Policy Issues in Distance Education

This report assesses six issues that are of particular importance to distance educators, including 1) student copyright and privacy protections, 2) tuition and fee structures, 3) library resources and services, 4) copyright and ownership of course material, 5) instructor compensation and support, and 6) Internet access and connection support. This assessment highlights examples of how various institutions address these issues within their formal policy statements and provides an analysis of each policy issue.

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Policy Issues 1 Running head: POLICY ISSUES IN DISTANCE EDUCATION Policy Issues in Distance Education Jennifer Maddrell Old Dominion University Policy Issues 2 Policy Issues in Distance Education Institutions providing distance education face unique policy issues which impact students, instructors, and the institution. This report assesses six issues that are of particular importance to distance educators, including 1) student copyright and privacy protections, 2) tuition and fee structures, 3) library resources and services, 4) copyright and ownership of course material, 5) instructor compensation and support, and 6) Internet access and connection support. This assessment highlights examples of how various institutions address these issues within their formal policy statements and provides an analysis of each policy issue. Issue 1: Students Copyright and Privacy Protections Policy Issue and Examples There are numerous reasons why an instructor would want to share a student’s work with other current or future students or to capture and share a recording of students engaged in a course sessions. The recorded sessions can be replayed for future classes and a student’s work can offer an exemplary example to other students. However, there are important copyright, confidentiality, and privacy implications associated with using a student’s work or image in either distance or on-campus instruction. The following highlights examples of policies established by the University of Michigan, the University of California system, Buffalo State College, and Western Governors University to address these issues. Student’s Copyright Protections: Within its copyright policy, the University of Michigan outlines the copyright protections afforded to students and clarifies that a student holds the copyright to the academic works he or she creates, including papers, projects, theses, and dissertations. Similarly, the University of California Policy on Copyright states that the copyright to a student’s works resides with the student and clarifies that a “student’s work” is Policy Issues 3 considered to be work produced a) by a registered student, b) outside of University employment, and c) without the use of University funds other than Student Financial Aid. Student’s Confidentiality and Privacy Protections: Beyond copyright, there are also confidentiality and privacy concerns related to the release of a student’s work, the recording and replay of his or her image within either a face-to-face or virtual classroom, or the release of any identifying information about the student. Buffalo State College, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, clarifies in its policy that “all course-related materials, including but not limited to computer files, data, disks, electronic mail, and local area network communication, for distance education classes should be as confidential as the medium allows consistent with appropriate student access and SUNY and state policy.” Similarly, Western Governors University (WGU) includes in both its policy and agreements with instructors, that the privacy of WGU students to be maintained. Policy Analysis The policies described are designed to ensure compliance with protections afforded students within applicable state and federal copyright and privacy laws, including those found within the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) which restricts disclosure of non-directory student record information. It is understandable why an institution would chose to clarify and restate these provisions as copyright and privacy laws are not well known by the general public and the interpretation of specific legal provisions can be confusing. Further, adherence to copyright, privacy, and confidentiality laws can be more difficult within an online learning environment where dissemination of electronic material is easy and rapid, yet where it is difficult for students to engage with other students without sharing some degree of personal information, such as e-mail addresses. Therefore, it is recommended that the institution’s Policy Issues 4 copyright and privacy policies address activities specific to the delivery of distance education, such as creation and publication of student work on the Internet, and mandate that the student’s permission must be obtained prior to any release or distribution of his or her work or image. In addition, it is important to clarify within copyright policy when a student could be considered an employee as the copyright protections and provisions granted to employees may be different (see below) depending upon the student’s capacity. Issue 2: Tuition and Fees Structures Policy Issue and Examples In most public institutions and in many private institutions, tuition schedules for oncampus programs are based on the student’s residency status. In general, students without residency status within a traditional on-campus program pay higher tuition rates than students with residency status. However, tuition schemes become more