Happenings on the Hill – Part I


Kathleen S. Ives, D.M., CEO and Executive Director, Online Learning Consortium


Karen L. Pedersen, Ph.D., Chief Knowledge Officer, Online Learning Consortium


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With the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in view in Congress, we wanted to take a moment and update you on some work OLC is doing for our community of institutions, professional members and interested individuals.

For those of us who are “in the industry,” we know the benefits of online learning because we live it every day. We see the reach our institutions have to serve learners who are place-bound or time-bound and we recognize the value of providing new and innovative courses and degree programs for individuals looking to strengthen their background and prepare themselves for new opportunities in today’s economy.

Yet, it is still possible to hear Congressional leaders (or even presidential candidates) promulgate misconceptions about what online learning (or mLearning, blended learning, digital learning) is or isn’t. It is the responsibility of our community to contribute our insights to the public dialogue and help educate our leaders so they can make informed legislative decisions regarding higher education and online learning.

To strengthen our advocacy voice, the Online Learning Consortium has joined forces with UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association) in an effort to showcase the collective work we do and to ensure the next version of higher education reauthorization doesn’t include onerous and/or limiting language that impacts on online institutions/operations and ultimately online learners.

Today, we’re announcing an advocacy coalition with UPCEA and DC law firm Cooley LLP to advance the interests of non-traditional learners and the programs which support them. Click here to read the press release. Together, OLC and UPCEA represent over 900 institutions of higher education in the U.S. We believe our voices are stronger by joining forces.

Engaging Congress – Recent Activities

We’ve been working behind the scenes on a few initiatives which we want to highlight…

Some weeks ago, we sent a letter to key individuals in Congress showcasing our collective organizations as ‘go-to’ organizations as discussions begin in earnest on the HEA. Click here to review the letter. Our focus was to highlight the wonderful things you do to support the educational needs of contemporary (or non-traditional) learners.
We used this letter as a springboard to make several visits last week on both sides of the aisle. We met with Amy M. Jones, Director for Education and Human Services Policy for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and The Workforce; Robert L. Moran, Deputy Education Policy Director for Senator Lamar Alexander (US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions); and Bryce McKibben, Policy Advisor for Senator Patty Murray (US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions).

Our goal was to engage in an introductory meeting and establish OLC and UPCEA as knowledgeable and highly committed partners for resources/insights as they explore legislative language.

A thread running through all of the conversations was a focus on “quality.” Of course, we thought about the early days of the Sloan Consortium (flashback to 1997) and the focus on the Five Pillars, and more recently, our work around program quality with the Online Learning Consortium Quality Scorecard. So, we believe we have positioned members with tools and resources where we can have quality conversations with a more focused understanding of what quality looks like.

Stay Up on ‘Happenings on the Hill’ at OLC2015 & on the OLC Blog

Finally, we invite you to attend a critical session at the upcoming OLC conference in Orlando, Florida (October 14-16), titled, “Congress and Online Learning: Education and Advocacy.” We’ll be talking in greater depth about next steps and our role in helping you stay attuned to “Happenings on the Hill.” Presenters for this session will include Marie Cini (University of Maryland University College and Chair of the Online Learning Consortium Policy Committee), Jordan DiMaggio (UPCEA), Vince Sampson (Cooley LLP) and Kathleen Ives (OLC). The session is set for Wednesday, October 14, from 2:45-3:30 pm, in Asia 1.

Over the next few weeks and months, we’ll use the OLC Blog as a place where we will provide you with updates on what we’re seeing. Maybe your institution is very plugged into the workings of Congress or maybe not. So, we want to be your eyes and ears as this important legislation is crafted and moved through the process. Stay tuned for additional insights!

About the Authors

Kathleen S. Ives, D.M., CEO and Executive Director, Online Learning Consortium

Kathleen Staff Photo Color

Karen L. Pedersen, Ph.D., Chief Knowledge Officer, Online Learning Consortium


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