Background on the American Distance Education Consortium
by Lisa Poley, Virginia Tech University
What is ADEC?
ADEC is a non-profit distance education consortium composed of approximately 65 state universities and land-grant colleges. The consortium was conceived and developed to promote the creation and provision of high quality, economical distance education programs and services to diverse audiences, by the land grant community of colleges and universities, through the most appropriate information technologies available.
ADEC Mission and Guiding Principles
The driving vision behind the organization is the extension of educational content and opportunity beyond the traditional boundaries of the university walls, to serving not simply on-campus students but lifelong learners, broader domestic and international communities, under-served populations and even K-12 schools and the corporate/business community.
Through ADEC, members engage in a teaching and learning model that epitomizes a university without walls that is open, accessible, and flexible. The model seeks to provide instructional delivery and/or access anywhere, anytime, and to virtually anyone who seeks it.
Primary emphasis is placed on educational and informational programs and services that fall within the traditional areas of competitive advantage for land-grant institutions. Specifically, this includes programs related to food and agriculture; nutrition and health; environment and natural resources; community and economic development; and children, youth, and families.
The consortium draws upon the best and most effective subject matter specialists and information resources to share knowledge and content with learners. ADEC programming is offered locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally and is characterized by the following guiding principles:
- Design for active and effective learning.
Principle: Distance learning designs consider context, needs, content, strategies, outcomes and environment.
- Support the needs of learners.
Principle: Distance learning opportunities are effectively and flexibly supported.
- Develop and maintain the technological and human infrastructure.
Principle: The provider of distance learning opportunities has both a technology plan and a human infrastructure.
- Sustain administrative and organizational commitment.
Principle: Distance education initiatives are sustained by an administrative commitment to quality distance education.
ADEC members seek to meet local, state, national and international demands through provision of distance education opportunities and place equal emphasis on each of the traditional land grant imperatives of teaching, research and service.
ADEC is designed to serve diverse audiences using appropriate combinations of technologies including: Internet2, commodity Internet, satellite uplinks, downlinks, VSATs, digital television and audio conferencing. These communications tools help ADEC member institutions interact with learners domestically and internationally. Typical methods of distance learning include: one-way video/two-way audio satellite, two-way video and audio conferencing, multiple user audio-only conferencing, Internet based access to educational programs.
Organizational Structure and Management
The present Executive Director/President, Janet Poley, calls ADEC a virtual organization. A small core staff works out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, coordinating efforts of the membership who are spread across the nation at various land grant colleges and universities.
Dues paid by member institutions support most of the core staff at UNL. Some other full and part-time staff are employed and work at a distance at other universities supported by grant funds.
The Board is composed of 12 voting members drawn from ADEC’s Administrative Council. The Administrative Council is composed of policy makers from each of the member institutions. Councilors are typically University Deans, Vice Presidents, Assistant Vice Presidents or Vice Chancellors. The Administrative Council is responsible for electing board members, acting as liaisons between their home institution and ADEC, and voting to approve any changes in by-laws. Seven individuals also serve in a non-voting capacity on the board. This group consists of ADEC’s President, Assistant Treasurer, the Chief Technology Officer and the Chairs of several important project and planning committees.
The Board’s executive committee meets once a month, typically by audio conference, and three times a year face-to-face at ADEC conferences, to address ADEC business. Face-to-face conferences usually piggyback on other land grant gatherings such as the NASULGC conferences to save on travel expenses and get maximum attendance. The Executive Committee also serves as the organization’s financial committee. The President and Assistant Treasurer are responsible for presenting monthly financial statements to this body for review and approval.
A Program Panel includes carefully selected individuals from member institutions charged with the strategic planning and creative development aspects of the consortium. The panel’s job is to chart a course for ADEC. The panel presents their recommendations to the board for approval.
Other committees within ADEC are the Marketing and International committees and committees related to specific projects underway.
Major projects and programs
a. IDEAL (1, 2 and 3)
IDEAL represents the work of an ADEC committee that is developing norms and mechanisms for increased distance education opportunities throughout the land grant system. The ultimate goals are to allow for academic credit transfer between ADEC institutions, credit transfer between ADEC institutions and others, eliminate turf barriers on campus, develop multi-institutional curriculum, define academic/administrative barriers to design and delivery of distance education, develop criteria for how to charge distance education students per credit hour and review quality distance education criteria and assessment tools.
Support for IDEAL initiatives has increased in recent years. Efforts focus on steps to lay the foundation for future institutional collaboration in the distance education arena. This includes creation of a case studies database, creation of a “modular development strategy” for shared learning modules, and creation of a “digital library” strategy that includes working toward common understandings of open systems, standards, metadata and interoperability.
b. NSF AISEP project
The consortium has a grant of approximately $5 million from the National Science Foundation to research and experiment with advanced Internet-satellite technology using small-dish satellite technology to provide cheap, fast Internet connections for distance education. Many poor and remote communities in the United States that might benefit from distance education either have no Internet access or have access that is both costly and slow. The research, if successful, would expand distance-education opportunities for students attending colleges in rural and remote areas, as well as tribal, historically black, and Hispanic colleges, and the communities those institutions serve. The consortium has already mounted satellite dishes in approximately 70 locations. ADEC’s satellite experiments with small-dish systems are bringing together other technologies, including the Internet2 fiber-optic backbone network. "Hybrid networking" is required to bring high-quality Internet service to colleges in poor, rural, and remote areas. The consortium is working with researchers and educators at each remote site, trying to get "a nice mix" of education and research activities that require reliable satellite access to the Internet.
c. Agricultural Telecommunications Grant Program
ADEC also administers grants for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the $350,000 - $500,000 range per year. ADEC reviews grant requests and awards funds based upon a proposal’s alignment with the terms of the grant and the central mission of the organization to promote distance education nationally and internationally.
d. Strategic Collaboratories
ADEC hosts “collaboratories” that are largely Internet based, interactive think tanks focused a number of issues related to distance education. The ADEC collaboratories are: The ADEC Think Tank, Technology R&D, Distance Education Policy, Professional Development/Capacity Building, and Peer-Refereed Educational Projects. Each collaboratory has two or more facilitators and between five and ten additional participants drawn from universities across the country.