Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

Academic Calendars Agendas & Minutes Committees Committee Members Faculty Policy Guide Honorary Degrees Meeting Schedule Senate Meeting Videos Senate Members

SC.07.05

The Proposed University of Illinois On-Line “Global Campus”:
Response and Advice of the Urbana-Champaign Senate

 

Introduction

At the initiative of President B. Joseph White, it is proposed that an on-line operation or unit of the University of Illinois be established, to be known as the University of Illinois Global Campus, or Global Campus Partnership (signifying its intended partnership with the three existing campuses of the University and their various colleges and academic units).  It will be referred to in what follows as “the GC.”

In cases of proposals to establish both new “campuses” and new “units organized at the University level,” the Statutes neither require nor invite approval or endorsement by the existing campuses of the University.  They do, however, specify that “The president shall submit the proposal for the new campus [or: organization] together with the advice of the senates and chancellors and the University Senates Conference to the Board of Trustees for action.”  [Article VIII, Section 1]  The Urbana-Champaign campus Senate hereby submits its “advice” with respect to the aforementioned proposal.

At its September 18, 2006 meeting, the UIUC Senate unanimously endorsed a resolution asking President White “to suspend submission of the Global Campus proposal until he can (in accordance with the Statutes) ‘submit the proposal … together with the advice of the senates, the chancellors and the University Senates Conference to the Board of Trustees for action.’”

In developing such advice, a number of UIUC Senate Committees, including a designated Senate Global Campus Task Force, took up consideration of the Global Campus proposal. The Task Force reviewed a number of concerns, interviewed several campus administrators, and issued its final report, which was endorsed by the Senate at its December 4, 2006 meeting. It is the last formal position the Senate has taken on this matter to date.

UIUC Senate Global Campus Task Force Report

The UIUC Senate Global Campus Task Force Report summarized major concerns raised with respect to the Global Campus proposal, and proposed a number of alternative approaches toward its redesign.  The Task Force further recommended that the Senate withhold its response on the proposal until these matters could be addressed.

The specific concerns expressed in the Task Force Report were listed under nine categories, and are summarized briefly here.  (Summaries are derived from the text of the Report, which is appended and remains a significant part of our response to the Global Campus proposal.)

 

Issue One: The separation of design and delivery

The proposal needs to make clearer provisions for ongoing significant university faculty involvement in, and control over, initial and continuing course development, not as a discretionary option but as a basic feature of Global Campus courses. . . Departments and academic units must retain control of degree programs and courses they offer through the Global Campus not only during the start-up phase, but also in the longer term.

The Academic Council conceived in the proposal needs to be reconceived as something more than an advisory panel, with representation from the regular faculty of the three campuses having the confidence of their campus and participating college administrations and faculties.

Issue Two: The need for a partnership model

One of the serious shortcomings of the current Global Campus proposal, in our view, is its character as a separate fourth “campus” or entity distinct from the three existing campuses. . . . The Global Campus proposal must provide specific procedures for consultation and coordination with faculty, students and academic administrative leaders of the existing campuses.

Features of the current proposal which emphasize the structural separateness and independent decision-making of the Global Campus – both at the outset and subsequent to accreditation – need to be rethought and brought into closer accord with the connections that will need to exist and be maintained with the three existing campuses if the relations between them are to be as healthy and mutually beneficial as they should be.

Issue Three: Initial and subsequent stage planning

The Global Campus proposal draws a bright line between its policies during its start-up phase and when it eventually seeks (and obtains) accreditation as an independent degree-granting entity. This bifurcation elicits a good deal of faculty suspicion about where this project is heading.

Issue Four: “Massification” versus “niche” markets

The Global Campus proposal is already making assumptions about student numbers and admissions processes, based on marketing models rather than on academic criteria. While “scalability” is a value in expanding access, lowering costs, and enhancing income, it is not a value that should be allowed to trump all others. . . Assumptions based on a business model that would constrain or preempt academic decisions, in ways that would compromise program quality, should not be locked in.

