Sramana: Let’s explore your continuing education business in greater detail.
Gary Matkin: Continuing education is dominated by people who want convenient, high quality material that is very relevant. Cost is not the primary concern. If you can provide courses that meet those criteria, then you are in the market, and that is what we service. Convenience is enhanced by putting the courses online. We also have those classes on the evenings and weekends, but the online aspect makes it possible for working adults to take any class online.
Sramana: What percentage of your continuing education courses are delivered online today?
Gary Matkin: A little over half.
Sramana: What is the price point at which these courses find acceptance in the marketplace?
Gary Matkin: We charge $600 to $800 per course.
Sramana: What about testing? Do you permit online testing or do you require proxies tests?
Gary Matkin: We do some tests online but a lot of the time we have projects that are evaluated in lieu of the test, or we require a proctored exam.
Sramana: Do you do online proctoring?
Gary Matkin: We do very little, but we have had some interface with ProctorU.
Sramana: What about distance learning? What are the trends and dynamics of the distance learning program?
Gary Matkin: The main trend is to try to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of learners. Technology is only one part of the issue there. The proper use and creative use of technology by very good teachers is the key. I am one of those people who do not believe that teachers are going to be made obsolete by technology. I believe that teachers are in more demand than ever if they are able to put together a learning experience and conduct a course. They are learning architects as opposed to learning deliverers.
Sramana: I agree with that phenomena. The teacher’s role changes from being sage on stage to guide on side.
Gary Matkin: I have heard that phrase as well, and I think even that phrase is aging now. I prefer the term learning architect because guide on the side implies sidebar help. The real trick in the new realm is to design courses that really work for individual learners. How do you get the data that you need in real time to help an individual learner when he or she gets stuck. That is really a matter of learning architecture. Obviously, you want to guide students. The real key will be learning architecture.
Sramana: I’ll disagree with you to an extent on the role of a learning architect. I think what you are talking about, designing the course that includes skill gap analysis and personalization, is not the job of a teacher. That is the job of a course designer.
Gary Matkin: That is true today. I think that every teacher is going to have to be much more understanding of how people learn. As subject matter experts, they are going to have to take that knowledge and combine it with subject matter and combine it with learning experience that is much more personalized.