Leading Digital Learning Organizations Partner to Establish National Council for Online Education

OLC, QM, UPCEA, WCET join forces to advance online and digital postsecondary education

Logo blue letters on white background.        upcea   

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2020 - Four leading organizations in higher education and digital learning today announced a partnership to establish the National Council for Online Education (NCOE), creating a formidable voice for online and digital education within higher education policy and thought leadership. This joint effort by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Quality Matters (QM), University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) brings diverse perspectives from across the field of online learning to address the rapid pace of disruption experienced in colleges and universities, along with associated threats and opportunities for the institutions and professionals served by the four organizations.  

“In conversations with my counterparts, it became clear to us that the scale and importance of the online learning sector within higher education required a more coordinated advocacy effort than we were able to do separately,” said Bob Hansen, CEO of UPCEA. “So we joined forces, leveraging our respective strengths to advance the field together.”   

The partnership goals include: 

  • advancing research and evidence-based evaluation on the effectiveness of online learning
  • developing common terms and definitions to support common understandings relevant to online learning
  • promoting and increasing transparency, accessibility of research, best practices and “what works” to the community, 
  • supporting and driving effective education policy related to online education.

Jennifer Mathes, Interim CEO of OLC shared, “Through our partnership, the NCOE will be a recognized source of expertise and information about local, regional, and national online education practice. The resources of our four organizations are vast and we feel this partnership is an important step in the future developments that will benefit those engaged in online teaching and learning.” 

UPCEA will be the administrative home for the NCOE, with Julie Uranis, VP of Online and Strategic Initiatives, serving as Managing Director. Each of the membership organizations partnering under the NCOE will retain its autonomy, including governance of its own resources and initiatives. 

“The goal is to bring our individual resources and expertise to bear on common problems and co-create new resources to address identified gaps,” noted Deb Adair, Executive Director of QM. “When you bring four large organizations serving distinct constituencies together in partnership, it’s important to maintain independent identity and focus. We will work together as the NCOE when appropriate, focusing on specific themes.” 

The NCOE’s first collaborative effort is to provide leadership, advocacy and guidance on COVID-19 pandemic institutional responses, specifically those that feature courses transitioned from face-to-face to remote teaching. This is evident in the joint responses the partners have issued in recent weeks.

As institutions look beyond their immediate continuity plans, the NCOE will provide an informed view of the research in online education, shining a light on credible findings and promising practices and promoting more research where it is needed. Leveraging the knowledge that exists within each organization’s membership, the NCOE partners will be issuing guidance on research to help direct postsecondary online initiatives.

Russ Poulin, Executive Director of WCET stated, “There is really no comparable organization that addresses the complexities and demand for innovation demonstrated in online learning. Each organization brings a strong perspective. You will find that research, quality assurance, strategic leadership, and policy are all represented in the NCOE partners and projects, as well as learner-centric approaches to online enterprises. Our four organizations truly do span the entirety of online and digital learning.”

The NCOE’s activities will be featured on the group’s website, nationalcouncil.online, as well as in future communications from the NCOE and each organization. 

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About Online Learning Consortium 

The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators, dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner – anyone, anywhere, anytime. OLC inspires innovation and quality through an extensive set of resources, including best-practice publications, quality benchmarking, leading-edge instruction, community-driven conferences, practitioner-based and empirical research and expert guidance. The growing OLC community includes faculty members, administrators, trainers, instructional designers, and other learning professionals, as well as educational institutions, professional societies and corporate enterprises. Learn more at onlinelearningconsortium.org.

About Quality Matters

Quality Matters (QM) is the global organization leading quality assurance in online and innovative digital teaching and learning environments. It provides a scalable quality assurance system for online and blended learning used within and across organizations. When you see QM Certification Marks on courses or programs, it means they have met QM Course Design Standards or QM Program Review Criteria in a rigorous review process

UPCEA is the association for professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. The association supports its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Learn more at upcea.edu.

About WCET

WCET (the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) is the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is a member-driven non-profit which brings together colleges, universities, higher education organizations, and companies to collectively improve the quality and reach of technology-enhanced learning programs. Learn more at wcet.wiche.edu.