Sunday, May 31, 2009

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Medicare Update

Hello Everyone,

Please enjoy the information contained in this edition of Frontier Focus. Please be sure to share it with your members, colleagues, providers and office billing staff. Thank you for your continued efforts to broadcast Medicare information to the providers in Region VIII.

Table of Contents

1. Final Agenda for the Next Meeting of the Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC)

2. A Reminder for You to Send to Your Members About Medicare Contractor Listservs


4. DMEPOS Supplier Accreditation Reminder

5. What’s New with the 2009 PQRI and E-Prescribing Incentive Programs

6. New from the Medicare Learning Network

7. Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Prospective Payment System (IPF PPS) Personal Computer (PC) Pricers Release -- 05/21/2009

8. Extra Help for Beneficiaries Paying for Prescription Drugs


1. Final Agenda for the Next Meeting of the Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC)

CMS has finalized the agenda (below) for the next meeting of the Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC) which advises the agency on implementation of the DMEPOS competitive bidding program and DMEPOS supplier quality standards. Jon Blum, CMS, and Tom Jeffers, Hill Rom Inc., are co-chairs for the committee.

Program Advisory and Oversight Committee (PAOC)

Meeting Agenda, Thursday, June 04, 2009, Marriott Hotel BWI

8:00 – 8:30 a.m. Public Registration

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. Opening Remarks

8:45 – 9:00 a.m. Introduction of New PAOC Committee

9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Background on the Program

· Standard Payment Rules

· Competitive Bidding Demonstrations

· Medicare Modernization Act of 2003

· 2008 Legislative Refinements

10:00 – 10:30 a.m. On-Line Bidding System

10:30 – 10:45 a.m. Mid-Morning Break

10:45 – 11:30 a.m. Education on Program Requirements and Bidder Responsibilities

11:30 – 12:00 p.m. Financial Documentation

12:00 – 1:30 p.m. LUNCH (On your own)

1:30 – 2:30 p.m. Licensure, Accreditation, and Subcontracting Requirements

2:30 – 3:15 p.m. New Supplier Issues

3:15 – 3:30 p.m. Mid-Afternoon Break

3:30 – 4:00 p.m. Mail Order - Diabetic Testing Supplies

4:00 – 4:15 p.m. Tentative Timeline

4:15 – 5:00 p.m. Public Comments


2. A Reminder for You to Send to Your Members About Medicare Contractor Listservs

Help your association members stay up-to-date on the latest Medicare-related information! Below is a brief news item that we encourage you to put in your next newsletter, bulletin, or whatever vehicle you use to provide your members with news they need to know. Through their electronic mailing lists, Medicare contractors serve as a valuable source of news and information regarding Medicare business in specific provider practice locations, including local coverage determinations and local provider education events. So do your members a favor and help us spread the word!

“Did you know that your local Medicare contractor is a valuable source of news and information regarding Medicare business in your specific practice location? Through their electronic mailing lists, your local contractor can quickly provide you with information pertinent to your geographic area, such as local coverage determinations, local provider education activities, etc. If you have not done so already, you should go to your local contractor website and sign up for their listserv or e-mailing list. Many contractors have links on their home page to take you to their registration page to subscribe to their listserv. If you do not see a link on the homepage, just search their site for “listserv” or “e-mail list” to find the registration page. If you do not know the Web address of your contractor’s homepage, it is available at on the CMS website.”



The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), enacted on July 15, 2008, made limited changes to the Medicare Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Bidding Program, including a requirement that competition to re-bid Round 1 occur in 2009. On January 16, 2009, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period that incorporates into regulations only those provisions of MIPPA related to the DMEPOS competitive bidding program that are self-implementing and necessary to conduct the Round 1 rebid competition in 2009. That rule became effective on April 18, 2009. To ensure that suppliers have ample time to prepare for the competition, CMS has announced the following next steps for the program:








FALL 2009


If you are a supplier interested in bidding, prepare now – don’t wait!

Ø UPDATE YOUR NSC FILES: DMEPOS supplier standard # 2 requires ALL suppliers to notify the National Supplier Clearinghouse (NSC) of any change to the information provided on the Medicare enrollment application (CMS-855S) within 30 days of the change. DMEPOS suppliers should use the 3/09 version of the CMS-855S and should review and update:

• The list of products and services found in section 2.D;

• The Authorized Official(s) information in sections 6A and 15; and

• The correspondence address in section 2A2 of the CMS-855S.

This is especially important for suppliers who will be involved in the Medicare DMEPOS Competitive Bidding Program. These suppliers must ensure the information listed on their supplier files is accurate to enable participation in this program. Information and instructions on how to submit a change of information may be found on the NSC Web site ( and by following this path: Supplier Enrollment/Change of Information/Change of Information Guide.

Ø GET LICENSED: Suppliers submitting a bid for a product category in a competitive bidding area (CBA) must meet all DMEPOS state licensure requirements and other applicable state licensure requirements, if any, for that product category for every state in that CBA. Prior to submitting a bid for a CBA and product category, the supplier must have a copy of the applicable state licenses on file with the NSC. As part of the bid evaluation we will verify with the NSC that the supplier has on file a copy of all applicable required state license(s).

Ø GET ACCREDITED: CMS would like to remind DMEPOS suppliers again that time is running out to obtain accreditation by the September 30, 2009 deadline or risk having their Medicare Part B billing privileges revoked on October 1, 2009. Accreditation takes an average of 6 months to complete. It is very important for DMEPOS suppliers to contact an accreditation organization right away to obtain information about the accreditation process and submit an application. Suppliers must be accredited for a product category in order to submit a bid for that product category. CMS cannot contract with suppliers that are not accredited by a CMS-approved accreditation organization.

Further information on the DMEPOS accreditation requirements along with a list of the accreditation organizations and those professionals and other persons exempted from accreditation may be found at the CMS website: .

Ø GET BONDED: CMS would like to remind DMEPOS suppliers that certain suppliers will need to obtain and submit a surety bond by the October 2, 2009 deadline or risk having their Medicare Part B billing privileges revoked. Suppliers subject to the bonding requirement must be bonded in order to bid in the DMEPOS competitive bidding program. A list of sureties from which a bond can be secured is found at the Department of the Treasury’s “List of Certified (Surety Bond) Companies;” the web site is located at:

Visit the CMS web site at for the latest information on the DMEPOS competitive bidding program.

To view the Press Release, please click:


4. DMEPOS Supplier Accreditation Reminder

DMEPOS Supplier Accreditation – Time is Running Out!

Deadline is September 30, 2009

Time is running out for suppliers of durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) who bill Medicare under Part B to obtain accreditation by the September 30, 2009 deadline or risk having their Medicare Part B billing privileges revoked on October 1, 2009. A new MLN Matters Special Edition articles on this subject is now available. This article outlines what you need to do if you have not yet complied with the Medicare Program’s supplier and quality standards to be come accredited. To view the article, go to: on the CMS website.

While the accreditation process takes on average 6-7 months to complete, the process could take as long as 9 months to complete. Accordingly, DMEPOS suppliers should contact an accreditation organization right away to obtain information about the accreditation process and submit an application.

In order to retain or obtain a Medicare Part B billing number, all DMEPOS suppliers (except for exempted professionals and other persons as specified by the Secretary) must comply with the Medicare program’s supplier standards and quality standards to become accredited. The accreditation requirement applies to suppliers of durable medical equipment, medical supplies, home dialysis supplies and equipment, therapeutic shoes, parenteral/enteral nutrition, transfusion medicine and prosthetic devices, and prosthetics and orthotics.

Pharmacies, pedorthists, mastectomy fitters, orthopedic fitters/technicians and athletic trainers must also meet the September 30, 2009 deadline for DMEPOS accreditation. Certain eligible professionals and other persons as specified by the Secretary are exempt from the accreditation requirement.

Further information on the DMEPOS accreditation requirements, along with a list of the accreditation organizations and those professionals and other persons exempted from accreditation, may be found at the CMS website: .


5. What’s New with the 2009 PQRI and E-Prescribing Incentive Programs

1. Article Regarding Implementation Advice for 2009 PQRI and E-Prescribing Incentive Programs Now Available

2. Three Physician Quality Reporting Initiative Help Desk Resources Now Available for Eligible Professionals

CMS Announces Availability of a New Educational Resource Article on the 2009 PQRI and E-Prescribing Program

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is pleased to announce that a new educational resource has been posted to the PQRI webpage on the CMS website. An article titled: Physician Quality

Reporting Initiative (PQRI) & E-Prescribing: Implementation Advice for the Office Manager outlines step-by-step how to get started in reporting 2009 PQRI measures.

