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HIGHER EDUCATION NOTEBOOK: Agreement aids online learning

Anna Burleson

North Dakota has become the second state to join the Midwestern State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, a program that streamlines the ability of universities to offer online classes throughout the country.

The program, which is funded by Bill Gates’ Lumina Foundation, allows states that sign up and agree to a set of overarching criteria to pay a one-time fee, rather than the current system of paying a separate fee for each state an institution wants to provide online courses in.

Tanya Spilovoy, director of distance education and state authorization for the North Dakota University System, said under the old system, Maryland was a particularly hard state to procure an online education agreement with and that theoretically, if UND students moved there and wanted to continue their education online, UND would essentially have to kick them out because they legally couldn’t offer those online courses there.

“It was really cumbersome,” Spilovoy said.

But now, Spilovoy said it’s extremely gratifying to see the agreement finally come to fruition.

“It’s been my pet for the last year and I really worked so hard to get this for North Dakota,” she said.

While NDUS schools as a whole are now part of the agreement, each school still applies separately. Spilovoy said UND has been accepted will pay a one-time fee of about $6,000, rather than the $10,000 to $13,000 they had paid before to get verification from each individual state.

North Dakota joins Indiana, which already has two schools participating in the agreement, and others are on the path to signing up. Spilovoy said that while some states are going to have to change laws or establish regulating agencies to join, there wasn’t much red tape in North Dakota.

“We were lucky because we have really forward-thinking legislators,” she said.

This all comes after a 7.9 percent increase in the number of students taking online courses last year at NDUS schools. Spilovoy attributed this spike to geographically isolated areas of the state and people trying to start families and seek education at the same time.

“Some people just can’t move to Fargo or Bismarck and put their lives on hold,” she said.

While costs will still remain high to procure agreements with each individual state that isn’t a part of the program, it’s just a matter of waiting until other states join the agreement.

“Other states are quickly scrambling to duplicate what we’ve done and join,” Spilovoy said.

Other news

  •  The UND International Studies Speaker Series continues today at 7 p.m. at the Empire Arts Center in downtown Grand Forks. The presentation features the documentary “This is Our Country: Living with the Wild West Oil Boom” as well as students discussing the research into the oil field’s impact.
  •  The UND Interdisciplinary Speaker Series and the UND English Department are hosting Gary Totten for a presentation at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the East Asia Room of the Chester Fritz Library. Totten, a professor at North Dakota State University, will give a talk titled “Bodies of Knowledge: Black Female Mobility and Authority in Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Tell My Horse.’”
  •  UND’s One-Stop Shop will open this summer and provide students with one location where they can access all student services, like financial aid, academic records and parking. While not all services will be available at the summer opening, all will move in and begin providing services by the start of the fall semester. The center will be on the first floor of the Memorial Union.
  •  Social work Professor Thomasine Heitkamp has been awarded the UND Foundation’s Thomas J. Clifford Faculty Achievement Award for Outstanding Faculty Development and Service. The award honors faculty members who use their expertise to serve the community.
  •  The UND Department of Social Work has received $735,000 from the United States Children’s Bureau to help cope with a child welfare workforce shortage in areas of the state affected by the oil boom. The money will help the department provide scholarships for 20 to 25 people who agree to work for designated child welfare agencies upon graduation.
  •  Education professor Sagini Keengwe recently had two books included in the Thomson Reuters Book Citation Index, a resource used by academic professionals to help them find research most relevant to their work. His books focus primarily on instructional technology integration and student-centered approaches in teacher education.
  •  UND graduate students and faculty from the College of Education and Human Development attended the annual American Education Research Association meeting earlier this month in Philadelphia, according to a press release from the university. The meeting is the largest gathering of scholars in the field of education research and is a showcase for new research.
  •  A UND research team has discovered a way to regulate inflammation that happens as a result of an infection. Medical School Associate Professor Min Wu and Postdoctoral Fellow Xikun Zhou discovered a new molecular “fire extinguisher” that can help to regulate inflammation during sepsis and other severe infections. Their research was recently published in “Nature Communications,” an online research journal.

More info: Share higher education news at; include “Higher ed notebook” in the subject heading. To see more regional higher education news, visit the websites of UNDUniversity of Minnesota-CrookstonNorthland Community and Technical CollegeMayville State University andLake Region State College. Herald Staff Writer Dani Meyer contributed to this column.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.