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Higher Ed Raises Concerns, Works with Proponents of the TEACH Act
In September, EDUCAUSE and a number of other higher education associations released an analysis of the Technology, Equality, and Accessibility in College and Higher Education (TEACH) Act. The proposed legislation, not to be confused with the already established TEACH Act on copyright issues (see the 2009 ECAR Research Bulletin on the topic for more information), is intended to improve the accessibility of “electronic instructional materials and related technologies” for persons with disabilities.
EDUCAUSE Advances Net Neutrality Principles, Positions
Summary: Earlier this year, the FCC launched a new net neutrality rule-making process to restore protections lost when its previous rules were overturned. EDUCAUSE joined with several higher education and library organizations to propose principles on which the FCC should base its new rules, as well as to submit comments indicating the shape the rules might take given the principles. The FCC will accept responses to initial public comments through September 10; EDUCAUSE and its partners will work during this period to generate responses supporting our principles and positions.
DMCA Multi-Stakeholder Process Focuses on Standardized Notice
Summary: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have chartered a multi-stakeholder process to pursue voluntary improvements in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice-and-takedown procedures. The initial project to emerge focuses on collaborative development of a voluntary, standardized takedown notice. Staff analysis informed by member feedback indicates that EDUCAUSE should continue to monitor the process, but that direct participation is not warranted at this time since the process does not yet entail concerns specific to our community.
EDUCAUSE Policy in 2014
Last October, EDUCAUSE posted an update on the evolution of our policy work. Now that we are well into 2014, we wanted to provide members and other stakeholders with information on our progress.
Since the previous update, EDUCAUSE has secured consulting services in public policy and government relations to help us address a diverse array of federal issues, including the following:
ED OIG Drops Tech Fixes for Identity Verification in Latest Report
Summary: In its latest report on financial aid fraud in distance education, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) dropped previously proposed technology-based measures for student identity verification that EDUCAUSE considered problematic. The OIG now recommends enhanced admissions documentation to address identity verification concerns, which seems much more manageable within existing institutional systems and processes. However, the OIG continues to advocate for changes in the financial aid need calculation for distance learners as well as maintenance of a standard for determining the last date of attendance for the return of federal student aid funds that could damage online distance education.
NIH Notice: Network Restriction on Pornography
Summary: NIH released a notice alerting award recipients of a new restriction on the use of funds “to maintain or establish computer network” unless that network blocks access to pornography. NIH interprets the provision as applying only to funds awarded directly for such purposes; overhead funds are not involved. That essentially restricts NIH’s application of the provision to project-based networks, removing the concern that any institution receiving NIH funds might have to implement blocking or filtering across its campus network. Researchers with potentially impacted projects should consider discussing their concerns with their NIH grants and contracts officer.
Policy at EDUCAUSE 2013
Major Provosts Embrace Online Learning
The real, near-term impact of the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) trend has begun to emerge. In response to the rapidly growing awareness and acceptance of online learning that MOOCs have generated among policy-makers and the general public, senior leaders of traditional colleges and universities are beginning to publicly acknowledge the centrality of online learning to higher education’s present and future.
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.