Many universities are embracing online education to take advantage of the cost and delivery benefits provided by the latest technologies. Now, Howard University, which is the largest historically black college and university (HBCU) in the United States, has announced plans to offer online courses.
Earlier this month, Howard University, a celebrated 146-year-old teaching and research institution comprised of 13 schools and colleges, announced that it will launch an online university that will offer both degree and certificate programs. According to Ellis Booker of Information Week, the new program, called Howard University Online or HU-Online, will expand existing online learning programs offered at the university.
"This is part of our overall strategy," Dr. Wayne Frederick, provost and chief academic officer at Howard University, told InformationWeek/Education in a phone call. "This meets our changing student demographic, our mission and our international activities."
Howard University currently offers some online courses including a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) for registered nurses and a doctorate degree in pharmacy. According to Frederick, Howard University will not depend on a massive open online course (MOOC) format, but it will be using the Pearson platform to extend degree and certificate programs.
While MOOCs have garnered much press for the scale of their open platforms, traditional players like Pearson, the world's largest education publisher, have been embracing the digital reality. The company says more than half of its revenues last year came from digital products and service.
Frederick also noted that Howard University will work with Pearson on tailoring solutions, including assessments and upgrades to the university's current technical infrastructure and talent pool.
Howard University intends to start offering online courses in the 2014-2015 academic year. Frederick said that offering online courses will increase faculty ability and aptitude with online instruction and methods.
Howard University's investment in online courses would create new revenue opportunities, Frederick said. He also mentioned the possibilities around degree and certificate programs that expand the reach of Howard's faculty "beyond the campus to students around the world."
"We have a lot of strategic partnerships internationally, and offering online degrees is one way to expand those partnerships, Frederick said, adding that "we've not had faculty pushback. They're very engaged in the process."
Frederick said that the university is committed to working with faculty about things they want addressed, such as intellectual property protection and job assessments for online work.
"We want to make absolutely sure with respect to this [that the Pearson program] is in line with Howard's overall mission, and that this initiative is part of a bigger initiative to enhance the instructional environment and the learning environment for students."