complex when distance delivery modes are introduced. A review of tuition policies at five major university systems reveals a range of tuition and fee structures. Tuition Based on Delivery Mode and Residency Status: Within Penn State University’s World Campus, tuition rates in the fully online programs are the same regardless of the student’s residency status. However, within any other Penn State campus, students pay different rates based on residency states. For example, at current rates, a graduate student with Pennsylvania residency status taking a three credit Instructional Technology course on Penn State’s University Park campus pays $1,815 in tuition and fees, plus an additional campus activity fee, which is identical to the tuition and fees a graduate student in a three credit Instructional Technology course within the World Campus pays, less the activity fee, regardless of residency status. In contrast, a non-resident student attending the University Park campus Policy Issues 5 pays $3,237, 76% more than if the course was taken by a resident of Pennsylvania or if the same student took the course online in the World Campus. The State University of New York (SUNY) tuition policies are similar. Using SUNY’s Empire State College campus as an example, New York residents pay $181 per credit which is the same rate paid by all students in a distance learning course, regardless of residency status. However, like the Penn State model, non-residents pay $442 per credit, 144% more than New York residents, for an on-campus course. Unlike Penn State students, SUNY distance learning students also pay the same College Fee of $0.85 per credit and the Student Activity Fee of $6.25 per credit as the on-campus students in addition to a Telecommunications Support and Development fee of $75 per term. Tuition Based on Residency Status: Ball State University students who are Ohio residents pay $226 per credit for undergraduate courses and $246 per credit for graduate level courses for all online, on-campus, and web conferencing classes. Unlike within either the Penn State or SUNY tuition structure, Ball State University non-resident students pay 70% more in tuition and fees than Ohio residents, even within distance education delivery formats. An identical tuition and fee structure based on residency status, but not delivery mode, is in place within the University of Nebraska system. Tuition Based on Delivery Mode, Residency Status and Location: Public universities in Texas have a complex tuition and fee matrix based on not only the student’s residency status or the delivery mode, but also on where the student is living at the time the course is delivered. Across the board, Texas residents pay the same residential tuition regardless of delivery mode or where they are living at the time they are taking the course. In contrast, non-residents pay non-resident tuition in on-campus or electronic courses, if the student is living in Texas. The Policy Issues 6 non-resident student taking an electronic course while living out of state pays a different tuition rate that is termed “equivalent to Texas resident tuition and fees”, but that is adjusted to cover cost of instruction which results in a tuition rate that is almost identical to tuition assessed to non-residents, living in Texas, and taking classes on-campus. In a 1999 memorandum, Don Brown, Commissioner of the Texas Higher Education Board, outlined this complex tuition policy and the rationale for charging a higher fee to non-Texas residents living outside of the state. Brown noted that if non-Texas residents living outside of Texas pay the same rate as Texas residents, “Texas taxpayers would be subsidizing the education of non-Texans who, unlike non-residents on-campus are not living in Texas, not paying sales and other taxes and supporting the TX economy.” Policy Analysis As noted, there is no standard tuition and fee structure policy across higher education institutions. In general, a school makes tuition allocation decisions based on three variables: 1) the delivery mode of instruction, either on-campus or via distance learning, 2) the residency status of the student, and 3) where the learner resides at the time of the course. While some schools, such as Penn State and SUNY, maintain a relatively simple tuition and fee structure based on one or two factors, such as the delivery mode or the residency status, other schools incorporate additional variables which result in a far more complex tuition and fee structure. In the end, a school must collect sufficient revenue to cover expense costs and achieve profitability targets. As shown, there are various means to adjust tuition schedules to allocate costs among various student types. While the Texas system is devised to contemplate tax payer status and address subsidy equity, market conditions also play a role. As noted within a 2003 University of Nebraska distance education tuition policy memo, campus are “free to charge Policy Issues 7 non-resident tuition at any price the market will bear and will retain as a campus resource the difference between the resident tuition and what is collected.” Therefore, regardless of how and why the allocation structure is established, the tuition policy must ensure that the revenue collected through tuition and fees covers the costs of providing educational services and achieves the institution’s profitability goals. Issue 3: Library Resources and Services Policy Issue and Examples Obtaining library resources and services are a significant obstacle for distance education students. Some institutions, such as Penn State’s World