Max Denning

The Eastern Oregon University Board of Trustees met twice this week to discuss the next steps in the university’s evaluation of an online program management company, the college’s ongoing retention efforts and the creation of a new major.

During the board’s work session on Wednesday, Holly Chason, director of institutional effectiveness, research and planning, and Nate Lowe, dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, presented to the board on the OPM committee’s decision to explore a partnership with Learning House.

Lowe said Learning House was selected because of its track record with small universities similar to EOU and the company’s willingness to work with EOU in areas it needs assistance in and not alter the university’s current course offerings — for the time being.

“The folks I’ve talked to, mostly faculty in my college, what was important to them was what kind of role will this company have in the faculty-student relationship, in the curriculum development,” Lowe said. “That’s why the committee recommends at this point that Learning House won’t do instructional design for us.”

The Observer previously reported the three major areas Learning House would help EOU with — if the OPM is hired by the university — are recruiting, retention and marketing to online students. One trustee asked Lowe and Chason if they thought there was more support for the OPM process than there was previously when the university moved forward with Pearson Online Learning Services. Lowe said he thought there was but added the information is still relatively new to the campus community.

“Because the committee was made up of faculty, staff and students… I think (those on campus) knew more about what was going on and when,” Lowe noted.

Chason informed the trustees she would be bringing a contract to the board during its March committee meetings, which would then officially be approved by the board at its April board meeting.

Insko, who will be leading negotiations with Learning House, said at the work session that making sure EOU’s online course offerings remain affordable will be a top priority.

At Thursday’s regular board meeting, Lacy Karpilo, vice president for student affairs, reported to the board about the ongoing efforts to increase retention at the college. As part of EOU’s strategic plan, branded as The Ascent, the university set a goal of having a retention rate of 80 percent of full-time freshmen and 90 percent of transfer students.

See complete story in Friday's Observer