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To increase online education, one university will lead the way

Although the path is clearer, the state Board of Governors still has some decisions to make when it comes to online education. The board's Strategic Planning Committee decided today that one school should serve as a lead organization, creating new degrees and conducting research on ways to improve online education. But the panel said it's too soon to say which of the 12 state universities that should be.

Creating more online degrees is a priority of House Speaker Will Weatherford, and the Strategic Planning Committee had several options to chose from based on a report it commissioned. One option was creating a new online-only university, but it was unpopular among existing colleges and universities and Weatherford recently said he would not push for that.

In addition to chosing one of the other options -- letting one university serve as a "lead institution" -- the committee also said it wants Chancellor Frank Brogan to create a workgroup to improve coordination between schools regarding online courses and degrees.

Here is more from a Board of Governors press release:

The Strategic Planning Committee of the Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday offered up a comprehensive plan to better coordinate the online degree offerings across the State University System.

The proposal, which calls for both long- and short-term actions, is the product of more than a year of work with our universities, the State College System, Florida's independent colleges and universities, state leaders and experts in the online learning industry. The Board expressed a willingness to seek funding from the Legislature to support this effort. It includes the following:

• The Board of Governors should use preeminence metrics, approved by the Board for use in university workplans, to determine a university that would offer a new, separate arm of high-quality online degree programs to students in Florida and across the globe. The designated university should also create a research center to develop cutting-edge technology and instructural design of online programs and ensure the success of online students.

• State University System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan should form a systemwide workgroup to continue to determine ways in which universities and other higher education delivery systems can better coordinate online degree offerings now and in the future.

"The world of online higher education is ever-changing, and there are many opportunities for improvement," said John D. Rood, chair of the Strategic Planning Committee. "Through this process, we are confident Florida will emerge as as an even stronger national leader in online education—not only for providing high-quality offerings to our students, but for developing best practices that meet the strategic needs of Florida."

The decision followed a presentation by the University of Florida on its online learning strategies. The recommendations will be presented to the full Board of Governors for consideration at its telephonic meeting Feb. 21. The goal is to deliver an online education framework to the Legislature prior to the start of Session in early March.