Sramana Mitra: Any particular discipline or is it across the board?
Todd Hitchcock: It’s funny you should ask that one. How we determine whether or not to partner with an institution is not like a traditional sale where we go and sell our products to someone. We’re actually very strategic in how we engage with our partners. The process usually starts when a school comes to us or we go to a school that wants to put a certain degree program online. Before we engage in deep discussions with them, we do a market assessment. Your question is important because we look at a degree program and we have a number of criteria to determine whether or not that’s a good degree program to put online.
We look at, “Is it a professional degree? Is it going to provide the individual with some sort of professional skills – engineering, healthcare, nursing, business – that’s going to enable them to advance their career? How many degrees are actually produced in that field? What’s the job outlook in that field?” We do a great deal of market research and assessment upfront.
Then, we provide that information to the prospective partner and in some cases say, “Hey, you wanted to put these five degree programs online. These three will be very good and these two may not be so strong.” That’s one thing that is critical when I mentioned about the orchestra. There’s a lot of pieces that we can talk about today but before you even begin to start to think about that, the question we always ask is, “What is your goal in going online? How do you want to go about it?”
Before we engage deeply in a partnership, we want to make sure that the model that we create is focused on success. If it’s a degree program that we think just can’t grow and would be difficult for them to deliver online, we provide that information to our partner upfront before we engage deeply. From the very beginning, it’s focused on a shared success model.
Sramana Mitra: Tell me a bit about what kinds of colleges and universities are your early adopter partners? How many of these do you have? What trend analysis can we draw based on what you’re seeing in the market?
Todd Hitchcock: We have a wide range of partners. Some schools will want to put one degree program online. Another institution might say, “I want to put my entire business courses online.” Another university may want to put an engineering course online. We have others that will come to us and say, “I have an on-ground MBA but I want to put an MBA with concentrations online.”
Generally, there’s a couple of situations. One is those schools that come to us with very specific objectives. That’s one of our segments. The other one that’s broad and what we call our enterprise partners. That’s where a university will come to us and say, “We want to put our entire program online. We’d like to work with you to do that.” An example of that is University of Florida. They want us to help them to power their entire undergraduate program which is very broad. We cross the gamut in both situations.