Book by Katrina A. Meyer
Review by Jeane Redsecker
Academic Advising and Retention
Dominican University of California

For the educator seeking an overview of the relatively new phenomenon of the virtual university (VU), Lessons Learned from Virtual Universities is ideal. The monograph begins with a summary of the first national study of 61 virtual universities, published in 2003; and this serves to provide historical grounding and to identify aspects of comparison such as origin, funding, organizational model and program offerings. 

Much of the book describes specific VUs, including their positive aspects and challenges. Some of those currently operating are: Western Governors University, Kentucky Virtual University, Ohio Learning Network, University of Texas TeleCampus, WashingtonOnline, University System of Georgia eCore, Michigan Virtual University, and California Virtual University/Campus. One case study dissects U.S. Open University, a VU that operated from 1998 to 2002. It is presented as an opportunity to learn from factors that led to its demise.

The typical model for a VU involves funding from state government. Courses are drawn from a consortium of colleges in that state, so tuition or fees are higher for non-residents. An exception to this model is the Western Governors University, which established its own accredited institution that was not linked to a specific state. A VU that I have used in my own advising work is California Virtual Campus at cvc.edu.

The chapter likely to be most interesting to advisors describes advising aspects of a VU. NACADA members will appreciate the authors’ acknowledgement that NACADA established standards for advising distance learners in 1999! Steele and Thurmond offer a practical two-step process to create a communication plan for academic advising services. Their approach involves assessing a school’s website and student portal and then reviewing the communication tools available to advisors. Chances are that most advisors are already using some of these technological tools, such as email, whether or not they are advising within a VU. Our advising department at Dominican University of California found the chapter on Academic Advising in a Virtual University helpful in setting up an Advisor Portal on our Intranet. The information in this chapter is applicable not only to advising but to the online delivery of other institutional information needed by students, advisors, faculty and staff.

Advisors or other university colleagues serving on a task force or committee to explore or establish online courses and programs would find Lessons Learned from Virtual Universities an invaluable resource. Advisors facing the last-minute challenge of locating an online course so a student can graduate may find the solution from one of the sources listed in this monograph.

Lessons learned from virtual universities. (2009) Book by Katrina A. Meyer (Ed.). Review by Jeane Redsecker. San Francisco,CA: Jossey-Bass. 112 pp, $29.00, ISBN # 978-0-470-52554-8
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