Spellings, M. (2006) A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education Washington DC: US Department of Education

I’m a little late referencing this work, which may be an indication of how relevant I think this report from the Bush administration is for e-learning. It does though have something to say, drawing mainly on Carol Twigg’s work at the National Centre for Academic Transformation

Institutions should harness the power of information technology by sharing educational resources among institutions, and use distance learning to meet the educational needs of rural students and adult learners, and to enhance workforce development. Effective use of information technology can improve student learning, reduce instructional costs, and meet critical workforce needs. We urge states and institutions to establish course redesign programs using technology-based, learner-centered principles drawing upon the innovative work already being done by organizations such as the National Center for Academic Transformation.

The commission encourages the creation of incentives to promote the development of information technology-based collaborative tools and capabilities at universities and colleges across the United States, enabling access, interaction, and sharing of educational materials from a variety of institutions, disciplines, and educational perspectives. Both commercial development and new collaborative paradigms such as open source, open content, and open learning will be important in building the next generation learning environments for the knowledge economy. pp. 25-26

‘Duh!’, I hear you say. Sure, nothing much to argue with there, but what incentives, strategies or policies do they suggest to make this happen? Zilch. However, the reference is here, for those with an interest in the archeology of e-learning.

The tragedy of this commission is that while it identified major shortcomings of the US higher education system, it focused so much on trying to get standardized measurement of university outcomes (when what is really needed is more creativity, innovation and original thinking from students, which cannot be standardized by definition) that it lost the opportunity to deal effectively with access, funding, innovation in teaching, and other critical issues that need to be addressed if higher education in the USA is to remain competitive and of high quality.


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