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Chaloux leaves VT for Southeastern Regional Electronic Campus

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 23 - March 5, 1998

After 12 years of guiding extended-campus programs at Virginia Tech--first as director of the Northern Virginia Graduate Center and then as associate dean of the graduate school, Bruce Chaloux is moving to the Southern Regional Educational Board as director of the Southern Regional Electronic Campus Initiative.
While at Virginia Tech, Chaloux has seen the number of part-time graduate students studying away from the campus double. "Future increases will be tied to technology as we move to a more learner-centered environment and take instruction to the student, wherever he or she is," he said. "Adults have found it necessary to gain advanced skills and Virginia Tech has been able to provide instruction, not only in person and by satellite to several areas around the state, but also, increasingly, via computers--through the Internet to individuals and through compressed video and audio to classes at extended campus sites and in businesses. Methods that don't require the student to be someplace at 7 p.m. will be increasingly sought.
Chaloux will now carry his expertise and a track-record for finding ways to support new programs to a regional arena that will include Virginia Tech along with universities and colleges in 15 southern states. He will take many of the lessons he has learned at Virginia Tech to his new duties.
The Southern Regional Electronic Campus is open to any program that is technology-based--whether using the Internet, satellite, or video tape. The electronic campus "ought to be viewed as a delivery system that enhances the faculty member," he said, pointing to the results of Tech's Faculty Development Institute. The Electronic Campus should create new opportunities to reach new markets, a "free-trade zone" in the 15 southern states, Chaloux said.
"One of the things I will take to Atlanta is the faculty development-model at Virginia Tech. It is still the best model in the country and, I believe, the best investment an institution can make. A number of institutions in the region are asking SREB for help and I hope we can take some of the elements of our FDI and apply them across the region."
Another Virginia Tech model he will try to apply to the regional electronic campus is that of the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program, which made the most of cooperation between institutions and with industry. "We will be looking for ways to cooperate to make sure we are providing the right kind of programs and services," Chaloux said. At Virginia Tech, he's had an opportunity to experiment, he said. "Len Peters and the Provost's Office have given me the opportunity to think creatively and to implement many ideas." The revenue-sharing program that gave departments an incentive to expand programs and develop new programs outside of Blacksburg and the Commonwealth Campus program that allowed qualified students to take graduate courses without being enrolled in a degree program are two examples.
He will also take others' innovations to SREB, such as from the Electronic Theses and Dissertation project developed by John Eaton and the Virtual Library project developed by Ed Fox.
Chaloux said the regional electronic campus will be able to overcome barriers that faced individual institutions. "If Virginia Tech wanted to take a program to Texas, we would have to overcome a variety of state barriers. The electronic campus will remove these barriers through a strategy of quality assurance that should open up new markets for programs and services in the region. "I want to see Virginia Tech service students in Alabama--individually or at institutions--who need a quality program where we have international expertise, such as in wireless communications. I want to help us meet the needs of other states."
"Tuition is a real issue," he said. "There are 100 courses in the electronic campus from some 40 institutions during the `pilot' phase of this initiative this spring. Virginia Tech's out-of-state tuition is one of the highest. That will have an impact on the student searching for courses. There is growing price sensitivity that all institutions are concerned about. I expect the Electronic Campus will intensify the tuition issue," he said. Students can search at the electronic-campus website (www.srec.sreb.org) by discipline and by cost, compare information, and make decisions about courses best suited to meet their needs. "A number of public institutions in the pilot are offering courses at a single tuition rate. Virginia Tech needs to look at how they are able to do that."
Chaloux said he wants to make sure that a Virginia Tech degree has "a Virginia Tech flavor. We can't recognize credit from anywhere, but we can have a policy similar to the Cooperative Engineering program where a student at Virginia Tech can take up to half their credits elsewhere. We do that because we believe the student's education is enhanced. We can apply that model across the region."
Chaloux starts his new position in Atlanta on March 2.