I just came across an announcement on Twitter that an online education company (2tor – “tutor”) has announced partnerships with institutions like Georgetown University and USC to provide for credit graduate degrees through online work.
“2tor has partnered with University of Southern California (USC), Georgetown University, and University of North Carolina (UNC) to offer online degrees. Only a select few Master’s degrees are offered; social work and education at USC; nursing at Georgetown; and government and business at UNC. Instead of having to relocate across the country, you can earn a Master’s degree from one of the schools pretty much anywhere in the world.
The company helps colleges create online courses, provides an online environment where students can access their courses, invests in schools to make their programs work, and supplies schools with infrastructure that handles student sign-up, course registration, and graduation processing. Instead of typical online classes, where lectures are videotaped or assignments are placed on a message board, 2tor uses webcams to connect students with their professors and other students. 2tor even offers mobile apps so students can stay on top of their classes.
2tor competes primarily with EmbanetCompass, which creates similar partnerships with academic institutions and helps colleges provide online degree programs. EmbanetCompass has partnered with 20 universities, including Northwestern, Howard, Wake Forest, and USC.”
That’s pretty amazing. Assuming that 2tor is legit and not a place that has a business model created around scamming students out of their financial aid packages, this may be the way forward for seminaries.
Speaking as a member of our Commission on Ministry here in Arizona, and a member of our Board of Examining Chaplains, and as a person who’s been tasked with creating non-traditional preparation plans for ordinands, having something like this available at a reasonable cost, would be huge. There are very few second career vocations that can pick up and move their families to a three year residential seminary. The old business model of asking such students to cash out their home equity to pay for seminary isn’t working now because all the home equity has evaporated. It’s putting the students and the seminarians into an incredible bind.
But what if the seminaries reduced their costs for face-to-face teaching by closing many of their dorms, etc, and outsourced the administration of their online course work to something like 2tor (or one of its competitors)? I’m hoping there would be savings for the student, who just has to pay straight tuition as a result and doesn’t have to move his or her family out of state. It would also be a significant savings for the institution which wouldn’t have to create the online program from scratch, wouldn’t have to spend any significant resources supporting the IT side, and would be able to up and running pretty quickly I imagine.
Speaking as someone from Arizona, we do have money (contributed yearly by all our parishes) to support our seminarians. If they could stay in state, work part-time, and do their preparation online… a whole lot of people would be happy. I can imagine being able to train clergy without asking them to incur significant educational debt; which given clergy salaries can be a major problem.
Plus, it would open up a whole new class of students (and a new income stream) for the seminaries willing to embrace this. Perhaps places like Seabury might become virtual institutions, allowing them to use existing real estate to support their mission in a much more flexible manner.
Seems to me like this could be the best of both worlds. You keep the institution (which is important for the health of the Episcopal Church as a whole) and we find a way to keep our access to educated clergy (a key feature of what people tell me they appreciate about the Episcopal Church).
Anyone know anything about the business model behind 2tor?