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Project SAIL

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Executive Summary

As 1,100 institutions serving more than 10 million students annually, America's community and technical colleges serve a strategic function in meeting local learning needs in communities across the country. This local-level focus often leads to specialized industry-driven programs that are unique to a college's service area. With limited funding resources and burgeoning educational needs, colleges are often forced to narrow program offerings and neglect smaller, specialized, or high-cost industry demands. This dynamic has traditionally left some local businesses, industry specialists, or interested individuals without access to some of our nation's best learning opportunities simply because of where they are located. 

The growth and maturity of eLearning options now makes it possible to extend access to specialty courses, degrees, and training beyond traditional college service area boundaries to fulfill workforce needs in even the most remote communities. To support such outreach, the League for Innovation in the Community College, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, has launched Project SAIL (Specialty Asynchronous Industry Learning). Through a network of colleges and industry partners, Project SAIL aims to create a national marketplace promoting access, exchange, and dissemination of specialized industry-driven programs anywhere and anytime for community college students.

Phase I of Project SAIL will be launched June 1, 2003, as an 18-month prototype initiative with 24 college and industry partners (12 in 2003, 12 more in 2004). In addition to building a national clearinghouse for exchange of asynchronous specialty industry curricula and training options, in Phase I Project SAIL partners will develop a catalog of learning exchange resources, such as (a) model articulation agreements, (b) sample transaction models, and (c) customized exchange agreements. These will provide the foundation for a full-scale national implementation model for development, exchange, and customization of online specialty courses. 

Project SAIL is distinguished by three key objectives: 

  • Targeting Specialty Asynchronous Industry Learning content. Project SAIL focuses on specially designed courses and programs that provide skill training for the fundamentals of a specific trade or profession rather than widely available postsecondary general education offerings.
  • Providing access to existing programs and degrees. Project SAIL connects participants to content and curriculum developed within community colleges or industry training centers, as well as to existing degree, certificate, and transfer agreements and college support systems.
  • Development of a model curriculum/content-exchange system. Through Project SAIL successful specialty courses that have been developed by one institution - often at significant cost and investment - can be swapped, purchased, or brokered for use by another college to build a program that meets new workforce development needs without duplication of development dollars.

The curriculum/content exchange system - an array of customized purchase, trade, and lease options - is the "win-win-win" foundation of Project SAIL. This exchange system serves the institution providing the specialty content that recaptures some of its investment funding, the recipient institution that enriches its program options, maintains FTE counts, and serves local industry needs, and the students who access successful, high-quality online or hybrid learning options while remaining at their home institution with sustained services such as advising, financial aid, tutoring, computer lab access, library access, career guidance services, and local industry placement services. 

Through Project SAIL, the League for Innovation in the Community College, with support and leadership from the Sloan Foundation, will help community colleges build on their local strengths and capitalize on their transferable expertise to meet specialized local industry needs and national workforce development demands through expanded asynchronous learning alternatives.


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