- Two national corporations will work with Purdue University to develop custom courses for their employees as part of the institution's aggressive expansion of its online offerings, the university announced.
- Purdue Online, which offers courses from the university’s West Lafayette, Indiana, campus online, is partnering with Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly to offer education for its information technology workers, and with Cisco Systems on courses for its sales team.
- The initiative intends to help Purdue serve a wider range of students with a coordinated set of offerings from its campus-based and online programs.
Purdue's moves around custom corporate education are part of a larger trend.
As they emerged from the recession, corporations began spending more on employee training. Colleges saw that shift and sought ways to attract their business, recognizing they were getting less than half of the $772 billion postsecondary education market, Inside Higher Ed reported in 2015. Such partnerships, advocates noted, offered several other benefits, including a link to the business community for its help developing curriculum for specific industries.
Since then, the scale of partnerships between higher ed and corporations has increased, with more options for employers that want to develop training programs unique to their needs rather than allow workers to choose from a range of more traditional offerings.
One marker of that is Arizona State University's involvement with the launch of a new venture positioned to coordinate workforce development opportunities between colleges and employers. National University System, too, recently launched a workforce development business unit.
Companies are also looking to build their skills training into curriculum. Several tech employers, including Amazon and Google, have developed courses that can be offered through traditional institutions. And last fall, IBM announced a collaboration with Wake Technical Community College, in North Carolina, to offer an accredited blockchain course with the opportunity for mentorship and to earn a badge that can be verified and shared through an open platform.
Purdue’s collaboration with corporations also shows another way in which the college is looking to grow its footprint online.
In 2017, Purdue gained national attention when it announced plans to buy the for-profit Kaplan University, adding its 32,000 students and 2,500 instructors. Some saw the deal as imaginative and fiscally wise, while others, including many faculty members, felt it would further water down higher education, destabilize the university and allow a former for-profit to operate without oversight in the nonprofit sector.
The resulting Purdue Global, which is a separate entity from Purdue Online and offers its own coursework for adult learners, now has 180 programs of study and features one-on-one counseling, a competency-based program and open college courses, although it hasn't been without controversy.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the Purdue entity through which the new partnerships are offered. It is Purdue Online not Purdue Global