NUS @ASUGSVSummit: Scaling Radical Online Learning Models


Radical change in higher education is happening right now in the nonprofit university sector where new initiatives and partnerships are driving the creation of scalable online learning models. Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the San Diego-based National University System, joined other educator panelists at the ASU GSV conference to share insight into how National University System acquisitions, partnerships and edtech platforms are transforming higher education.

Moderated by Mitchell Stevens, Director for the Center for Advanced Research through Online Learning, Stanford Graduate School of Education, the panel addressed the topic of “Bending the Arc of Human Potential Through Radical Scaled Online Learning Models.” Panelists included Dr. Michael R. Cunningham, Chancellor of the San Diego-based National University System, Betty Vandenbosch, Chancellor of Purdue University Global; and Andrew Hermalyn, President of University Partnerships and Services at 2U.

Dr. Cunningham spoke from the perspective of the private, nonprofit higher education sector, which in the case of the National University System includes university and education-related affiliates National University, Northcentral University, City University of Seattle, and John F. Kennedy University, as well as Workforce Education Solutions and the Sanford Programs – all of which are being scaled nationally.

“The National University System’s foundation is in serving students of diverse backgrounds, including working adults, and that has been a key part of our focus in ensuring we meet students’ needs any place, and at any pace,” he said. “We have a deeply embedded mission as an open access institution, and as a pioneer in online learning. We are leveraging that knowledge with today’s highly-sophisticated learning systems to scale our efforts in relevant and radical ways.”

Among the initiatives being advanced by the private, nonprofit National University System which serves more than 45,000 students, which were highlighted by Dr. Cunningham, included:

  • The acquisition and integration of FlexCourseSM – an online educational technology platform  – that has been adapted to power JFKu Online courses. The platform allows students to pursue their higher education degrees online at their own pace, and at a reduced cost of about $8,500 a year.
  • The acquisition ofNorthcentral University, which offers quality, online degrees at the graduate level, including the doctoral level, featuring individual learning plans and one-to-one teacher-student interaction; New students can sign up for programs every Monday.
  • Precision Education at National University: A $20 million in-house research-based initiative exploring various projects that leverage technologies and predictive analytics to create a highly personalized learning experience that incorporates academic and career supports.

Panelist Vandenbosch provided insight into how some public universities are advancing efforts into the online learning space. In her current role as chancellor of Purdue University Global, she oversees an adult-serving public university, operated as part of the Purdue University System. Purdue Global was created in April 2018, as a result of Purdue University’s acquisition of Kaplan University.

As president of university partnerships and services for 2U, Andrew Hermalyn spoke about how his company is helping universities interested in expanding their efforts in the online space to power graduate degree programs and skill-building short courses.

Among the topics discussed by panelists included current initiatives to reduce the cost of earning a degree, which NUS is exploring through various initiatives including JFKu Online, as well as how institutions can address the workforce skills gap, which is being addressed by NUS’ Education Workforce Solutions. Dr. Cunningham’s perspectives on scaling radical online learning models comes from his combined background as an education leader with his prior experience as founder, chairman, chief executive officer, and president of a highly successful international multinational graphics communications company. Dr. Cunningham earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and his doctorate and master’s degree from New York University.

About the National University System
Established in 2001 to meet the demands of education in the 21st century, the National University System is a progressive model in higher education – a network of four accredited nonprofit universities dedicated to offering innovative and relevant educational programs to a diverse population of students. The System also includes Workforce Education Solutions, which is advancing partnerships between the universities and industry groups to align degree programs with employer-defined professional competencies, offering students more affordable degree pathways to advance their careers. The System also administers the nationwide expansion of the three Sanford Programs, inspired by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford: Sanford Harmony, Sanford Inspire and Sanford Institute of Philanthropy. Learn more at the National University System.