The article is available at on the CMS website as a downloadable document and is accessible by scrolling down to the Downloads section and selecting the “2009 PQRI and E-Prescribing Implementation Advice” link.

Three Physician Quality Reporting Initiative Help Desk Resources are Now Available for Eligible Professionals

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is pleased to announce three PQRI Help Desk Resources to assist eligible professionals with their questions on the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative.

1. Provider Call Center Directory

· Remittance Advice Notices

· Incentive payment distribution status

· Adjustments made to incentive payment due to sanctions/overpayments

For contact information, see the “Provider Center Toll-free Numbers Directory” by clicking the link under the “Related Links Inside CMS” section below and scrolling down to the “Downloads” section.

2. External User Services (EUS) – 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM EST

· Registering/creating an IACS account

· Accessing an IACS account

· Changing an IACS account

· Approving users into an organization

Phone: 1-866-484-8049

TTY: 1-866-523-4759

3. QualityNet Help Desk – 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM CST

· General CMS PQRI & ERX Information

· PQRI Portal Password Issues

· PQRI feedback report availability and access

Phone: 1-866-288-8912

All publicly available information on the CMS Physician Quality Reporting Initiative can be found at, on the CMS website.

All publicly available information on the CMS Electronic Prescribing Incentive Program can be found at on the CMS website.


6. New from the Medicare Learning Network

The Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Prospective Payment System Fact Sheet (revised May 2009), which provides general information about the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Prospective Payment System (IPF PPS), how payment rates are set, and the Rate Year 2010 update to the IPF PPS, is now available in downloadable format from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Medicare Learning Network at .

Recently Revised MLN Matters Articles of Particular Interest:


SE0903 – Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics and Supplies (DMEPOS) Supplier Accreditation Requirements


SE0832 – The ICD-10 Clinical Modification/Procedure Coding System (CM/PCS)—The Next Generation of Coding


7. Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Prospective Payment System (IPF PPS) Personal Computer (PC) Pricers Release -- 05/21/2009

Corrections were made to the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility (IPF) PPS PC Pricers for FY 2009 and 2008. If you use the IPF PPS PC Pricer 2008 or 2009, please go to the page,, under the Downloads section, and download the latest versions of the IPF PPS PC Pricers, posted 05/15/2009 and 5/21/2009.


8. Extra Help for Beneficiaries Paying for Prescription Drugs

Do You Know Someone Who Is Having Trouble Paying For Prescription Drugs?

Medicare Can Help!

If an individual has limited income and resources, they may qualify for extra help from Medicare. It could be worth over $3,300 in savings on prescription drug costs per year.
Encourage people with Medicare to file for Extra Help online: or by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 to apply over the phone.
State Health Insurance Information Program (SHIP) offices can assist with the application. Find contact information for a local SHIP Counselor at or by calling


Lucretia James

Division for Medicare Health Plans Operations
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Region VIII
1600 Broadway, Suite 700
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 844-1568

Friday, May 29, 2009

Career Education News

Students Participate In Global Construction Competition.
The Stoughton (MA) Journal (5/29, Hall) reports that a team of seniors from Stoughton High School recently participated "in a global construction competition held in Knoxville, Tenn., last week," and placed seventh. The Destination ImagiNation competition presented the teams with "a series of mind-boggling challenges, including devising a public relations campaign for using bio-asphalts, designing a remote control device to move pipes and other materials to direct water into specific drains, and using a remote control device to move and stack boxes, stopping at intervals to repair the device." The students reached the competition by winning a regional event. "The purpose of the competition was to engage students in real world experiences, and to interest them in a diverse number of jobs in construction. Destination ImagiNation estimates there will be one million new construction jobs by 2012, including designers, engineers, parts coordinators, service technicians, service coordinators, technical educators, and welders."

CTE a Trap?
Pressure Cooker's Wilma Stephenson and one of her prized pupils appeared on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" program May 20 and were asked in closing, "Do you think this kind of practical education, culinary arts, carpentry, is valuable to students, or do these classes distract students from core subjects like English and math? Is this, what some people call as vocational education, an opportunity or a trap? Especially for kids from more disadvantaged backgrounds?" What do you think? Read more on the CTE Policy Watch blog and sign the petition to increase Perkins funds!

More Video of 2008 Convention Sessions
ACTE has posted another session from the 2008 Convention online! Learn about community college initiatives and their impact on secondary and postsecondary CTE in this presentation delivered by OVAE representatives. You can also watch other sessions: high school reform from the state perspective and case studies from comprehensive high schools using CTE in their reform efforts.

Fulbright Scholar Program for US Faculty and Professionals for 2010-2011 Is Open
The Fulbright Scholar Program offers 78 grants in lecturing, research or combined lecturing/research awards in education, including five Fulbright Distinguished Chairs, the African Regional Research Program and the Middle East and North Africa Regional Research Program.

The application deadline is August 1, 2009. American citizenship is required. For a full listing of all Fulbright programs and other eligibility requirements, please visit the Council for International Exchange of Scholars Web site or send a request for materials to For a detailed listing of Fulbright opportunities in education, please consult the CIES Web site at

Career and Technical Education
Partnership Brings Accredited Pipefitting Training To Mississippi.
The Hattiesburg (MS) American (5/28) reported that "Greene County has Mississippi's only nationally-accredited pipefitting training using the Mississippi Construction Education Foundations' national curriculum," and it "is available through a partnership between Greene County Vo-Tech and Jones County Junior College." The two "teamed up to provide not only new educational opportunities, but to also help re-train residents who need new careers," and are seeking "a dedicated facility to house all of these programs" so that "new partnerships with companies like American Tank and Vessel will develop." The dedicated facility the two organizations are seeking "will house the pipefitting, ABE and other JCJC programs that complement the county's educational and training needs." Pipefitting instructor Skip Holland noted, "The construction industry is in dire need of pipefitters. Six out of the nine students in the last class are working in the construction field. At ThyssenKrupp in Mobile, Ala., 600-900 pipefitters are needed."

Eight-Week Course Teaches Basic Nursing, Personal Care Skills.
The Charleston (SC) Regional Business Journal (5/28) reported on the Community Healthcare Training Program's recent graduates, who "completed the eight-week course teaching them basic nursing and personal care skills, including infection control, phlebotomy, blood glucose monitoring and electrocardiogram certification. The course is part of the Trident One Stop Career System and is taught at its center in North Charleston." Following their graduation, "students take the nursing assistant certification exam given by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services," after which they can "enter the health care field as certified nursing assistants or patient care technicians, or they can continue training to become licensed practical nurses or registered nurses."

Wisconsin Students Showcase Projects At PLTW Legislative Day.
The Superior (WI) Telegram (5/29) reports, "Students from Superior High School and other students and teachers from across the Badger state participating in the Project Lead the Way presented their innovative engineering projects last month in the Capitol Rotunda as part of PLTW Legislative Day." The event was designed to showcase "how PLTW furthers the education of thousands of Wisconsin students while also addressing the state's need for a workforce with greater technical proficiency." The article profiles two of the building design projects that were presented, noting that "both projects included architectural drawings, 3-dimensional renderings, structural calculations, and detailed drawings."

Milwaukee Students Show Off PLTW Projects At Lunch Celebration.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (5/28, Gallagher) reported on a recent "lunch celebration for the students and organizations that participated in Milwaukee Public Schools' MPS STEM Partners," a group "comprised of business people and academics who have come together to help strengthen schools" in terms of science, technology, engineering and math. During the event, students showed off a variety of projects including robots, "some logic circuits and...a mechanical arm they made from wood and other materials." The article noted that "all of the projects showcased at the lunch were created by students from 16 Milwaukee public schools that offer classes in Project Lead the Way," and that "the Kern Family Foundation in Waukesha is a key supporter of the program in the Midwest."