Issue Five: The need for innovation

Innovation is just as important as quality; and the Global Campus needs to be about innovation in online teaching and learning, not only reduced costs and increased access (indeed, innovation will be essential to achieving both of the latter). . . The business plan and provisions for involving campus faculty and departments must create incentives and support for innovation and not just efficient course delivery. Specifically, mechanisms for ongoing involvement and development need to be established that give faculty an opportunity to bring their best content knowledge, understanding of future trends in their field, and teaching creativity into closer connection with the opportunities created by new technologies and new uses of existing technologies . . .

Issue Six: The “For-Profit” LLC structure

One of the most controversial aspects of the Global Campus proposal is the idea that the Global Campus would be organized as a “for-profit” Limited Liability Company (LLC) within the University system. There are many arguments for and against this proposal and we cannot review them all here. . . . The overarching problem is whether a “for-profit” entity committed to strict “business discipline” can maintain quality, innovation, and intellectual integrity as its highest values, or whether there will be continual pressures (expanding the “customer” base, cutting costs, emphasizing standardization and efficiency above all) which will erode these noble principles. . . We strongly urge the consideration of alternative models for the Global Campus to that of its organization as a “for-profit” LLC.

Issue Seven: The primary functions of the Global Campus

President White has said that the University needs a system to “turbocharge” our online initiatives: (1) to significantly boost the size and reach of the good programs that we have; (2) to stimulate the development of new programs from the campuses that have a potential to serve a large state, national, and even international audience; and (3) to develop in selected areas new programs where there is neither capacity nor interest on the other campuses. We agree with the value and importance of each of these – in this order of priority.

We strongly favor a model for the Global Campus that can and will help promote and expand the other campuses’ online offerings. We see value in creating a university-wide entity that could (1) provide technical and design support to units in scaling their programs; (2) help with marketing across state, national and international levels; (3) facilitate student applications and enrollments; (4) help with the hiring and maintenance of supplemental instructors who would work with faculty in course delivery teams; and (5) facilitate better planning and coordination across the campuses as online courses and programs become a potential university-wide resource for all students.

Issue Eight: The Business Plan and the Academic Plan

One of the claims made for the Global Campus proposal is that while certain business processes and assumptions are being put in place, within a broad governance structure, detailed decisions about academic matters will be deferred to a later time, and made in consultation with involved faculty.  We do not believe that substantive academic matters should be settled or locked in place by decisions of other sorts prior to the formation of an Academic Council and agreements with the campus units designing and overseeing these programs.

Issue Nine: Risks and exit strategies

All of us hope to see a Global Campus worthy of this University come into being and thrive. We recognize fully the opportunities this initiative represents for us all. But we also are leery of allowing optimism and enthusiasm to carry us away, and of failing to look and think well before we leap. The history of online education has been rife with such failed promises. We respect and admire the high-mindedness and energy that have gone into the planning process for the Global Campus. But we end with two caveats. One is that the best of intentions, the best of plans, have unintended consequences…. The other is that despite all of our efforts and good will, the Global Campus – however well conceived – may fail…. Thought needs to be given now to the sort of monitoring that will need to be done of whether the Global Campus – in whatever form it may be established – is succeeding sufficiently to be worth continued institutional commitment, either in that form or in some modified form, and also to our exit strategy and responsibilities in the event that it becomes clear that a negative decision is warranted.

Conclusion

If we are to have a Global Campus, it must emerge through a genuine partnership process involving faculty and administrators at all levels, and will survive and flourish only through a partnership of units at all levels on our three existing campuses.

Subsequent Developments

President White did withdraw the proposal from consideration by the Trustees. These and other concerns were discussed at length in three subsequent meetings with President White and Special Assistant Gardner: one on December 6, 2006; another on January 8, 2007; and a third on January 31, 2007.  Representatives of students, faculty, deans, and academic administration from all three campuses participated in the first two events.  The third was a UIUC event.

