In 1989 the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) located in Boulder, Colorado, founded the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET) as a resource for the 15 western states. At the first annual meeting, delegates from outside the WICHE states petitioned to join. The original membership agreed. By 2004, WCET had over 250 members representing 43 states and seven countries. WCET had become an international, member-driven service agency.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Open Educational Resources: The term accepted by the international higher education community through UNESCO to refer to such projects as MIT’s OpenCourseWare, Rice University’s Connexions Project, and other resources created electronically and made available worldwide for no cost.
FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post Secondary Education): A granting group within the US Department of Education. In the last 10 years it has been instrumental in supporting the development of new approaches to teaching and learning online.
Technology Costing: Techniques and tools for determining the full costs of technology integration into the teaching and learning process.
Principles of Good Practice: Guidelines for institutions, state agencies, and accreditors on the institutional responsibilities for distance learning support to learners and faculty.
Quality Assurance: System for ensuring student experiences in online learning are valid. There are two approaches to quality assurance. One is regulatory through accrediting and governmental agencies. The other is through consumer protection, which requires educating potential students about their options and responsibilities.
Course Management Systems (CMSs): Also known as “learning management software or systems,” these have proliferated in the last few years. There are both proprietary and open-source CMSs now available to colleges and universities. Their goal is to integrate many of the functions associated with offering and managing an online course, so students and faculty members have only one program to use. The aggregated functions can include: discussion forums, real-time chats, orientation/help, self-assessments, registration integration, online grading tools, and about 35 others identified by WCET (see www.edutools.info for full list of functions).
Distance Learner’s Guide: Originally published in 1999 by Prentice-Hall, it is a consumer’s guide to help prospective online students make intelligent decisions about their provider and the tools they will need to be successful.
Accrediting Commissions: In the US there are both regional and professional accreditation systems that serve as the gatekeepers for quality in higher education. The six geographic regions of the US each have their own commissions (some have two) that are made up of individuals from the member institutions served by the region. These regional accrediting commissions also serve a role in determining institutional eligibility to administer federal financial aid for students.
Western Governors University: Founded by the governors of the 18 member-states of the western Governors Association as an alternative to traditional higher education institutions. It is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and helps adult students earn degrees using learning outcomes.
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE): Founded in the 1950s to assist the western states share higher education resources. Sister organizations exist in New England (NEBE), the South (SREB), and the Midwest (MHEC). WICHE runs a vast network of student exchange programs among the 15 western states, conducts national research projects, and is active in higher education policy.
Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET): The cooperative advancing the effective use of technology in higher education founded in 1989 by WICHE.
North American Council for Online Learning: Founded in 2002 by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to assist virtual high schools in policy and research. Online at www.NACOL.org.