People and Places

Report from Shanghai

Posted on April 4, 2009

I’ve been in Shanghai since Thursday night.  After my fall trip I reported that we seemed to be turning the corner and moving from setting the groundwork to actually getting our operations fully in place and enrolling our first students.  This visit reinforces that sense of things.

We have worked with East China Normal University since the start of our initiative here almost three years ago and had very prodctive meetings with them yesterday.  Their Continuing Education program has a backlog of between 300,000 and 600,000 working teachers that need to be in degree completion programs (they can teaxch after three eyars of university and hold a diploma, but not a degree).  Now, only the English teachers within that large pool might have the language skill necessary to enroll in our online programs and even within that group there will be a range of abilities, but it is still a big pool and they are eager to serve it.

We agreed to develop a pilot with them and start small.  A lot of what we are doing now on the academic side is getting a better feel for the abilities and challenges that come with this in-country student population.

The other goals for this visit are to develop next year’s budget for the China initiative, work out administrative processes, confirm the ESL screening process, and the usual (but important) relationship maintenance that is part and parcel of doing business here.

The impact of the global economic downturn is being felt here in higher education.  One million of last year’s graduates are still looking for work and there is deep anxiety about this year’s graduating class.  Some of these unfortunate circumstances are bolstering the case for what we offer.  We heard from some administrators that students who can’t afford to travel to the US, but also would rather enroll in school rather than fruitlessly enter the job market, will be interested in Online (remember, selling online learning is still an uphill battle here in China) and the government is looking for ways to educate more professionals for lower costs.

We fly to Beijing today and wrap up Thursday when I start the journey home.  One of the fun things I was able to do this morning (SNHU time; evening here in Shanghai) was to video-Skype my way into the Accepted Student Open House on campus.  With Shanghai’s lit up highrises as a backdrop, I was able to offer a welcome from China and the bandwidth was pretty good.  Amazing how technology is making the world smaller.

That said, is was still 28 hours door to door and I find myself no better at getting over jet lag than I’ve ever been, thus these 3:30AM blog posts.

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