As a result of these discussions, a number of changes have been made to the Global Campus proposal.  Many of the major changes can be summarized in relation to the objections and concerns expressed by the Senate in its previous action:

Issue One: The separation of design and delivery

The revised (1/07 and 2/07) Global Campus proposal includes the specific mention and recommendation of a “Master Teacher” model of course design and delivery that emphasizes the responsibility and supervision of regular UI faculty over all aspects of the development, design, and teaching of Global Campus courses and programs. “Program Development and Support Agreements” (PDSAs) will need to be negotiated with any partnering unit, giving them final authority over the form, content, and quality of courses and degrees offered under their auspices.

Issue Two: The need for a partnership model

The proposal has been renamed the “Global Campus Partnership,” and there is no more reference to a “fourth campus” in the proposal. While the Global Campus entity would be autonomous on business and human resources matters, it would be a university-wide entity that would depend entirely on campus units for academic content and degrees. All programs and degrees would reside in academic units and would have to conform to their standards of quality with respect to content and instruction.

Issue Three: Initial and subsequent stage planning

The revised Global Campus proposal makes no mention of separate accreditation, and there is no more “phase 1/phase 2” language. Depending on the responsiveness of UI units, separate accreditation may never even be proposed. Any potential partnering with non-UI units would need to be approved by the Academic Council, which would include campus representatives.

Issue Four: “Massification” versus “niche” markets

While the business plan of the Global Campus still emphasizes scalability as a profit-making condition, decisions about where to initiate programs, how to deliver them, and how many students to admit are all now relegated to the PDSA’s. Language about admitting “all qualified students” has been changed from an assumption to an aspiration. Not all programs would need to be designed for mass markets.

Issue Five: The need for innovation

The revised Global Campus proposal makes provision for a set-aside to be invested in new R&D initiatives in course and program design, although where and how this will take place has not been defined.

Issue Six: The “For-Profit” LLC structure

The Global Campus is no longer proposed to be an LLC.  Rather, it is proposed to be an entity within the University, organized “as a University-wide academic unit,” and “working collaboratively within the traditional University structure and culture.”

Issue Seven: The primary functions of the Global Campus

The language in the Global Campus proposal has shifted markedly from an emphasis on running independent, money-making programs, in the direction of building capacity on the campuses to develop new online initiatives. Not all UI online programs need to be run through the Global Campus. However, in the context of a partnering (PDSA) agreement, the Global Campus might fund not only development costs but also additional staff lines in participating academic units to support the development and teaching of new online programs.

Issue Eight: The Business Plan and the Academic Plan

While many elements of the Academic Plan for the Global Campus remain unclear (in part because they devolve to the terms of agreement between the Global Campus and individual partnering units), the nature and authority of the Academic Council seems likely to provide for a strong consultative role with the campuses and campus Senates. (The details of this Council will be determined by an Interim Council whose composition will itself be negotiated with the Senates and Senates Conference.)

It is less clear how the Global Campus will articulate with the central campus administrations, although some provisions have been made to integrate Global Campus leaders into existing university-level committees with the Chancellors and Provosts.  Provosts and deans would be consulted before any partnerships with units for which they are responsible would be pursued by the Global Campus; and provosts would have final approval rights over any program agreements and subsequent PDSA agreements proposed with units on their campuses.

Issue Nine: Risks and exit strategies

An evaluation plan is being developed to address issues of Global Campus quality control and to assess its progress toward its objectives. A comprehensive evaluation will occur after five years.

Comments

We acknowledge the important progress that has been made in responding to the concerns expressed by this Senate in our previous resolutions. President White and Special Assistant Gardner have been willing to engage in numerous frank discussions over these matters, and have made significant modifications to the original proposal in search of a wider consensus. On several key points of dispute, we believe, such a consensus has been achieved.  In particular, we proceed on the assumption that the above summary accurately reflects the consensus that has been achieved, and expect the Global Campus to be structured and to function accordingly if it is established.

