MADISON — A proposal that would position University of Wisconsin System institutions as major national and international providers of technology-enabled courses and services will be considered by the UW System Board of Regents as it meets in Superior on Oct. 9-10.

According to UW President Katharine C. Lyall, the proposal to establish a Center for Learning Innovation would make it possible for all 15 UW institutions to offer students access to new coursework and to become entrepreneurs in the rapidly emerging technology learning market.

“With this proposal, the University of Wisconsin System takes a significant first step toward the goals of Gov. Tommy Thompson’s global education initiative announced last Friday,” Lyall said. “We are taking existing resources and aligning them in the most-efficient way to benefit students and Wisconsin as the ‘innovative learning state.’

“The establishment of the Center for Learning Innovation places the UW System at the forefront of the most dynamic segment of higher education,” Lyall added.

The proposal brings together recent distributed learning innovations developed by UW-Extension’s Division of Continuing Education Extension with distinguished UW faculty to market, develop, distribute and support technology-enabled learning products and services on behalf of the entire UW System.

The Center would focus on the creation, evaluation, distribution and capitalization of intellectual property in the forms of coursework and proprietary technology and services. Special attention would be given to Wisconsin students and businesses. Reflecting the importance of the center, its director would report to Lyall through Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs David J. Ward, the system’s second-ranking officer.

According to the proposal to be considered by the Regents, the Center would:

  • Offer faculty and staff consultation, training and support with educational technology;
  • Provide market assessment of UW-developed learning technology;
  • Assist in courseware production and development;
  • Develop marketing and distribution services; and,
  • Provide online services to UW System students, faculty and staff.

To grow its financial and service capabilities, the Center also would provide consultation, training and production on a contract basis to external organizations.

“The Center for Learning Innovation will help UW institutions reach both within and outside of the state to serve a global marketplace,” Ward said.

“We recognize that technology is simply a means to deliver knowledge,” Ward continued. “And through the use of technology the UW System can provide an unprecedented level of access to knowledge and breadth of content to every student, from the ‘traditional’ 18- or 19- or 20-year-olds to adults seeking their first degree to established professionals desiring to expand their capabilities.

“The Center will become a vital component of the growing partnership among the UW System, K-12 schools in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Technical College System and private colleges and universities,” Ward added.

In its 1996 Study of the University of Wisconsin System in the 21st Century, the UW Board of Regents recognized the opportunity to utilize learning technologies to “create a student-centered learning environment that removes time and place as barriers.” The regents called for the establishment of an organization specifically charged to help the UW System capitalize on the opportunities presented by these new learning technologies.

Since 1995, annual System information and instructional technology plans have outlined long-range commitments needed for UW institutions to develop the learning technology infrastructure necessary to support faculty and students, Ward said. Through the establishment of the Center for Learning Innovation, the UW System can become a national leader in using the new technologies for the benefit of Wisconsin’s students and the state’s business community.

The new entity would align with two UW-Extension Continuing Education units, the Wisconsin Survey Research Lab and Distributed Learning Services. The Survey Research Lab would provide market and other research capabilities, and the Distributed Learning Services unit currently provides support to all UW institutions for primarily print-based distance-learning offerings.

The Board of Regents also will consider a recommendation from Lyall for the appointment of UW-Extension Continuing Education Dean Michael Offerman as executive director of the Center for Learning Innovation. Offerman will remain in his role as dean of Continuing Education Extension, however, providing leadership and coordination for systemwide, campus-based outreach and continuing education programs.


Peter D. Fox
(608) 262-6448