Northwestern, consortium terminate online course-for-credit program

Cat Zakrzewski, Reporter

One year after Northwestern rolled out its first foray into online courses for credit, the University and its partner schools terminated the Semester Online pilot program, provost Dan Linzer announced Thursday.

“While we have found a high level of satisfaction among faculty teaching these courses and students taking these courses, some faculty have expressed significant concerns with some aspects of the SON model,” Linzer wrote in an email to students Thursday. “As a result, the SON consortium members have decided not to continue Semester Online beyond the pilot year.”

Linzer noted the courses will continue through the summer. Semester Online courses were offered through a consortium of 10 prestigious universities. The program, announced in November 2012, began offering classes in fall 2013. Students at three affiliate partner schools were also able to take the courses.

In the announcement, Linzer noted challenges in working within the consortium contributed to the decision to terminate the program.

From the program’s inception, shifts in the consortium exposed problems related to costs and course quality. Duke University, Vanderbilt University and University of Rochester were originally members of the consortium but pulled out prior to the launch of classes.

Semester Online courses included assignments and weekly class video conferences. Each course was $4,200, and problems with financial aid packages caused Vanderbilt to drop out.

NU offered one Semester Online course during Fall Quarter and two in Winter Quarter. The University is scheduled to offer one final course in Integrated Marketing Communications during the summer.

A spokeswoman for 2U, the company that developed Semester Online, said the decision to end the program was mutual between 2U and the universities in the consortium.

“Semester Online was always an experiment,” Shirley Chow wrote in an email to The Daily. “The pilot program experienced significant challenges related to the complexities of a consortium structure.”

Chow said lessons learned from Semester Online will be applied to create an online undergraduate nursing program at Simmons College.

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