Commission Calls For Career Counseling, CTE Centers At Schools.
The Fresno (CA) Bee (5/28, Correa) reported that the Commission on Workforce Readiness and Career and Technical Education, "a community task force, has created a list of 28 recommendations...designed to keep students in school and better prepare them for the work force." Among the recommendations are "a career counseling support team working with students as early as middle school and dedicated career centers at every high school." Also, "the commission's idea of a workplace certificate is something industry leaders think might help students land jobs. Criteria could include having a high school diploma, a minimum GPA, good attendance, a portfolio including a résumé and workplace experience such as an internship." The commission is composed "of business and community leaders," and "was assembled last generate ideas on how to better prepare students for careers and keep them interested in school." However, one official added, "district leaders will be held responsible for seeing the recommendations through."

West Virginia University At Parkersburg To Develop Energy Technology, Sustainability Career Program.
The Parkersburg (WV) News (5/29) reports, "West Virginia University at Parkersburg will develop a 'green jobs' career ladder of energy technology and sustainability programs thanks to" a $220,000 grant that "was awarded through the West Virginia Community and Technical College system as part of its technical program development initiatives...designed to address the increasing need for technicians in energy-related fields." Officials said that the Energy Assessment and Management Technology program "will allow students to learn the application of the basic principles of physics and analysis techniques to measure energy efficiency in buildings with the goal of evaluating and recommending energy solutions," and "will be developed as a model for the state's other community and technical colleges, including a faculty development resource center for renewable and alternative energy, energy conservation and efficiency and environmental science."

Employment Strategy

Career Coaches Seen As Not Necessary, But Worth The Investment.
In a Wall Street Journal (5/28) blog, Karina Diaz Cano considers whether using a career coach is "worth the investment." While noting that "they can be pricey," Cano adds that "each session has been worth the advice." In addition to providing "insight into the workplace," career coaches can also cover a variety of other topics and are "well-versed in advice about growing your existing career or position, input on career and job issues, discussing starting your own business, interviewing and more." Cano also shares the advice she has received during career coaching sessions. This includes knowing one's talents, specifically being able to provide examples of "eight skills you have that you excel at," being diligent in one's job search, and that a positive attitude matters in an interview. While conceding that career coaches are not necessary, Cano adds that "one can never have too much advice from an experienced professional when it comes to getting your career where you want it to be."

Engineers Deem Minnesota Dams "Unsafe."
KSTP-TV Shoreview, Minnesota (5/28, 6:09 PM, Muehlhausen), an ABC affiliate, reported, "A 92-year-old dam between Minneapolis and St. Paul is now classified as a safety risk." The Army Corps of Engineers said that "they're worried water could be seeping under the Ford Dam's foundation and potentially cause it to fail." According to officials, "the concrete is crumbling and rebar has become exposed on the dam--enough of a concern to deem it 'unsafe' or 'potentially unsafe.'" The Army Corps "has given the Ford Dam a level two safety ranking, on a five-point scale, with one being the highest threat."

The Fergus Falls (MN) Daily Journal (5/28) reported, "The Orwell Dam on the Otter Tail River has received a new classification as 'unsafe or potentially unsafe.' The dam was one of three Minnesota dams to receive the classification as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing its 600 dams nationwide to find those in need of repairs." The Daily Journal noted, "The classification was due to relief wells at the Orwell Dam not working as efficiently as they have in the past," according to Dave Rydeen, dam safety program coordinator in the Army Corps' St. Paul (MN) office. The office is currently in the process of replacing the wells with federal stimulus funding, he said."

Public Policy
Kentucky To Receive Adult Education, Workforce Development Grant.
The Louisville Courier-Journal (5/28, Rodriguez) reported, "Kentucky is one of 11 states that has been selected to receive a Federal Workforce Investment Act incentive grant aimed at improving adult education and workforce development," which the state qualified for by exceeding "performance levels for Title I: Workforce Investment Act and Title II: the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act." Officials "said the grant can be used to enhance the workforce development and adult education efforts, but not decisions have been made yet on how specifically the money will be used." The state has seen a marked increase "in GED graduates from fiscal year 2006-07 to fiscal year 2007-08," and "continues to make strides in increasing the number of adults who earn a high school equivalency diploma."

Town Creates Zoning Rules To Allow For Wind Turbines.
The Boston Globe (5/29, Knox) reports that "wind power advocates in Quincy, [Massachusetts] are backing a new zoning rule they say will enable the city to climb on the wind turbine bandwagon before state and federal renewable-energy stimulus programs run out of funds." Although "there's no guarantee that Quincy will win any state or federal grants to support wind power, the sooner the law is on the books, the better -- given the competition from other communities." Also, a former city councilor pointed out that "federal government stimulus money for energy projects...has to be spent within strict time limits." State funds are available for "green community" projects -- up to "$10 million annually in grant funds" -- and "federal funds are also available" in the form of "$1.6 billion in federally sponsored zero-interest bonds" called "Clean Renewable Energy Bonds," which are "available to help municipalities and states finance renewable-energy projects such as wind turbines."


New Unemployment Claims Below Expectations.
The AP (5/29) reports, "The tally of newly laid-off people requesting jobless benefits fell last week, the government said Thursday, a sign that companies are cutting fewer workers. But the number of people continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose to 6.78 million -- the largest total on records dating from 1967 and the 17th straight record week." New claims "dropped to a seasonally adjusted 623,000, from a revised figure of 636,000 in the previous week. It was below analysts' estimates of 635,000."

Manpower Survey: Engineering Positions Toughest To Fill.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (5/28, Walker) reported, "A new survey by Milwaukee-based Manpower Inc. says engineering jobs are the toughest to fill in the United States." In this category, "after engineers come nurses; skilled trades; teachers; sales representatives; technicians; drivers; IT staff; laborers; and machinists and machine operators." Melanie Holmes, vice president, world of work solutions for Manpower North America, said, "While talk has slowed in the U.S. about the pending talent shortage, it is becoming more clear that there is a talent disconnect."

Biotech Industry Sees Positive Developments.
The Wall Street Journal (5/28, Rubenstein) Health Blog reported, "Cloudy days are starting to turn brighter for the biotech industry, many of whose smaller players have been strapped for cash amid the recession." In a "run-down of recent deals and other positive developments," the blog cited the news that "Exelixis is licensing two experimental cancer drugs to Sanofi-Aventis, and getting an upfront payment of $140 million," and that "MAP Pharmaceuticals reported very positive results for its experimental migraine drug in a late-stage trial." Jim Birchenough, a biotech analyst for Barclays Capital, told the Journal that the recent "developments 'may be the beginning of a better environment for biotech overall.'" Birchenough "recently upgraded his rating on the U.S. biotech sector to positive from neutral."

Also in the News
Self-Contained Grease Refinery Generates Electricity, Heats Water.
Popular Science (5/28, Mone) reported on the Vegawatt, "a self-contained grease refinery and five-kilowatt generator" developed by engineer James Peret that "is the first all-in-one device that processes grease to continuously provide a building with electricity and hot water, heralding a significant change in alternative-fuel applications." After being filtered and treated, waste deep-fryer oil "moves into a tank that feeds the modified 15-horsepower diesel generator. Heat from the Vegawatt's engine coolant is used to warm the water in the building's pipes, further reducing the restaurant's energy needs." The device "can process about 80 gallons of grease a week (standard for large restaurants) and produces five kilowatts of energy an hour, which could translate to monthly savings of $1,000, a 10 percent reduction in power costs."

Consumers Resist Energy Efficient Light Bulbs.
The Wall Street Journal (5/29, A11, Ball) reports, "In the push for energy efficiency, changing old habits is proving more difficult than developing new technology. In the case of the light bulb, consumers see little reason to switch from energy-draining conventional models to more-efficient alternatives as long as electricity remains cheap." Although energy efficient bulbs, such as the compact-fluorescent, which "pays for itself in about seven months," today "about 80% of all bulbs sold to US consumers are incandescents, which often cost less than 25 cents apiece, about one-tenth the price of a compact fluorescent." However, "the federal government is about to force their hand. A recent law will ban incandescent bulbs for most uses by 2014." Arthur Rosenfeld, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explained, "If energy is dirt cheap, it gets treated like dirt. That's been the problem."

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

SRT Internet News

This May issue is filled with quick tips to help save you time, trouble, and money. We start with a warning about a fake get-rich-quick e-mail, purportedly from The Oprah Winfrey Show about a millionaire contest. You'll also learn some quick fixes for when you receive an e-mail attachment you can't open, as well as how to set up automatic spell check for your e-mail messages. In Great Sites, we direct you to quick and easy resources for safely storing food, selecting and planting trees, getting the best airfares, and avoiding being ripped off by moving companies.

