The Department of Education has announced a negotiated rulemaking committee to prepare regulations for a wide-range of issues pertinent to UPCEA member institutions. The extremely wide range of topics to be discussed include, but is not limited to:

  • State authorization
  • Regular and substantive interaction
  • Definition of “credit hour”
  • Discussion of EQUIP-style programmatic delivery by third-party providers
  • Barriers to innovation
  • Direct assessment + competency-based programs
  • Faith based entities taking part in title IV/HEA programs

The Department plans to also establish two subcommittees for this set of work. The first subcommittee will focus on proposed regulations related to direct assessment programs/competency-based education. The second subcommittee would be focusing on the eligibility of faith-based entities to participate in title IV, HEA programs.

The Department plans to hold three public hearings for interested parties. Those hearings will be held:

September 6, 2018 – Washington, DC
September 11, 2018 – New Orleans, LA
September 13, 2018 – Sturtevant, WI

UPCEA plans to attend the Washington DC meeting.

Public comments are sought and the deadline to submit is September 14, 2018. We encourage you as individuals, and through your institution, to submit comments. To submit a formal comment for this negotiated rulemaking committee, or to weigh in on the topics they are discussing, click here.

For the full announcement from ED, click here


The Department of Education through Secretary Betsy DeVos plans to end the regulations which required for-profit and vocational schools to provide “gainful employment” to the students that move through their programs. The regulation was one of the defining for-profit student consumer safeguards put into place by the Obama administration. The rules would cut off federal student loans to colleges if data showed that their graduates did not earn enough money from a decent job. The regulations also required schools to notify whether they had met these standards in promotional marketing to prospective learners.

The current administration’s plan includes holding institutions accountable through a proposed federal database, or utilizing the existing data and information for the College Scorecard.

UW-Extension receives recognition for a high-quality online education program

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 26, 2018) — The National Council for Online Education announced today that the University of Wisconsin-Extension successfully completed the UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership Review program, demonstrating consistent excellence throughout its online programs.

The UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership Review program evaluates seven key aspects of online education programs using a rigorous review process and issues digital badges, in partnership with Credly, to qualifying colleges and universities to mark their achievement. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was the first to be recognized through the same review process in March.

“The University of Wisconsin-Extension Continuing Education, Outreach, and E-Learning has been both strategic and mission-driven in its approach to online initiatives, demonstrating entrepreneurship and also the necessary operational follow-through,” said Ray Schroeder, lead reviewer and founding director of the National Council for Online Education, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning, University of Illinois-Springfield. “The success of Wisconsin-Extension’s online efforts are all the more remarkable in light of the recent restructuring of the University of Wisconsin System, as well as the challenging fiscal environment for higher education in Wisconsin.”

“Submitting detailed information on the entirety of our operations was a true team effort,” said David Schejbal, Dean, Continuing Education, Outreach, and E-Learning at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. “We are honored to be recognized for excellence across the online enterprise at UW-Extension. As a founding member of UPCEA and one of the first institutions to complete the Hallmark Review process we could not be more pleased.”


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UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education. For more than 100 years, UPCEA has served most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. Founded in 1915, the association serves its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities, and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA also builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues. UPCEA launched the National Council for Online Education in 2017.

About the University of Wisconsin-Extension

UW-Extension works with the people of Wisconsin to solve their most pressing issues and uncover their most promising opportunities through hundreds of programs and initiatives statewide. Thanks to vital partnerships with the 26 UW campuses, county and tribal governments, and other public and private organizations, UW-Extension’s wide-ranging initiatives impact 1.5 million people every year by providing access to university resources and engaging people in learning, wherever they live and work.

Online: Trending Now #157

How can we effectively compete in the field of online professional education during a time of dropping price points and rising competitors? 

It is a time of high competition for the professional education market. Udacity has been successful in launching just-in-time Nanodegrees at very competitive price with flexible completion features. EdX continues to expand their MicroMasters programs in professional fields. Coursera specializations and entire master’s degrees at scale are pressing the traditional campus and online professional programs.

It just doesn’t seem fair to the bulk of higher education institutions, hampered by static or dropping budgets; antiquated governance systems that hamper agile responses to market threats; and risk-averse administrations that are loathe to invest in bold moves to grab the market to meet the needs of prospective students. These institutions are frozen in time – in an era that we passed more than half a dozen years ago when the first X-MOOCs were launched. They face a slow death; strangulation through ever-lagging enrollments and lower revenues.

So, what can be done to buy some time to bring about fundamental change in the institution that will foster innovation and competitiveness?

