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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Weatherford suggests online-only university



No classrooms, no football stadium, no parking lots -- Could an online-only university work in Florida?

Rep. Will Weatherford thinks so. 

Weatherford, set to be the House's next speaker, asked the Florida Board of Governors to look into the possibility. At Thursday's regular meeting of the state university system governing board, Weatherford suggested that a growing percentage of students taking online classes is evidence that the prospect already has support.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the fastest growing part of our education system," Weatherford said.

He stressed that the idea was only a suggestion, and he didn't intend to take any action, himself, on it. "I would like to just plant that seed," he said.

It seems to be taking root. Board of Governors chairman Dean Colson committed to responding to his request, even if that means hiring consultants to fully vet the idea.

Board member Ann Duncan, who chairs the board's Academic and Student Affairs committee, asked Weatherford if he had any particular existing model in mind for them to consider.

Not really, he said. Maybe the University of Florida could head it up, or maybe some entity outside the state. Maybe it'll be up to the private sector, or maybe a public-private partnership. Maybe it's a combination of efforts.

"I almost feel like it's limitless," Weatherford said.

He reminded the board of the popular Florida Virtual online program for K-12 students.

That program is the largest state-funded program of its kind in the nation, but its results are tough to track, a recent Times report found.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:22am]


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