The goal of our monthly newsletter is to keep our subscribers informed regarding their Internet connection and to improve their Internet experience. We think you'll find this information interesting. If, however, you'd prefer not to receive these bulletins on a monthly basis, click here.

To see what's inside this issue, simply scroll down the newsletter or click on the links within the index to the left. Thanks for reading!

- The SRT Internet Team

E-Mail Scam - "Oprah Millionaire Contest Show" E-mail

While Oprah Winfrey has a history of being generous with her studio audiences, a recent e-mail claiming the recipient has been nominated to participate in the "Oprah Millionaire Contest Show" is a scam. The message fraudulently claims that the recipient could appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show during which a winner of the million dollars will be named.

In order to be considered, recipients are asked to reply with their contact information. Those "chosen" for the show (probably anyone who responds to the e-mail) are told that the next step is to purchase an airline or train ticket to Chicago as well as tickets for the show. Not surprisingly, the senders of the e-mail instruct recipients to send the money for the travel and show tickets to them. Clearly, the only ones who could become millionaires from this "contest" are the scam artists themselves.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reminds you to remain alert to unsolicited e-mails. Do not open them or click on any embedded links, as they may contain viruses or malware. Also, never provide your personally identifiable information or make purchases from such e-mails. For more Internet crime prevention tips, go to

New SRT Web-mail - Coming Soon!

You've always been able to check your email from anywhere at SRT's enhanced Web-mail makes that experience even better!
Looks more like a desk-top email application!
Find a needle in a haystack of messages with Search!
Lets you do really cool stuff like highlight messages from your best friend in your favorite color and change the colors of Web-mail!
Create Contact Group Lists!
More information is coming your way soon. Look for the new Web-mail June!

Ask The Help Desk - I can't open the e-mail attachments I receive that end in ".docx." What do I need to do?

Question: Lately I've received several e-mails with attached files that end in ".docx." I'm unable to open these files with the software I have installed. What do I need to do?

Answer: When Microsoft released 2007 Microsoft Office for PCs and Office 2008 for Macs, they changed the document file extensions to .docx, .xlsx, and .pptx. To view these documents, you must have the most current viewer installed. For PCs, you must install the free Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack found on the Microsoft website. Go to and scroll down to the "More Information" section. Click on the link under the "Download and Install Compatibility Pack" ( and follow the instructions.

For Macs, you must install the free Open XML Converter found on the Microsoft website at In the "Introduction" section, scroll down to "How to obtain the update," click on the link that says "Download the Open XML File Format Converter for Mac 1.0.1 package now," and follow the instructions.

Another option that you can try is to use the free file conversion services at You simply send Zamzar the file and they quickly convert it to a format you've chosen. You don't need to download any software.

Keep in mind that antivirus software focuses on e-mail attachments because many viruses are spread by e-mail. These programs examine the attachment and if there's a risk, the file will be locked or deleted. You should be vigilant and only open attachments from senders you know. Otherwise, simply delete the e-mail without opening the attachment.

Sites Of The Month - Great Sites To Check Out In May

Still Tasty? - How many times have you peered into the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry and wondered if a particular food item is "still good"? Making that determination isn't always easy, but StillTasty can help. The site features answers to questions like, "I left pizza out overnight-is it still safe to eat?" and, "Does olive oil last longer if you store it in the fridge?" It also lists the shelf life of hundreds of foods and offers helpful hints on how to safely defrost food and interpret expiration labels.

Check the Latest "Trek" - Fans of the Star Trek series and anyone looking for a fun film will appreciate the cool effects and options on this site, which highlights the movie, Star Trek. Visitors can check out the photo gallery and character dossiers, watch trailers and clips, download images and widgets, and register to receive news of special events. Beam me up!

Beyond Arbor Day - If you were inspired to plant a tree on Arbor Day, you'll want to visit this site to "branch out" and learn more about them. Watch the helpful videos to get tree planting tips and gather advice on tree selection and care. Be sure to check out the tree identification guide to determine the identity of any mysterious trees in your neighborhood.

Fare Aware - Many people are cutting back on expenses during these challenging economic times. But cutting back doesn't have to mean cutting out. Reducing travel costs, for example, can be easy with sites like this one. Simply enter your travel request and the site finds all the great deals available. If you're less particular about your destination, check out the Top 50 Fares or Fare of the Day.

Smooth Move - Spring is a popular time for moving ... and for moving scams. The stress of moving is multiplied many times when scam victims end up paying thousands of dollars more than expected, or wait for weeks for their belongings to be delivered. This site provides information on how to protect yourself from such scams and offers checklists, advice on what to do if you do get stuck, and your rights and responsibilities. You'll find listings for additional resources in your state, and a search function that allows you to view complaints about specific movers.

Short Tutorial - Setting Up Automatic Spell Check of E-Mail Messages

Given the speed with which many of us compose e-mail messages, it's not surprising that typos and misspellings happen. To help prevent potentially embarrassing mistakes from being sent to your recipients, follow the steps below to set up automatic spell checking of your e-mail messages:

Setting Up Automatic Spell Check When Using ...
- E-mail Program: Outlook Express 6
- Computer Operating System: Windows XP

Outlook Express uses the spell checker provided with the following Microsoft Office programs: Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint. If you do not have one of these programs installed, the Spelling command will not be available.

With Outlook Express open, click your cursor arrow on "Tools" from the menu bar and select "Options..." from the resulting drop-down menu.

The Options window will open. While on the "Spelling" tab, and within the "Settings" section, check the box next to "Always spell check before sending."

Click the "Apply" button to save your changes and then click the "OK" button to close the Options window.
Setting Up Automatic Spell Check When Using ...
- E-mail Program: Windows Mail
- Computer Operating System: Windows Vista

With Windows Mail open, click your cursor arrow on "Tools" from the menu bar and select "Options..." from the resulting drop-down menu.

The Options window will open. While on the "Spelling" tab, and within the "Settings" section, check the box next to "Always spell check before sending."

Click the "Apply" button to save your changes and then click the "OK" button to close the Options window.
Setting Up Automatic Spell Check When Using ...
- E-mail Program: Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0
- Computer Operating System: Windows XP and Windows Vista

With Thunderbird open, click your cursor arrow on "Tools" from the menu bar and select "Options..." from the resulting drop-down menu.

The Options window will open. Select the "Composition" icon and then the "Spelling" tab. Thunderbird allows you to check the box next to "Check spelling before sending" and/or "Enable spell check as you type."

Once you have made your selection, click the "OK" button to save your changes and close the Options window.
Setting Up Automatic Spell Check When Using ...
- E-mail Program: Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0
- Computer Operating System: Mac OS X 10.5

With Thunderbird open, click your cursor arrow on the "Thunderbird" menu and select "Preferences" from the resulting drop-down menu.

The Preferences window will open. Select the "Composition" icon and then the "Spelling" tab.

Click on the check box next to "Enable spell check as you type."

Click on the red dot in the top left corner to save your changes and close the Preferences window.
Setting Up Automatic Spell Check When Using ...
- E-mail Program: 3.1
- Computer Operating System: Mac OS X 10.5

With open, click your cursor arrow on the "Mail" menu and select "Preferences" from the resulting drop-down menu.

The Preferences window will open. Select the "Composing" icon.

Click on the button next to "Check spelling." Choose one of the following options: "never," "when I click Send," and "as I type."

Click on the red dot in the top left corner to save your changes and close the Preferences window.

We hope you found this newsletter to be informative. It's our way of keeping you posted on the happenings here. If, however, you'd prefer not to receive these bulletins on a monthly basis, click here.

Thank you for your business!

Best regards,

Tom Thomas
Product Coordinator

SRT Communications
3615 North Broadway
Minot, ND 58703

(701) 858-1200

(We have used our best efforts in collecting and preparing the information published herein. However, we do not assume, and hereby disclaim, any and all liability for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors or omissions resulted from negligence, accident, or other causes.)

©2009 Cornerstone Publishing Group Inc.

Trademarks: All brand names and product names used in this e-mail are trade names, service marks, trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Distance Education Surveys........

