Arkansas State University is calling its distance learning program, which lets students take master's-level classes over the Internet, a success. The program, offered by a private company for ASU, Higher Education Holdings, just completed its first year at the Jonesboro university.
But the on-line program is creating a stir on campus, where, according to an article in Inside Higher Education, it was implemented without consultation with professors. They've compared the program to outsourcing a master's degree.
One ASU professor told the Times this week that ASU's partnership with HEH may end badly. “At the very least, the university's reputation will be a casualty. It could result in investigations into how ASU is funding this degree through state appropriations and sending 80 percent of student tuition fees to a corporation in Texas,” he said.
Companies like HEH are able to offer courses for a lower cost to a huge number of students, sometimes numbering in the thousands. “Coaches” do most of the grading and interacting with the students.
Markham Howe, executive director of public relations for ASU, says that students enrolled in the HEH program count toward the school's total enrollment, which has an impact on state appropriations. School officials say they have the full support of the governor and their board.
UCA candidates rated
For what it's worth, Dr. Aaron M. Podolefsky, president of the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, scored the highest of University of Central Arkansas presidential candidates on evaluations made by faculty, staff, students and others who listened to public presentations by the candidates. The evaluations were released Friday, the same day that UCA's presidential search committee eliminated two of the seven candidates and submitted the other five names, including Podolefsky's, to the UCA Board of Trustees. The Board will select the new president, and may or may not give any weight to the written evaluations. Podolefsky's lead was not large, in any case. The best-known of the candidates, Ray Simon, was one of the two eliminated Friday. He is a former state education commissioner and was a U.S. deputy secretary of education in the Bush administration. Several evaluators said that Simon was knowledgeable about grades K through 12, but not about higher education. Some also noted his lack of a doctorate.