Saturday, August 1, 2009

Connections, August 2009

I am writing this in mid-July, and Connecticut has been having a cool, rainy summer. The one ‘hot spot,’ however, is the College’s summer online courses. Our enrollment is up 26% over last summer as adult students continue adding online courses and programs to their educational plans. With online course enrollments growing nationally at 12% annually, and at an even higher rate here at Charter Oak, the staff has begun a five year planning process to try to understand how the changes in our economy and the needs of adult learners will affect the College.

Looking forward, we are assuming that there will be an increase in price sensitivity among adults seeking degrees, so Charter Oak’s affordability will be an advantage. In addition, the steady growth in online enrollments demonstrates that students are embracing this delivery method. We believe they enjoy the flexibility and convenience of online coursework (no driving, no parking, and no wasted time), so we are expanding our catalog of courses and our complement of trained instructors. Finally, everyone from President Obama, on down, is emphasizing how important a college degree is to being workforce ready. With the national unemployment rate touching 10%, even adults with good jobs are considering finishing their degree so that they can be as marketable as possible.

So, as we imagine this brave new world, we can’t help but notice that the College offers three key components that should be in high demand: a degree completion program, affordability and online delivery. With these components in place, we believe we are poised for dramatic growth. As such, we should focus on answering this question: What makes Charter Oak special, and what makes its online courses unique?

It struck us that one of the best sources for answers to this question would be our graduates. So I am asking you to let us know what it is about the College’s program that best served you. In addition, I am trying to learn what it is about Charter Oak’s online courses that distinguish them. By the way, I do not assume that either our degree program or our courses are perfect. In fact, at the heart of this exercise is the clear intention to make both our program and our online courses better. So please send us your thoughts about what served you well at Charter Oak and how we can improve ourselves.

We think the College is poised for growth because it is adult focused and emphasizes flexibility, convenience, and affordability. We want to use this opportunity not just to grow our student body but to take our approach to the next level. We eagerly look forward to receiving your input.

Please send your thoughts directly to me at, leave a message at (860) 832-3876, or comment here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Connections, February 2009

Welcome to 2009. I hope that despite the economic challenges, you and your family are managing.

Here at the College we have been working to ready ourselves for Connecticut’s financial challenges
so that we are available to assist our students with their career preparations. We recognize that for
adult students difficult economic circumstances mean increased pressure to complete those degrees. The College is carefully adjusting its strategic plan to ensure that we have the online courses and student services required for our growing population. We believe that this economy and impending baby boomer retirements make educating the existing workforce a clear priority for both government and industry, and that is what I have been reminding both legislators and corporations.

On a positive note, our annual fund raising effort for the Charter Oak State College Foundation began in November, and we are seeing a wonderful response from those who have already benefited from their Charter Oak degrees.

Even in an economic downturn, our alums and friends of the College are digging deep so that we will have adequate resources for those students who need financial assistance. The generosity of our alumni clearly reflects the value they place on their Charter Oak degrees, and we deeply appreciate that support.

Even as we adjust ourselves to the economic downturn, we continue planning for the steps we believe we need to take to keep the College moving forward. We plan, during the next session of the Connecticut General Assembly, to ask the legislature to amend the existing statute that created Charter Oak so that we can offer a master’s degree. For years, we have heard our alumni ask why they cannot
continue their education by pursuing a master’s with Charter Oak, and we are determined to develop an online master’s program as soon as we can. The Foundation has promised to support this effort, so we are working diligently to prepare for this major step.

And finally, we are beginning to think about ways to add more “learning objects” to our online courses. These are interactive mini-applications that empower learners to explore concepts while the technology tracks their progress and offers them choices and second chances. Another word for the learning objects is “simulations” (think of software like SimCity™), and they are an exciting new frontier in distance education. Our mission is to provide adult learners efficient paths to degree completion, and we see simulations as another powerful means through which adults can master the concepts that lie at the heart of any academic program.

I write this at the threshold of the holiday season, and I hope that you had a restorative holiday. Let me know if there is anything that I can do for you.