The Instructional Technology Council (ITC) provides exceptional leadership and professional development to its network of eLearning experts by advocating, collaborating, researching, and sharing exemplary, innovative practices and potential in learning technologies. An affiliated council of the American Association of Community Colleges, ITC represents higher education institutions in the United States and Canada that use distance learning technologies. Based in Washington, D.C., ITC was founded in 1977 as the Taskforce for the Uses of Mass Media for Learning. As instructional technology has evolved, so too has ITC which has provided national leadership for more than 30 years on an array of distance learning/elearning issues. With nearly 500 colleges and universities, ITC continues to grow, along with higher education interest in electronically-mediated instruction. For more information about ITC, visit the Web site at
ITC created this annual survey in response to the growing need for national data related to distance education program creation and development, and for key issues related to faculty and students. ITC set out to develop a survey instrument that would track national data and trends longitudinally and generate specific data regarding real and relevant problems facing emerging and established eLearning programs for administrators and campus leaders.
In fall 2004, the ITC board of directors created a set of relevant questions, and devised a survey instrument and strategy for this annual national survey. They limited the number of questions so respondents could complete it within a reasonable time frame. They conducted their first survey in spring 2005. They revised and adjusted the more burdensome and time-consuming questions and submitted a new survey to ITC members in fall 2005. In fall 2006, they distributed the survey to members of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
How the Survey was Conducted
The questions are divided into four categories -- general information, administration, faculty, and students. ITC sent an e-mail invitation to all of the designated institutional representatives identified in the ITC membership and to the AACC members who had responded to the 2007 survey, who were not already ITC members, to a total of 500 institutions.
ITC used an open-source solution -- PHP Surveyor -- as the platform for the survey. Representatives from 139 institutions completed the 2008 survey. Statistically, the respondents represented an appropriate cross-section based on 1) the number of responding institutions, 2) the regional distribution of responding institutions, and 3) the type of responding institution (based on the categories outlined in the Carnegie Classification
of Institutions of Higher Education -
Distribution of Results
The final results were presented in February 2009 at ITC’s annual meeting at eLearning 2009 in Portland, Oregon. Members of the ITC board of directors will present the results in a special forum at the AACC Annual Convention in April 2009 Phoenix, Arizona, “A Crash Course on Distance Education.” ITC will distribute the results to those who completed the survey, to ITC members, and to the presidents of all AACC-member institutions.
The Data
Respondents completed 139 surveys out of the initial distribution of slightly more than 500 -- a 30 percent response rate. The completed surveys were reviewed to ensure a representative sample of AACC- and ITC-member institutions participated, confirming an acceptable response rate (139/500) with an acceptable distribution based on size and location of institutions. The survey questions are sorted into four categories: general information, administration, faculty, and students.
The individual completing the survey on behalf of his or her institution was usually the distance education administrator.
About the Instructional Technology Council
In August 2008, Congress passed the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). The final version is more than 700 pages with supporting documents and is comprehensive in scope. The law’s overall theme is to increase accountability across higher education, including distance education.
A summary of HEOA provisions relevant to distance education include:
1. The law provides an updated definition of distance education, replacing “telecommunications” with “distance education”
to read, “the use of one or more technologies to
deliver instruction to students who are separated
from the instructor and to support regular and
substantive interaction between the students
and the instructor, either synchronously or
2. The Secretary of Education is required to produce an annual report regarding its distance
education demonstration projects (no current or
future projects are funded).
3. The law requires national accrediting
agencies to:
• Demonstrate they have effective standards for
evaluating program quality.
• Create review teams that are well-trained and
knowledgeable with respect to their
responsibilities regarding distance education.
• Monitor significant growth in distance
education enrollment. A review is required if
distance education enrollment increases by 50
percent in one institutional fiscal year.
4. The National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council is asked to compare the quality of distance education with campus-based courses. However Congress does not providing funding for this report.
5. Colleges are required to have “processes” that establish that “the student who registers in a distance education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the program and receives the academic credit.”
ITC worked with other higher education lobbyists and congressional staff to address concerns with regard to the student authentication provision (number five) which could add greatly to a college’s administrative costs for distance learning and could infringe upon the privacy rights of students. After extensive discussions, members of Congress added the following “clarifying language” to the HEOA to provide context for the provision:
“The Conferees expect institutions that offer distance education to have security mechanisms in place, such as identification numbers or other pass code information required to be used each time the student participates in class time or coursework on-line. As new identification technologies are developed and become more sophisticated, less expensive and more mainstream, the Conferees anticipate that accrediting agencies or associations and institutions will consider their use in the future. The Conferees do not intend that institutions use or rely on any technology that interferes with the privacy of the student and expect that students’ privacy will be protected with whichever method the institutions choose to utilize.”
This language delineates the limited scope of “student authentication” ONLY pertaining to a student’s use of his or her username and password. It leaves the door open for more elaborate solutions, but only as they become tested and cost-effective. It also ensures the protection of student privacy.
In the months since the passage of the HEOA, an emerging national dialog has focused on the intent and implications of the student authentication provision. Regional accrediting agencies are drafting new guidelines for distance education programs.
Clearly, an undercurrent of the discussion is the assumption that fraudulent activity is occurring in online courses. Sadly, there is no definitive national data to confirm or refute this assumption. We know that distance education programs are vigilant in monitoring for fraud and dishonesty -- and based on the realities of the HEOA -- programs will have to redouble efforts going forward to ensure course and program integrity. ITC will continue to do what it can to assist both regional accrediting agencies and the US Department of Education in drafting new policies and guidelines that manage costs and protect student privacy.
In Focus:
The Higher Education Opportunity Act
Institutions Surveyed
Most of the respondents identified themselves as Associate’s Colleges (89 percent) or Associate’s Dominant Colleges (7 percent).
Distance Education Enrollment Growth
Respondents reported comparative enrollment trends in distance education for Fall 2006 to Fall 2007 (the most recent full year of data available for most colleges in November 2008). Campuses reported an 11.3 percent increase for distance education enrollments, substantially ahead of overall national campus enrollments, which averaged less than two percent. This is consistent with the 12.9 percent distance education enrollment growth the Sloan Foundation reported in “Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States 2008.” Sloan also found that nearly four million higher education students enrolled in online courses in 2007, and more than 20 percent took at least one online class.
Last year, survey respondents had reported an 18 percent increase in eLearning enrollments from Fall 2005 to Fall 2006. A number of factors could contribute to this less robust enrollment growth rate. Online enrollments have been growing rapidly for years and these rates could not be sustained indefinitely; some campuses have limited enrollment for course quality, retention and persistence reasons; and, limited resources are starting to slow the ability of online programs to sustain historic growth rates.
Direct Report Line
In 2008, 68 percent of respondents indicated that they reported to the vice president for academic affairs or an academic dean; this was statistically unchanged from the previous year. Nearly four percent of respondents indicated they report directly to the president and 3.1 percent indicated they report to a library administrator.
Non-Credit Offerings
Sixty-four percent of campuses reported they offer noncredit distance education courses. This
2008 Survey Results
was down three percent from the previous year. The slight decline may reflect the realities of the worsening national economy. Such courses are often pegged for professional development and updating skills. Corporations often cut or eliminate this type of activity during economic downturns. A college’s community education or business outreach divisions usually offer noncredit online courses.
Comments from Survey Respondents
Challenges for Administrators:
• Finding the right fit within the organizational structure of the college, since online is integrated college wide. We need to find ways to be a part of conversations, such as planning, etc. because our structure is different.
• Finding dedicated, qualified faculty -- not all instructors who want to teach online do a great job. Providing oversight and mentoring to make sure faculty are doing an adequate job. Also,
compensating them well for all of the work needed to develop courses.
• Convincing faculty of the need to become capable
technologically as more and more students demand that faculty use the technology they depend upon in everyday life.
• Deans and department chairs need to provide incentives to faculty to develop and review online content, intellectual property issues, and evaluate their online teaching and course delivery. They need to become more knowledgeable about what constitutes quality online offerings and the time staff need to develop and oversee quality.
• The distance education program generates lots of
interest -- sometimes too much -- and it is difficult to channel all of the suggestions and interest into productive areas and uses.
• A new organizational structure. Recently decentralized distance education department.
Academic deans now setting schedule and staffing faculty positions. Not sure they have the buy-in to online.
Range for responses 1 = greatest challenge 8 = least challenging
