Billy Cannaday, dean of the University of Virginia’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies since 2008, will take on new duties as the first vice provost for academic outreach, John D. Simon, executive vice president and provost, announced.
Cannaday is a veteran educator and former chief executive officer of the Virginia Department of Education. He will continue in his role as dean in addition to his new position.
The position was created to advance cross-University efforts to reach new off-Grounds students and expand U.Va.’s distance-learning offerings, Simon said.
Reporting to Simon, Cannaday, 62, will work with deans, faculty, alumni and other University stakeholders to create a strategy for fulfilling the University’s academic outreach mission as a public university, which includes reaching non-traditional adult learners and addressing state priorities such as increasing the state’s supply of math and science teachers.
Cannaday will work across academic units to identify and leverage existing resources in ways that create sustainable revenue, and will help establish and refine incentives within the new financial model to foster more cross-Grounds collaboration and cost control in reaching off-Grounds students, Simon said.
“Once the new financial model is fully implemented,” Simon said, “it will help deans and other administrators see more clearly how they can bolster their revenues through outreach, and likely profit more by partnering with existing U.Va. resources to control costs rather than creating their own new infrastructure.”
Cannaday said he will ensure that a focus on growing revenue through new outreach does not undermine the quality of U.Va.’s emphasis on teaching, learning and student-faculty interaction. “The challenge will be to approach technology-enhanced learning in ways that build on our existing strengths,” he said.
To that end, he said he plans to establish metrics to measure the quality and outcomes of new distance-learning offerings.
When done right, technology-enhanced learning allows student engagement at a distance that previously was available only in person, Cannaday said.
“The technology is going to take us places we can’t imagine,” he said. “So the issue is how to embed the technology appropriately in the teaching and learning process – which will probably look different for humanities, social sciences and physical sciences, for instance.”
He added, “New technology that enables hybrid or fully online instruction is the key to increasing access to the University’s academic experience from beyond Grounds, for both traditional-age students and older adult learners. Faculty members are understandably wary of adopting any new technology that might be perceived as diminishing the quality of the student experience. We need a safe way for faculty to experience the new technology – by learning from fellow colleagues who can model and champion the benefits and share how it has enabled them to engage students in new ways. In this new role, I will make it a priority to increase the number of such faculty ambassadors.”
The School of Continuing and Professional Studies operates regional centers in Falls Church, Richmond, Newport News, Roanoke and Abingdon, reflecting U.Va.’s “commitment to serve the academic needs and interests of citizens in communities across the state,” Cannaday said.
That physical infrastructure is complemented by the school’s decades of experience with distance learning – from student management systems to marketing, outreach and identifying student demand.
One of every four School of Continuing and Professional Studies classes is fully online, or taught in a hybrid format that combines online components with direct student-teacher interaction, whether in-person or via live broadcast, Cannaday said.
All of that makes the school a natural collaborator for new distance-learning initiatives, or at least a resource to help explore new opportunities, Simon said.
“In his new position, Billy can better leverage the work and resources of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies to benefit the broader University,” Simon said.
The school is preparing for new cross-Grounds partnerships with a recent branding shift that promotes it as “opening the doors to the University of Virginia,” Cannaday said.
The School of Continuing and Professional Studies has several competitive advantages over third-party vendors that may seek to play a role in expanding U.Va.’s footprint nationally and internationally, he said, including an intimate understanding of U.Va.’s faculty, culture and commitment to an engaging student experience.
That does not mean that all U.Va. outreach initiatives should include the school, Cannaday said, or that initiatives will be centrally controlled. The structure and management of each new outreach initiative will be determined by the unique needs of the schools and departments involved, he said.
In some cases, that may mean the School of Continuing and Professional Studies helps launch a new initiative, and then steps aside so the program can be managed directly by its parent school or department.
For instance, the Curry School of Education recently began managing its off-Grounds offerings, which had been managed for more than 25 years by the School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
“For decades, Curry benefitted from the relationships that SCPS has built around the state,” Curry School Dean Robert Pianta said. “It’s been a very productive partnership.”
However, the former arrangement involved complicated, multi-faceted cost- and revenue-sharing agreements that made it difficult for Curry to make cost-benefit judgments about its outreach offerings, Pianta explained.
“It had become clear that the partnership added layers of complexity that weren’t needed and that blunted Curry’s ability to be proactive and strategic in aligning our off-Grounds outreach with our on-Grounds mission and focus,” Pianta said.
Under the new arrangement, many of Curry’s off-Grounds offerings will still be based at the regional centers, and may share staff or operations with Continuing and Professional Studies, he said. “I can now view our off-Grounds offerings as simply extensions of our on-Grounds programs, and I can strategically plan how best to resource all of our offerings,” he said.
In the future, Pianta said, “Curry will draw on SCPS expertise and consulting for things like identifying market opportunities and unmet demands from around the state and beyond, or to help launch new offerings in partnership with the School of Engineering and Applied Science or science departments in the College of Arts & Sciences.”