Campus, offer comprehensive library access policies with a vast array of library services for distance education students. Any student enrolled in a World Campus course may borrow resources from the library, including books owned by any Penn State campus location, articles from journals owned by Penn State, as well as books and journals not owned by Penn State and retrieved through inter-loan library agreements. Books owned by Penn State may be kept for a semester loan with two renewals. Books not owned by Penn State may be kept for four to eight weeks. Hardcopy materials are sent by US Mail to the student’s address on file. Students are only responsible for the cost of the return postage, but they can return the book to any Penn State campus library. However, all books are subject to recall and reference, rare books, microfilm, or special collections will not be delivered to students. Indiana University (IU) offers distance students similar library resources and services. However, only books owned by the IU library system will be mailed to students. The loan period is 120 days for graduate students and 45 days for undergraduate students. Books may be renewed only if another person has not requested the book. Hard copy materials are mailed at Policy Issues 8 no charge to the student via US Mail with an estimated ten day delivery period. As with the Penn State policy, the student is responsible for the return mailing fees. Policy Analysis In general, the reviewed policies tend to track with the policy guidelines for distance learning library services approved by the Board of Directors within the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) which holds as its guiding principle that, “Library resources and services in institutions of higher education must meet the needs of all their faculty, students and academic support personnel, regardless of where they are located.” The ACRL guidelines acknowledge that services may differ from the campus library, but that the focus should be on equivalency. To overcome the distance obstacle, they stress establishment of a) “virtual” access to library personnel for reference assistance, consultation, and access to non-print media, b) linkage to electronic resources, and c) the creation of agreements with unaffiliated university and local libraries to provide learners with resources. These guidelines seem reasonable and attainable for most university systems and track with the library privileges granted to distance learners at the reviewed institutions which provide access to vast databases of electronic resources, grant access to campus based librarians, and mail their hard copy resources to distance learners. Issue 4: Copyright and Ownership of Course Material Policy Issue and Examples Policies relating to the copyright and ownership of course material impact the future reuse of course material by the university, as well as the re-use by the instructor as creator of the material. A review of the copyright and intellectual property policies of several institutions reveals a common perspective, namely that copyright and ownership of faculty work created as Policy Issues 9 a specific requirement of employment should reside with the university, unless otherwise stated in the policy or addressed in contractual agreements between the faculty and the university. This perspective is held within the University of California Policy on Copyright Ownership which states, “Except as noted elsewhere, the University shall own all copyrights to works made by University employees in the course and scope of their employment and shall own all copyrights to works made with the use of University resources.” Similarly, Fayetteville State University’s policy maintains that the University owns the materials and retains the right of use, but notes that the instructor and the university may enter into a written agreement to “protect the interest of both parties." Buffalo State College adopted a detailed policy to address copyright and ownership based on the type and scope of work created by faculty highlighting the distinction between works created expressly at the direction of the University and other types of academic work. The policy clarifies that the University is the sole owner of intellectual property when the University, “expressly directs a faculty member or professional employee to create a specified work, or the work is created as a specific requirement of employment, such as might be included in a written job description.” Further, the college and the faculty member are “joint owners of intellectual property when the college has contributed support beyond what is traditionally provided”. However, for all other academic work, the policy states that “intellectual property created by a faculty member … will remain the property of the faculty member … for perpetuity or so long as the law allows. As such, permission is required from the faculty member to use, revise, record, rebroadcast or redistribute such materials.” In contrast, San Diego State University’s policy does not explicitly address copyright and ownership, but defers to the contractual agreement between the University and the faculty Policy Issues 10 member, stating that, "Ownership of materials, faculty compensation, copyright issues, and the utilization of revenue derived from the creation and production of software, telecourses, or other media products shall be agreed upon by the faculty and the University (in accordance with the Intellectual Property Policy) prior to the initial offering of the course or program.” Policy Analysis Springer (2005) provides an overview