Champion for Accountability in Adult Online Education Wins WCET’s Highest Award

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Michael J. Offerman wins WCET's Richard Jonsen Award

WCET Richard Jonsen Award

“Mike Offerman’s vision has inspired an entire generation of online educators”, noted Ellen Wagner, WCET executive director.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) has honored Michael J. Offerman, president emeritus, Capella University, with the Richard Jonsen Award, given annually to a WCET member whose career has been committed to improving postsecondary educational programs and services through innovative uses of technology. The award also recognizes Offerman’s exceptional service to WCET, a membership organization that works to accelerate the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education. The announcement was made at WCET’s annual membership conference in Denver, Colorado.

Offerman was honored with this lifetime achievement award for his impact and commitment in promoting access, quality, accountability, and consumer information for adult working students. He led the expansion of Capella University’s infrastructure, policies, and services, and promoted innovation in areas of student services, program improvement, and quality measurements within Capella’s online programs. These programs continue to receive numerous awards, including WCET’s Outstanding Work (WOW) award. “Mike Offerman’s vision has inspired an entire generation of online educators”, noted Ellen Wagner, WCET executive director. “His commitment to excellence has changed both hearts and minds about the value of technology for extending higher educational access and opportunity. WCET is fortunate to have him as one our trusted advisors.”

Offerman championed the concept of reporting student learning outcomes at the program level to provide adult learners with relevant data on student completion, and also led the development of a sophisticated data modeling system used to identify when certain interventions are needed to encourage student persistence. This pioneering work in learning outcomes and data analytics set the stage for the Transparency by Design initiative and College Choices for Adults website that is managed by WCET. He served as chair of the Executive Committee for Transparency by Design from 2008-2010.

Offerman’s career includes 15 years with the University of Wisconsin, serving as dean and executive director for continuing education. There he developed the Center for Learning Innovations which supported all 15 University of Wisconsin institutions in the delivery of online degree programs.

Offerman has been a long-time contributor to WCET in his leadership capacity with Transparency by Design and also as Steering Committee member. In 2009, Offerman accepted WCET’s request to be nominated for the U.S. Department of Education’s Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Accreditation, where he served as the primary negotiator on behalf of distance education throughout that process.

“All of us at Capella offer our sincere congratulations to Mike on receiving this well deserved recognition. Anyone who has worked with Mike understands that his passion for higher education and adult learning runs deep. Not only has his focus on learning outcomes, transparency and analytics made Capella University the institution we are today, but it has also significantly advanced the industry-wide conversations around providing better access, quality, and accountability for adult working students,” said Kevin Gilligan, chairman and CEO of Capella Education Company.

WCET’s Richard Jonsen Award is named in honor of Richard Jonsen, the WICHE Executive Director who nurtured the idea of a technology cooperative and founded WCET in 1989.

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) ( accelerates the adoption of effective practices and policies, advancing excellence in technology-enhanced teaching and learning in higher education. More detailed information about the Richard Jonsen Award is available on WCET’s website at

Capella University ( is an accredited online university that has built its reputation by providing quality online degree programs for working adults. Nearly 80 percent of Capella students are currently enrolled in master's, specialist, or doctoral degree programs in business, counseling, education, health administration, homeland security, human resource management, human services, information technology, nonprofit management and leadership, nursing, psychology, public administration, public health, public safety, and social work. Capella also offers bachelor's degree programs in business, information technology, nursing, psychology, and public safety. Within those areas, Capella currently offers 140 graduate and undergraduate specializations and 17 certificate programs. More than 35,000 learners were enrolled as of Sept. 30, 2011, from all 50 states and 59 other countries. Capella is committed to providing high-caliber academic excellence and pursuing balanced business growth. Founded in 1993, Capella University is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Capella Education Company, headquartered in Minneapolis. For more information, please visit or call 1.888.CAPELLA (227.3552).


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Mollie McGill, Deputy Director, WCET

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