attending a college or university in the next three years. More importantly, over 60 percent of those surveyed indicated they would use either the Internet or Georgia Public Broadcasting to take college-level courses.

This research bodes well for the University System of Georgia, as it focuses attention and resources on creating an effective technology master plan, including one that successfully addresses delivering “anytime, anywhere learning.” Georgia G.L.O.B.E. (Global Learning Online for Business and Education) – the System’s new statewide on-line learning initiative - has been designed by University System officials to meet that goal, and is expected to be a critical component of the System’s technology infrastructure.

In a presentation to the board of regents, Dr. Richard A. Skinner, president and CEO of Georgia G.L.O.B.E., reported findings of a six-month study of workforce needs and attitudes toward new learning methods conducted by three organizations. The findings derived from a statewide survey of 500 registered voters, conducted by Beth Schapiro & Associates, of Atlanta; and focus group research and analyses and a University System-wide geodemographic study of distance learners conducted by Carnegie Market Research, of Boston, Ma. The focus group research included both on-line learners from University System institutions and random sample groups from the general population.

“Georgians from all economic levels and areas of the state – urban, suburban and rural –expressed an interest in using technology for learning, including in fields currently suffering from a shortages of college-educated workers,” Skinner stated.

Research conducted by Bill Drummond and Jan Youtie, of the Georgia Tech Research Corporation, identified 19 key job categories for which a college degree is required, presently experiencing annual shortfalls of 100 employees or more. Job categories with the largest shortfalls, according to the study, are information technology and business.

“If these shortfalls are not addressed, they could hamper economic growth in Georgia,” Skinner said.

The University System of Georgia launched Georgia G.L.O.B.E. in May of this year, in an effort to expand access to its courses and academic programs by non-traditional learners and to increase the educational attainment level of the state’s residents. Skinner has been at work since his appointment to the G.L.O.B.E. project promoting the initiative throughout the state and conducting the necessary assessments to determine how the program can best meet Georgians needs.

“Current online learners and the general public both are interested in anytime, anywhere learning because of its flexibility and convenience,” Skinner noted. “Most of those we surveyed listed childcare, work schedules, family obligations and long drive times as barriers to attending campus-based courses.”

University System officials intend for Georgia G.L.O.B.E. to respond to those challenges. By the summer of 2000, plans call for the use of both Internet and telecourses to meet freshman and sophomore requirements for undergraduate degrees. Full-fledged degree programs will follow by early 2001. Fields targeted for on-line degree development, according to Skinner, include information technology, business and a general baccalaureate program

“Immediately offering the initial required courses at the freshman and sophomore levels will enable Georgians to move successfully into the on-line degree programs currently under development by University System campuses,” Skinner said.

The research conducted for G.L.O.B.E. also assessed the current Internet access for on-line learning by Georgians. “Considering individuals’ access to the Internet at work as well as at home, over 65 percent of them have access to the Internet according to the statewide survey,” Skinner said. “Over 75 percent of suburban residents, and over 50 percent of rural and urban residents have access. Still many Georgians do not have access to the Internet, so web-based learning will not reach them. Therefore, Georgia G.L.O.B.E. is working with Georgia Public Broadcasting and University System institutions to provide telecourses to Georgians who do not have Internet access.”

In spite of the Board of Regents’ comprehensive efforts to optimize technology as a learning tool, Skinner cautioned that challenges remain with regard to student expectations and public perceptions regarding on-line instruction. “On-line students expect faculty to be skilled in conducting on-line learning and the general public is concerned about how employers and other colleges will view the credibility of courses and degrees offered online. We will be mindful of these challenges as we implement our plans to make Georgia G.L.O.B.E. a preeminent source in higher education for on-line learning.”

On Wednesday, Dr. Beheruz Sethna, interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs with the Board of Regents, will present to the board of regents his strategy for developing the University System of Georgia’s technology master plan. Among other goals, the plan will be aimed at expanding access, enhancing learning, and achieving effective financing. Sethna’s report will include survey results identifying priorities to be addressed within the scope of the University System’s technology master plan.

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