Several organizations and activities help support the work of learning center and campus coordinators. This document provides background on the following groups:

  • Partnership coordinators
  • Student services center
  • Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System (IHETS)
  • Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education (IPSE)
  • Indiana College Network (ICN)

Interacting with the statewide coordinators committee
Indiana has multiple learning centers that support students taking classes at a distance. Each center has a designated learning center coordinator who not only provides student-support services for college and university programs, but who assists students handling transactions among institutions.

A student can seek assistance from the coordinator to help fill out paperwork, order textbooks, send homework to campus, take examinations, and perform what must be done to complete a class. A single point-of-contact on each campus and in every learning center is an enormous strength of this multi-institutional network.

Since the inception of the statewide institutional partnership to provide a gateway to distance classes in a common schedule, coordinators have met almost every month in Indianapolis and through phone and teleconferencing to discuss how to make this interactive communication network work. Problems are shared, ideas are brought to the table for consideration, and coordinators who want the best service for students build good working relationships. On the premise that "many heads are better than one," the coordinators work in cooperation to adapt, test, and implement procedures.

At the same time, a majordomo list of all coordinators and interested parties keep coordinators current with changes in policies, closed classes, additional class sections, and other information that can reach all concerned at the same time. The group also shares helpful student-support information found in many useful sites on the Web and the latest information about distance education issues.

Each year, a student-satisfaction survey is made available for students through their learning centers and now on-line. Many students note with pleasure the excellent support offered through ICN learning centers, many times inspiring a student to complete a class or full program of study.

As new communities and regional areas of the state realize the advantages of offering postsecondary education close to home and the workplace, learning centers may be developed in many locations other than on college campuses, such as public libraries, public schools, county extension offices, community centers, and businesses.

Finding information easily from the student services center hotline
Operating with the mission of "staying on the line with a potential student until all questions are answered" has been the goal of a well-established student services center hotline that began operating when the coordinators began building their communication network. After the potential student dials the number 800-ICN-8899, a friendly voice answers to explore with the student what goals he wishes to achieve and learn what led to the decision to return to school. A crew of operators respond to calls, and for more complex transactions, the director of the student services center and the registrations coordinator will talk at length with the student to offer supporting information.

In addition, the full-time director coordinates, trains, and schedules the operators while the registrations coordinator pulls information from databases housed in the student services center and a database of current classes available through ICN. Both persons process requests for enrollment that are then forwarded to the institutions for action.

Discovering the consortial headwaters of the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunications System (IHETS)
IHETS has been in operation since 1967, when the colleges and universities joined in a consortium to share the costs and maintenance of statewide telephone and video services. Data was later added to the IHETS mix, ensuring that all higher education institutions in the state had the same quality of service and support for interinstitutional services.

Much of the effort to develop a statewide data backbone network for greater bandwidth capability and services to support dynamically increased data, video, and phone demands for public institutions and organizations is a joint effort of area telephone companies, the Indiana Intelenet Commission, and IHETS staff.

As the growth of technology affects state institutions, a new mission for IHETS includes support for its institutionsoutreach efforts to public education, public libraries, government agencies, and related public constituencies. At the same time, learning centers around the state are making the transition from other technologies and approaches to many new courses and programs offered by Indiana institutions over the Internet and new capabilities to video conference via two-way video and audio over desktop computers.

The IHETS consortium has been charged with becoming the gateway for distance/distributed education courses from our states public and private institution who wish to reach a statewide audience in a single catalog and an online database. To support this effort, IHETS has contracted with the Indiana Career and Postsecondary Advancement Center (ICPAC) to provide an 800 hotline for information about Indiana s colleges and courses, where adult and returning students can be put directly in touch with on-campus resources by phone. This service is the Indiana College Networks student services center.

Building the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education (IPSE) and the Indiana College Network (ICN)
The IHETS consortium of Indiana public and private colleges and universities sent institutional representatives to build the framework of a statewide program to offer distance programs through a common catalog and database. They wanted a system that could reach out to areas of Indiana which had greater distances between college campuses and residents who wanted more post-secondary education opportunities near work or home. The committees and their policy decisions to provide services to support statewide distance/distributed education took the umbrella name of the Indiana Partnership for Statewide Education for this activity.

At the same time, the state required that a certain number of undergraduate general education classes be declared transferable statewide among all Indiana state universities and colleges. Ten classes from varied schools were identified and planned for distance modes to be useful to all students. These courses, peer-reviewed and initially accepted by all became the first classes available, along with several others, in the first schedule of classes. At this time, these courses are under review and are withheld from the class schedule until their current status is updated.

The partnership began operation in 1994 with several events occurring at the same time:

  • Aa marketing firm recommended changing the activitys name to the Indiana College Network, because it would be more likely to be remembered by potential students;
  • A new hotline service, the student cervices center, was begun for students interested in taking distance classes and new adult students or adults returning to school;
  • The IPSE Working Group continued building the structure and infrastructure of the new activity;
  • Campus coordinators and learning center coordinators were appointed and first met to learn what was expected of these new duties.

To explain the use of two acronyms commonly used, IPSE and ICN, it is generally accepted that the audience development activities, the student services center, the database of courses, the Web site, and the schedule of classes would carry the ICN label. The policy- and procedure-making committees, however, chose to keep IPSE as their activity name, thus the IPSE working group, IPSE coordinators, and so on. The term the partnership is also frequently used in conversation in place of IPSE.

Since 1994, enrollments have begun climbing exponentially, eliciting the need to review the home institution model to see whether it was scalable to much more growth in the future. Discussion in a series of meetings in the fall of 1999, revealed that many viewed the Model to be cumbersome and manually intensive. Several institutions in the state felt that students, staff, and faculty would be better served by accommodating these transactions on their own internal systems. A revised model was proposed that allowed the student to enter at two separate institutions the same semester, one as a guest student and the other the home institution. Other institutions already had systems in place to keep track of students from other institutions taking courses at an originating (or "teaching") school, and felt that would take care of many situations. These issues are close to immediate resolution by a representative committee from all the institutions.