Friday, May 29, 2009

Creating an Online Division - Is It in Your DNA?

I think there's a misconception by many college administrators that online education is an inexpensive and easy alternative to traditional face-to-face offerings. Unfortunately, building a good online course or program is not as easy as it looks. It takes a significant investment in infrastructure, an LMS, faculty, instructional designers, online proctors, online administrators, and a long laundry list of unexpected expenses. It would be nice if we could just flip a switch and create an online division or a separate online college-within-the-college, but it's not that simple. These two examples below (Colorado State University and University of Illinois) should be cautionary tales to any schools that think they're going to squeeze out a little more revenue by creatign their own Global Campus. Online education and traditional classroom-based education are two very different domains. Success in one does not guarantee success in the other. Imagine, for example, The University of Phoenix deciding to build a bricks and motar campus - are bricks and motar in their DNA? I don't think so.
Rocky Start for Colorado State U.'s Online-Education Start-Up
Colorado State University’s new Global Campus online-education venture laid off more than 25 percent of its operation in recent months as the start-up failed to bring in money at the pace officials had expected, according to the program’s leader.

The reduction of staff and faculty members took place over three months ending in February, a period that followed the abrupt departure of Larry E. Penley, who was chancellor of the Colorado State system and president of the Fort Collins campus. Hunt Lambert, the new chief executive of the Global Campus since March, insists the effort is now on track.

But the rocky start has raised some eyebrows in Colorado higher-education circles. And it marks the latest in a series of struggles at public online-education programs around the country.

In contrast to the University of Illinois, which last week pulled the plug on its strategy for a similar venture, also named Global Campus, Colorado is soldiering on.

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