Higher Education in the Information Age

Distance Education and Globalization I

Carl Tyson


Michael Eleey: Thank you very much, Martin. We now have with us another alum of McGraw Hill, Carl Tyson, who is President and Chief Operating Officer of UOL Publishing, and previously served also with Scott Forsman and Co.'s college division. Carl's going to talk to us with another perhaps extension of a business model for partnership with universities. Carl.

Carl Tyson: Good morning. I'll try to also stay to the time line. Marty and I both are from McGraw Hill. There are a lot of us around that have been at McGraw Hill, and we were taught to write to length. Right Marty? We know how to stay within our time frame.

I represent a small company. You went from the largest publisher in the world to probably one of the smallest publishers in the world: UOL publishing, I'll go briefly about who we are. I'm not going to read that to you. Our business model is to provide education and training on the World Wide Web. We decided to do that. We wanted to be a publisher. We didn't want to be an educational provider. UOL used to stand for "University On-Line". We thought that was misleading since we're not a university. We're not a degree granting or accrediting body. We want to publish for people who are degree granting and accrediting bodies. We do that by building partnerships. We build partnerships with universities. Our most recent announcement of a partnership was with University of California at Berkeley, taking on their marketing certificate on-line. We'll have that by the end of this year. We have a lot of different partners at the university level. I really hope that you'll go to our Web site at uol.com. You can see our partners there. We partner with universities to take university education and deliver it to working students. Our market is what we were talking about earlier. That 51 is going to be 59 billion dollars this year--59 billion dollars this year on what American companies spend on educating their own workers. At UOL, once we get half of that we're going to be happy. So we're going to settle for about 24 and a half billion dollars or whatever that number is.

But what we do, and this will give you a small glimpse at what we do, but basically our markets are the academic and corporate markets, and we think that about 80% of our revenues will come out of the corporate markets. We really don't want to steal your students at the higher education institutions. We want to expand-we want to make that audience bigger for your courseware. My topic is what the publisher's role is. I knew Marty was going to steal most of my thunder, but what publishers do--what do publishers do on a regular basis? And what they do--and very shortly, and I've written some things out there--what they do is they add value. They add value to content and information. I used to like to tell people when I lived in Manhattan: why do people need publishers? You can go to the New York Public Library and there's a whole cadre of people there who'll answer any question you have. You can go and ask them anything, and they will find the answer and tell you. Why doesn't everybody do that? It's free! Well, it's inefficient, that's why you don't do it. It's not accessible, it's not retrievable, it's not all those things, and there's no certification with it--right?--just because somebody at the New York Public Library told you it was right that it was right. But what publishers do, all publishers, and I'm sure if you talk to the book publishers you'll see that print is a cost to a publisher. It's not an add, but going out and hiring R.R. Donnely to do something, it's a minus--right Marty?--on your P&L. It's not a plus on your P&L. So what publishers do is they add value to content, whatever the content might be.

There's some things about print publishing-this is not to beat up print publishing because I think print publishing has some real strengths, and I spent 20 years making a decent living at doing it. But there's some things about print publishing that make it different from publishing on the World Wide Web. You have to have an organizational structure if you're going to go print something. You have macro structure--a course outline or a table of contents. This is how it flows. You have micro structures within their educational designs. That's a strength to print publishing because you have to think a lot about it before you go print it. Before a printer's going to spend 30 million dollars or 40 million dollars to print books, they want to think this is worth while.

Length, length, length, length--that's the tyranny of all of you that've written books, written articles, written anything: length. What am I going to leave out? It's not what you're going to put in; it's what you're going to leave out, what that flow's going to be like. And then once you spend whatever you're paying these days to print something, you're going to leave it that way for a little while. That's the great thing about what Prentice Hall is doing, and I heartily suggest you guys go-these guys are leaders in their area. These guys are trying to overcome that fixed "You print something, put it out there, and you're going to leave it out there for three years, and that's just the way it is." They're doing some really innovative things to overcome that. So please--I'm not here to represent them, and nor do I work for them, but they're doing some wonderful things. But basically, once you've printed something and spent millions of dollars, you're going to leave it that way until you get some of your money back. Or at least your stock holders hope you'll leave it there until you get some of your money back.