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Review your operation for efficiency and productivity. Do not cut staff who are productive, but reconfigure the operation in ways that make it more effective while saving dollars.  Those dollars might be reinvested in new initiatives.
  2. Renew your brand awareness, loyalty and reputation for excellence. This is one unique asset that is yours to cultivate and leverage.  It is something that many of the newcomers do not have – and some of the big name competitors do not have in your region.  You have built that brand over fifty, a hundred, or more years; find ways to use it to bring in additional enrollments.
  3. Make direct connections with businesses and industries. Start with your region and expand outwards.  Listen carefully to their needs.  Offer to customize classes or certificates to meet their needs just in time.  In return ask for 25, 50, 100 or more students.  You may find that other similar businesses will have the very same needs.
  4. Make sure that you validate your learning outcomes with credentialing through badges, certifications or other relevant evidence of learning.

And, that leads us to the “new-collar” jobs.  If you haven’t heard about them yet, new-collar jobs are “positions that require specific skills but not a bachelor’s degree, are in high demand,” according to ZipRecruiter, an online employment marketplace, “….Many new-collar jobs offer the potential for job security, career growth and a large salary increase from other jobs available to those without college degrees. While the median annual salary for someone with some college but no degree is about $40,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many new-collar jobs offer wages over six figures.”

Many of these new-collar jobs are in tech, but they can be found in health care and most other growing fields.  Catering to this group of prospective students with stand-alone classes, mini-certificates and other similar programs with short time commitments can help give a university time to adapt to the new marketplace where price point and relevancy reins.

Have you considered how to make your offerings more responsive to both employers and prospective students?  Perhaps now is the time to make some changes.

Of course, I will continue to track the developments in emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning  – no advertising, no spam!


Ray Schroeder
Founding Director

National Council for Online Education


Professional, continuing and online (PCO) education units are facing a period of intense competition, but also of significant opportunity. A decade ago, PCO units and their institutions were in fear of launching unsuccessful online bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Ten years later, growth in the market has slowed and competition increased. With the economy now shifting from heavy growth from the mobile or cloud period, to the big data and automation period, PCO units are faced with flat or declining enrollments in some online programs as a result of movement to noncredit certificates, massive open online courses (MOOCs) and badging. Behind all of this economic and academic change, demographic shifts have been creating even greater complexity regarding new program development. Generation Z graduated its first major cohort of college graduates, between 1.5 and 2 million into the workforce.  More daunting however, is the maturation of the Millennial. 

Millennials are between 23 and 38 years of age. The older third of the cohort is primed for management. Mature and middle-aged Millennials are most likely the consumers of higher education’s professional master’s degrees. PCO units invested significantly into the professional master’s degree market. A recent UPCEA web survey conducted in July 2018 shows that many Millennials have gone on from their bachelor’s degree to a graduate degree.

After much angst and frustration, Millennials ultimately became employed. They had to endure the Great Recession of 2008, along with Boomers resisting retirement. Boomers have finally started to retire, and the economy started to shift to automation, opening up new opportunities for Millennials and Generation Z.

Millennials are also becoming decision-makers.  PCO units and higher education in general has relationships and processes designed for the Baby Boomer or Generation X. Corporate relations and development are designed to engage individuals in settings such as mixers, chamber of commerce meetings, open houses or telephone calls. The next generation could be different, especially around corporate training, graduate education or community engagement, as Millennials could have different beliefs and values. 

Is there animosity toward higher education based on  delayed entry into the workforce as a result of the Great Recession? Will decisions be made different regarding corporate education? Did the Great Recession and the lost promise of jobs as a result of earning a degree open the door for other providers?  The next decade will see more Millennials take the seat of power. The figure to the right shows that they are gradually gaining decision-making power. PCO units now have to make a deliberate effort to adapt to the new decision-maker. New communications strategies will need to be put in place. The UPCEA Center for Research and Strategy will focus more research into better understanding the Maturing Millennial Manager and delivering early findings on August 15 via webinar, with full results, at the UPCEA Regional Conferences.

Hosted by the Online Administration Network

With the growing number of alumni completing online educational experiences, we need to be thinking about the long-term implications to higher education. The potential for development continues to grow with this population and in time could be a significant and badly needed source of revenue for colleges and universities across the country. While it may sound like your advancement office’s responsibility, the academic function has an important role to play in leading this effort.

This discussion features an on-going multi-institutional research project being led by the University of Wisconsin Extension which examines the giving patterns of alumni of online degree programs as compared to alumni of campus-based programs. Researchers will address misconceptions surrounding alumni of online programs, what is known from existing literature, the biggest hurdle to the research, and what has been learned thus far on these giving patterns from five participating institutions of higher education.

Learn more and register here. 

