University may expand online classes

Tim Foster

Colorado Mesa University is considering expanding its online course options through a partnership with an online education company.

The university requested proposals from such service providers last month and heard presentations from Boston-based Pearson Education Monday and Louisville, Ky.-based Learning House and Dallas-based Academic Partnerships on Wednesday.

CMU Vice President of Finance Pat Doyle told Colorado Mesa trustees Friday morning via conference call that the school’s finance committee is considering a contract with either Academic Partnerships or Learning House. Those two were preferred, he said, because they juggle fewer schools than Pearson.

Ten percent of credit hours earned through Colorado Mesa already are delivered online.

Colorado Mesa President Tim Foster said current students are demanding more online classes to accommodate busy schedules. He said the university also would benefit from offering more full degree programs online to better serve the 14-county region around the university without making all students drive to Grand Junction to finish their degrees.

“We think going with a partner is better than going alone,” Foster said, citing each company’s background in technology and marketing. 

According to trustee meeting documents, any contract would allow the university to veto any advertising the provider creates and would allow the university to retain ownership of any curriculum developed by the provider for Colorado Mesa’s online courses.

The university plans to make money in the fifth year of a contract with an online education company, but the expense of expanding would outweigh tuition and fee revenue by an estimated $2.9 million total for the first four years, according to board documents. An online company would possibly take 50 percent of profits.

Doyle said online students, who are often not first-time students, are more likely to be retained, though, and Academic Partnerships in particular offers “success coaches.” 

Foster said Colorado State University-Global has shown success with online courses, and he believes the university knows how to meet demand, particularly by offering more health sciences courses online.

“Ten percent of our credit hours are online — those students would still be taking those courses, just from somewhere else,” he said.

Trustees will likely review and/or approve a contract to be signed between the university and an online company at their next meeting Aug. 15-16.


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