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Friday, February 03, 2017

Jean Floten: Disrupting higher education, one click at a time | The Spokesman-Review

Jean Floten, retired on Tuesday as the chancellor of WGU Washington, where she was awarded the title of chancellor emeritus inform, "I earned my higher education stripes at brick-and-mortar institutions, first teaching at a university, followed by student services and instructional administration, then as president of Bellevue College for more than two decades." 

Over a 45-year career, I’ve witnessed amazing innovations in postsecondary learning and been privileged to contribute during that extraordinary era.

Almost 20 years ago, while at Bellevue College, I learned that 19 U.S. governors – including then-Washington Gov. Mike Lowry – had launched the first competency-based, non-profit, online university. Together, as the Western Governors Association, they demonstrated incredible foresight by applying distance learning technologies to tackle one of the region’s most pressing problems: rapid population growth and constricting public funds for much needed educational services.

They called their new institution Western Governors University (WGU), and it was radical and revolutionary. Among the ways:
  • It was collaborative among each governor’s home jurisdiction, but was self-sustaining, rather than subsidized by tax dollars.
  • Advancement toward graduation was measured using competencies instead of seat time; every student could progress through course material at a customized pace.
  • WGU offered accredited bachelor’s and master’s degrees to more people, including those classified as underserved, with a commitment to quality and affordability.
Meanwhile, Bellevue College had recently become a “brick-and-click” institution with a small offering of online programs. I held my breath with skepticism that something as transformational as WGU could truly work.
Fast forward to 2011. The model was working so well the state’s Legislature, in an effort to raise the statewide profile of the online university and enroll more Washingtonians in degree programs, partnered with Western Governors University and launched WGU Washington. Intrigued and excited, I received the opportunity to become WGU Washington’s first chancellor. I jumped on board and haven’t looked back since.

Now, after guiding WGU Washington through nearly six years of record-setting growth and seeing how the university truly impacts people’s lives, I’m retiring. That said, I will always be an unflinching advocate of WGU and its groundbreaking model.

Time and again, our students have fulfilled the vision of those pioneering governors and proven this grand venture works. What many once considered a radical experiment in educational delivery is now the disruptive innovator in higher learning in this state. 
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Additional resources

Photo: Jean Floten
Interview with Jean Floten, Chancellor, Western Governors University (WGU) Washington - E-Learning Queen 

Source: The Spokesman-Review