February 18, 2009
By Luke Runyon
It has been over a year since the University of Illinois launched its new initiative in online education called the Global Campus. Since then, the response to the new campus has not been lacking in criticism and downright opposition.
The first seeds of Global Campus formed in the mind of University of Illinois President Joseph White who saw online education as the wave of the future. “Our goal is to deliver high-quality, affordable online education to thousands of able and motivated students whose personal circumstances don’t allow them to join us on campus for some or all of their education,” said White in a statement given before the launch of Global Campus.
A year later and approximately $4 million in debt to the University of Illinois Foundation, Global Campus is still trying to get through some growing pains. With only 121 students enrolled in programs now, President White is receiving criticism from both inside and outside the U of I system.
Going into 2009 with a budget of $8.9 million, the stakes are high for the new, fledgling campus.
UIS Provost Harry Berman said that some of the issues hindering Global Campus from reaching its financial and educational goals are its lack of faculty input structure, competition between U of I existing online programs, and the fact that Global Campus is still in the process of being an accredited institution.
“What makes a campus a campus is that it gets accredited, recognized by the Higher Learning Commission,” said Berman. The Global Campus has just started on the road to accreditation, being approved in last November’s Board of Trustees meeting. “Future growth of [Global Campus] would be enhanced by its accreditation,” said Berman.
Since the entire enterprise of Global Campus is so new, the structural support needed to ensure success was under criticism as well.
“The role of faculty has been a big source of contention,” explained Berman. “As things stand now, the Global Campus does not have the faculty structure that is needed.” However, Berman went on to explain that faculty integration into the Global Campus is one of its top priorities.
With state budget cuts looming and Global Campus receiving less than stellar enrolment figures, Berman seems to be more focused on the challenges that Global Campus poses to UIS. As the new campus grows its degree offerings will inevitably start to overlap with UIS online programs.
“We’re not thrilled about Global Campus putting up the same degree programs as UIS,” said Berman. However, Berman cites that ever since the launch of Global Campus, UIS online programs have not seen a drop in enrollment, but rather an increase.
UIS has been in the field of online education since 1998. Praised as being a ‘titan’ of online higher education, UIS received the 2007 Excellence in Institution-Wide Online Teaching and Learning programming award. President White looked at UIS’ online programs for inspiration when starting Global Campus.
Berman explained one should not look at Global Campus in a narrow sense but, rather, envision many years down the road, when the online endeavour is scheduled to be making revenue.
However, with controversy and a university-wide split on the issue, it does have some catching up to do. Berman explains that, “it certainly hasn’t developed on the pace they would have hoped.”