Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

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(with responses from President Joe White and Special Assistant Chet Gardner)

1.  The “Global Campus,” as proposed, would be organized as a for-profit Limited Liability Company (LLC) that would eventually become an independently run business within the University.  Is there an alternative way of achieving the goal of wider access to high-quality educational opportunities online without the costs and institutional repercussions of creating a profit-oriented fourth “campus”?

The Global Campus will be operating in a competitive online education market that is dominated by large for-profit institutions. These successful institutions market their programs aggressively and provide exemplary student services coupled with responsive, quality academic programs and excellent teaching to ensure that students succeed. They are characterized by their tenacious methods of recruiting and retaining students through their “high tech, high touch” customer services.

The Global Campus Task Force considered a number of different options for organizing the entity (see page 24, Final Report). Because the Global Campus will not be subsidized by either the University or the State, it must be operated so that it generates sufficient revenues to pay expenses and to provide capital for future expansion.  It must also keep costs low so that tuition is affordable and competitive.  The LLC structure is simply the best way to create an organization that has the flexibility to compete successfully in the online learning marketplace while maintaining important intellectual, academic and business ties to the University. The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois is the sole owner (member) of the Global Campus, LLC and retains ultimate control of its operations.

Providing convenient, flexible access to high-quality education programs at an affordable price is driving the business and financial goals.  While legally a for-profit entity, the Global Campus will be operated philosophically like a non-profit organization, retaining some earnings to invest in future online program development, and returning an appropriate surplus to the University of Illinois to support activities on the three residential campuses.

The LLC provides the best opportunity for the entity to be launched successfully and quickly achieve its startup goals. It also provides the University with the important flexibility to reorganize at a future date if conditions warrant. In four or five years when the Global Campus has achieved independent accreditation, reached financial breakeven, and is enrolling 7,000-10,000 students, the Board of Trustees can evaluate whether the LLC remains the best organizational structure to nurture its future growth and development over the longer term. If not, the LLC can be dissolved and a more effective legal structure adopted (e.g. traditional campus structure or perhaps a C-corporation if more independence is desired).


2.  What would it take for the U of I to become a leader in large-scale online undergraduate degree programs without detriment to the aspiration of our campus to preeminence among public research universities (and the corresponding aspirations of the other two campuses)?  Specifically, can significant numbers of regular faculty on the three campuses be intensively involved in such efforts without diminishing their commitment to and time for other research, service and on-campus teaching activities? If there would have to be trade-offs, would they be worth it?

In its initial phases, the Global Campus will partner with campus units to deliver their academic programs at a larger scale.  Only those campus units that wish to partner with the Global Campus will participate in this initiative. The partnering academic units will be compensated for their costs and faculty time required to develop the programs and to provide oversight once the program is offered. When a program has generated sufficient revenue to cover development and operating costs, these partnering units will also participate in profit sharing. Because of this compensation model, we believe the trade-offs of partnering with Global Campus, if any, are minimal.  Nevertheless, those campus units that have competing priorities for their faculty will not be compelled to partner with the Global Campus; only the campus units themselves will be able to evaluate the potential advantages and “trade-offs”.  We are encouraged by the initial discussions with about a third of our deans. Those discussions identified more than a dozen academic programs that campus units are interested in exploring in collaboration with the Global Campus. Over time, the Global Campus will acquire its own independent accreditation so that it will be able to offer other programs for which its academic leadership has not been able to identify willing partners from the three residential campuses.

3.  If educational quality and innovation are going to be the hallmarks of the Global Campus, can they be achieved and sustained without continuous close collaboration with faculty and departmental units, not only in the start-up phase of the Global Campus, but throughout its operations?

Tenure-system faculty from the Chicago, Springfield, and Urbana-Champaign campuses will have an integral role in the Global Campus throughout its operations.  They will be involved in course and program design, program oversight, and may elect to teach online courses.  UI faculty will also provide oversight of the programs through the campus faculty senates (who must approve campus programs offered in collaboration with the Global Campus) to ensure that the highest quality academic standards are achieved and maintained.  Whenever the Global Campus offers programs in collaboration with campus units, the faculty in those units will play an important ongoing oversight role during the delivery of the programs. The partnering units will be compensated for providing this oversight.

U of I faculty (both tenure system and non-tenure system) and instructors will be encouraged to teach for the Global Campus, but they must meet the same credential and performance criteria and participate in the same orientation and certification programs as non-UI instructors. They will be paid the same stipend as non-UI instructors, although we are exploring the financial feasibility of paying UI faculty a premium of 10-20%. Global Campus teaching would be in addition to their normal UI responsibilities and would be subject to the same approval process, reporting requirements, and limitations as faculty/staff consulting activities. These teaching opportunities could be attractive to many U of I faculty who don’t have the consulting opportunities that are available to business, law, engineering, medical and science faculty. Summer teaching could be especially attractive to some faculty because the teaching responsibilities can be conveniently addressed from any location with high-speed Internet access. Retired U of I faculty are a large and valuable resource of teaching talent that could potentially benefit the Global Campus. 

