Evolution of National and Regional
Charles E. Feasley
Oklahoma State University
Although the United States continues to have a substantially decentralized system of higher education, emerging information technologies are shifting quality control processes toward increased voluntary centralization. In contrast to many countries, the United States has had no national curriculum in postsecondary education (or lower levels). This situation stems from the facts that (a) most postsecondary funding is not from the national government and (b) most funds from the national government are connected to a voluntary system of institutional and professional accrediting groups. But the large front-end expenditures that are required to develop and deliver many distance education offerings have stimulated individual colleges and universities to form consortia within metropolitan areas, states, regions, and nations as well as internationally (Feasley, 1995). In addition, partnerships have emerged between postsecondary institutions and business corporations, especially those that have development and/or instructional delivery capabilities.
For the purpose of examining the evolution of American distance education organizations, these organizations are divided into four groups: pioneering national organizations, curriculum specializing organizations, technology networking organizations, and regional consortia and virtual universities. Examples of each type are discussed.
Pioneering national organizations are so named in recognition of the historically broad geographic representation of their membership as well as the diverse media coverage and complex scope of their distance education goals.
Curriculum specializing organizations focus on small segments of the total postsecondary education spectrum. The first example discussed is the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), whose curricular focus is on the agricultural sciences. The other two examples, the Association for Media-Based Continuing Education for Engineers (AMCEE) and the National Technology University (NTU), are directed toward engineering, the industrial sciences, and the management of technology. Curriculum specializing organizations usually have a national membership.