A business proposition of sorts

Suppose you were a qualified and experienced math teacher who wants to start a business whose “product” is college-level math classes. In other words, the business is not a school per se with a wide-ranging curriculum or a dean-oriented administrative structure; and not a tutoring center specializing in one-on-one help with schoolwork; but a place that offers multiple-student courses in just three or four different mathematical subjects. It would be a cross between a Sylvan Learning Center and a college/community college — but where only math classes are taught, and in which small class sizes, personal attention, and the range of pedagogical options that are available with small class sizes are used.

The target clientele would be students who need college credit in those subjects but for some reason prefer not to take the courses at an actual college. These would include college students taking courses over the summer, college students who want smaller class sizes than the large university they are attending offers, high school students who want to earn college credit before matriculating, homeschooled students who want college-level courses in their curriculum, adult learners who want a math course for intellectual challenge or a career move, and so on.

The key question is whether or not the courses offered by a business like this, which is not a school, can transfer to colleges for academic credit. Even if you teach the exact same courses as at a university, with high academic standards and a systematized grading system and so on, it seems that this is not the basis for whether a college accepts a course to count for credit. I could teach a really good calculus course out of my living room on Sunday nights, but that doesn’t guarantee that a student “passing” the “course” would be eligible for credit anywhere.

So the question for the audience here is: How would a business such as what I’ve described get into the position of having its courses accepted widely for college credit? Would the regional acrediting agency have to be brought in, or what?



Filed under Education, Higher ed, Teaching, Uncategorized

5 responses to “A business proposition of sorts

  1. Jeff Walker

    The most straightforward way would be to obtain regional accreditation. This would result in very high trasnferability of your courses. As far as I know, none of the regional accreditors will accredit anything as small or focused as what you are proposing. In any case, it’s not an inexpensive process, and a lot of the requirements (library size, for example), aren’t practical for a small operation.

    A more practical option would be to have your courses evaluated by the American Council on Education. This would produce far from universal acceptance of your courses, but several colleges will accept, or at least consider, ACE-evaluated courses.

    Third, you could look to partner with an existing college. Many community colleges might be interested in offering such a program, as long as the financial risk to the community college was limited. Of course, your ability to make money (if that is a goal) might also be limited. There are certainly cases of private/community college partnerships to develop programs in non-traditional academic fields (i.e. computer networking). Whether they would participate in something in a traditional field, like math, is unknown.

    Finally, you could force students who want credit to use an existing thrid-party validation of their learning, such as CLEP. This would limit you to subjects that have tests.

  2. If you change your business model to courses meant to get students to pass their graduation exams (or SATs, or whatever) you don’t have that problem — and considering the number of students who can’t pass their exams, I’d think you’d have a market.

  3. liz

    I haven’t looked into it at all, but you might–how many college courses in mathematics are offered by distance education? Isn’t that kind of the environment you are talking about?

  4. Jami

    A comment kind of off the subject, and from my geeky side… Wouldn’t it be cool if there was enough demand for this type of class that you didnt even have to make credit available? People take art, literature, poetry, dance, etc. classes for fun, but you never hear of anyone taking local math classes for fun. Art, dance, etc are therapuetic, but I dont see why a math class couldn’t be too? 🙂 It would be a very interesting class. I’ll have to think about that some more…

  5. Jami, there are “math enrichment” types of programs out there, like Kumon Mathematics programs, aimed at young kids and which do not earn credit. I worked with a Kumon franchise when I was in grad school and the clients were mostly kids in 3-6th grade who were trying to bolster their skills and maybe get ahead a little. As to your comment though, I’d say the thought of people voluntarily signing up for a math course for fun is, er, refreshingly optimistic.

    On the other hand, I get catalogs every so often from this company that sells entire college courses on audio tape, and among the offerings are calculus and something kind of like our GE 103 class. They’re always in that catalog so somebody must be buying them.