Home' Campus Technology : April 2013 Contents CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY | April 2013
THE MEDIA FOCUS on MOOCs has obscured another
significant foray into the college course arena by education
companies. While courses provided by third-party vendors have
been around for decades, the competitive jockeying among
vendors has picked up significantly.
Pearson, a textbook publisher turned learning-systems provider,
owns a big piece of this market with several products, including
MyLab and Mastering, CourseConnect, and a range of online
education services. Last year, the company acquired
EmbanetCompass, which adds marketing, recruitment, retention
services, and instructional design to the menu of Pearson products.
At about the same time, publisher John Wiley & Sons purchased
Deltak, a Chicago-based company that partners with institutions
to develop and support fully online degree and certificate programs.
"This category of companies has existed for a long time," explains
Susan Gautsch, director of e-learning and a practitioner on the
faculty in information systems at the Graziadio School of Business
and Management at Pepperdine University (CA). "They were just
under the radar. They tend to work behind the scenes with
universities and take on many of the administrative elements of a
program. And it's usually done in a profit-sharing, risk-sharing
While some educators describe the offerings of these companies
as "school-as-a-service," Gautsch prefers "learning solutions
partner," after working last year with EmbanetCompass to launch
an online MBA program, a process that took about six months. "It
took us longer to make the decision and talk our faculty into the
idea than it took to launch, market, get leads, get students enrolled,
and get the program online and launch it," she says. "It's just not
something we could have done without partnering with the
All the industry maneuvering of late may well have been spurred
by an unprecedented surge of venture capital into the higher
education sector. "I'm seeing a large number of small startups
coming on the scene in this space right now," says Johan de
Muinck Keizer, an education market consultant. "All of them are
trying to do the same thing: help universities set up online courses.
Mostly they're focusing on the how-to, and the universities are
focused on the curriculum."
One of those leaders is 2U, a company founded in 2008 as 2tor
and recently rebranded. 2U partners with top-tier universities to
deliver "rigorous, selective graduate degree and undergraduate
for-credit programs online," according to its website.
"We work with faculty members to bring what they do in the
classroom---all their creativity and expertise---to the virtual online
world," explains Chance Patterson, senior vice president of
communications at 2U. "We provide the marketing for the program,
the learning management system, the technology backbone, the
recruiting activities, and the PR and media promotion. We do
everything but teach."
While the 2U model differs significantly from MOOCs, it too has
the potential to be a disruptive force in education. With the online
education arena the tech equivalent of the Oklahoma Land Rush,
companies like 2U are helping brand-name universities stake their
claims quickly and effectively. Those schools that lag behind may
ultimately find that they have the farthest to travel.
THE ONLINE EDUCATION RUSH foundational courses, which helps them to be success-
ful later on and further their education. Enhancing and
increasing post-secondary attainment in this country is a
huge issue. In some little way, what we are doing with the
MOOCs may help move that forward."
ACE is a recognized authority in evaluating non-tradi-
tional education experiences: More than 2,000 colleges
and universities consider its recommendations when they
assess the applicability of a course to a degree program.
"We have a process in place that we've been refining
since the 1970s and a large pool of faculty advisers,"
explains Sandeen. "When MOOCs came on the scene
in a big way this past summer and students started to
complete the courses, it was really the students who
started asking, 'How can I get credit for this?' We real-
ized that maybe we could apply [our] existing process to
Sandeen is another industry watcher who doubts that
MOOCs will result in a reduction in the number of college
and university faculty. In fact, she argues, given the educa-
tion goals of the US, we might need even more as these
"I don't see this technology carving up smaller pieces of
the pie," she says. "I see it creating a bigger pie."
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Palo Alto, CA.
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