Howard halts historic online learning initiative

Howard University and Pearson have delayed a partnership that would have made the university’s online learning program the largest out of all historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the country.

Howard University has put its partnership with Perason to create 25 online programs on hold.

The private university, located in Washington D.C., announced in August that it would launch Howard University Online this fall.

The timeline Pearson and Howard originally envisioned proved too ambitious, with the announcement coming just days after the university started to lay off 200 employees — including members of the university’s Digital Learning Lab.

Howard will now roll its online program out in smaller stages, the university said in a statement.

“Because of this decision, the parties have agreed to set aside the current agreement in favor of a period in which the university will continue to build out its infrastructure for online course offerings,” the statement read.

HBCUs, particularly private ones, have lagged behind other institutions in building online learning programs and embracing distance education.

According to a study released in June 2013 by the Digital Learning Lab, only six of the 55 private universities that are designated as HBCUs offer blended and online degree programs. That number hasn’t changed since 2010.

There are currently 120 online programs offered by both public and private HBCUs. Howard’s offerings with Pearson would have accounted for more than 20 percent of online HBCU programs in the United States.

Wayne A.I. Frederick, who was Howard’s provost when the initiative was announced but is now serving as interim president, said that the university had hoped to create at least 25 fully-online programs, expanding its reach to more low-income students as well as international students abroad.

At the time, Frederick said the 25-program goal was not set it stone, however, and the number of programs could increase or decrease as the partnership moved forward.

“We want to be flexible as we move on this,” Frederick said in August. “We have some established online programs already, and we’re going to start with expanding those we already have.”

Now, those established programs may be the only online courses receiving immediate attention from Howard, the university said. Howard will focus on bolstering those offerings, which include six online certificate and degree courses, and invest in faculty training.

It will also invest in “administrative support capacity” for offering online courses at a larger scale.

“Howard University and Pearson will revisit a broader rollout, including international offerings and a large-scale marketing and branding campaign around Howard’s online courses, in the future,” the university stated.

Pearson – which has similar partnerships at several colleges and universities, including Arizona State University, Indiana Wesleyan University, West Virginia University at Parkersburg, Rutgers University, and the University of Florida – declined to comment.

Follow Jake New on Twitter at @eCN_Jake.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Latest posts by Jake New (see all)

Oops! We could not locate your form.