Putting Education Reform To The Test

Florida’s 13th Public University May Be Online Only

Rodrigo Philipps/flickr

Florida may be getting a 13th public university, but this one would be devoted to online learning.

Does Florida need a 13th public university that would be devoted solely to online learning?

The Florida Board of Governors (BOG), which oversees the state university system, is looking into it at a meeting today in Davie.

The 2012 Florida Legislature provided funds to the BOG to hire a consulting firm that would study the state’s postsecondary, online education system.

The Parthenon Group was chosen to analyze the current online offerings and assess what educational opportunities are needed for boosting Florida’s economy.

Part of the firm’s research included cost and revenue projections. Not surprising, the firm found that a Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) is the cheapest way to go.

Parthenon figures it would cost the state about $100,000 to create one MOOC and cost the student a mere $90 per course. That’s a savings of hundreds of dollars for the student and a relatively cheap start-up for the state.

Parthenon provided some interesting facts:

  • 40% of university and college students in Florida took at least one course online in 2010-11. That’s higher than the national average.
  • The cost of tuition is the same for courses taken online and in the classroom. However, the “distance learning fee” increases the total cost per credit hour for online courses.
  • Online courses often fill first.
  • Students are enrolling in online degree programs at all degree levels.

After four months of study, Parthenon identified four strategies for the board to consider for the expansion of online learning.

  1. Institution by Institution: Each university continues to develop online offerings on their own, driving innovation in a way that fits each institution’s mission. Potential collaboration among institutions remains at their own discretion.
  2. Institutional Collaboration: System-wide online degree program offerings are developed under the direction of a coordinating body, such as BOG. Centralized marketing and support services are each either managed by the central body or one of the participating institutions. Online degree programs developed collaboratively under the direction of this coordinating body would be marketed to students across the state.
  3. Lead Institution: One or a few institutions are selected by a bidding process to drive the development of new online programs in target degree levels and disciplines.
  4. New Online Institution: An online institution – a.k.a. the 13th university – is launched with a mandate to drive the development of new online programs in target degree levels and disciplines.

The BOG members are meeting today at Florida Atlantic University in Davie. They will make recommendations to the 2013 Legislature about strategies for proceeding with expanded online instruction.



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