If you have been involved in academic distance learning you know about the University of Texas System TeleCampus. As it says on the UTTC wesite the Telecampus works with all 15 UT System institutions to build and deliver high-quality online courses, degree programs and support services for distance learners in its mission to expand the reach of the UT System.
Since launching in 1998, UTTC has partnered with hundreds of UT faculty members at UT institutions to serve more than 86,000 enrollments in more than 30 online degree and certificate programs. UTTC partners with the same faculty that teach on campus, and provides a full spectrum of training and support services for both faculty and students. UTTC also provides grants to UT institutions to help fund course and program development, including faculty course release time, instructional design support, and course production.
Today's Inside Higher Education carried a story on the decision of the Chancellor of the University of Texas System in which the UTTC was praised for its leadership, their mission was declared a success and the entire staff was laid off. Headline of story: Texas Kills TeleCampus.
There are a number of references to vague dissatisfaction about licensing duplication, and murmuring of taxes for services. Mumblings of how the campuses "owned" courses and students, the TeleCampus didn't (which, is how it's always worked, was designed that way.) Anyway I leave it to you read the fine article.
So here's where I get to vent a bit. And this has nothing to do with WCET. I am just a cranky UTTC stakeholder.
Apparently the University of Texas System leadership doesn't understand that technology companies typically don't mess with Texas - not with Marge Knox protecting licensing at the UT Austin campus, and with Darcy Hardy at the helm of the TeleCampus. We tremble with respect. So I'm thinking that some of these dis-satisfied murmuring may have more to do with other issues best left alone. All I can say is...Gonna be an ugly moment when the Deciders understand just how many Texans are going to find their dreams of completing their degrees compromised by this poorly considered decision.
There continues to be shocking naivete about how system wide
academic, library and student services have to inter-operate to make
sure things are seamless. I expect there is also a bit of arrogance and hubris at play as well. Desperate times make some people behave desperately. And despicably, I might add. "Thank you for your service excellence. You are canned." Yee Ha.
Sometime people forget that what they may see as duplication is just another part of an interactive system. UTTC made distance education look easy, because they are so good at it. Very few multi-campus distributed learning/management/services systems in the world have ever achieved their metrics.
There are many institutions, foundations, NGOs and corporations that turn to the UTTC for ideas about how to create systems, online learning and student support services that are the gold standard for quality online learning in the US. So it's particularly sad to watch these goings on at a time when people are crying for better access to academic opportunities, better student retention, more student completion, and when demands for quality online education is exploding.