Enrollment management is central to the success of professional, continuing, and online units. In the last 40 years, enrollment management has evolved from a theoretical concept in undergraduate education to a highly sophisticated framework for attracting, retaining, and graduating students. The UPCEA Excellence in Enrollment Management Award recognizes an outstanding professional, continuing, and/or online (PCO) organization (unit or individual) that models best practices and combines process excellence with superior results. This award is affiliated with the UPCEA Marketing, Enrollment, and Student Services Network.

Click here to begin your entry.
Entries due by September 1, 2018.


  • The nominee (person/unit) must be a member of UPCEA. Corporate members are expected to submit in conjunction with an institutional member. Click here to check your institution’s membership status.
  • The nominee must provide concrete examples of operational excellence in one or more of the following categories from within the last three calendar years:
    • Evidence of data-informed enrollment planning and decision-making
    • Evidence of operational strengths and best practices
    • Evidence of outperformance (to plan, or vs. peer or national benchmarks)

 Nomination Procedure:

  • Complete the nomination form
  • Include among the supporting documents the following:
    • Narrative statement that warrants nomination
    • Materials (not to exceed six items) which demonstrate impact of nominated unit or individual (testimonials, enrollment data, financial ramifications, etc.)

Hosted by Emsi and UPCEA

Identifying marketable skills is a key step in continuing and professional education program development. Job postings signal the skills and competencies employers and hiring managers expect in new hires.  As such, jobs data is an important proxy for market demand for a skill. But what if a learning program is targeted at people looking to develop or improve skill to work in the job they currently have? While useful, job postings do not count the jobs in a region that are filled and the people who may want to enhance their skills in role. Combining job postings data with professional profile data and government occupation data provides greater visibility into this population.  Alex Lowrie, Senior Director of the Center for Program Innovation at UC Davis Extension, will share his use of Emsi to understand skill requirements, develop learner personas, and assess market demand for a program. 


  • Alex Lowrie, University of California, Davis
  • Aaron Olanie, Emsi

Learn more and register here

WASHINGTON, July 9, 2018 – UPCEA, the Washington, D.C.-based association for university leaders in professional, continuing, and online education, welcomed four new members to serve on the National Council for Online Education Advisory Board at the 2018 Summit for Online Leadership and Administration.

“These exceptional leaders all have deep and varied expertise in the world of online education, and I’m so excited for them to join us on the National Council’s Advisory Board,” said Julie Uranis, Managing Director of the National Council for Online Education and Vice President for Online & Strategic Initiatives, UPCEA. “Their perspectives will be integral to the continuing work of the National Council in moving online learning forward.”

Deb Adair is the Executive Director of Quality Matters, a role to which she was appointed in 2016. In her current role, Adair leads Quality Matters and its committed community in continuing and new efforts to improve the quality of online teaching and learning. She previously served for 9 years as Quality Matters’ Managing Director and Chief Planning Officer. Adair has previously taught as an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Maryland University College and prior to that was an Assistant Professor at the American University for five years. She serves on advisory boards for Credential Engine and the Presidents’ Forum. She has previously served on advisory bodies for the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies and the National University Technology Network, and has authored and interviewed as an expert in quality assurance for online learning. Adair holds an A.A. from Broward College, and a B.S. in Business Administration from Boston University. She earned her M.S. in Management from the University of Arizona and, in 1997, she earned her Ph.D. in Management from the same institution.

Jonathan Finkelstein is founder and CEO of Credly, the leading digital credential service provider which enables organizations to recognize, reward and market skills, competencies and certifications. Previously, as founder of LearningTimes, Finkelstein helped mission-driven organizations produce and launch innovative online programs, products and platforms that impacted the lives of millions of learners. Finkelstein was also a co-founder and led product strategy at HorizonLive (acquired by Blackboard). He is author of Learning in Real Time (Wiley), co-author of a report for the U.S. Department of Education on the potential for digital badges, and a frequent speaker on digital credentials and the future of learning and workforce development. Finkelstein graduated with honors from Harvard University.

Annie Taylor is Assistant Dean for Distance Learning and Director of the Dutton Institute in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University. Taylor has worked in the field of distance education since 1991, focusing on learning design and faculty development. In her current role, Taylor guides her college’s strategic vision and planning for online learning. She works with various stakeholders to plan and implement online degree and certificate programs tailored to the needs of working adult professionals, while ensuring support for residential teaching and learning in the college. Taylor serves on numerous committees focused on strategic planning, policies, and procedures related to the university’s distance learning initiatives, and has been an elected member of the Penn State University Faculty Senate since 2007, serving as its elected Secretary in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19. She regularly works with University colleagues to create resources for faculty teaching online and shares her work as a frequent public speaker and published author, including co-authoring the Jossey-Bass text Evaluating Online Teaching: Implementing Best Practices with Dr. Thomas Tobin and Dr. B. Jean Mandernach. Taylor holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Vermont, an M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of South Dakota, and a Ph.D. in Workforce Education and Development from The Pennsylvania State University.

