California Virtual University: A Status Report
The California Virtual University (CVU), created one year ago by Executive Order of Governor Wilson, received a jump start in the Governor's 1998-99 proposed budget. Governor Wilson has proposed a total of $6.1million to fund the CVU, with $1million each for the University of California (UC) and the California State University (CSU), and $4.1million for the California Community Colleges (CCC).
The plan proposed for the community colleges includes the creation of four regional curricular development assistance centers that will provide technical assistance to faculty and staff in the creation of courses and programs. Each center will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and highly skilled staff to aid local college faculty and staff in creating technology mediated instruction. In addition, funds will be available for training faculty and staff in CVU related technologies, computer languages, and pedagogy. Finally, the grants will provide direct support to faculty and staff in the form of mini grants to provide stipends, release time, and equipment for course development. A staff of three at the Chancellor's Office has been funded to coordinate these activities.
The CVU is a partnership consisting of the CCC with the UC, CSU, and private accredited colleges and universities of California. The CVU (unlike its counterpart, the Western Governor's University) will not offer accredited courses or degrees separately, but will instead provide easy, student friendly access to the increasing number of courses and programs offered by the member institutions. Individual colleges will be responsible for their own offerings and ancillary services, such as counseling and learning resources. The CVU will facilitate offerings and course development, best practices and sharing of resources and programs.
One of the major reasons behind the creation of the CVU includes the increasing needs of business and industry for employee training, particularly to fit varying schedules. In addition, the projected demands from the 400,000 new CCC students expected from Tidal Wave II over the next seven years can not be met with the current rate of capital construction in the CCC's. Finally, we believe that California has the very best public higher education system in the world and can use its expertise to create a world class CVU, with the potential of developing additional revenue streams.
A major issue facing the CVU is the need for immediate and long term financing, which we expect to meet through a mixture of public, private, and foundation partnerships. We have already secured several corporate sponsors, as well as commitments from a major foundation. Another major challenge is the technology infrastructure that has begun to be met by such projects as 4CNet.
To maximize the CCC buying power, the Chancellor's Office has initiated a series of cooperative group purchases for computers, computer based training software, and other technology related equipment, leveraging the size of the CCC system to our advantage. We are also dealing directly with the "face-to-face" regulations that have limited our offerings, and the Board of Governors is scheduled to approve major changes that will allow for non "face-to-face" offerings beginning in 1998-99.
Other major issues include financial aid, particularly allowing computers to be counted in determining financial need, accreditation issues, and access for disabled students.
The CVU will provide opportunities for faculty and staff to develop courses and programs, and even complete AA/AS degrees. It will provide support for course and program incubators and research of best practices.
We believe that the CVU will provide access for a large number of nontraditional students who may well make up a Tidal Wave II 1/2, increasing demand for CCC education, and their contribution to California's economy. We also believe the CVU may well provide more faculty/student contact than traditional distance learning courses, and even more than many large lecture classes. We also are certain to face the important issue of competency based credits and possibly competency-based funding.
If you wish to learn more about CVU, please join our open listserv by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message subscribe ccc-cvu-list. If you are interested in serving on a CVU task force, which will meet primarily by listserv, please send e-mail to email@example.com .