Pearson bolsters community college online offerings

As community colleges in West Virginia are facing budget cuts of nearly 8 percent this year, one school is turning to the education and publishing giant Pearson for help in lowering costs and transitioning its courses online, the company announced this week.

Colleges have looked to online courses in cutting costs.

The partnership between Pearson and West Virginia University at Parkersburg, which offers community college programs and bachelor’s degrees, will transition all of the college’s online degree programs onto Pearson’s learning management system, called OpenClass.

Such a partnership would likely not have existed a decade ago, but arrangements like this are becoming common place for Pearson as it moves further away from its old identity as strictly a publishing company.

It formed a similar partnership with Howard University just last month.

“People still view us as a textbook company, but were actually a learning company,” said David Daniels, president of integrated solutions at Pearson. “We do understand learning, curricula instruction, and most importantly online learning. Our expertise is way beyond textbooks.”

Pearson’s partnership with WVU Parkersburg will take advantage of several of Pearson’s products and services that run the gamut of online learning.

Students will connect with and learn from instructors through OpenClass, take courses through CourseConnect, access Pearson eTextbooks, get extra help with on-demand tutoring, and receive suggestions from the adaptive learning abilities of MyLab and Mastering.

See Page 2 for more details on how Pearson is moving into every corner of education.

OpenClass is a fairly recent addition to Pearson’s educational arsenal.

The company was relatively late to entering the crowded learning management system market, but its platform has quickly differentiated itself from the competition with its free, cloud-based (and Google-backed) approach.

The system is part of a larger push at Pearson over the last few years to become recognized as the learning company Daniels referred to.

The London-based company has spent more than $1-billion in the past six years on education companies. Since 2011, Pearson has acquired companies like Connection Education, EmbanetCompass, and Learning Catalytics, and it has invested in properties like Barnes and Noble’s Nook.

With partnerships like the deal with WVU Parkersburg, Pearson has the potential to be involved in virtually every facet of a student’s online education, from reading materials, to homework assignments, to even how a course is taught.

Pearson’s instructional design and assessment team is working with WVU Parkersburg faculty to enhance and restructure as many as 220 of its courses.

“We’re working with quite a number of courses that have varying needs,” Daniels said. “For some courses, we’re customizing the content. Some were literally working to build from the ground up. We’re looking at this as a long term partnership”

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