Leaders in Professional, Continuing and Online Education

Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Director of the National Council for Online Education

A Visit From the Risk Management Office

How can we be sure we are identifying the most important risks in our changing field and are prepared to mitigate their potential impact?

I recently visited with a representative from the University of Illinois’s Enterprise Risk Management unit. The philosophy of the risk unit is that the people closest to a risk are best equipped to identify and propose plans to manage the risk. In my case, I put a focus on the online learning program.

In our field, we have a wide array of risks — technological infrastructure within and outside the university, including bandwidth, physical interruptions due to hurricane, tornado, earthquake or related natural disasters; policy and regulatory at the state and federal levels; accessibility shortcomings; global malware challenges; online, in-class verbal sexist, gender-preference, racist and analogous abuse; academic integrity issues; competitive risks in meeting game-changing new models of degree and certificate offerings; and maintaining our reputation as leaders in the field. These are the things we think about when we wake up in the middle of the night. These are the what-if challenges that are always in the back of our minds.

We have long been aware of the natural disasters that disrupt classes and campus life. In this area, online learning is on both sides of the threat. Much more resistant to many of the weather and earthquake challenges, online can mitigate the effects that close face-to-face classes. Just a few weeks ago, online learning came to the rescue in the bitterly cold polar vortex as faculty members moved classes online.

Enforcing the thin line between free expression and hateful, threatening speech is a daily challenge for instructors in many classes that address political, social and cultural issues. Fortunately, online learning is generally resistant to the deadly plague of campus shootings that our schools and universities suffer. But that may not always be the case; we must be vigilant to cases of hate that are expressed in our discussion boards. These could extend into physical confrontations in the worst of circumstances.

Federal policies are in flux. The 2017 federal audit finding against Western Governors University would have required the payback of more than $700 million in federal student aid. Now the feds say they will not have to repay. The long-standing policy of required “regular and substantive” interaction among students and faculty in online classes is under further review. Other significant changes in accreditation and U.S. Department of Education rules have been proposed. Will we soon have an environment where competitors may outsource most of their instruction? The instability in compliance rules makes it difficult to plan. Meanwhile, keeping up with the flood of media used by faculty members makes it difficult to maintain accessibility compliance across the curriculum.

Global malware threats and direct cyberattacks — both by nations and by nonaffiliated criminals — present an ever-present danger to our field. The announcement by Russia that they will stop the internet for a day while they reconfigure their connections to go through one central government point gives me pause. This will enable the net in that country to continue to operate even if the rest of the world goes down. I ponder those implications daily.

Academic integrity concerns continue to grow as AI technologies can now research and even write reports and articles. We are forced to ask, “Did a computer using AI write this?” Our best teaching and learning practices will have to adapt.

“At-scale” degrees continue to proliferate. Georgia Tech now claims the largest online M.S. in computer science program, with nearly 10,000 students. As the number of these programs expand, enrollments at “traditional” online programs are on a plateau. The competitive marketplace is more competitive than ever before.

It seems that we are too often plugging holes and making temporary fixes for these problems. What risks have we missed? What are the larger solutions to the ones we have identified? How can we protect our students from these threats to assure that their learning will move forward smoothly and uninterrupted? These are questions that we all should ask as we assess risks — even as we lie awake at 2:30 a.m.

This article was first posted March 20th in Inside Higher Ed’s Inside Digital Learning

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow, and Founding Director of the National Council for Online Education at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.

We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.


The National Council for Online Education is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. The National Council is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.

The National Council for Online Education offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.


Click here to learn more.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

What Does Free Community College Mean for Professional Learning Spaces?

By SmartBrief Editors This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA.   The idea of offering free access to community college, and even entire degree programs, has gained steam in recent years. CNBC reports that 11 states in the country offer at least some tuition-free community college programs to qualified students and nine more have…

Read More

UPCEA Member Analytics: Managing a Marketing Infrastructure

No longer is marketing just the development of a catalog, viewbook, brochure or billboard. It now includes marketing strategy and customer engagement as well as brand management.  In an evolving economy fueled by data analytics, making wise marketing resource and infrastructure decisions is critical.  Earlier analyses have shown that there has been a clear shift…

Read More

Micro-Mobility, E-Scooters and Implications for Higher Education

If young Millennials and Gen Z’ers continue to disrupt through greater adoption of other modes of transportation in the sharing economy and advancements in driver-assisted and self-driving vehicles continue, expect our cities to start to transform. With less disposable income than previous generations, a heighten consciousness toward the environment and disinclination to purchase big ticket…

Read More

Coalition Supports FY2020 House Appropriations Bill

UPCEA joined with ACE and 35 other organizations yesterday to send a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations as they were approving spending bills for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for fiscal year 2020. Today, the House Committee on Appropriations approved its bill, allocating $75.9 billion to the Department of Education…

Read More

Because we don’t want our team members to ‘Move On’

Many moons ago I wrote about the UPCEA Hallmark of Excellence in Online Leadership – Professionalism and how online leaders could begin implementing aspects of that Hallmark in their performance appraisals and professional development plans of staff members (see Professionalism and Staff Evals). The other day I read this piece on the Gallup Talent Blog.…

Read More

Giving my inbox ‘One More Try’

Friends, it has been a while. Since my last post we’ve hosted several events, I have attended many events, and there has been much news to report. Recently, in my 115th attempt to change how I manage my inbox (as an inbox zero person I am always looking for new tactics to get my inbox…

Read More

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.