Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
September 11, 1998

Learning communities to receive $1.5 million

by Anne Dolan

Iowa State will invest more money in student learning communities and distance education during the next three years. During his fall convocation address Sept. 3, President Martin Jischke announced he has allocated $500,000 annually, starting this fiscal year, to strengthen and expand learning community programs. The money will fund additional staff and faculty support, promotional materials, coordinated efforts between residence and academic units and support for specific colleges and departments.

Jischke called learning communities "the best idea I've seen for retention since I've been here."

"By virtually all the measures we make, these programs work. They increase academic performance. They increase positive attitudes. And they increase retention, which ought to translate into increased graduation rates," he said.

Prior to the end of the three-year funding period, Jischke said learning communities will be assessed to measure the impact on student retention, achievement and even recruitment.

In fall 1995, 342 students signed up for learning communities; this fall, approximately 1,350 students are on 59 learning community teams.

Jischke also announced that additional money will be invested in experimental distance education, such as World Wide Web classes, that students can access at virtually any time of the day.

Interest income of $250,000 annually from the WOI-TV (sale) endowment will be allocated to the Provost Office and the Office of the Vice Provost for Extension for these experiments for three years. Jischke said an additional one- year investment of $250,000 will support distance education development efforts in the colleges of Business, Design, Engineering and Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"The challenge for us is not the means to provide the service. The challenge is producing educational material that exploits the technology so we can begin to serve the people," Jischke said.

"We are Iowa's land-grant university. We should be a national leader in this business of distance learning," he said. He noted specifically an unmet demand in Des Moines for education programs.

During his talk, Jischke also said new research initiatives - - at state and federal levels -- as well as a campus infrastructure that expands the university's "capacity in research" will be priorities this year.

He also outlined several key challenges to the ISU community: hosting a second alcohol-free, safe Veishea; providing a learning and working environment that is free from sexual and racial harassment; and resolving the problem of escalating journal costs and subsequent cuts in subscriptions at the ISU library.

About Veishea '99, Jischke said, "Veishea is not out of the woods. Veishea may never be completely out of the woods." But he noted that every successful, safe Veishea helps reduce the "cloud" that began to grow 10 years ago with the first disturbances.

Jischke also invited those in attendance to keep an ear open for good news throughout this academic year. He cited events that are part of the year-long George Washington Carver All- University Celebration; buildings nearing completion and new construction that will begin, including Phase I of a $105 million renovation of the residence department facilities; and more announcements regarding the record-setting, fund- raising effort, Campaign Destiny.

Jischke's convocation speech is available online through the President's Office homepage.

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