Academic Partnerships, Instructional Connections and EMU: Who Will Teach Our Students?

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Academic Partnerships, Instructional Connections and EMU: Who Will Teach Our Students?

News-BudgtReport

In November 2016, Eastern Michigan University entered into a contract with a Texas- based private firm, Academic Partnerships, to provide entirely online degree programs, with no in-person classroom instructions.

The EMU-AP contract specifies that the university “shall maintain sole authority in the (i) appointment of faculty, (ii) admission of students, (iii) delivery of Online programs, (iv) evaluation of student performance, (v) decision to award course credit and/or academic credentialing…”

More than year after this contract was signed, however, it is still unclear how services will be delivered to students and who will be responsible for the actual student contact including answering online queries, leading online discussions and grading student papers.

Here’s what we do know:

1. Academic Partnerships has a “strategic partnership” with another Texas-based firm, Instructional Connections, which provides “coaches” for online courses.

  • DALLAS, Sept. 15, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Academic Partnerships (AP), a leading global provider of online services for higher education, announced today a strategic partnership with Instructional Connections (IC), which specializes in top-tier online coaching support for universities.
  • The strategic alliance will enable AP to continue to provide online coaching support to university partners and programs while allowing them to scale quality.

Source: Press Release, “Academic Partnerships Announces Strategic Partnership with Instructional Connections,” Sep 15, 2015.

2. Instructional Connections is specifically identified as a “strategic partner” in the contract between Academic Partnerships (AP) and Eastern Michigan University, entitled to receive “daily extracts” of student data.

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Source: Service Agreement between Academic Partnerships, LLC (AP) and the Regents of Eastern Michigan University, Sept. 1, 2016, p. 3

3. In an email to EMU administrators, Academic Partnerships described a “carousel model” for an online degree program in educational administration, with three faculty teaching up to 12 courses, assisted by online coaches.

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4. Instructional Connections describes itself as a provider of “embedded academic coaching” to “to colleges and universities, which offer online courses and degree programs.”

  • Our coaches now serve more than 30 thousand students in 27 universities and 50+ college programs with our highly effective proprietary “academic coaching model,” which provides student-centric and faculty-centric services to our university partners.
  • These services include, but are not limited to: embedded “academic coaching” (online teaching assistant) support, hybrid course coaching, tutoring, supplemental instruction, faculty recruitment, face to face observations, and other support of students in specific degree programs. Our services help meet the needs that universities face with 21st Century accredited online degree programs and courses.

5. Instructional Connections hires “academic coaches” as independent contractors, not as employees. A number of contractors have posted complaints about pay and working conditions..

“The hard work required is ABSOLUTELY NOT WORTH the slave wages paid. I taught a 7 week class with crazy amount of grading (almost 10 questions/week.) I got paid 460 for the entire course. “

“I would not recommend. Remember, there is NO room for you to express your opinion and provide true feedback to students.”

“[L]ow wage, long, long, long hours at the computer teaching and answering email…weekly meetings that you are NOT compensated to attend … I absolutely hate this job!”

Instructional Connections also received some positive reviews at Glassdoor.com (although it appears that the majority of reviews are negative). In any case, postings on an anonymous website are not a proper method to fully evaluate an online academic degree program.

Unfortunately, the EMU administration has not provide any means for a full and proper evaluation of the entirely online degree programs to be offered, under the EMU brand, by Academic Partnerships and its strategic partners – including Instructional Connections.

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