March 9, 2004

eCornell Implements New Marketing Plan

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John Neuman, eCornell CEO, knows that change is essential for good business. That’s why the three-year-old business is revising its focus, relocating its offices, and finding new and innovative ways to reach more people.

Since 2000, eCornell has served as a developer and marketer of online professional education courses from Cornell University. Over the past several years, it has developed nearly 60 online courses in partnership with the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, the School of Hotel Administration, the Johnson Graduate School of Management, and the Hospital for Special Surgery at Weill Medical College. A wholly owned subsidiary of Cornell University, eCornell reaches over 80 countries.

“In trying to start a new business, you go through a lot of change, and are constantly tuning your product,” said Neuman. “We are at a point where we use a lot of resources to build our catalog of courses and make it attractive to other universities and corporations. We’ve reached a point of striving for financial independence.” eCornell, Neuman added, will be closing its office in 312 College Avenue and moving to Hanshaw Road in the Village Green, where the business already has two facilities.

“We don’t need as much space now, and have pulled back some of the staff and extra contractors now that we’ve slowed the rate of building courses,” Neuman said.

Neuman, as well as eCornell Director of Academic Programs Rob Gearhart, agrees that the business is slowing its course-building process now and instead focusing on other areas. “We’re not completely eliminating the ability to build courses, we just want to focus on other markets and arenas, and find courses that satisfy different needs besides business,” said Gearhart.

“Our mission is to extend Cornell’s global leadership role in corporate executive education and professional development by delivering its world-class programs in engaging, convenient format on the Internet,” reads eCornell’s website. eCornell has contracts with organizations, corporations, educational institutions, and the U.S. government.

Despite any restructuring, the business still has projects keeping them busy.

“We are increasingly available to do custom work,” Neuman said. “We have a contract with the U.N. to do custom course appraisal work, and that’s a very special project . . . now that we have some capacity, organizations are reaching for our help. We also have the ability to use advanced collaboration tools for people trying to communicate and solve problems through Internet interactions.”

According to Neuman, Cornell wants to hire eCornell to do for-credit courses, although it was not initially chartered to do so.

eCornell also helps international students to get the most out of their online courses. Chinese-speaking students, for example, can hear various parts of a course in Chinese to ensure that they understand certain concepts, even as they want to experience the course as a whole in English. “It’s like Cliff’s Notes in a different language,” Gearhart explained.

Both Neuman and Gearhart anticipate a positive future for eCornell. “This is a pivotal point for eCornell,” Neuman said. “We have an extraordinary library of courses now. This entire library is proving to be attractive to corporations and institutions who want to buy access to it. We now have about six thousand users. We just sold a contract for 5,000 seats with one more company. Up until now we’ve just been building and building courses, now it’s a new era of making more and more courses available to more and more people.”

Although eCornell offers no online courses in the School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Neuman is interested in exploring such possibilities.


Archived article by Maya Rao

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