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Monday, December 17, 2018

Academics & Research

UH plans to boost online classes marketing


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Fiona Legesse/ The Cougar

Kevin Dooms, a computer science sophomore, wanted to take some online classes last summer while he was back home in Oregon. He wanted to stay ahead in his degree plan after finishing most of his core curriculum his first year.

“It’s better than taking physical classes,” Dooms said. “I can just do more at my own pace than work at the teachers’ pace they set for us.”

However, Dooms didn’t find the classes he wanted. Most of the choices were for the core curriculum.

The University not only wants to offer more online courses for students like Dooms, but to enroll more online-only students overall. UH is planning a large advance in the amount of online courses offered and how it markets those to expand its reach. An official within the University Academic Affairs office said 95 percent of online credit hours come from traditional students.

The University currently offers 28 online degrees, 24 of which are graduate programs.

The first program that would receive a marketing push would be two nursing degrees, RN and BSN. Those degrees are already offered online. However, the University would partner with an outside organization to market those degrees.

Expansion to other programs would be done based on the academic department’s choice and if it will generate revenue for the University, said Associate Provost of the Academic Affairs Office Jeff Morgan.

No students are enrolled currently in the online nursing degrees, Morgan said.

Marketing the new online programs will be important, Morgan said. To help with this, the University may partner with a vendor to market the online programs. Marketing the degrees entails creating advertisements and targeting individuals who are likely to enroll.

One vendor Morgan wants the University to work with is Academic Partnerships. Many universities have partnered with a vendor to market their online degrees, leading to some successes, Morgan said.

Academic partnerships would receive half of the net tuition and fee revenues from online students enrolled in a program they help market, Morgan said.

Students who take one online course on average take 1.5 more credit hours than students who don’t, Morgan said.

Texas A&M University offers 48 online degree programs, 47 of which are graduate degrees. The University of Texas at Austin does not offer online degrees, according to College Atlas. They do offer online credit.

President Renu Khator said at an August University of Houston System Board of Regents meeting that if UH would partner with a vendor to help market its online programs, they would want to take as little risk as possible if the push does not work. There could possibly be a buyout clause in the contract.

“One of the best kept secrets in the Houston area is we have 120 online degrees across the University of Houston System,” Morgan said.

To Morgan, there is still untapped potential for the University to expand, even with so many online degrees.

But the University would have to commit millions of dollars and would be locked into a contract.

The degree won’t appear any different from someone who took all their classes face-to-face, Morgan said. There would be no difference in standards, academic rigor or admissions.

The University would approach different academic departments and ask if they would want to increase their online presence, Morgan said. After that, they would create and revamp their own courses and curriculum according to the new program.

Dooms, however, hopes for an expansion in major specific classes than the core curriculum online courses he sees offered.

“I can see the merit in having more online courses,” Dooms said, but he does not have plans to become an online-only student anytime soon.

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