4.  Would the Global Campus (as presently envisioned as an independently accredited entity) have a detrimental impact on the online and on-campus programs of the three existing campuses? Will it siphon off students or faculty efforts from successful existing programs, for example?

Initially, the Global Campus will partner with campus units to offer degree and certificate programs on an expanded scale.  Only those campus units that want to participate in this initiative will do so. Presumably, they will be units that want to develop new online programs to serve additional students, or they will be units that already have online programs but want to increase the scale of their online enrollments.  A campus unit could decide not to partner with the Global Campus if it felt that its faculty could not devote the effort to making a new program successful.

Online education is a competitive arena, and it is not a zero sum game for the University of Illinois.  Potential students will not restrict their attention to just the online program offered by a University of Illinois campus or the Global Campus – their options will include every institution that offers similar online programs. The Global Campus will consider offering a program that is similar to an existing campus-based online program, only if the campus program is not addressing the available demand and the campus unit declines to partner with the Global Campus to scale their program to meet that demand. However, the Global Campus will still have to demonstrate to the University leadership, Board of Trustees, and IBHE that sufficient demand exists before it will be permitted to offer a competing program.

5.  What should come first: an institutional commitment to provide large-scale high-quality, low-cost online undergraduate degree programs, or a clear indication of what these programs would look like, and of what qualifications those delivering them on a large scale would need to have?   Is it wise to commit to a Global Campus and a Business Plan without a clear Academic Plan and Governance Plan? Does the current Business Plan preempt future academic decisions (for example, length of terms)?

The University of Illinois Online Program was established in 1997. It facilitated the development of numerous online degree and certificate programs at all three campuses. Some of those programs have won national awards for excellence. After almost a decade of experience, the University has learned how to design and deliver highly regarded online programs. The Global Campus is building upon that experience to offer programs at scale in a convenient, flexible format that nontraditional adult learners want. It is also expanding the offerings into those areas that are in greatest demand, thereby providing a richer choice of options for students.

The Final Report of the Global Campus Task Force includes a well-defined Academic Plan and Governance Plan. In addition the Task Force prepared a detailed Business Plan (proprietary information that was not distributed publicly).  The Global Campus Startup Team is now refining the business and financial plans to provide greater detail and is developing a detailed project plan for launching the Global Campus. While the existing campus, University and IBHE governance structures will provide adequate oversight during the startup phase, President White and Professor Gardner have solicited the help of the campus senates and faculty to design an effective governance structure that will be essential in 3 or 4 years when the entity receives independent accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

We do not believe that the current business plan pre-empts future academic decisions.

6.  What safeguards would be needed to ensure that a Global Campus delivering online undergraduate and graduate programs, run “like a business,” with “strict business discipline” and in a “for-profit” manner, and with the kind of governing structure described in the “Final Report,” would preserve academic quality in its programs in the emerging (increasingly competitive) marketplace for such programs?  Would there be inevitable market pressures to lower “production costs” for online course and programs (for example, through the adoption of a standardized course management system)?

Providing convenient, flexible access to high-quality education programs at an affordable price is driving the business and financial goals of the Global Campus. Because the Global Campus will not be subsidized by either the University or the State, it must be operated so that it generates sufficient revenues to pay expenses and to provide capital for future expansion.  It must also keep costs low so that tuition can be affordable and competitive.  The Board of Managers will hold the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) responsible for running the Global Campus according to these principles.  In turn, the CEO will hire a team of individuals to manage the operations of the Global Campus with strict business discipline.

Academic quality issues will remain the responsibility of the U of I faculty who develop, approve, and provide oversight of the programs. All programs developed in partnership with the residential campuses must receive the approval of the campus provost and are subject to the high campus academic standards and senate approval processes. While the Global Campus will enroll the students and collect the tuition, the students will be regarded as campus students and the campus will award their degrees. If a program is a new one, not currently offered by the campus, the Board of Trustees and the IBHE must also approve the program before it can be offered. In other words, all existing campus, University, and IBHE governance procedures apply, thus ensuring that high academic standards are met.

