This discussion focuses on online education models that maximize engagement and minimize drop rates.
Sramana Mitra: Kurt, let’s start with introducing our audience to yourself as well as to what you’re doing at City University of Seattle.
Kurt Kirstein: I am currently the Dean in the School of Management at the City University of Seattle. The School of Management is in control of all of our business programs, all of the business related programs, and we also incorporate the technology programs with the Technology Institute at the University. I have been at City University of Seattle for about eight years of which I have been the Dean for seven years.
Sramana Mitra: Before we go on, could you also introduce us to the City University of Seattle?
Kurt Kirstein: City University of Seattle is in its 41st year as a non-profit provider of higher education, primarily to adult working students in many locations around the world. We’re a unique university in that sense. We started very small in Seattle and we grew to serve a much larger population of working adult students in the Pacific Northwest. We branched out first in places like Slovakia and other regions within Europe. Then, we moved in to Asia and Australia. We were in Australia for about five years for a partnership program.
Sramana Mitra: Are these overseas campuses physical campuses or virtual programs?
Kurt Kirstein: These campuses are all physical campuses that are managed through partnerships with local universities. We set up a partnership with a local university and then we provide our programs at their location. The market that we are serving there is also, in many cases, adult students that are looking for an American degree program. In some cases, it’s a much more traditionally aged population.
There’s a bit of an exception in Slovakia. We created a university just after the Velvet Revolution. There was a huge opportunity for us to get into Eastern Europe and provide education, especially education that was taught in English. The students didn’t have English, so we taught them English at the same time. We set up the university in partnership with Slovak Institution. Our programs in Canada are all campuses that we have set up.
Sramana Mitra: What is the size of the student body?
Kurt Kirstein: The last I heard was we had 5,700 students worldwide. Of that, half is in the US and the other half are international – the majority being in the Slovakia or in the European region.
Sramana Mitra: The bulk of this 5,700 is in the Seattle area or in the Pacific Northwest?
Kurt Kirstein: Correct.
Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about the charter of the management school. What specifically are you doing in the realm of online education, which is the subject of this conversation primarily?
Kurt Kirstein: Let me tell you a bit about how we serve our students. Because our students are working adults, they come to us with a variety of backgrounds. Some of them come to us as international students. Their primary goal is to get through their education before they start their working life. Most of our domestic students have a combination of college and work – maybe sometimes as many as a couple of decades.