Web-based publishers--what do we do? We have organization and what we do, we do the same process as a print publisher. We go get authors, teachers, we develop, we do peer review, and then at some point we'll publish it, we'll put it on the World Wide Web. Organization is basically micro. We do instructional design on a micro level. Put it together any way you want. We're publishing a data base of materials. The instructor whose going to deliver this--and our courses always have an instructor with them who is monitoring and helping to deliver this course and is there to answer questions by e-mail and in conferencing. And I was interested in some of the ideas on conferencing. When our first courses went up, we were worried about that socialization aspect, how the students get socialized in this. Our first courses went up at a little school, Park College. It's a great school. I hope you go look at it's Web page, because you can get there form ours. And our first course went up. It was in composition. And within two weeks, people were trading recipes on the conference and talking about getting together for the summer. These people lived all over the country. So it was a great experience and I heartily recommend to all of you.

The problems that you see, all the problems that you sit and you say, "There are a lot of problems with this medium," are overcomable. You just have to be clever. There were problems when somebody set down to do a textbook, but somebody was clever. The textbook publishers have now had, I don't know, 200 years to overcome those problems, and they've done a great job in overcoming those problems, but what we do, we have organization. We don't have length limitations. We have a data base somewhere in McClane, Virginia at Osun Servers. They're small but powerful. You can put out a lot of information there. And as people want to access it, they can access it over and over. Somebody else gets to make that decision, and they can change that decision tomorrow if they want to. "My students need more on X." They can change that or add more. Our updates are immediate. Lack of structure is a good thing maybe. It's a bad thing maybe. That's something we can talk about, but lack of structure always scares me. It goes to a lot of issues. Somebody thought long and hard about what the canon of knowledge was for intermediate accounting. Somebody thought about it. A lot of people thought about that. So there are some issues with that.

And finally the biggest thing we've had to overcome is publishing a course on the Web is not hard. If you want to call it a course and put it out--we've had several references to quality. It's not hard. The World Wide Web is open. You can get Power Point from Microsoft and put some Power Point slides together and call it a course. But our market place are American Fortune 2000 companies that have a lot of demands and desires, and one of the things that we found is we had to create a learning environment to allow that to work. Now, Greg Farrington told me this was not a paid political advertisement so I'll try to go through this fairly quickly, but we went out and we spent about two years and several million dollars creating a virtual campus, an environment. We call it a virtual campus because to go on with the analogy. But what the virtual campus will do--and I want to show you several different pages of the virtual campus--but what the virtual campus is is a place where instructors can go to organize their course. We have authoring tools that we give to both academic institutions and/or our corporate institutions to create courses on the Web. Here, this is an introduction. It sings and dances. You can go play with it at uol.com, and I hope you will. There's a classroom building. Students can sign in. We can track them. One of the big issues for corporations is: O.K. what are the skill sets that my people need? We can identify those skill sets. We can identify what skills we're teaching them. At the end we can test them and show what skills they've learned. And then we can lead that right into their human resources system and show them where it shows up in there so that they've got it on file.

For the student--and I hope you all will go to our Web page. One more time. That's the last time I'll say it. We offer a free course. We'll teach you how to use a browser. We'll teach you how to use the Internet, Internet Explorer from Microsoft or Netscapes Browser. One of the great things, if you go through this course you can see all the things that we do. You can hopefully come back and send us an e-mail and say, "That was good," or "It wasn't good." One of the things that we do for instructors is we build Web pages on the fly. We don't have anywhere a whole bunch of pages, html pages, set up with educational material. Instructors take our, a small environment, a point page, and they can put any type of digitized material into that page and create a customized course time and time and time again in a matter of--I won't say minutes, but probably a matter of hours. We'll manage that for them. We'll provide all the print outs for them and other reports for them. Again, we have a grade book. It does all that stuff. And at the end we'll report to them. I'm getting the T-sign, which I think means "time", not "Tyson go on."

Conclusions. We have quite a bit of experience. We'll have to enter this year about 475 courses we've built with academic institutions and with our corporate partners. Conclusions. Build on the strengths of the medium. The Internet Web does some things great. Build on those. Print's not good for moving things. People overcame that. Overcome those things. The real thing I want to tell you here is, when television came about, people said, "Oh, I see. A television program is a radio program with pictures." And that's not what it was, but that's what they tried. They solved that equation. That's what we're about is solving that equation of what an on-line course is. Finally, quality wins. Quality wins every time, and we've all I think said that. We're all concerned about what goes out over the Internet, but I think some of us will say we've been concerned about what goes out over the printing press, too. So, thank you very much.



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Last modified: 26 January 1998