of the tangle of copyright, ownership, and other contractual issues involved with the production of academic materials. Springer notes that while copyright law itself is straightforward, with copyright belonging to the author at creation, it can be transferred contractually. However, she argues that copyright cannot be unilaterally imposed within institutional policy. In addition, Springer describes how the scope of employment and the nature of the academic work can impact copyright. If the work is deemed “work-for-hire”, the institution (as employer) may be considered the author. While academic work produced by faculty has traditionally not been considered to fall within the scope of “work-for-hire”, distance learning projects, which may be interpreted as outside the ordinary scope of traditional academic work performed by faculty, complicate matters. This is especially true for distance learning projects completed by part time or adjunct faculty. Therefore, it is not sufficient to clarify positions regarding copyright, ownership, and reuse of materials within institutional policy statements. Provisions must be contained within contractual agreements with faculty prior to employment. Further, it is necessary to qualify the scope of the academic work, especially for distance learning projects which may be considered “work-for-hire”. Policy Issues 11 Issue 5: Instructor Compensation and Support Policy Issue and Examples Development of new online courses raises many policy challenges relating to faculty selection, compensation, and support. What faculty should be involved in the development and delivery of the courses? What is the appropriate compensation? What support should be provided? Instructor Compensation: To address rapidly increasing distance education enrollments at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), a special distance educational instructional salary and incentives policy was adopted in 2004. As part of the program, faculty members are provided $1,500 per course as “incentive” pay to develop new distance education course offerings. Further, part-time instructor (PTI) per credit salary is paid for teaching a distance education course and is paid to either a part time instructor or a full time faculty member teaching “off-load”. In addition, a faculty member teaching “on-load” receives incentive pay the first time a course is offered. In contrast, at the College of Southern Nevada, either full or part-time faculty receives “one-time compensation” for the development of a distance education course approximating the pay rate of an adjunct instructor. That person does not have to teach the course to receive course development compensation. Instructor Support: Southeastern Louisiana University’s distance education policy affords faculty development support through the Center for Faculty Excellence. Faculty members engaged in distance learning are to receive “priority consideration” in new technology purchases and updates and in technical support in the design and maintenance of the courseware. Similarly, Buffalo State College provides instructors with needed instructional technologies for distance education classes. Further, its policy provides faculty with clerical, Policy Issues 12 technical, instructional design, computing, multimedia, and library support services, as well as opportunities to learn how to use instructional technologies. Policy Analysis The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has established sample distance education policy and contract language addressing the workload responsibilities and support needs of distance education faculty. The AAUP policy guidelines provide a good outline of important policy considerations relating to instructor compensation and support. Regarding compensation, the AAUP argues that faculty should expect to be compensated a) financially, b) in time to prepare, or c) in the form of credit toward load assignment for the “extra time” required to prepare a distance education course. In addition, courses taught via distance education should be either part of the faculty member’s regular load or as an overload. In terms of support, the AACP maintains that faculty should receive adequate preparation and training, technical equipment and assistance, as well as any needed clerical and library support. Issue 6: Internet Access and Connection Support Policy Issue and Examples Within an online course, it is essential that the learners have Internet access and the necessary hardware and software to connect to the course materials. However, clarification of who is responsible for ensuring access for that connection is an important policy consideration. Buffalo State College’s Internet access policy states that students enrolled in a distance education course while residing on campus will be provided Internet access through campus Internet. However, all other students must secure their own access. Harvard University maintains a similar stance regarding Internet access and includes within its policy that the student must secure the necessary hardware and software, including any course specific Policy Issues 13 software needed to complete course assignments. While San Diego State University’s policy clarifies that it is a student’s right to know the modes of delivery and technological requirements of each course, it is the student’s responsibility to have access prior to course enrollment. Further, prior to registration, students are required to have specific basic technology skills and access to a personal computer. Ball State University assumes added responsibility for providing