From the CEO

Musings on trends and updates from UPCEA CEO Bob Hansen. 

The UPCEA Community: Advancing Online and Professional Education

The UPCEA community is a lot of things – innovative and collaborative, fearless and forward-looking. It’s a community of colleagues who share innovative solutions to vexing challenges. A community of entrepreneurs, working together to expand the frontiers of learning. It’s a community made up of all of us. 

This community is part of a great tradition of expanding access to higher education. A tradition that predates the rise of online learning, beginning around 1915, when a group of forward-thinking institutions partnered to form an association of professionals who believed in the public good of extending the benefits of the university beyond the walls of the campus. This novel concept, called the Wisconsin Idea, is still what largely defines the communities served by UPCEA today. 

The UPCEA community is growing and thriving – in a big way. The recent UPCEA Annual Conference in Washington D.C, brought together more than a thousand of us. This was the largest single gathering in our history – more than 20 percent larger than the previous record set in Seattle four years ago. To paraphrase Rovy Branon, former board president of UPCEA and dean of Continuum College at the University of Washington: We’re gonna need a bigger ballroom!

But growth without purpose and focus is neither sustainable nor constructive. UPCEA is a very large tent, representing the most innovative and dynamic sector in higher education today. As the field has evolved, several major areas of focus have emerged. UPCEA has evolved as well, developing the resources to support and help grow these areas of focus into vibrant communities. 

This is why we’ve built two new events around two major areas of focus for our communities: online learning and alternative credentials.

Online Learning

Ten years ago, we began a comprehensive effort to build an influential and essential community for online leadership and administration. More often than not, our members were the architects of online learning on their campuses. Our field uniquely understood the transformative potential of online to deliver degrees at a distance, reaching new audiences that were underserved by the campus. 

To serve these academic entrepreneurs, UPCEA experts developed the widely respected UPCEA Hallmarks of Excellence in Online Leadership, a quality framework at the enterprise level. We conducted countless research studies and free webinars on issues of strategic importance to online leaders, and curated a daily blog that has reached one and a half million readers. We also created the premier event for the community, the Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R).

A recent survey of members indicates our work in building this community has been highly successful.  

  • A remarkable 97% of Chief Online Learning Officers (COLOs) say UPCEA has a strong focus on online leadership and administration. 
  • Nine out of 10 COLOs agree that UPCEA membership has been important for their professional growth.

A Two-in-One Conference Experience: Distance Teaching & Learning and Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (July 25-27)

UPCEA is building on our success in leadership and administration by bringing a new level of focus to teaching and learning. The 11th annual Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable (SOLA+R) will be presented this summer in Madison, Wisconsin, along with the 39th annual Distance Teaching & Learning conference, or DT&L.

Given the historical importance of the Wisconsin Idea to the great tradition of expanding access, it’s altogether fitting that we are partnering with the University of Wisconsin to transition DT&L to its new home in UPCEA. The vision behind this year’s co-located conference is to deliver a comprehensive program that is greater than the sum of its parts. To bring together all the elements of the online enterprise in a holistic way—from teaching and learning to leadership and administration—preserving the salient issues for these two distinct professional communities, while catalyzing dialogue across all facets of the larger field.

The emphasis on comprehensiveness is intentional. In our recent member survey, six of ten online administrators, and seven of ten COLOs, think UPCEA is the most comprehensive organization in online education. Our program in Madison is designed to fulfill this expectation.

Coming Next Week: The UPCEA Community: Focus on Credentials, where we’ll explore UPCEA’s second new event, Convergence: Credential Innovation in Higher Education, presented jointly by UPCEA and AACRAO.

A man (Bob Hansen) is dressed in a blue suit smiling for a headshot.

Bob Hansen is the CEO of the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA). Since 2010, Hansen has reinvented the century-old organization – creating the Center for Research and Strategy in 2011, establishing a number of initiatives focused on the association’s unique role in online leadership and management, and positioning the association as an important advocate for policy issues related to non-traditional and online learners. The association has more than doubled in size during Hansen’s tenure by successfully diversifying revenue. Hansen previously served as Associate Provost for University Outreach at the University of Southern Maine, and as Assistant the Governor for Education in Illinois. He holds a Ph.D in English from the University of Notre Dame.