Learning Management System Usage
Fifty nine percent of respondents indicated they use Blackboard/WebCt (38.3 percent for Blackboard, 21 percent for WebCt). This is down dramatically from the previous year when 77 percent indicated they use Blackboard/WebCT (38.3 percent for Blackboard/39 percent for WebCT). The past four years have seen a trend in the decline in usage of Blackboard/WebCT.
Thirty-seven percent of respondents indicated they were considering switching LMS platforms in the next few years, a consistent trend for the past three years. Seventy-seven percent indicated they restrict the number of LMS platforms the campus will support -- this is statistically unchanged from the past several years.
The most significant changes from the previous year include: continued changes in WebCT and Blackboard LMS platform adoptions, a dramatic increase for the Angel LMS platform, and an apparent leveling off of interest in open source solutions like Moodle and Sakai.
Accessibility Compliance
For the first time, ITC asked a question about accessibility compliance. Seventy-three percent of respondents indicated that most or all of their online courses were in compliance. Twenty-six percent indicated that at least some of their courses were in compliance. Only one percent indicated that none of their online courses were in compliance.
Online Degrees
The survey asked respondents whether their institution offers online degrees as part of their distance education program. An online degree, was defined as “at least 70 percent of coursework need to complete the degree is available online.” Seventy-four percent indicated they offer at least one or more degrees online -- up 10 percent from last year.
Course Evaluation
• 90 percent of institutions use student
evaluations (81 percent in 2007)
• 64 percent use some type of administrative
review (unchanged)
• 58 percent use peer evaluation and
(unchanged), and
• 60 percent use campus standards or best
practices (unchanged)
Data suggests some stabilization in course evaluation but reflects a significant increase in the use of student evaluations. The lack of completion of student evaluations emerged as a major challenge last year. Clearly, programs focused on this issue this year.
Course Enrollment Caps
Eighty-seven percent of respondents cap online class enrollments, a number that has not changed in two years. The typical enrollment cap by class type has also not changed in two years.
• 25 students for introductory math
• 24 students for introductory English
• 30 students for Introductory political science
Class Hosting
With regard to hosting their online courses, respondents indicated that:
• 50 percent own and maintain their own servers (down from 55 percent in 2007)
• 40 percent outsource their server needs to a
third party such as an LMS provider, publisher, or out-sourced IT provider (32 percent in 2007)
• 10 percent share servers with others such as a system, district or consortium (12 percent in 2007)
The data confirms that fewer colleges are hosting their online courses. This could reflect budget and staffing reductions at a growing number of institutions.
Course Content Development
Colleges often have the option to purchase content from a content provider, such as a book publisher. Eighty percent of respondents indicated they develop their own content. Eighteen percent use publisher materials and two percent contract or license from another content provider.
Most Difficult Classes
Respondents identified courses that have been difficult to offer due to faculty resistance and/or pedagogical challenges. This list has not changed in the past four years of the survey. The most difficult courses listed included:
• Lab-based science
• Speech
• Clinical requirements
• Fine arts
• Nursing
• Math
• Industrial technology
• Foreign language
• Computer hardware
Course Equivalency
Regional accreditation agencies require that the content and rigor for distance education courses is the same as that for face-to-face courses. Eighty three percent of respondents indicated that their online courses were equivalent to their face-to-face courses, while nine percent said they were superior. Only eight percent said their online courses needed improvement.
Services and Technology Support
Regional accrediting agencies also require colleges to offer the same student services and support to their distance education students. With growing numbers of online students, campuses also are recognizing the need to introduce or expand additional virtual services and support.
The 2008 survey confirmed data received from previous ITC surveys -- colleges have consistently aimed to offer online students a broad array of student services. The charting below reflects a few changes. Some respondents requested the survey offer a clearer breakdown and the category, “no plan to offer.” This year’s survey also added three options: campus portal, audio podcasting
and vodcasting.
Outsourcing Selected Services
This year the survey asked whether colleges have changed the amount of services they have outsourced to outside vendors. Fifty-two percent of respondents indicated they used the same number of outsourced solutions in 2008 as in the previous year, while 30 percent increased, and 18 percent decreased their outsourcing.
Distance Education Fees
Forty percent of respondents reported they charge students an additional per-credit fee for taking distance education courses, a decrease of five percent from last year. The minimum collected was $2 and the maximum was $90, with a median average of $19. Likely, campuses are beginning to integrate related program costs into existing budgets, reducing the need for a separate fee. The issue of whether to assess a separate student fee is tied closely to the culture of the institution.
ITC added this new section to the 2008 survey due to popular demand. A blended or hybrid course is defined as one that blends online with face-to-face delivery (30 to 79 percent of the content is delivered online, with online discussions and some face-to-face meetings). A Web-facilitated course (also called Web-enhanced or Web-assisted) is a face-to-face course that uses the Web to facilitate activities (one to 29 percent of content is delivered online). These courses often use a learning management system (LMS) or Web pages to post the syllabus and/or assignments).
Type of Course Formats Offered
Respondents were asked to identify the types of technology-delivered credit courses their institution offered by format:
• 72 percent offer completely online classes
• 14 percent offer blended or hybrid courses
• one percent offer cable or telecourse courses
• 1.4 percent offer other forms of
telecourse classes
• three percent offer interactive
television courses
• less than one percent offer audio courses
Blended/Hybrid Courses
• 64 percent are continuing to increase the
number of these courses each term
• 20 percent are offering about the same number of these courses each term
• 13 percent are offering these courses for the
first time
• 2 percent are reducing the number of these
course each term
• 1 percent do not offer these courses
Web-Assisted, Web-Enhanced or
Web-Facilitated Courses
Eighty-seven percent of respondents indicated they
are continuing to increase the number of Web-assisted, Web-enhanced or Web-facilitated courses each term. Nine percent are offering about the same number of these classes each term, and four percent do not
offer them.
Interactive Video Courses
Given the growth of online courses and degrees, other more-established technologies such as interactive video classrooms, have been neglected. Thirty percent of respondents reported they are offering the same number of interactive video courses each term, while 22 percent are reducing their number. Thirty-five percent have deactivated their network or have never offered interactive video courses. Fourteen percent
are increasing them each term.
Comments from Survey Respondents
Challenges Administrators Found
with Regard to Faculty:
• Always funding. Getting enough qualified and
interested full-time faculty to teach online. Competition from other nearby colleges. Effective
quality assessment methods.
• How to require review and revision of courses after they have been taught for three years. Requiring faculty to participate in training before developing and delivering distance courses.
Administrators identified the greatest challenges they have experienced with regards to faculty who teach at a distance. For the past four years, they have consistently ranked workload issues as the number
one challenge.
Range for responses 1 = greatest challenge - 7 = least challenging
Faculty Training
Seventy-one percent of the respondents indicated their colleges required their faculty to participate in a training program to teach at a distance (the same as 2007, up from 57 percent in 2005). Those who responded “yes” were asked to identify how many hours of training were required:
• 61 percent require more than eight hours
of training
• 9 percent require less than eight hours
of training
• 30 percent require exactly eight hours
of training
A core issue for many colleges is to what extent they should require students to take proctored tests as a means to eliminate cheating. Respondents indicated there is significant flexibility:
• 91 percent allow both on-campus and
online testing (blended)
• 50 percent allow exclusively online testing
• 39 percent allow testing to be exclusively
on campus (proctored)
Sixty-four percent of distance education courses are taught by full-time faculty, and 35 percent by part-time faculty. These figures are essentially unchanged since 2006 and are consistent with the historic full-time/part-time faculty ratios at most community colleges.
Faculty Location
Given the virtual nature of the online classroom, campuses are beginning to explore the possibility of allowing faculty to be located off campus. This year’s survey marked a major change in institutional practice -- a 20 percent shift toward allowing faculty to be located away from campus. Respondents to the ITC survey reported:
• 63 percent (83 percent for 2007) require
distance education faculty to be located
• 37 percent have faculty located in other cities
in the state, in other states, and/or in other
Limiting the Number of Classes Taught
Thirty-five percent or respondents indicated their institution limits the number of distance education classes a full-time faculty member can teach each semester to .47 of a full teaching load. Sixty-five percent indicated they do not impose such a limitation. These figures are consistent with responses for the past two years.
Comments from Survey Respondents
Challenges Administrators Found
with Regard to Students:
• Student experience with technology and software.
The survey asked administrators to rank the major challenges they face with regard to students.
The 2007 respondents indicated a dramatic shift -- they ranked completing student evaluations was their number one challenge. This year they returned to listing this problem as number five or six. Assessing student learning and performance in distance education classes emerged as their primary challenge in 2008.
Completion Rates
Administrators indicated the average retention rate for students taking courses at a distance was 65 percent (down from 72 percent in 2007), while the average retention rate in face-to-face courses was 72 percent (down from 78 percent in 2007).
Traditional/Non-traditional Students
Fifty-two percent of the students taking distance education courses were “traditional,” or 18 to 25 years old, while 46 percent were “non-traditional,” or older than 26 years. Distance learning students appear to be getting younger -- in 2007 46 percent were 18 to 25, and 52 percent were in the older age group.
