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April 5, 1999

UC to maintain 'virtual university' Web site

By Terry Colvin
UC Office of the President

The University of California has agreed to maintain the homepage for the California Virtual University (CVU) which has been unable to secure separate funding, Carol
Tomlinson-Keasey, UC vice provost and chairman of the independent foundation that was established to run CVU, said last month.

UC will keep CVU's homepage running on the Internet on the condition that the other public and private segments of higher education in the state will maintain and update their course offerings and information pages that are linked to CVU.

The reorganization means some 112 accredited public and private universities in California will continue to offer more than 2,000 online courses over the World Wide Web to computer-connected students who are interested in subject ranging from arithmetic and agriculture management to spatial analysis and veterinary medicine.

As a consortium of colleges and universities, CVU does not offer its own degrees, but students could accumulate degree or certificate credits from the participating schools. And, Tomlinson-Keasey said, nothing under the reorganization changes that basic service.

"The restructuring will appear minimal from the student's viewpoint," she said. "Students will continue to come to CVU to look for educational experiences that fit their needs, and the courses will continue to be made available by the individual colleges and universities."

Students logging on to CVU at www.california.edu will select from the four educational segments: UC, the California State University, the California Community Colleges system, and the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities. A mouse-click on one of the links will take students to the courses and information maintained by each of the segments.

CVU began in 1998 at the direction of then-governor Pete Wilson. It was created in response to the burgeoning interest in education that could be delivered free of the constraints of time and space. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided CVU's initial funding and five California-based high-tech companies--Cisco Systems, International Thomson Publishing, Oracle, Pacific Bell, and Sun Microsystems developed the catalogue, database, and searching software that help students quickly locate the courses they are seeking.

Each month since CVU opened its Web doors, an average of 120,000 individuals has visited the site to explore educational opportunities at colleges and universities located throughout California. "The experience to date indicates that the California Virtual University is providing a service that our citizens find valuable," Tomlinson-Keasey said.

As CVU continued to grow, Tomlinson-Keasey said the participating colleges and universities developed different goals for their online courses, which are also linked to the schools' individual Web sites.

"This is entirely appropriate and allows campuses to customize their Web offerings to extend their campus's mission. Our experience over the past six months also confirms that the use of the Web to present courses and a variety of educational experiences will continue to grow exponentially," Tomlinson-Keasey said. "Both the different missions and the rapid growth of the educational enterprise on the Internet have suggested a restructuring of the CVU that would better serve the broad range of students who will be seeking educational access in the coming years."

CVU's eight-member board of directors approved the reorganization, with each segment agreeing to maintain its own Web links, in lieu of running CVU from a central location with a separate staff.

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