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WCET Testimony on Proposed Distance Ed. Federal Regulations
As previously reported, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently revived the regulatory process it began last summer to address financial aid fraud concerns related to distance education and expanded it to resurrect the department’s previously overturned distance education state authorization regulation. Our colleagues at the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) testified at a May 30th public hearing about the process, with Russ Poulin, WCET’s deputy director for research and analysis, specifically addressing the regulatory areas the pending rule-making process will cover.
House Cmte. Passes Bill on Higher Ed. Data Transparency
On a bipartisan voice vote that took place in record time yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce approved sending the "Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act" (HR 1949) to the full House for consideration. The bill calls for the creation of an advisory committee under the U.S. Department of Education to examine the available research on what information about colleges and universities, and in what formats, would most help students and families in navigating higher education, as compared to the information that is actually available to them and how it's provided.
The Student Unit Record System Returns?
As reported today in Inside Higher Ed, the Wyden-Rubio, and now Warner (D-VA), "Student Right to Know Before You Go Act" has shifted from its early stage concept of knitting together the state longitudinal data systems (SLDSs), built over the last several years via federal grants, into a federated database that would span the country and allow for tracking students throughout their educational careers and into the workforce, and across states. (For additional background, please see my March 7, 2013, blog post as well.) Instead, the latest version of the bill, which was formally introduced in both the U.S.
SHEEO State Authorization Resources Updated
Sharmila Mann, a senior policy analyst at the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) association, issued the following announcement this week on SHEEO's freshly updated state authorization resources, including its guide to the authorization regulations, processes, and contacts for various states. Note that she also discusses the process and timing for the next round of updates, which SHEEO plans to start in January 2014. (Many thanks to our friends at WCET for sharing Sharmila's announcement with us.)
Major Higher Ed. Community Developments on State Authorization
The higher education community continues to make significant progress toward addressing the problems of distance education state authorization through the development of a state authorization reciprocity proposal. The Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education, a joint effort of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO), recently released its final report, Advancing Access through Regulatory Reform: Findings, Principles, and Recommendations for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA).
Google Accessibility Improvements
Google started informing its applications user groups today about the accessibility improvements it has made to a range of its applications and software platforms. (Please see below for the quoted text.) If you're interested in learning more about accessibility updates for one of the products listed, Google invites you to contact its accessibility group (firstname.lastname@example.org).
FCC Telecom Service Provider Accessibility Certification Rules
Our friends at ACUTA (the higher education telecommunications administrators association) have posted an alert to colleges and universities that "charge students, tenants, or others for telephone service" (excluding institutions that allocate telephone service costs internally to academic and/or administrative departments) about new accessibility record-keeping certification requirements from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):
Fed. Regs. on Student Identity Verification, State Authorization of Distance Ed. Back on the Radar
Kindle Accessibility Concerns Continue
The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) continues to raise concerns about the accessibility of Amazon's Kindle devices as well as its Kindle apps for other devices (e.g., the iPad) for persons with visual disabilities. On its Kindle Books page, NFB provides a chart comparing the accessibility of Kindle devices/apps against accessible alternatives, the iBook and Blio, along a number of key parameters, such as text highlighting and note-taking features that would be of particular interest to postsecondary students.
California Bill = Path Around Curricular Bottlenecks Through 3rd-Party Online Providers
As numerous mainstream and higher education media outlets have reported--for two, see the New York Times and Inside Higher Education--the California state senate president is poised to introduce a bill that would provide students with a pathway around curricular bottlenecks--introductory courses that they have to have to fulfill degree requirements, but for which they face long wait times to take due to limited capacity. This problem has been particularly severe in California as several years of state budget cuts have reduced institutional capacity to deliver must-have general education courses at the same time as demand for higher education has grown in the face of a difficult economic climate.