Range for responses 1 = greatest challenge - 8 = least challenging
Administrators said that 59 percent of their distance education students are female (41 percent male).
Student Demand
Sixty-nine percent of respondents indicated their college is NOT offering enough distance education courses to meet the student demand, while 31 percent reported they are meeting the demand. These numbers are consistent with the 2007 survey.
Student Authentication
The survey asked a new question to learn about practices at colleges, as related to the expectations of the Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA). Ninety-six percent of the respondents indicate their college requires students to authenticate their identity -- using a unique username and password -- to access their online courses. Only four percent do not.
The ITC survey is now in its fourth year. Although it has not yet established a regular base of participants, the results have remained consistent from year to year and correspond with data collected by other large national surveys, such as the Sloan Foundation’s annual survey, “Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning” (see and the US Department of Education’s “Distance Education at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions: 2000-2001.” (see
The authors have seen a balanced, statistically-significant participation since the survey’s inception and the results have documented the evolution and progress of online education at community colleges. With four years of data, ITC can confirm major trends and benchmarks in online education that should be of tremendous value to program and campus administrators.
Challenges for Distance Learning Administrators:
Our college has not made an adequate
investment for the development of a
high-quality online learning program.
Getting administration and faculty to realize
that distance education is NOT a classroom put online. It requires a great deal of planning,
training and forethought.
Lack of access by students in rural areas
to the Internet at the speeds they need to participate in the class.
Lower than traditional classroom
student success rates.
Keeping up with the Rapid growth
in Web-enhanced courses.
Switching to a new learning management
system with limited support staff to train
faculty and students.
The authors offer the following observations:
1. Student demand for distance education courses at community colleges continues to grow. The rate of growth for distance education (an 11 percent increase for 2006-2007) far outpaced the growth rate for traditional enrollments. Seventy percent of the respondents reported that student demand exceeds current class offerings. The percentages for enrollment growth and student demand have remained consistent during the past four years of survey data.
2. Colleges have significantly increased their number of blended or hybrid and/or Web-enhanced or Web-assisted courses. As many online faculty return to the traditional classroom, they bring what they liked about online teaching with them.
3. Student completion rates for distance education courses continues to lag behind their traditional counterparts (a seven percent gap according to the 2008 respondents). Just six years ago, national figures showed 50 percent completion rates, so the numbers have improved significantly, but there is still a way to go.
4. Providing adequate student services and technology support services to distance learning students remains a priority on most campuses. The 2008 survey shows that colleges have rapidly expanded their services to meet accreditation expectations of “equivalency.” Many have completed this transformation, and are now exploring adding new technologies and virtual services.
5. A realignment of the market for learning management system (LMS) continues. The merger of Blackboard and WebCt has prompted a number of campuses to review their LMS commitments. The data suggests a continued volatility as 31 percent of the campuses surveyed indicated they are considering switching from their current LMS (where Blackboard/WebCT have seen a near monopoly). There has been a marked growth by competitors to Blackboard/WebCT -- namely Angel. It will be interesting to see in future surveys whether the interest in open source solutions such as Moodle Sakai has indeed leveled off.
6. Administrators continue to identify “support staff needed for training and technical assistance” as their greatest challenge. This has been true during the entire four-year history of the ITC survey.
7. Administrators have consistently identified workload issues as their greatest challenge related to faculty.
8. Always a concern, assessing student learning and performance in the distance education environment emerged as the greatest challenge for students in 2008.
9. Distance education administrators appear to have buy-in from faculty and students. Administrators consistently mark issues of student acceptance, recruitment and interest in distance education as their least greatest challenges.
Online programs are well-established at most two-year institutions and have become accepted into the existing administrative structure. Institutionalization can be a double-edged sword. In the past, distance educators have served as change agents and transformational leaders.
Online programs have grown rapidly, cross academic and administrative divisions, and have often been forced to generate greater efficiencies of scale as they have struggled with fewer resources than they would have otherwise liked - to implement state-of-of-the-art programs with all of the bells and whistles.
Distance education has generated a great deal of dialog and introspection among academic departments. One respondent lamented that she experiences “decreasing flexibility and responsiveness as institutionalization increases.” As online programs mature, they are increasingly viewed as mainstream, have become a part of the campus bureaucracy, and are losing several of the program characteristics that made them stand out initially.
Becoming mainstream within the campus administration carries the risk of potentially diminishing the ability to effect change. On the other hand, being accepted into the administrative structure, can improve chances for increased budgets, staffing, space and priority.
ITC will continue to monitor emerging key trends, including:
• Ninety-six percent of online programs already authenticate student access to online courses.
• Many colleges are increasing their use of
blended/hybrid and Web-enhanced/Web
assisted courses.
• Online courses represent the only real growth in enrollments at most colleges.
• Online courses, with their technology base,
are increasingly attractive to “millennial”
• Online courses continue to be the “change
agent” at campuses, allowing for updating
and improved services for students and
faculty. They also serve as the primary
vehicle for adaptation and change for faculty
and the institution.
• Trends indicate colleges are increasingly
moving their distince learning programs away from IT operations to the academic side of
the institution -- reporting to the vice
president of academic affairs or academic
• The quality of distance education instruction
is improving continuously as colleges redirect
more institutional resources to distance
education. Programs are focusing on quality,
consistency, assessment and retention to
address latent concerns.
• Colleges face significant challenges for
offering a seamless on-campus relationship
among departments and the administrative
structure as more traditional administrative
units feel threatened by the rapid growth
of online courses on their campus. Many
distance learning administrators have noted
the emergence of control issues – as the
leadership debates whether to “centralize” or
“decentralize” their distance education
Is Your Online Program Typical?
Administrators always wonder where their online program is normal or typical as compared to those at other institutions. Is the program consistent with national trends? Four years of survey data can now allow us to answer these questions by providing a composite of a typical online program:
The program:
• Is under-staffed, working in cramped conditions, with an inadequate budget.
• Has become THE primary source for enrollment growth at the college.
• Functions “outside the box,” often working more efficiently, creatively and productively.
• Invigorates faculty -- offering new challenges and opportunities.
• Leads the institution in dealing with issues of assessment, content, course quality, and learning styles.
• Often struggles to obtain the understanding, acceptance and support from campus leaders, who are unfamiliar with this
method of teaching and learning (a generational disconnect).
• Does not offer enough classes to come close
to meeting student interest/demand.
• Provides students dynamic access to higher
education -- making educational
opportunities available to many for the first time.
• Functions at the leading edge in the attempt to understand and serve the new wave of millennial students in higher education.
• Has become a significant “change agent” at
the college -- prompting increased faculty training and professional development, causing educators to rethink of how they teach, and provides a catalyst for integrating technology into instruction.
• Offers a stark challenge to the business-as-
usual approach at most institutions -- contrasting with the traditional needs of
college campuses such as buildings, parking lots, narrow organizational structures, etc.
• The key administrator reports to the
academic side of the institution (dean or
The results of this survey are intended, first and foremost, to be of value to distance education practitioners. The distance education landscape is changing rapidly, and the need for relevant data and information has never been more important. This is new ground for most college administrators. They are being asked to support new staffing, space and budget requests -- often with a fixed or shrinking budget. College administrators want to make sure they are making the right decisions that will benefit their students, faculty, staff and greater community, and make the very most of limited resources.
ITC wishes to express its appreciation to the institutions that participated in the survey: member institutions of the Instructional Technology Council (ITC),
and participating members of the
American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).
Special appreciation to:
The ITC board of directors for their support and
oversight of the project
The ITC survey committee members, for their efforts to assure survey currency and relevance as well as their review of topic areas and specific questions for the annual survey.
Travis Souza, WebCollege coordinator at Truckee Meadows Community College, for creating the online survey instrument and tabulating the results each year.
Brandy Colby, WebCollege support specialist at Truckee Meadows Community College, for electronically distributing the survey and monitoring responses each year.
Ginger Park, ITC administrative assistant, for helping assemble a relevant database of members for the survey
Christine Mullins, ITC executive director, for editing and helping coordinate the design and production of the survey each year.
Fred Lokken
Author of the 2008 Distance Education Survey Results
Chair, ITC Board of Directors
Associate Dean for Web College
Truckee Meadows Community College
Reno, Nevada
March 2009
Instructional Technology Council
One Dupont Circle, N.W., Suite 360
Washington, D.C. 20036
202 293-3110
Copyright 2009 by the Instructional Technology Council. All Rights Reserved.

