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In Case You Missed It: NC-SARA CEO Lori Williams on Inside Higher Ed’s “The Key” Podcast

Updated by on Mon, 07/27/2020 - 14:10

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July 21, 2020                                                                           

In Case You Missed It: NC-SARA CEO Lori Williams on Inside Higher Ed’s “The Key” Podcast

Boulder, CONational Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA) President and CEO Lori Williams was a guest on The Key, Inside Higher Ed’s weekly podcast on the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education.

In the episode, entitled “Online Learning’s Outlook for the Fall”, Dr. Williams explains how NC-SARA helps facilitate access to distance education across state lines, and raises concerns about the need for states to dedicate additional oversight to distance education. As Dr. Williams notes, “There’s not been a unified approach” by states beyond the requirements of SARA to adequately assure program quality as institutions rush to transition to online learning during the pandemic.

My sincere hope is that states will go back to regulating distance education once the pandemic is over. One of the reasons that NC-SARA is so important is the protection that the institution and students have when they participate in SARA,” Dr. Williams said. “Half the states in the United States really do no distance education regulation, outside of SARA. And a third don’t require an institution to be accredited to operate legally in their state. Of course, under SARA, you have to do all of those things and so this raises the bar for consumer protection.” Learn more about NC-SARA’s role in student consumer protections.

Dr. Williams also shared her thoughts on how higher education may evolve as a result of the COVID pandemic, stating, “It’s been really interesting to see the different kinds of new programs that are emerging, some in response to the desire for short-term, more workforce-development-focused areas of interest, both credit-bearing and not… I think that noncredit-bearing and shorter micro-credentials absolutely are the future… [as] folks are looking for additional training, especially as they think about a new career post-COVID. They’re not necessarily looking for an entire degree.”

Additionally, Dr. Williams urged stakeholders to invest in strategies to improve online learning pedagogy. “As those that have been involved in online learning for many decades can attest, students are just going to demand more sophisticated online programs… It’s really imperative that institutions shift their focus to the scholarship of [online] teaching and learning, understanding what the effective practices are that have been studied for a couple of decades now, and states need to pay attention to what those are as well.”

To listen to the podcast, click here. To learn more about NC-SARA, visit

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