Yalies always like to say that Princeton doesn’t matter, and it appears that the leaders of the University Alliance for Life-Long Learning agree.
Despite the November departure of Princeton University from the recently established program, which offers online courses to alumni, their families and other supporters of Yale, Stanford and Oxford, Yale officials still expressed confidence in the venture.
“I am very optimistic,” Yale President Richard Levin said.
Levin is chairman of the project and is responsible for facilitating coordination between all the participating universities and the program’s chief executive, Herbert Allison.
Levin said the first round of classes was generally well-received.
“There were some technical glitches we can improve and learn from,” Levin said. “The idea is to learn from repeated experiments to find out which formats work best to satisfy alumni.”
Association of Yale Alumni Executive Director Jeffrey Brenzel wrote in an e-mail that he cannot detect much change in the alliance since Princeton’s departure. The Princeton courses have been removed from the site, and Brenzel said that this was part of the agreement when Princeton left the alliance.
Brenzel said no courses have seen particularly high enrollment because the project is just getting off the ground.
“Given the pilot nature of the projects and limited marketing to date, there really hasn’t been strong enough enrollment to detect strong differentials among the courses,” he said.
Yale courses offered range from last year’s DeVane lecture series, “Democratic Vistas,” including Levin and Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead’s lectures, to a course on America post-Sept. 11 based on “The Age of Terror,” the recently published compilation of essays coordinated by the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
Brenzel said courses have been developed in a number of ways.
“Some evolved from projects that were in process already for other purposes. Others have been volunteered and others solicited. And each campus has differed in its process,” Brenzel said. “There is now a center on Yale’s campus — the Center for Media Initiatives — that is issuing broad calls to faculty for project proposals.”
Brenzel said several courses come from Yale this term, but generally each university contributes about equally.
“In the first round of programs in the fall, the numbers were about the same,” Brenzel said. “I believe each campus has a fairly similar number of programs ‘cooking’ for the future.”
The cost per course in $195, a fee the Web site lists as a “special introductory fee.” Registration is available at the alliance Web site, and participants can choose from among 15 courses.
The first round of courses was experimental, and there was no fee for auditing the classes. Still, even as the alliance begins to charge for the courses, Levin said Yale is not in the venture to make money.
“The second round that we are marketing now we are pricing at a level that will not recover our costs,” Levin said. “It is going to be a nonprofit, but it will be many years before we break even.”
But as the alliance heads forward, even those who are most closely involved in its future are hesitant to predict the future.
“We’re excited about going forward, but it is hard to make judgment calls about how the alliance will ultimately fare,” Brenzel said.