Colleges for Teacher Education News

AACTE Weekly News Briefs | May 26, 2009
. . . delivered to your inbox so you can enjoy up-to-date news on colleges of education, teaching and the classroom, legislation, STEM teacher issues, grants, and upcoming events. Please click on linked headlines for full story.


AACTE's 5th Annual Day on the Hill
AACTE's 2009 Day on the Hill will take place June 17-18 in Washington, DC. This is AACTE's premier advocacy event! Come to DC to meet with your members of Congress and to tell them about the good work you do. This year's theme is "Innovation and Reform in Teacher Preparation." For more information, please contact Mary Harrill-McClellan at

Registration Extended for AACTE's Leadership Academy
The deadline to register for AACTE's new Leadership Academy has been extended to June 19! Two of AACTE's yearly professional development conferences, the Leadership Institute for Department Chairs and the New Deans Institute, will be combined in 2009 to create this exciting educational opportunity. With the goal of sustaining the teacher education profession by providing powerful learning and networking tools, the academy is an essential event for new deans, department chairs, and other educational administrators to attend. This event will take place June 28 - July 3 in St. Louis, Missouri. Click here to view the 2009 Leadership Academy brochure.

FREE Access to Archived Webinar on Closing the Achievement Gap for Children in Foster Care (AACTE webinar)
Access this free webinar anytime through June 30! "Tutor Connection: Closing the Educational Achievement Gap for Children in Foster Care" is sponsored by the Casey Family Programs. Tutor Connection has provided 1,240 student teachers from California State University-San Marcos to work directly with children in foster care to improve academic performance. Hear about the results for over 1,500 foster care youth who have participated in this program and learn more about the roles that Departments of Education can play in positively impacting this unique and often invisible population.


Peace in Accreditation Land
From Inside Higher Education
Two years ago, a federal negotiating process designed to recommend changes in regulations governing accreditation blew up amid intense acrimony between higher education and Bush administration officials. The issues that caused the greatest conflict: how colleges might (or should) measure the learning outcomes of their students, and institutions' stances on the transferability of students' academic credit. Those issues were on the agenda again as another panel of negotiators completed several months of work on accreditation at an Education Department office building Tuesday, but with a dramatically different result.

Duncan Brings Obama Agenda to Congress
From Diverse Issues in Higher Education
President Barack Obama's goals of more college financial aid and an end to high school "dropout factories" will significantly increase opportunities for minority students, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Congress on Wednesday. Some minority-serving institutions have concerns about the 2010 Obama education budget. Despite its financial aid provisions, the budget would end the large short-term funding increases for these colleges that were authorized by Congress for 2008 and 2009.

Principals Younger and Freer, but Raise Doubts in the Schools
From the New York Times
Principals in the New York City public school system today are younger than their predecessors, have less experience in the classroom and are, most often, responsible for far fewer students. But their salaries are higher and they have greater freedom over hiring and budgets, handling a host of responsibilities formerly shouldered by their supervisors. An analysis by The New York Times of the city's signature report-card system shows that schools run by graduates of the celebrated New York City Leadership Academy – which Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg created and helped raise more than $80 million for – have not done as well as those led by experienced principals or new principals who came through traditional routes.

The Crisis in Math, Science (Opinion)
From the Boston Globe
The nation is not producing enough well-qualified teachers of math and science. And too many of the ones it does produce are leaving the classroom after a few years. We cannot continue to lead in math and science without substantial and immediate changes nationwide. We need a new Mathematics and Science Education Act.

Prepare Teachers Well, Create the Conditions for Excellence (Interview with Linda Darling-Hammond)
From the Des Moines Register
Do teacher-education programs generally prepare future teachers well? Some places have gotten better and better, and do a very good job now of preparing teachers to work with students who learn in different ways, including students with disabilities and English-language learners. These very high-quality programs are probably a quarter of the teacher-education enterprise. There are others that are pretty good, but they could be a lot better if there were incentives and supports to get them there. And there are some that need to be put out of business.


Gregoire Signs Bill Overhauling Education, But Vetoes 2 Parts
From the Seattle Times
A plan to overhaul Washington's K-12 education system was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Chris Gregoire, but she vetoed parts of the measure focusing on preschool and gifted education. The measure spells out how the state should change the way it pays for education and updates the definition of what is basic education in Washington state.

Aspiring Teachers Fall Short on Math
From the Boston Globe
Nearly three-quarters of the aspiring elementary school teachers who took the state's licensing exam this year failed the new math section, according to results being released today that focus on the subject for the first time. Some educators, including representatives of teachers unions and school administrator groups, place blame squarely on teacher preparation programs for failing to adequately train elementary school and special education teachers in math instruction, which is often overshadowed by the critical skills of reading and writing.

New Jersey Seeks Laid-Off Traders to Teach Math
From Reuters
A new program called "Traders to Teachers" is being set up at Montclair State University to retrain people in the finance industry who have been laid off in the deepest crisis to hit Wall Street since the Great Depression. The university's 101-year-old College of Education received 146 applications for 25 spots in the first round of the program, which offers three months intensive training followed by a job at a high school in January. The first year on the job includes close mentoring, and after two years probation they can become fully certified math teachers.

Certification Changes, Student Performance Eyed
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
A Carnegie Mellon University professor will be permitted to present a long-awaited study on teacher quality today as lawmakers battle Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell over a $201 million no-bid contract for high school exit exams. The three-year study, commissioned by the state and funded by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation, looks at the impact of changes in teacher certification and preparation requirements in 2000 and their relationship to student performance.

Board Doubles Florida Teacher Exam Fees
From the Miami Herald
The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to increase the fees for each of the three exams required before becoming a Florida teacher. Assistant Deputy Education Commissioner Cornelia Orr told the board the state had previously subsidized the tests as a teacher recruiting strategy. The increases are designed to make the certification program more self supporting. The fees now are expected to generate $8.9 million a year, still short of the program's $16.5 million cost.

Illinois Joins School March Toward National Standards, Test
From the Chicago Tribune
Illinois has joined a growing list of states that favor common learning guidelines for math and English, a movement that could lead to national testing and what supporters say is a better way for teachers and parents to gauge whether students are improving and measuring up on a nationwide level. Officials hope to move quickly and have set December as a target for mapping out grade-by-grade standards from kindergarten through senior year.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Using ARRA Funds to Drive School Reform and Improvement
Education funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) provide a unique opportunity to jump start school reform and improvement efforts while also saving and creating jobs and stimulating the economy. These one-time resources should be spent in ways most likely to lead to improved results for students, long-term gains in school and school system capacity, and increased productivity and effectiveness.

U.S. Department of Education Invites Comments on the HEOA Title II Reporting Forms on Teacher Quality and Preparation
The U.S. Department of Education recently released the draft institutional and state report card forms required of the accountability provisions in Title II of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA). The public may comment on these forms by June 8. Title II of HEOA requires institutions of higher education that prepare teachers to provide annual reports on how these teacher candidates perform on certification/licensure exams; goals that the institution has set for preparing teachers in key shortage areas; assurances for how institutions are preparing all candidates to be successful in the classroom; and descriptions of how preparation programs are structured. AACTE encourages its members to respond to this call for comment.

Kristin K. McCabe, Editor
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
1307 New York Ave., NW Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005
(207) 899-1309