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.
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.
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.
4. Instructional Connections describes itself as a provider of “embedded academic coaching” to “to colleges and universities, which offer online courses and degree programs.”
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!”
Source: Glassdoor.com. https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Employee-Review-Instructional- Connections-RVW6213990.htm
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.