Archive for Tuesday, June 4, 2013

KU planning to launch 15 new online programs over 5 years under new deal with startup company

June 4, 2013


KU and online learning

Past Journal-World coverage of Kansas University's online education strategy:

April 28: KU moving faster on online education

Jan. 28: KU not spooked by MOOCs

Aug. 6, 2012: More online hybrid courses offered at KU

Contact KU and higher ed reporter Sara Shepherd
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Kansas University has not been a leader in the area of online education, the school's leaders have admitted. But that might change as the result of an agreement KU has signed with an online-education startup company called Everspring.

The university and the Evanston, Ill.-based company plan to launch 15 new graduate degree and certificate programs, all in the School of Education, over the next five years.

That will be a vast expansion of KU’s slate of fully online programs. Right now there are two: one in the education school and one in the School of Pharmacy.

“We’re positioning ourselves to move to the front of a pack that we haven’t been in the front of before,” said Rick Ginsberg, the School of Education’s dean.

Unlike Coursera, Udacity and other Massive Open Online Course companies that have made deals with universities around the nation to put individual courses online that students can take for free, Everspring will help KU put entire programs online — and split tuition revenue with the university. KU will be Everspring's first major client; the two sides signed the deal in late April.

Everspring will take the content and intellectual property already used by KU education faculty in existing programs and package it for online students. The company also will handle marketing and recruitment for the courses, targeting potential students first in the Midwest and then elsewhere.

Jeff Conlon, Everspring’s CEO, co-founded the company in late 2011, leaving his position as CEO of Kaplan Higher Education, which operates the for-profit Kaplan University. The company will design interactive programs that go beyond video lectures or presentation slides, he said, and provide support for students who might otherwise feel isolated hundreds of miles from campus.

“Students who never come to campus, we design an ecosystem to help them feel supported,” Conlon said. He called the system “higher education online 2.0,” and he said KU will be the first university to use it.

The deal with Everspring comes after about a year of talks with the company and several years of planning, KU Provost Jeff Vitter said. Vitter said it will be the beginning of a larger expansion of KU’s online offerings.

“It’s been really a long process to get to this point,” Vitter said, “and we’re very excited about the preliminary products that are being developed.”

The first new offering to emerge from the partnership will be an online version of one of KU’s most highly regarded programs: a master’s degree in special education. KU’s special education graduate program is ranked No. 1 among U.S. public universities and No. 2 overall, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The master’s program is set to enroll its first students in January 2014, followed by a certificate program in special education in spring 2014 and a master’s program in curriculum and instruction in August 2014.

These graduate-level programs are ideal for this online-education expansion, Ginsberg said, because their students generally are educators working full-time. The hope is that many people in such situations who are too far from campus, or who don't have the time to come to Lawrence for classes, would take advantage of an online program, he said. Everspring would provide infrastructure that KU couldn't on its own.

Instead of a flat payment from KU, the contract calls for Everspring to take a percentage of tuition revenue from the courses offered. The company will receive 55 percent of the revenue at the start, and the percentage will decrease to 35 as enrollment increases.

The proposed tuition rate for the first Everspring program, the master’s in special education, will be $756 per credit hour — a bit less than KU’s current rate for out-of-state graduate students, about $772.

Ginsberg said KU hoped to recruit 25 students for the first master's program in January, and several hundred online students by the agreement's second year.

More details about the program will be released around the end of August, when marketing and recruiting efforts will begin.

The deal with Everspring, announced just a few days after the Kansas Legislature approved about $5.3 million in cuts to KU’s Lawrence campus over the next two years, opens up a potential new stream of revenue for the university.

“As we all know, budgets are challenged, and this is an opportunity to bring new sources of revenue and extend our visibility nationally,” Vitter said.

Ginsberg said about half of the School of Education’s roughly 80 faculty had expressed interest in helping with the online courses. In addition, Vitter said, leaders hope that other KU schools and departments may decide to follow the education school’s example as its online programs grow. Other possibilities could include bachelor's degree completion programs for adults or for students transferring from community colleges.

“We can extend this world-class set of programs to a much, much larger audience,” Vitter said. “Now that KU value and brand is going to be accessible, really, from anywhere.”


LJ Whirled 5 years ago

On-campus education is not only increasingly archaic, but also prohibitively (and needlessly) expensive.

