From Whitman to Academic Partnerships

An Interview with Charles Green, the Chief Academic Officer and SVP of Academic Services at Academic Partnerships.

April 21, 2013

Dr. Charles Green is the Chief Academic Officer and SVP of Academic Services at Academic Partnerships.

I got to know Charles a bit as part of my efforts to understand the growth of for-profit / non-profit partnerships in higher ed.

Charles graciously agreed to participate an e-mail interview to share some of his thoughts on opportunities for “non-traditional” academic careers, as well as the challenges and opportunities that higher ed will face in the years to come.

Question 1: Give us the nickel tour of Academic Partnerships. What does the company do? How does it make money? Who are your main competitors?

Academic Partnerships (AP) is an online higher education service provider, partnering with universities to develop strong online degree programs. We now represent more than 40 public universities in the U.S. Through our relationships with partner universities, we work behind the scenes to help faculty convert their courses to an online platform. Meanwhile, the universities maintain control of the admissions, enrollment, curriculum, accreditation and credentialing. We help recruit online learners and provide hands-on support to ensure that students move through their degree programs to graduation. In this manner, universities are able to expand their reach, increase enrollment and grow revenue. Academic Partnership’s services are provided to universities at no cost and the company shares in a portion of the revenue from new enrollments.

Question 2: You are the Chief Academic Officer and SVP of Academic Services at Academic Partnerships. What does your job entail? How is your work different, or the same, from someone with the same title at a traditional university?

As Chief Academic Officer and Senior Vice President of Academic Services, I oversee a team of extremely talented instructional designers, online learning experts, and higher education specialists that work directly with our partner institutions to help develop and increase the quality and effectiveness of their online degree programs and associated course offerings. In many ways, my role mirrors that of chief academic officers at our partner universities who lead in the effort to improve the quality of their programs and learning outcomes of their students.

I also help develop and share Academic Partnership’s unique perspective on topics relevant for our industry. I work to identify the questions that are, or that I believe will be, of importance to our clients and try to answer those questions.

Question 3: The career path of the PhD seems to be getting less predictable. You have gone from being a founding member of the Walt Whitman Archive and a traditional academic career to this new adventure in the for-profit world of education services. Why did you take your current job? Do you have any advice for other academic types who also may be interested in transitioning out of traditional academic roles?

My involvement with the Whitman Archive and other early digital humanities projects marks the beginning of my journey toward Academic Partnerships. My interest in working with Whitman’s manuscripts stemmed from the notion that these materials, often locked away in special collections libraries at elite institutions, should be made more accessible to all people, as part of our social and cultural heritage. Today, thousands of Whitman’s works are now accessible online, free of charge, for everyone at http://www.whitmanarchive.org/. I feel the same way about education and believe that my work with Academic Partnerships is doing more to help extend access to higher education than I was ever able to accomplish in the public sector.

For those who may still be seeking traditional roles in academia, it’s important to note that tenured positions are in decline, staff positions are being reduced, state allocations for public universities are shrinking, and enrollments in traditional programs are dropping. Frankly, higher education is in crisis and its future remains unclear. For those contemplating transitioning from the public to private sector, I would suggest that the chasm between the two is not as wide as you might think and making the jump may open many more opportunities to you than you imagine.

Question 4: What do you view as the biggest challenges facing higher ed? What will be different in 2020, and what must postsecondary leadership, faculty, and staff do to prepare for these changes?

Sustainability and change remain the biggest challenges facing higher education today. Dr. Clayton Christensen, Harvard business professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma, recently predicted, “In 15 years from now, half of U.S. universities may be in bankruptcy.” Others predict that nearly one third of U.S. universities may be closed down over the next five to 10 years. Thankfully, a number of universities are taking action now by partnering with companies like Academic Partnerships to extend their brand and deliver high quality degree programs to an ever-increasing number of students. These universities are using technology to increase their enrollments and reach new learners and, in so doing, are creating sustainable business models that will allow them to thrive in the 21st Century.

We hear a lot about social entrepreneurs these days and their efforts with MOOCs and other eLearning initiatives designed to extend access and open educational opportunities to students around the globe. We need more colleges and universities leading in these types of efforts. Deep, radical and urgent transformation is required and I urge faculty and administrators at our public universities to demonstrate inspiredleadership in challenging the status quo and steering their institutions toward new models of serving the needs of post-secondary learners.

By 2020, we at Academic Partnerships expect to see more consumer-driven, internationalized, and innovative learning models emerge that make education more accessible and achievable for all students, regardless of location, nationality, or socio-economic status. Leadership, technology and online learning are changing higher education and those universities that understand this and extend their presence to new populations, both domestically and around the globe, will thrive and flourish.


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