Cal State Online: Public records shed light on what happened

Last month I shared the system announcement that the Cal State Online (CSO) initiative is finished. Despite the phrasing of “re-visioning” and the retention of the name, the concept of a standalone unit to deliver and market online programs for the system is gone. Based on documents obtained by e-Literate through a public records request:[1]

  • The original concept of “a standardized, centralized, comprehensive business, marketing and outreach support structure for all aspects of online program delivery for the Cal State University System” was defined in summer 2011, formally launched in Spring 2013, and ultimately abandoned in Fall 2013;
  • CSO was only able to enroll 130 full-time equivalent students (FTES) in CY2013 despite starting from pre-existing campus-based online programs and despite minimum thresholds of 1,670 FTES in the Pearson contract;
  • CSO was able to sign up only five undergraduate degree-completion programs and two master’s programs offered at four of the 23 Cal State campuses;
  • Faculty groups overtly supported investments in online education but did not feel included in the key decision processes;
  • Pearson’s contract as a full-service Online Service Provider was in place for less than one year before contract renegotiations began, ultimately leading to LMS services only; and
  • The ultimate trigger to abandon the original model was the $10 million state funding for online education to address bottleneck courses.

That last one might seem counter-intuitive without the understanding that CSO did not even attempt to support matriculated Cal State students in state-funded programs.

Terminology note: CSO measured course enrollments as “one student registered in one online course”, such that one student taking two courses would equal two course enrollments, etc. Internally CSO calculated 10 course enrollments = 1 FTES.

Below is a narrative of the key milestones and decisions as described by the public documents. I’ll share more of my thoughts in a future post.

2011

Continue reading

  1. CSU officials did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story. The offer is still open if someone would like to comment. []
Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Openness | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Numbers: Administrative Costs Soaring? Maybe not

August 27, 2014

There’s just a mind-boggling amount of money per student that’s being spent on administration

Andrew Gillen, quoted in “New Analysis Shows Problematic Booming Higher Ed Administrators,” Huffington Post, August 26, 2014

 Administrative growth drives up costs at state-owned universities

Debra Edrleu, TribLive, July 28, 2013

 Across U.S. higher education, nonclassroom costs have ballooned, administrative payrolls being a prime example.

Wall Street Journal as quoted by Phil Hill, e-Literate, January 2, 2013

 Administrative costs on college campuses are soaring.

J. Paul Robinson, quoted in “Bureaucrats Paid $250,000 Feed OutcryOver College Costs, Bloomberg News, November 14, 2012

 Administrative Costs Mushrooming

Georget Leff , John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, September 15, 2010

 

Are these true, or generalizations that lack the rigor of research? What does the data say?

Continue reading

Posted in Higher Education | 1 Comment

Community Source Is Dead

As Phil noted in yesterday’s post, Kuali is moving to a for-profit model, and it looks like it is motivated more by sustainability pressures than by some grand affirmative vision for the organization. There has been a long-term debate in higher education about the value of “community source,” which is a particular governance and funding model for open source projects. This debate is arguably one of the reasons why Indiana University left the Sakai Foundation (as I will get into later in this post). At the moment, Kuali is easily the most high-profile and well-funded project that still identifies itself as Community Source. The fact that this project, led by the single most vocal proponent for the Community Source model, is moving to a different model strongly suggests that Community Source has failed.

It’s worth taking some time to talk about why it has failed, because the story has implications for a wide range of open-licensed educational projects. For example, it is very relevant to my recent post on business models for Open Educational Resources (OER).

Continue reading

Posted in Higher Education, Openness, Tools, Toys, and Technology (Oh my!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kuali For-Profit: Change is an indicator of bigger issues

On Friday the Kuali Foundation announced the creation of a new for-profit entity to be led by the former CTO of Instructure, Joel Dehlin. Jeff Young at the Chronicle described the change:

Ten years ago, a group of universities started a collaborative software project touted as an alternative to commercial software companies, which were criticized as too costly. On Friday the project’s leaders made a surprising announcement: that it would essentially become a commercial entity. [snip]

The Kuali Foundation will continue to exist as a non-profit, but it will be an investor in a new commercial entity to back the Kuali software development. Leaders insisted that they would maintain the values of the project despite creating the kind of organization that they once criticized. For one thing, the source software will remain free and open, but the company will sell services, like software hosting. On Friday the group issued an FAQ with details about the change.

As Carl Straumsheim put it at Inside Higher Ed:

The Kuali Foundation, after a decade of fighting commercial software vendors as a community source initiative, will launch a commercial company to better fight… commercial software vendors.

Despite the positioning that this change is about innovating into the next decade, there is much more to this change than might be apparent on the surface. The creation of a for-profit entity to “lead the development and ongoing support” and to enable “an additional path for investment to accelerate existing and create new Kuali products fundamentally moves Kuali away from the community source model. Member institutions will no longer have voting rights for Kuali projects but will instead be able to “sit on customer councils and will give feedback about design and priority”. Given such a transformative change to the underlying model, there are some big questions to address.

Financial Needs

Kuali, being a non-profit foundation, has its financial records available online, and the tax reporting form 990s are easily obtained through sites such as GuideStar. Furthermore, instructional media + magic (im+m) has a public eLibrary where they have shared Kuali documentation over the years.[1] There does not appear to be a smoking gun found in the financials to directly explain the need for such a significant change, but there are hints of issues that provide some insight. Continue reading

  1. Disclosure: Jim Farmer from im+m has been a guest blogger at e-Literate for many years. []
Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Openness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

On ECAR data and ed tech purgatory

Recently I wrote a post about many ed tech products being stuck in pilots without large-scale adoption.

In our consulting work Michael and I often help survey institutions to discover what technologies are being used within courses, and typically the only technologies that are used by a majority of faculty members or in a majority of courses are the following:

  • AV presentation in the classroom;
  • PowerPoint usage in the classroom (obviously connected with the projectors);
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS);
  • Digital content at lower level than a full textbook (through open Internet, library, publishers, other faculty, or OER); and
  • File sharing applications. [snip]

This stuck process ends up as an ed tech purgatory – with promises and potential of the heaven of full institutional adoption with meaningful results to follow, but also with the peril of either never getting out of purgatory or outright rejection over time.

With the Chronicle’s Almanac coming out this week, there is an interesting chart that on the surface might contradict the above information, showing ~20 technologies with above 50% adoption.

Note: Data are drawn from responses by a subset of more than 500 of the nearly 800 institutions that participated in a survey conducted from June to October 2013. Reported statistics are either an estimated proportion of the population or an estimated median. Source: Educause Center for Analysis and Research

Note: Data are drawn from responses by a subset of more than 500 of the nearly 800 institutions that participated in a survey conducted from June to October 2013. Reported statistics are either an estimated proportion of the population or an estimated median.
Source: Educause Center for Analysis and Research [ECAR]

The difference, however, is that ECAR (through The Chronicle) asked how many institutions have different ed tech products and our survey asked how many courses within an institution use different ed tech products.

There are plenty of technologies being piloted but few hitting the mainstream, and adoption within an institution is one of the key indicators to watch.

Posted in Higher Education, Notable Posts, Tools, Toys, and Technology (Oh my!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment