Need online courses? New university consortium has 1 million openings

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Acadeum, a company that brokers enrollments in online courses for university students who can’t get into the classes they need at their own institutions, announced this week it’s assembled a coalition of 19 universities that are offering the remote-learning capabilities now suddenly in demand at universities around the country. 

In an announcement on LinkedIn on Wednesday, company co-founder and chief academic officer Robert Manzer wrote that the Higher Education Course Recovery Consortium is now operating to serve the needs of universities whose course offerings have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition, which includes institutions such as Indiana Wesleyan University and Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, is offering “deep discounts,” Manzer wrote, for entry into online courses this year.

“More than one million seats are available through the end of 2020 in regionally accredited asynchronous online courses with flexible start times and offered in differing lengths, ranging from introductory, general education to highly specialized topics to meet specific major requirements,” Manzer wrote.

Josh Pierce, who co-founded Acadeum with Manzer in 2015 and serves as its chief executive, told EdScoop that the company has assembled dozens of similar consortiums, usually to help students who need a certain class to graduate on time or who have scheduling conflicts that their institutions can’t resolve alone.

“This is sort of an example in the extreme, of students not being able to get the courses they need when they need them, so we’re built for the problem,” Pierce said. “It’s pretty apparent to us on the front line of schools that there’s not a lot of bandwidth to be thinking through new solutions and different forms of technology.”

Universities have adapted quickly and in many cases successfully to ensure their students can continue their educations without attending in-person classes. These efforts, spanning hundreds of universities in the U.S., have included everything from ensuring that institutions’ learning management systems and other backend platforms have the capacity to handle increased traffic to moving traditional activities online using virtual reality and video conferencing software, like Zoom. 

But Pierce said these challenges are nothing new for the consortiums his company assembles and that his company’s technology platform is ready to serve the students who need to conduct online coursework.

“We’re pulling together an immediately accessible consortium with drastically expanded online options for students that are high-quality in the sense that they’re better than trying to do it with Zoom that will be readily accessible for the next year,” he said. 

When things have returned to normal, Pierce said he’s hopeful that institutions will have become more agile in the face of such emergencies.

“We’d love to see this continue to happen in the future, this space to be able to support itself when its ability to deliver is in pretty extreme shock,” he said. “Whether that’s a hurricane or a forest fire or something like that, we’d love to see the industry be able to pull these kinds of solutions together in the future.”

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