connection support by offering registered distance students an array of software products for free via download on the University’s website, including Symantec Antivirus, iConnect, iLocker, iWeb, Web Mail, Microsoft Office, and Microsoft Windows. Policy Analysis As noted, Internet access and connection support is critical to the delivery of web based distance education. The American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), a non-profit distance education consortium of approximately 65 state universities and land-grant colleges, has four guiding principles. The third guiding principles relates specifically to technological infrastructure and support and recommends that distance education institutions provide orientation to the process of learning at a distance, including the use of technologies for learning, and technology, as well as human support for learners and learning facilitators in their use of the technologies. However, nowhere within this guideline is a provision for distance educators to provide access. As within San Diego State University’s policy, a reasonable policy approach is to confirm both the institution’s responsibility to inform students about the modes of delivery and technological requirements of each course, as well as the student’s responsibility to have access prior to course enrollment. Policy Issues 14 References American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) Guiding Principles for Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.adec.edu/admin/papers/distance-learning_principles.html. Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) - Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/ guidelinesdistancelearning.cfm. American Association of University Professors (AAUP): Sample Distance Education Policy & Contract Language. Retrieved from http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/issues/DE/ sampleDE.htm. Ball State University - Software Available to Students. Retrieved from http://www.bsu.edu/distance/article/0,,7521--,00.html. Ball State University - Tuition, Distance Education Program. Retrieved from http://www.bsu.edu/distance/tuition/. Brown, D. (1999, December 20). State Funding and Tuition Policies for Distance Education and Off-Campus Courses - Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. . Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/pdf/0197.pdf. Copyright at the University of Michigan: Using copyrighted material. Retrieved from http://www.copyright.umich.edu/using_copyrighted_material.html#a8. Distance Education Policies: Harvard University. Retrieved from http://www.summer.harvard.edu/2008/DistanceEd/policy.jsp;jsessionid=PIDJ... MG. Empire State College - State University of New York Undergraduate Tuition and Fees. Retrieved from http://www.esc.edu/esconline/online2.nsf/html/basictuitionandfees.html Policy Issues 15 Fayetteville State University. Fayetteville State University - Continuing/Distance Education Policy. Retrieved from http://www.uncfsu.edu/conted/Distance_Learning_ Policy_2.htm. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html. Indiana University Distance Education Document and Book Delivery. Retrieved from http://www.libraries.iub.edu/index.php?pageId=5705. Office of Extended Education & Outreach. (2003, September 9). University of Nebraska Distance Education Tuition Policy. Retrieved from http://extended.unl.edu/faculty/policies/distance_education_tuition.pdf. Office of the President. (1992, August 19). University of California Policy on Copyright Ownership. . Retrieved from http://www.ucop.edu/ucophome/coordrev/policy/8-1992att.html. Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost University of Nevada Las Vegas. (2004, November 17). UNLV Distance Education Instructional Salary and Incentives Policy. . Retrieved from http://provost.unlv.edu/files/DIST_ED_INST_SAL_12.2.04.doc. Penn State Libraries - Library Distance Learning Delivery - Policies. Retrieved from http://www.libraries.psu.edu/tas/ill/policies.htm. Penn State Tuition Calculator. Retrieved from http://collegecostestimate.ais.psu.edu/isapi/CollegeCostEstimate.dll/submit. Penn State | Tuition Calculator for Online Degrees, Online Courses, and Online Certificates. Retrieved from http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/TuitionTable.shtml. Policy Issues 16 San Diego State University Center for Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://interwork.sdsu.edu/cdl/stu_area.html. San Diego State University - Curriculum Committee Checklist for Developing Distance Learning Courses. Retrieved from http://wwwrohan.sdsu.edu/~dl/resources/course_cklst.html. San Diego State University Distance Education Policy - Academic Policy and Planning Committee. Retrieved from http://www.rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/feenberg/sdsudisted.html. Southeastern Louisiana University - Distance Education Policies. Retrieved from http://www2.selu.edu/documents/policies/distedustandards.pdf. Springer A. (2005, March 18). American Association of University Professors (AAUP): Intellectual Property Legal Issues For Faculty and Faculty Unions (2005). Retrieved from http://www.aaup.org/NR/exeres/517C85B6-CC13-4A47-AE3E5C1763713B02.htm. State University College of New York at Buffalo - Electronic Learning Policy. (2001, December 4). Retrieved from http://www.buffalostate.edu/offices/ir/ELearning/elearningpolicy.htm. University of Nebraska eCampus - Tuition and Fees | Online Degree | Online College Degree | Distance Learning | Distance Education | University of Nebraska at Kearney. Retrieved from http://www.unk.edu/acad/ecampus/index.php?id=6205.