The adoption of a standardized course management system makes good business sense, due primarily to decreased support costs – management of servers and the staff required for system support, the technology help desk, etc.  Of course, a single CMS also makes good sense for students, since they only have to learn to navigate through a single software environment. As far as the concern about quality being related to production and delivery costs, the detailed financial model for the Global Campus has shown that class size and costs related to course development have the smallest impact on the overall profitability. Thus, it is not likely that there will be market pressures to lower “production costs” for Global Campus online courses.  When the Global Campus offers programs from a campus unit, the faculty from that unit will provide oversight for all aspects of course development and delivery, and the production of the online courses will be detailed in a Development and Support Agreement between the Global Campus and the campus unit.


7.  Could existing course and degree program approvals on the three existing campuses be considered to cover the seven-week course format envisioned in the Global Campus?  Or would seven-week courses have to be considered new courses, and would degree programs featuring seven-week courses have to be considered new programs, both of which would require new approval?

The existing course and degree program approvals on the three campuses should be sufficient to cover the courses delivered by the Global Campus in an accelerated seven-week format.  The campuses already offer their courses and programs during a summer semester, in either a four-week (e.g. Summer Session I at UIUC) or eight-week (e.g. Summer Session II at UIUC) format.

8.  Does the “open admission of all qualified applicants” policy of the Global Campus create problems of consistency in the grading standards to be used in Global Campus courses in relation to their on-campus counterparts (with their very different sorts of student populations)? Beyond a certain point, won’t “expanding access” REQUIRE lower admissions standards?

The faculty on the three campuses will set the admissions qualifications for all of their programs that will be offered through the Global Campus.  Those admissions qualifications should be established to ensure academic success rather than to limit enrollments, as is the case for some of our high demand campus programs such as engineering and business. All students meeting or exceeding these qualifications will be accepted.  The three campuses currently turn away a large number of qualified applicants, simply because the campuses do not have the physical resources to accommodate additional students.  The Global Campus will not have these physical constraints, so it will be able to serve these qualified students, who will benefit from access to a University of Illinois education.  This is very different than an “open admissions” policy, under which any student would be admitted, no matter what their qualifications.

9.  How could Global Campus students have a role in its governance comparable to their role in the governance of the three existing campuses, if it is organized as an LLC?  Would that organization preclude any such role because their status as customers would create a conflict of interest?

Within the last month, Professors Chet Gardner and Burks Oakley met with members of the student senate on the Urbana campus who raised the issue of student involvement in planning and governance. The Global Campus Startup Team now will be meeting with a subset of these students to get their input on how students could play a role in shaping the Global Campus.  We welcome faculty advice on student involvement in governance too. The role of students as “customers” always must be secondary to their role as “students”, so there should not be any conflict of interest in this area.

10.  Does the proposed framework for the Global Campus anticipate future trends in online education, or is it assuming course design and delivery systems that will constrain future developments? Do the separate categories of online versus on-campus programs fit future student needs?

Higher education in the future will be a rich mix of face-to-face, online, residential, and non-residential experiences.  The Global Campus will offer its programs primarily, but not solely, via the Internet.  Some programs like teacher education and nursing have clinical experiences that cannot be addressed online. These educational requirements will be met in the same way they are addressed for students attending residential campuses. It is possible that at some time in the future, the Global Campus may have a physical presence in major population areas of Illinois (such as Rockford, Chicago, Lake County, Quad-Cities, and East St. Louis), where it may offer programs in a blended format (blending online and face-to-face learning experiences).  The Global Campus must be flexible and nimble in order to anticipate future trends in online education, and the organization and management of the Global Campus will encourage exactly this type of behavior.

11.  Does the U of I have an obligation or responsibility, as a state university and land grant institution, to get into the large-scale online undergraduate degree completion business?  Do all state-university land-grant institutions have such an obligation?

The University of Illinois is mission driven.  As a public university with a strong land-grant heritage, we have an obligation to provide broad access to our educational resources.  Today that access is urgently needed.  The economic and social future of the country is at risk because there is a large and growing gap between the percentage of Americans who finish high school and those who get a college degree.  The Department of Education Commission on the Future of Higher Education issued its September 2006 report addressing the crucial issues confronting colleges and universities: student access to college, cost and affordability, the quality and value of higher education, and institutional accountability.  This report has articulated important and urgent challenges for American high education, which the Global Campus initiative can help address in substantive and meaningful ways.  Now is the time for the University of Illinois to step forward as a leader. 

12. As a for-profit entity, the Global Campus will, as we understand it, not be eligible under current “Fair Use” regulations. Would that make the availability of low-cost instructional materials prohibitive?

There seems to be a basis for fair-use in teaching of any kind.  See:

Fair Use In The For-Profit Sector.  Section 107 provides that:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship or research, is not an infringement of copyright.

However, the issue of fair use is one that the Global Campus staff will continue to investigate in the coming months.