We believe that the latest (2/07) version of the Global Campus Partnership proposal as interpreted above, in its broad outlines, provides a framework in which it will be possible to establish the kinds of high-quality, innovative online programs that reflect this institution’s highest values – to make it a national leader in doing online education “the right way” (and for the right reasons), and to build capacity and infuse a “rich mix” of e-learning opportunities across all campus offerings.

We observe that additional objections and concerns have still to be resolved, and we encourage and support further consultative efforts to respond to them. We continue to believe that close coordination and partnership with campus academic officers is essential to the success of this endeavor. Furthermore, there remains – on this campus as on the others – considerable concern about how this plan will be implemented, and about whether the spirit of partnership will be sustained through its implementation and ongoing operation.  There also continues to be a good deal of unclarity and uncertainty about the nature of online learning and its potential as a seamless part of this university’s identity and mission.  Further work thus needs to be done.

 

Advice

Our specific advice to the Board as it prepares to consider the proposal to establish the Global Campus, and to all concerned, is:

To proceed with the establishment of a Global Campus only if its primary mission is to be the attainment of a position of leadership in the innovative development and pioneering delivery of high-quality on-line versions of degree programs, courses satisfying their requirements, and other significant educational experiences;

To make it a fundamental principle that, if a Global Campus is established, it will do only what it can do well, in terms of the higher-educational quality of its programs, on a scale at which that quality can be achieved and sustained;

To ensure that only individuals deemed qualified by participating units to teach specific courses will be hired to do so, recognizing that attracting them may require appointment types, compensation levels and benefits beyond those currently envisioned in the Global Campus business plan;

To reckon with the very real possibility that a Global Campus staffed in a manner appropriate to the standards of quality of this University may not become a significant new revenue stream for the University, and indeed may well require infusions from other University revenue sources indefinitely;

To take seriously the possibility that a Global Campus will make demands upon University resources and upon its campus units and faculties that will adversely affect their other missions and aspirations and their other on-line educational initiatives and efforts; and

To permit partnering with non-University units only in conjunction with partnering with University units in the development and offering of specific Global Campus programs, and only with the approval of the Global Campus Academic Council and of the college dean and provost of the partnering University unit.

 

Conclusion

We note that the UI Springfield Senate, the University Senates Conference, and the Deans at UIUC have all expressed their own reservations about the proposal before us, and that subsequent meetings of these and other interested parties are to be held. There is no way to anticipate which issues will be raised in such venues, and what further changes might be made to the Global Campus proposal in consequence of these and other such meetings and discussions.  We also anticipate having further input into the matter ourselves.  The Global Campus proposal remains a work in progress.

It therefore is impossible, as well as inappropriate, for this Senate to deliver any definitive verdict with respect to the Global Campus initiative.  However, we do want to acknowledge the progress that has been made, and anticipate being able to support the results of future good-faith discussions that might improve the proposal further.

We appreciate and respect the ways in which President White and Special Assistant Gardner have responded to previously expressed concerns and objections raised by this and other university bodies about the Global Campus proposal. Faculty involvement in the process of revision has been motivated by a commitment to the principles of shared governance, and we consider it a success for everyone when shared governance works as it is intended. We believe that the general trend of changes is moving toward the structure and spirit of partnership we called for in our approval of the UIUC Senate Task Force Report on the Global Campus.

We conclude as the Senate Global Campus Task Force began --

“…  by crediting President Joseph White and Special Assistant Chester Gardner with stimulating a crucially important debate about our obligation as a land grant institution to provide wider and more affordable access to higher education learning opportunities, and the role that online courses and programs can play in that context. We also want to emphasize that we share with them and embrace the vision of an expanded online presence for the University of Illinois that exemplifies our fundamental values of academic quality and innovation.”