October 11, 2000

New Alliance Formed in Distance Learning

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As pieces of the eCornell puzzle have been falling into place in recent weeks, four other elite schools have joined to create their own global distance learning venture.

The University Alliance for Life-Long Learning, a distance learning venture conjured collectively by Princeton, Yale, Stanford and Oxford universities, is developing its organization at a pace consistent with Cornell’s.

Both the Alliance and eCornell have allotted $12 million original budgets, both have set up of Board of Directors and appointed executive officials. And both plan to be off the ground in the coming academic year.

“We believe that a service such as this — offering access to the educational resources of four of the world’s top universities — will have global appeal,” said Colin Lucas, vice chancellor of the University of Oxford, in a joint statement issued by the universities. “The Alliance offers us exciting opportunities to expand the services we offer and we look forward to developing this partnership to its full potential, in the context of our wide range of distance learning programs.”

Initially the Alliance will concentrate its services only among alumni of the four institutions, a market including some 500,000 graduates, while other distance learning groups are planning to target a more diverse audience. Unlike eCornell and Columbia University’s Fathom corporation, the Alliance will remain a non-profit organization.

“Our two primary objectives are to provide the best learning experiences that we can to our students and alumni and to enable faculty members to explore new methods which may enhance the teaching and research they are able to carry out,” said Princeton University President Harold T. Shapiro.

“The use of electronic and other media offers the promise of extending in exciting new ways the university’s commitments to develop and disseminate knowledge. We want to insure that our faculty and students have the opportunity to take full advantage of instructional possibilities and to imagine and develop new possibilities,” he said.

Retaining its mission to distribute higher education courses on a larger scale, the Alliance plans to eventually expand its services beyond just the alumni holding the member universities’ degrees.

“I am hopeful that the extraordinary courses and programs that our four institutions offer will find an even broader audience through the Alliance,” said Stanford University President John L. Hennessy.

“We believe we can contribute far more than could any one institution acting alone,” added Yale University President Richard C. Levin, serving as chair of the Alliance’s board of directors.

While Alliance products will be distributed equally to each institution, and the four universities are sharing the costs to run the operations, the universities will act separately to develop individual Alliance products. The plan will then save the central organization from having to hire its own facilities and staff.

Herbert M. Allison, Jr., former president of Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., was chosen to serve atop the Alliance.

Of the newly-selected president and chief executive officer, Levin said, “Respected throughout the business world for his achievements, [Allison] has a proven commitment to higher education and a clear vision of the exciting possibilities that the Alliance presents.”

Joining Allison in leading the Alliance, representatives from each university have formed a board of directors. The board includes Heidi G. Miller, chief financial officer and senior executive vice president of priceline.com and Srinija Srinivasan, vice president and editor in chief of Yahoo! Inc.

“The alliance with other universities will enable us … to move forward faster than we would be able to do alone, in order to develop the highest quality educational materials,” Shapiro said.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch