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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Todd Hitchcock, COO of Pearson Embanet (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, Apr 12th 2014

Sramana Mitra: In these cases, are the universities providing the content and you’re providing the delivery framework? Are you also providing content?

Todd Hitchcock: I’ll walk you through the component. After we’ve done the market assessment, we engage with the university and talk about all of the services that need to be in place in order for them to power a very high quality online program. One of the components we start with is marketing the program. It’s not a matter of putting billboards out. It’s a matter of getting to understand who the partner is, what their value proposition is, what their differentiators are so our team can fully understand what it means to be a student at any one of our partner institutions.

We spend a great deal of time in getting to understand the partner. That’s actually a 9-month process. Once we have that, we will work on building a marketing strategy for them in which we’ll provide all of the marketing. From there, we take on enrollment marketing where we provide guidance to students interested in coming to that school. This is a really important collaboration between us and the university because not only do we have to fully understand the essence of what it’s like to be there, we also have to understand their admission requirements – what it’s going to be like when they start studying online so we can relay with confidence what the student experience is going to be like.

In some cases we might tell students, “This may not be the best program for you because of X or Y.” In many cases, we can provide that student with all the information they need to make that decision. Once we’ve done that, we work to help the student get together all documents needed for admission and that’s where we hand it back to the school. The school takes all the applications, assesses them, and makes all the admissions decisions. That’s something that we are not at all involved in. We only provide students with the information and guidance on the criteria that these institutions give us. After they admit students, we enroll them in courses.

As I’ve mentioned, the school always provides instruction. But depending on what skills the institution has – if they have a course development team – they may decide to build the courses themselves. If they don’t, we have a course development team. The way this works is very collaborative. We would work with instructors that we consider as the subject matter expert. We would have instructional designers, media developers, content developers, assessment specialists and we all work with the instructor to bring their vision of the course alive. We develop that course for the partner and then deliver it online. We can provide the platform. We load the students up and then the students work directly with the instructor.

From there though, a couple more important services that we provide as part of the partnership are student services – non-academic behavioral type of services. While the instructors provide class instruction and evaluation, we have the guidance side or coaches. They’re there to help the students with all those behavioral aspects that a student needs to know when taking a course – any questions that they have around examinations, the school in general, even coaching on time management. If we see students that are at risk, not performing very well, or not logging in, we put specific plans in place for them. We’re very proactive in reaching out to those students and trying to help them with all the issues that they may be having. They’re very individualized. Lastly, we also have tutoring services that we can make available in a number of areas.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Todd Hitchcock, COO of Pearson Embanet
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