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3 reasons why we joined the Noodle Advisory Board

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3 reasons why we joined the Noodle Advisory Board

We recently participated in the founding meeting Noodle Advisory Board. For those of you who don’t know Noodle, it’s a commercial (private) online program. Noodle positions itself as an alternative to OPM (provider of online program management programs) as the company emphasizes its predominant positioning as a paid service package for online programs run by universities. The comparison is made with traditional OPM packages, whose core business model of the degree is based on revenue-sharing agreements with their partner schools.

In our books and articles, we have written a lot about the growth of nonprofit and commercial partnerships in the online learning space. In our analysis of these partnerships we are both very critical non-profit / commercial partnerships that cannibalize the university’s ability to build internal capacity in digital learning. If we have nothing more has been learned from the Covid-19 pandemicthis is what blended and flexible learning should be a core capability of every college and university.

So why did we agree to participate in the Noodle Advisory Board? 3 reasons:

1 – Influence

Nonprofit / nonprofit partnerships are part of the fabric of higher education. Many are critical to the ability of higher ED to function. We may have concerns about the role that commercial companies play in the decisions made by colleges and universities, such as what programs they choose to participate online and how these programs are designed, sold, delivered and priced. We believe that the best way to solve these problems is to help both colleges and companies to develop their practices so that they are more thoughtful, deliberate and far-sighted.

We argue that this evolution must require that nonprofit and nonprofit partnerships focus on long-term institutional capacity building as a central goal of any relationship. We also believe that any partnership between a school and a company should be transparent in its arrangements, and that both parties should be committed to participating in research and analyzing the results of students and institutions.

From what we have managed to gather, Noodle is serious about working with its Advisory Board as a strategic partner. Noodle devoted considerable effort, time, and focused on forming the Board (more on that below), bringing everyone together to New York for the day of the meetings and involving their senior management team in the conversation. We expect that our work on this Advisory Board will help define Noodle’s strategy and help us better understand the values, goals, and principles that motivate these partnerships.

2 – Grid

Joining the company’s advisory boards is always something like a chicken-egg process. You only want to be on an advisory board with great colleagues, but no one wants to commit until you find out who else will join. Fortunately, Noodle was right on their advisory board. The Advisory Board contains both existing Noodle research partners and non-partners. (None of us are in institutions that work with Noodle).

The Internet leaders Noodle has gathered in Advisory Board include the Vice-Rector, the Dean, the Deputy Vice-Rector and the Vice-President. All members of the Advisory Board are nationally recognized experts in higher education and online learning. What’s more, each of the members of the Advisory Board are such colleagues and peers, making a career in higher education worthwhile. They are thoughtful, passionate, collegial, humble and caring. The relationships we can help build through participation in activities such as the Noodle Advisory Board are crucial in nurturing this network.

As higher education increasingly blends with the commercial sector within our core enterprise of teaching and learning, it will become increasingly important for those of us in academia to strengthen our inter-institutional ties. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t in nonprofit and nonprofit partnerships. And for this we need to share as much information as possible in schools. Perhaps, paradoxically, the company’s advisory boards can be one of the best ways for fellow scientists to connect, build trust and share knowledge. For this to work, the company’s advisory board must be structured in a way that favors the voices and concerns of research partners over the short-term and narrow interests of the company. So far the Noodle Advisory Board seems to be sticking to this positive model.

3- Research

The third reason we agreed to be a member of the Noodle Advisory Board is research. Part of our research portfolio includes exploring the growth and impact of nonprofit / commercial partnerships in teaching and learning. What we learn from our work on the Advisory Board is directly applicable to our research. The nature of the school-company relationship is evolving too fast to understand from a distance. To understand what is happening now and how things may look in the near future, you need to understand the details. We need to learn directly from schools and companies what the motivations are to participate in these partnerships, how structured the collaboration is and the impact they have on schools, students and faculty. Participation in the advisory board provides an opportunity to ask many questions to colleagues both in schools and in companies.

To Noodle’s credit, the company (so far) is very supportive of our research orientation. We have proven to Noodle management that talking about non-profit and non-profit partnerships in the online learning space lacks opportunities to conduct independent research on school outcomes. What this study and the support provided by Noodle might look like is yet to be seen. Joining the Noodle Advisory Board and ensuring their commitment to be involved, among others, in supporting independent research is a start.

This is a start that suggests a great role for university partners in helping to understand and address some of the key challenges facing higher education, be it cost, demographic change, impact or value. If non-profit partnerships are needed for higher education to function, then these partners should help higher education solve the biggest problems.

Being on the board at Noodle may be the beginning, but it’s just the beginning.

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