Ed­u­ca­tion pub­lisher Pear­son bets on on­line de­grees

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

LON­DON: Natalie Hil­ton trav­els past her cen­tral Lon­don uni­ver­sity ev­ery day, lis­ten­ing to lec­tures on the bus, study­ing to­wards a masters de­gree with­out ever set­ting foot on cam­pus.

Hil­ton, a 24-year-old with a full-time job in ad­ver­tis­ing, is part of the first in­take at King’s Col­lege Lon­don to study a fully on­line course to en­able her to work in men­tal health.

The scheme is pro­duced by Pear­son, the world’s largest ed­u­ca­tion pub­lisher, which is look­ing to on­line higher ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses to help re­vive its for­tunes af­ter a down­turn in its tra­di­tional text­books and mark­ing busi­nesses.

If the model suc­ceeds, with Pear­son han­dling the mar­ket­ing, re­cruit­ment and de­sign of on­line cour­ses, it could help open up higher ed­u­ca­tion by pro­vid­ing fresh im­pe­tus to dis­tance learn­ing and also save money for cash-strapped univer­si­ties. “The level of re­source to do this in an ab­so­lutely first-rate way is prob­a­bly be­yond most in­sti­tu­tions,” said King’s prin­ci­pal and pres­i­dent, Pro­fes­sor Ed Byrne, ex­plain­ing the de­ci­sion to work with Pear­son. “We see this as bring­ing a King’s ed­u­ca­tion to a larger, wider group of stu­dents.”

It could also im­prove Pear­son’s fi­nances. The com­pany, which sold the Fi­nan­cial Times news­pa­per and its stake in The Econ­o­mist mag­a­zine last year to con­cen­trate on ed­u­ca­tion, has been hit by sev­eral profit warn­ings in re­cent years.

As the econ­omy re­cov­ered in its big­gest mar­ket, the United States, more peo­ple went into em­ploy­ment than ed­u­ca­tion. It has also suf­fered from stu­dents bor­row­ing or buy­ing sec­ond-hand books, and a row in the United States over test­ing stan­dards.

Dou­ble-digit growth

Pear­son’s on­line pro­gram man­age­ment (OPM) busi­ness made 223 mil­lion pounds ($277 mil­lion) in rev­enue last year, a frac­tion of the 4.5 bil­lion pounds the group made as a whole, but an­a­lysts fore­cast it will grow at a dou­ble-digit per­cent­age in the next few years.

Nearly all of the divi­sion’s rev­enue cur­rently comes from the United States, where it is pro­vid­ing on­line cour­ses at more than 40 univer­si­ties and com­petes with the likes of 2U, Aca­demic Part­ner­ships, Bisk, and Wi­ley Ed­u­ca­tion So­lu­tions. Pear­son be­lieves its size gives it an edge be­cause its OPM divi­sion can ben­e­fit from the ex­per­tise and prod­ucts of its other ed­u­ca­tion busi­nesses. “Dig­i­tal opens up big op­por­tu­ni­ties for Pear­son to im­prove ac­cess and out­comes in higher ed­u­ca­tion,” said Pear­son’s global head of prod­uct Tim Bozik.

The com­pany is also hop­ing to get a head start on com­peti­tors in Bri­tain, its sec­ond-largest mar­ket, where it says the deal with King’s is the first of its kind. Hil­ton’s Masters in Psy­chol­ogy and Neu­ro­science of Men­tal Health is de­signed and taught by King’s pro­fes­sors and tu­tors, through an on­line plat­form in­clud­ing video lec­tures, tu­to­ri­als, and course ma­te­ri­als, aca­demic and per­sonal sup­port.

While she could fin­ish the masters with­out once meet­ing her tu­tors, she has weekly video con­fer­ences with them, and a vir­tual mes­sage board stim­u­lates con­ver­sa­tion and de­bate with pro­fes­sors and other stu­dents from around the world.

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