Executive Summaries
Virginia Tech Cyberschool

Policy Recommendations

Len Hatfield and Timothy W. Luke
Coordinators, Cyberschool

These Executive Summaries link to corresponding policy recommendation papers from the Virginia Tech Cyberschool. These recommendations have been discussed thoroughly by the participating faculty in Cyberschool, or are in the process of such discussion and revision (papers still in process are so marked with the *). Cyberschool faculty are welcome to contact us via e-mail with questions, additions, suggestions, etc.

I. Requiring Computers

Require all Virginia Tech students in all colleges and programs to have personal access (through purchase, lease, or rental agreements supported by the University) to a computer.

II. A Technology Access Fee

Assess a technology fee on all Virginia Tech students in all colleges and programs to provide additional stable revenue streams to fund on-line educational initiatives, which might be first used to hire more professional support staff.

III. The CyberAssistants Program (CAP)

Provide an opportunity for all Virginia Tech students to participate in new service-learning and work-study initiatives (provisionally called the CyberAssistants Program, or CAP, and Net.Work.Study) to further support on-line learning and transmit marketable job skills to Virginia Tech students.

IV. A Digital Publication Center*

Given Virginia Tech's national leadership in information technology, let us explore the possibilities of building a kind of "digital press." Such an entity could provide new, peer-reviewed venues for creative and scholarly dissemination of non-print, media-intensive, hypertextual projects by our own faculty and advanced graduate students and others. We might be able to establish fruitful collaborations with existing university or regional presses.

V. Building Cyber Hostel Courses*

Colleges and universities around the country have for decades had effective Elder Hostel programs for summer learning by adult and non-traditional students. Given the considerable interest in fostering lively interactions among Tech alumni and faculty through the Internet, why not construct a cyberspace equivalent, the Cyber Hostel?

VI. A Virginia Tech Alumni ISP*

Another key piece in the effort to build relations with our alumni would be to provide-perhaps through an outsource contract with a national Internet Service Provider (ISP)-simple, user-friendly, and inexpensive access to the Internet via a Virginia Tech ISP. Students could be encouraged to join the service while at Tech, and then to continue using it as they leave.

VII. Re-thinking Faculty Rewards: Net Work*

As Virginia Tech adjusts its vision and mission to the 21st century, it has relied upon pioneering faculty efforts to research, develop, apply, and critique information technology as it intersects with teaching and learning. Such "Net Work," however, often falls outside the traditional categories-research, teaching, and service-for faculty assessment and reward. The university should consider creating a new category to enable better evaluation and recognition in Net Work.

VIII. Administrative Barriers to Distance Learning*

What are the implicit barriers in terms of administrative practices and structures to our potential distance learning students? How might these be addressed?

IX. Re-Thinking Residency Requirements*

How does distance learning affect our understanding of traditional student residency? When students are at remote locations, "residency" must be redefined in terms of hours of contact rather than in terms of years of living near the campus. Reshaping residency requirements would improve student recruiting and retention, and allow for greater pedagogical innovation and faculty flexibility.

X. Creating a Virtual College out of Cyberschool*

The time has come to match the bottom-up, grass-roots faculty/staff initiatives of the Cyberschool Project with some limited and focused top-down management and budgetary resources. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this would be to create a separate new college, along the lines of the Graduate School, but attending to managing, developing, and supporting University-wide efforts at digitally enhancing existing courses and building a sustained distance learning program. Such an approach could adapt the models of Cyberschool or the Center for Innovation in Learning as a starting point. Benefits of this approach would arise in budgeting, infrastructure, and curricular planning, as well as in faculty and student recruitment, flexibility in faculty management, and institutional innovation.

XI. Managing a Virtual Faculty*

Developing a sustained distance learning system at Virginia Tech will soon lead to new issues and challenges in the management of faculty who may or may not be regular Tech faculty. It is important now to begin addressing these emerging concerns by establishing guidelines in such areas as faculty workloads, rewards, and support, while drafting standards for faculty credentials, recruitment and retention, and benefits so that those involved in the extended campus project will continue Tech's high quality of instruction, while protecting all concerned from potential exploitation.

XII. Teaching Fellows for Distance and Distributed Education*

By building a two-four year post-doctoral teaching fellow program, perhaps affiliated with the proposed Virginia Tech Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning, Tech could rapidly increase the number of faculty available to teach online courses while keeping costs relatively low, providing for scaleability and fiscal regularization. Winning one of these fellowships in a national competition would provide the fellowship holders with steady if short term employment, advanced research and training opportunities in the online domain, a certificate for the advanced training, and a helpful additional springboard to the first tenure-track post.