NY Times Expands Involvement in Online Learning

The New York Times Company plans to continue its slow advance into the realm of higher education, teaming with with the University of Southern California this fall to offer continuing-education programs in an effort to tap a growing market of adults looking to pick up new skills.

The new programs will comprise sequences of online courses taught by USC faculty through the Times Company’s online learning platform. While the programs will not count toward any degree, they represent the media company’s first foray into multicourse online sequences intended to confer a coherent body of knowledge. And that is yet another step toward full-fledged degree programs, which are coming, according to Felice Nudelman, the company’s executive director of education.

The Times Company, which has seen its annual revenues fall by about 30 percent in the last five years, has waded into the waters of higher education more deliberately than some of its peers—most notably the Washington Post Company, which now pays for its journalism operations largely off the back of Kaplan Inc., one of the country’s largest degree-granting enterprises.

To the extent that credentials are what many online learners want for their money, the Times Company’s new collaboration with USC represents a step backward from the certificate programs it is undertaking with institutions such as Fairleigh Dickinson University and Ball State University.

But Nudelman says the Times believes there is also a market for lifelong learners who are willing to pay to learn for learning’s sake. USC already runs face-to-face, noncredit continuing education courses that it says are profitable. The idea would be for the Times Company to help USC increase the scale of those programs by offering them online, while bolstering them by letting instructors draw on the New York Timesarchive and occasionally tap Times journalists for guest lectures.

There will be seven programs and 40 courses total in the NYT/USC partnership. The programs are in architecture, arts and culture, cinematic arts, global health, American politics, business and leadership, and executive education in business. There will also be a program in journalism aimed at high school students. But for the most part, the programs are tailored toward students “probably in their mid-20s through late 50s,” says Eileen Kohan, executive director of continuing education at USC. The length and price vary by course, but most last about four weeks and cost between $195 and $275, she says. Courses commence October 13.

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Christopher Wofford is Digital Media Producer and host of WebSeries at eCornell.
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