This signals the beginning of the end of the bloated on-campus college system, and it is well past the time for it to collapse.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years ago

I've taken a few online classes, myself. I find they tend to be more expensive than the face-to-face classes. I haven't asked why that is, but it has been true at the schools I've gotten my credits from.

Steve Bunch 5 years ago

One reason is that we are willing to pay more for the convenience--no driving, parking, the ability to fit it into work schedules. I'd argue that since these are nationally highly-ranked degree programs, KU should be charging much more, especially since it has to split the take with the "startup" company (by the way, what percentage of startups succeed, and if they go under what is KU's contingency plan to honor its commitment to those who have enrolled in the program?).

5thStPhoggers 5 years ago

Everything is "bloatiful" in it's own way.

WilburM 5 years ago

Wow, just what we need, 15 more grad programs in the school of education. I'm sure there is just an amazing demand out there for all of them. Plus, since Brownback is working to whittle education jobs down to a precious few, not many opportunities.

Patricia Davis 5 years ago

Hmmmmm. I'll file this under "too little too late."

Steve Bunch 5 years ago

Good question, though this isn't really so much a computing issue as it is instructional design. KU has a Center for Online and Distance Education, but for unknown reasons it apparently isn't involved in the project.

jhawkinsf 5 years ago

Imagine the following; a department at KU, any department, pick one. Twenty professors, all having gone to KU for their undergraduate and graduate degrees. All getting their Ph.Ds at KU, then employed at KU, promoted, eventually becoming professors and head of the department.

All too incestuous for me. What any program needs to thrive is outside blood, outside ideas. Maybe that's why KU went outside to set up this program. Just my guess, though.

Steve Bunch 5 years ago

Instructional design is a commodity. You can outsource it or do it from within.

Generally speaking, departments hiring new faculty try to bring in people from outside KU. That's been a principle forever, although there are exceptions.

ljwhirled 5 years ago

Making my degree less valuable through online learning. Great.

Also: I am shocked to find that KU is working with an Illinoise based start up.

Why? Because KU has failed in every way possible at empowering and enabling Kansas based start ups.

KU hasn't spawned a single widely identifiable technology company. What a joke.

chootspa 5 years ago

This seems like a terrible idea. Not the idea of converting existing programs into online courses. That's great. The idea of using some former Kaplan guy's company to do it? Terrible. For-profits are one of the worst models out there. And now they've got a profit motive to recruit kids to come and attend this online program and not necessarily graduate or get a job? Might as well just rename the college "Phoenix Online: KU Edition."

If KU wants to do this right, they should hire an in-house team of qualified instructional designers to work with the faculty to convert their courses and engage students.

chootspa 5 years ago

Or come to think of it - why don't they have the same revenue sharing agreement with Fort Hays State or some other Regents college that is already doing a lot of distance ed and doing it right?

Peacemaker452 5 years ago

“it's about social interaction, learning team work and developing people skills that cannot be learned online”

Isn’t that the same excuse the school districts used when they were begging for money for all day kindergarten?

vanessaliobanewton 5 years ago

I agree! Especially in those advanced degree classes. I think some of the basic classes are fine to have online, but when class discussion betters the learning process, on campus has it beat. In my grad school we would walk into class w/ our readings done and discuss and analyze the findings and research for the entire 3 hours, sometimes longer. Bouncing ideas off of each other and having that interaction is very beneficial for higher education. Classes where the professor lectures directly off a powerpoint and there is no class discussion...that's a different story.

Steve Bunch 5 years ago

Some online classes are synchronous, which means that the whole class convenes in real time and discussion is possible. Others are asynchronous, so the individual is free to "attend" at any time. Some classes are "blended," so that a certain amount of face-to-face is required. Good instructional design sees that the mode is in synch with the content and pedagogical requirements. Flexibility is the key, within parameters that are determined by the course content.

Lawrence Morgan 5 years ago

KU is doing this only for money. I am very disappointed in what KU is doing.

It is also very sad that KU's own computing department doesn't have the capability - or they were forced out for a private upstart company- to do this. ' And it is even more surprising that the company isn't in Kansas. KU has made no effort to put Kansas first in these kinds of things, or to partner with other universities in Kansas.

I am a KU graduate. There are plenty of people in Lawrence and around the state who are looking for these very kinds of positions and opportunities.

In my opinion, this is enough to fire Rick Ginsberg on the spot. He has been unwilling to go with Kansas talent, and to take advantage of all the experience that we have here.

