Wells to Lead New Online Education Strategy

John Wells
John Wells

A new Online Education Group (OEG) has been established by interim Provost John McCarthy to create a much closer alignment between the campus’s online programs and its overall academic mission, face-to-face programs and its stature as a flagship public university.

In a Jan. 16 broadcast email, McCarthy said, “This strategic linkage reflects a commitment to quality that will differentiate our programs in an extremely competitive online education environment.”

He said the OEG will replace the existing Continuing and Professional Education structure and serve as a resource for academic units with existing online offerings and those with the potential to expand into online education. John Wells, associate dean of professional programs and professor of operations and information management in the Isenberg School of Management, will lead the OEG in the new position of senior vice provost for online education, said McCarthy.

“John will oversee the implementation of a comprehensive online education strategy, which will enable schools and colleges to leverage online learning to improve the quality of their current online and face-to-face academic programs and to enhance the student experience,” added McCarthy. “This structure will provide marketing, lead management, and online student support services centrally, while freeing colleges and departments to focus on the academic side. At the outset, the OEG’s priorities will be implementation of a lead generation and management process, close relationships with the academic programs, enhancement of the online student experience, and creation of an analytics infrastructure to facilitate data-informed decision making.

“The central strategic element of the OEG will be a shift to an approach that presents online education as integral to our overall commitment to quality. Moving in this direction will allow online programs to leverage the strength of the UMass Amherst reputation as the Commonwealth’s flagship university.”

In addition, a new UMass Amherst Online Steering Committee will approve strategic priorities. The steering committee will include the provost, the vice chancellor for university relations, the vice chancellor for it, Wells and representatives from the schools and colleges. “The establishment of this committee will allow for a unified and expedient implementation of strategies deemed critical for online initiatives,” McCarthy said.

“I am confident that this new model, which was the result of months of study and planning, will lead to a more efficient and strategic approach to our campus’s online education, resulting in a higher quality academic offering and, subsequently, sustained growth in revenue,” he added.