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Symposium explores online learning strategies

Dr. Donald R. Bobbitt


LITTLE ROCK – The Internet and other distance learning tools aren’t going to demolish the institution of the university that has been in place since the 11th century, Dr. Donald Bobbitt, president of the University of Arkansas System, told educators and administrators from UA campuses gathered for a symposium at UALR in April.

But he said the explosion of online universities offering enormous convenience for students juggling busy lives will require brick and mortar schools to adapt and complete for those students.

“I am convinced that we can do a better job. We must do a better job, and it is absolutely critical that we take on that task.” he said. “The most optimistic view that I can have about the traditional university is that if nothing changes, our current funding model, our current delivery model, and our current business model are completely unsustainable. Other than that, everything is fine.”

The first University of Arkansas System Distance Learning Symposium – “Getting to Know You” – Friday, April 20, was designed to share information and exchange ideas about the future of online education throughout the UA system.

Bobbitt, presented his keynote address, “Vision for Distance Learning,” to an audience of more than 200 that included several members of the UA Board Trustees and other state dignitaries. Click here to watch video of Bobbitt’s presentation.

At the lunch session, Dr. Myk Garn, director of Education Technology for the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), presented “Current Patterns and Future of Distance Learning.” He also moderated three panel discussions with various online user groups.

The panelists included students, faculty, and administrators who shared their insight, experience, and individual perspectives about the various facets of online education and its impact.

In his keynote, Bobbitt cited statistics showing recent increases of over 200 percent in enrollment at for profit universities while traditional universities grew at a much lower rate – 25 percent. He encouraged the educators to embrace alternatives and offer students something he says the for-profits are not offering – quality.

Statistics from publicly traded companies operating for-profit schools show they are spending 30 percent of the tuition dollar on marketing, 30 percent on profit, and only 40 cents of every dollar on instruction.

“We can capture the largest market share by developing a better product at a lower cost,” he said. “We’re going to have to be pretty innovative because we’re going to have to do better for more people with the same or diminishing resources.

Posters sessions were presented throughout the day in the Engineering Information and Technology building’s lobby giving participants an opportunity to discover how online learning has developed and will continue to transform the UA system schools and institutes.

For more information about the symposium and videos of the presentations, visit


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