It is also time to fire the chancellor of the university, and to find someone else who can lead in the right direction for the future.

Other universities and colleges have taken a very different course, and many of their courses are for free - such as Coursera, Udacity and other Massive Open Online Course companies, bringing education to lower and middle class people, of all ages, around the world.

But not KU!!!!

And part of the blame must also lie with the Regents, who apparently are so far from reality that they don't know what is happening with Massive Open Online Courses throughout this country and in the rest of the world.

chootspa 5 years ago

It's not the computing department, exactly. The campus already supports an online platform and probably hosts it on campus.

They're hiring people to convert the curriculum into online modules for the professors - but more importantly, they're hiring recruiters to market this thing. For-profits have a history of aggressively recruiting people who are not really good potential students in order to get their financial aid money. That's what's concerning me. Now they can put KU's name and reputation on top of a for-profit's aggressive recruiting tactics.

You hit the nail on the head about this being all about the money.

positive 5 years ago

Programs in the Education school are one of the rare cases where online education makes sense. Many teachers can't get raises unless they get some extra courses, regardless of their abilities. They respond like lab rats and press the "more education" button . If I were back in college, I would avoid online education. I suspect employers will correctly view online courses as a poor substitute for traditional college. FHSU, KSU, KU, etc should do what they do well and leave the University of Phoenix alone.

jaywalkinhawk 5 years ago

This is a terrible idea and shows Ginsberg's lack of vision [and financial sense] in developing online programs at the University of Kansas and the education department. "the contract calls for Everspring to take a percentage of tuition revenue from the courses offered" - I hope Everspring does not also own the rights to the developed content for the online courses.

Either, Ginsberg went up against a wall with internal resources at KU or Everspring had a sales pitch like McDonald's. You get the food (online courses) fast and you won't have to cook (create) anything. Quick and easy. Right?

What about the new KU Center for Online and Distance Education
What about the instructional designers in the school of education? If Vitter, truly wanted this department to lead by example, he would have made the resources available to develop this program in-house and have the support available on a continuing basis.

Using a company like this,to develop online courses, shows a complete lack of leadership and knowledge of how online programs are developed but truly maintained in a higher education environment.

gatekeeper 5 years ago

I got my Special Education degree at KU. I would think getting it online would be pretty worthless. Education degrees involve working with students. You can learn all you want to from a book or online course, but until you work one-on-one with these children, you really have no idea. I think the Special Ed degree is a terrible one to offer online. Sure, you can teach the various conditions that affect kids, but until you work with a child with a certain condition, you really don't have a good understanding of it and what it takes to teach them to overcome it or adapt so they can prosper in school and life.

I helped a friend with assignments, proofing papers, etc.... when she got an online degree. What a joke! The assignements was easy, every test was open book, etc... I don't think people get as much out of online classes as they do from actually attending a class. I studied my butt of for exams, but if they were online all that would be needed is to have notes and books in front of you when the exam was being taken. I value the professors and the time they invested in educating me. As one poster said above, there are many other aspects that just can't be learned online.

Seriously look into what the coursework is like for these classes and you'll understand why a real, sat in a classroom and worked my butt off degree is more valuable and why most employers will consider it better than online degrees.

BOO KU! I don't want KU compared to the University of Phoenix.

oxandale 5 years ago

I personally got my degree online through Fort Hays State University. Personally, finishing my degree and being able to do it online was a asset for me. I loved that I was able to do my homework in the middle of the day or middle of the night. Although the flexibility of schedule was nice (versus sitting in a class from 9 am to 10am), I have to admit, I did miss some of the interaction with other people. Yes, there were online discussions, but that still lacks the human element/human factor. It is rather difficult to have a healthy class debate online.

fu7il3 5 years ago

If anything, KU is way behind the curve. There are a lot of universities already offering online Master's degrees and doing it very well. Those of you who think it is going to cheapen a KU degree might as well get used to it, because it is going to be happening at most institutions, particularly public ones. Education is changing. You can either adapt to it, or get run over by it.

chootspa 5 years ago

Most universities purchase server software or hosting, but develop all their own curriculum and do all the actual teaching in-house. Most k-12 schools, including USD 497 use's farmed out curriculum and in-house teachers to administer it.

fu7il3 5 years ago

The program comes from a company, the curriculum and instruction comes from within the University itself and really isn't all that different. You can have lectures online just as well as in person.

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