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UMass Online


Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware, the UMass Board of Trustees and the UMass President have announced a new "UMass Online" online college.  The head of UMass Online has been visiting the separate campuses to discuss this issue and meet with various groups on campus.  At UMB, they met with the faculty council and the budget and long range planning committee on campus, where members were able to ask questions about this initiative.  More updates are promised on our campus with faculty and staff. 

What follows is the current information we have (contact the FSU office for a copy of the PowerPoint presentation on this initiative completed by the consultants for UMass Online).

  • This is to be a separate campus from those that exist at UMass (separate from Boston, Amherst, Dartmouth, UMass Medical, and Lowell).  It will have its own governance structure, faculty, and administration, and faculty governance will be within this structure. 
  • For this reason, the faculty will not belong to any of the existing unions on any campuses, though if they choose, they can organize into a separate one (they must vote for such a union, however). 
  • The attached PowerPoints indicate that they plan to make heavy use of adjunct instructors (page 10) and will use adjunct faculty (to a large extent—page 10).  The UMB meeting confirmed that adjunct faculty will be a substantial share—although they would not say the proportion of the faculty. 
  • Given that the target is adult learners who have not completed their degrees, the FSU is concerned that UMass Online will compete with the online offerings and recruitment efforts of the existing UMass campuses, especially UMass Boston.  (The answer to this concern when posed was that these people are not taking courses online currently.)
  • UMass Online will spend much of its budget on marketing –  15-20% of revenue. 
  •  You can see in the PowerPoint presentation that there are three options in implementing the program. The consultants recommend that the university "Acquire an existing online university's infrastructure and students." The second option is "Partner in a tuition sharing arrangement" with a for-profit corporate partner. The least preferred option is to build UMass Online "organically," but the report says that "Success [is] not likely" with that approach. 
  • UMass Online seems to be going with the third approach, to build a new structure within the UMass System.  When asked why we would succeed when others, such as the University of Florida and the University of Texas, Austin, failed, we were told that 1) Two consulting firms told us that we would succeed and generate revenue after 3 years, and that 2). We were not starting from within each campus but creating a separate entity within the UMass System and separate from the campuses (UT Austin and University of Florida followed the within campus model).
  • We were told that this would benefit UMB, as marketing we have not been able to accomplish (such as for a new online nursing program) would be performed by UMass Online. 
  • We were told (as in the Mt. Ida promise) that UMass Online will not compete with UMB or for its existing students. 
  • We hope you will be involved in the ongoing discussions and meetings about UMass Online.  The FSU, other unions across UMass, and other UMass campuses are concerned about UMass Online and plan to be in conversation.  Let us know if you want to do so as part of the FSU. 


Marlene Kim

FSU President

Professor, Economics

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