Frequently Asked Questions about Shoreline Community College’s Virtual College Initiative

Prepared by the Virtual College Leadership Team, January 2011

Q1. What is a “virtual college”?

A1. “Virtual college” could mean a number of different things, but as we are currently envisioning it, a virtual college is a way of offering educational experiences, including accredited certificates and degrees, to students regardless of their location on the planet. While a virtual college involves online education, it is much more than that. It includes online student support services, such as advising, enrollment, financial aid, and streamlined payment. It also is a complete experience that is packaged with a learning-centered, rather than institution-centered, focus.

Q2. What principles are driving this initiative?

A2. The President’s Senior Executive Team (PSET) has identified four principles to direct the Virtual College Leadership Team’s (VCLT) work in evaluating different approaches to a virtual college:
§ Accessibility, meaning easy access to online education by breaking down current hurdles
§ Affordability, meaning a competitive price-to-value ratio for students and a return on investment for the college
§ Accountability to students, funders, accreditors, prospective employers, and taxpayers
§ Outcomes that demonstrate that students in the virtual college are held to all of the same standards as students attending face-to-face, except the requirement to attend in person.

Q3. How will this initiative affect me?

A3. It depends on a number of factors, most important of which is what the virtual college may look like. The VCLT’s charge is to develop a blueprint for what a virtual college could look like, with alternative approaches to various questions, as well as the pros and cons of each approach. This blueprint will be presented to PSET for decisions. What we can safely say at this point is that any faculty or staff member with ideas that could help shape the virtual college initiative will be heard. It is not the desire of the VCLT to discourage any useful idea. Many of these ideas will come — and already have come — from our faculty and staff.

Q4. What is the role of the VCLT?

A4. PSET has appointed seven campus leaders to the VCLT and given them a very directed charge: develop a blueprint for what a virtual college at Shoreline Community College might look like. In doing so, the VCLT will consider options and provide analysis. The VCLT will not make final decisions; that will be PSET’s job.
 In carrying out this work, the VCLT has in turn appointed five workgroups, which will address issues related to instruction; student support services; marketing; funding; and quality, assessment, and continuous improvement. Members of these workgroups have been selected on the basis of their expertise and experience in these areas.

Q5. How does this relate to the strategic planning and budgeting process?

A5. The VCLT was structured by PSET to have a close connection to the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee in that the Chair and Vice Chair of that committee also serve on the VCLT, and both committees are overseen by the Vice President of Administrative Services. The VCLT is reviewing research on eLearning that the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee conducted this summer and on which it received feedback from the entire campus during Opening Week.

Q6. Isn’t the virtual college a “done deal”?

A6. No. While we obviously would not spend time and energy studying the possibility of creating a virtual college if we did not think it was worthwhile, no decisions have been made on whether to move forward beyond the blueprint. In fact, PSET will not make decisions until the VCLT does its research and provides an analysis of the pros and cons involved. The VCLT’s job is to explain what a path to a virtual college might look like for SCC.

Q7. Where do I get more information?

A7. Visit the Virtual College Initiative’s wiki space at http://sccvc.wikispaces.com for information. If you read this regularly, you’ll know what the VCLT knows. You also may contact Ann Garnsey-Harter, the VCLT Chair, at extension 5879 or at agarnsey@shoreline.edu.

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