UC Santa Cruz executive named to national board for online learning

Francisco Hernandez, vice chancellor for student affairs at UC Santa Cruz and an early champion of virtual schooling, has been named to the board of directors of a new national council for online K-12 education.

Hernandez is executive director of the University of California's College Preparatory Initiative (UCCP), which offers online advanced placement and honors courses to high school students. The UCCP was established three years ago to increase opportunities for students from school districts that have "underdeveloped college preparatory curricula."

With funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) was formed in response to the growth in online K-12 learning and teaching initiatives. NACOL, in collaboration with the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), will focus on providing high-quality online teaching and will support expanded research in the field.

Hernandez is among the pioneers of online K-12 education selected to join the board of directors, which met April 15-16 to develop a strategic plan and begin the process of hiring an executive director.

"NACOL will provide a national forum for online learning, and I am pleased to participate," said Hernandez, who developed UCCP to "level the playing field" for students from high schools that offer few, if any, AP courses. UCCP uses a combination of Internet, CD-ROM technology, and textbooks to offer its courses.

UCCP this year broadened its services to offer AP exam review in 14 subject areas and free online SAT and ACT test preparation to all California students. UCCP also supports teachers by hosting online teaching and learning institutes in the summer.

"It makes sense for the university to invest in today's high school students. They are tomorrow's university students," said Hernandez. "The university has the expertise to help develop virtual schooling. Our faculty and staff are involved with the development, delivery, and evaluation of online learning. It's a smart partnership."