Sasha Thackaberry is Vice Provost of Digital and Continuing Education at Louisiana State University. A higher education leader in innovative learning models and the effective use of eLearning systems, Thackaberry previously served as Assistant Vice President for Academic Technology and New Learning Models at Southern New Hampshire University. Prior to that role, she was the District Director for eLearning Technologies in the Office of eLearning and Innovation at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio. Thackaberry’s focus areas include next generation learning models like Competency-Based Education, MOOCs, digital badging, alternative credentialing, PLA and the development of integrated ecosystems to support innovative learning environments. She is the co-recipient of the 2013 MOOC Award for Excellence through the Open Education Consortium, and a 2010 Innovation of the Year award through the League for Innovation. Thackaberry holds a B.F.A. in Dance from the University of Akron, and an M.A.T. in Education and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Kent State University.


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UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education. For more than 100 years, UPCEA has served most of the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. Founded in 1915, the association serves its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between contemporary learners and public policy issues.


Online: Trending Now #136

How can we effectively plan for our online programs in this environment? 

This is an unprecedented time in higher education. We are facing rapid change in nearly all facets of our programs. Federal and state support is diminishing; employers in many fields are turning entry-level jobs over to artificial intelligence rather than our recent graduates; the long-standing geographic preference is evaporating as competition for well-qualified and highly-motivated students is higher than ever with rapidly expanding numbers of blended and online programs; massive new collaborative competitors for degrees are here with edX and Coursera delivering brand-name online masters, micro-masters and promising baccalaureates at scale; and our own tools of teaching are integrating still-developing technologies including artificial intelligence, VR, AR, and more technologies and combinations that we have not yet even imagined.

All of these factors combine to create an unstable environment in which change is the rule, not the exception. In years gone by, when faced with any one of these basic factors in our field, we would re-group and draw up a new five-year strategic plan to make the adjustments needed to climb back to the top. But, now many administrators in our field are simultaneously facing uncertain or declining funding; a whole new environment of student recruitment competition from powerful new competitors; changing employment markets with changing expectations for our new graduates; and an expensive new tool base for delivering learning opportunities to our students.

This is daunting, indeed. The old strategic planning process that could be completed by a committee of a dozen faculty and administrators (and one student), is what we would have done in the past, resulting in a one or two page document of: Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How will we fund it? What are the metrics to which we aspire? Too often the plan was written to feed the fleeting preferences of the current president or chancellor and the governing boards. It carried overly-optimistic visions. It carried a self-proclaimed expiration date of five years. The old process does not fully capture the needs of today.  How many plans drafted in 2012 anticipated the changes of at-scale competition, machine learning, six years of annual declines in college enrollment nationally, and the continuing decline in state support of higher education. Are they fully relevant today?

Success for the future in our field will be driven by insight and agility. And, the insight calls for something different than a politically-driving strategic plan. It should be an honest assessment of capabilities and an insightful vision of both inputs and outputs (student registrations and employer demands). More than ever we need to monitor the changing economy and employers’ changing needs, especially in light of artificial intelligence economically replacing employees.  And, we need to keep in mind the “60 year learner” concept that continuous learning will be in demand to enable adults to adjust the changing career environment.

I don’t believe there is one planning method to fit all institutions today. But, there are some common characteristics that we all will be well-served by including.

  • Know yourselves very well – your strengths and weaknesses (data analytics can be very helpful in quantifying these), your capabilities and potential
  • Find ways to be agile – prepare to change/add programs on a dime (interdisciplinary approaches facilitate this)
  • Include perspectives in planning from all levels inside and outside the institution through an inclusive Delphi research approach
  • Consider a strategic compass approach with an emphasis on directions rather than outcomes that are years away and will likely need to be changed year-by-year to reflect the changing environment in this dynamic age

It appears that we will be on a roller coaster ride in the coming years. Those institutions and programs that will not derail and crash are those that closely follow and anticipate the trends and technologies; those that know their “audiences” (students and prospective students) well; and those that leverage enduring strengths in their programs.

Have you begun planning in an active, agile way? Are you prepared to transition old programs into new ones? Have you created your compass, and do you update it annually?

Of course, I will continue to track the developments in MOOCs, emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices in continuing and professional higher education and share them with you through Professional, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning  – no advertising, no spam!


Ray Schroeder
National Council for Online Education