The Republican: Online learning a UMass success

The Republican: Online learning a UMass success

AMHERST - With all the online college learning divisions that have failed, why has UMassOnline succeeded?

University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson, the founder of UMassOnline, told about 60 people at the Strategic Information Technology Center at UMass yesterday that it comes down to quality and not content.

"Content is a little sliver," Wilson said during his talk, "How IT (information technology) is Changing the Structure of Higher Education: How could so many get so much so very wrong?"

Delivery, access to peers, instructors and brand play a more important role in making a successful information technology system work, he said.

"The real motivating factor is access. How do you meet student needs," Wilson said.

Wilson, who was named UMass president just last month, launched UMassOnline in 2001 and has watched its enrollment and revenue steadily increase over the past three years while other online learning divisions folded.

UMassOnline revenues and enrollments grew 39 percent and 32 percent, respectively, in fiscal year 2004. Revenues increased to $12.7 million from $9.1 million and enrollments reached 14,787, up from 11,239. The program offers 37 graduate and undergraduate programs. The five UMass campuses retain more than 90 percent of the revenues to support education and research programs.

Wilson said the mission of UMassOnline is to provide access, serve community needs and raise revenues. He said the system has met all three goals. Temple University and New York University are just two examples among several that Wilson gave of failed online learning systems.

"It turns out not everybody did it right," Wilson said. "That's why I give this talk here. It worked here."

Wilson was invited by the Strategic Information Technology Center, a part of the Isenberg School of Management, to give his talk nine months ago, before he became interim president and was named permanent president. He is a tenured professor in the Isenberg School.

Thomas O'Brien, dean of the Isenberg School, said information technology is the future.

"I'm convinced it's the future for working professionals," O'Brien said after Wilson's one-hour talk. "They need education. They want the credentials. They want the quality. We're really very excited about the model."



Date: 04/15/04