September 1997 // Spotlight Site
Western Governors University
by James L. Morrison
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: James L. Morrison "Western Governors University" The Technology Source, September 1997. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Step aside Sally Struthers. When I think of a "virtual university" the first thing that comes to mind is those vocational school "get your degree at home" commercials with Sally Struthers. The Western Governors University, our Spotlight Site, is the polar opposite.

The virtual university operated by the Western Governors’ Association represents a watershed for higher education, combining the accreditation and prestige of the traditional university with the speed and connectivity of modern technology. In addition, WGU has taken a step that could affect the future of higher education--it is decoupling sit time from a diploma. WGU staff members will assist students in putting together an academic program combining on-line courses with residential classes at one or more traditional institutions, but for students to receive a degree from WGU, they must demonstrate that they have acquired a set of specific competencies as determined through a battery of assessments. WGU will not award degrees based upon credit hours.

The WGU site includes a FAQ about WGU, information on the current status of the project, specific documentation on how the WGU is to be implemented (including the original resolution to create the WGU), and standards by which "virtual" degrees will be awarded. There is even an HTML version of the WGU PowerPoint presentation, offering the general public a view of exactly how the Western Governors made their proposal. Bookmark this site for a ringside seat looking into the future of higher education.

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