December 1, 2000

eCornell Moves Forward With C-Town Office

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eCornell in recent weeks penetrated the border between the conventional college campus and the rest of the world on its way to achieving the ultimate goal of the distance learning industry.

Opening a new office location on the ground level of 312 College Avenue apartments, the University can now claim access to students off-campus through its distance learning affiliate, eCornell.

“This is great space. Of course Collegetown is close to the campus, and that is where the content is,” said Maureen Updike, administrative manager for eCornell.

The Board of Trustees created eCornell — an independent, for profit corporation that will develop distance learning courses under the Cornell name — on March 10. Then six months later, the Trustees approved the company’s first fiscal budget and named a Board of Directors.

As eCornell continued its development at a rapid rate, more like a modern start-up company than a brick-and-mortar business, the operation expanded, calling for a new office to house the initial stage of production in distance learning content.

“I am thinking that maybe by January we will be ready to do some work in this building,” Updike said. “Our job right now is just to get this place set up.”

Updike is one of five administrative staff members already working in the new office.

The office has been open for about two and a half weeks. In the near future, about 10 other employees will relocate there from other Cornell distance learning offices.

“[We] are at a cross-over point. The Village Green office is in transition to eCornell,” Updike said.

The Village Green is one of the University’s distance learning offices, located on Hanshaw Road near the Triphammer Mall.

“As Cornell employees, [we] are right at that junction,” she added, regarding the job transition that they face.

For the University staff members who may leave the distance learning office for the new Collegetown location, it is not a simple change of scenery. Updike noted that the difference is much greater since the Office of Distance Learning is not-for-profit, like the University as a whole, while eCornell is a for-profit corporation.

John Wolf M.B.A. ’83, executive director of the Office of Distance Learning, is facing the transition right now, officially working for the University but eyeing a move to eCornell.

“Technically, we’re still part of Cornell at the moment,” Wolf said.

“I’m still a Cornell employee, [and] I’m still paid by Cornell,” he said, but was reluctant to elaborate on the situation.

It may be unclear about which organization will compensate the workers in the midst of the transition, because the jobs are currently so closely aligned, according to Updike.

eCornell President and Chief Executive Officer Francis P. Pandolfi could not be reached for comment.

In the immediate future, the administrative staff at the 312 location will begin importing prototype equipment for the creation of distance learning programs.

In the front room visible to Collegetown passersby, eCornell production staff members will work with faculty members to assist them in creating program models for their ideas.

Then, once the product is further developed, it will be sent to one of the other offices already established.

“The beauty of it is the worker end of it is right here [in the front of the office]. Folks can see activity here,” Updike said.

Soon, the distance learning officials envision faculty members venturing to the upscale apartment building to assemble a course that can reach students in the rooms above — or elsewhere on the new frontier of higher education.

Archived article by Matthew Hirsch