New York Times to Suspend Online-Education Program

The New York Times is bowing out of the online-education business just as a growing number of colleges are putting their own courses on the Web. Knowledge Network, the distance-learning initiative started by the company in September 2007, will suspend operations on July 31, a company spokesperson said today.

Knowledge Network collaborated with institutions, including Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Mount Holyoke College, to offer online courses, certificates, and degree programs. The colleges and universities provided the professors and the content, while the Times provided supplementary materials and the weight of its brand. The partners shared revenue from tuition, which ranged from $75 for a one-time course to more than $4,000 per semester for degree programs.

“We’re analyzing the Knowledge Network and its function,” said the Times’s spokeswoman, Linda Zebian, in announcing the suspension. “We’re looking at what we’re doing in education, and online education specifically, to decide what we want to do in the future.”

Online courses have become increasingly widespread, with major universities offering them free. In April, Stanford, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor teamed up with Coursera, a start-up created by two Stanford computer-science professors, to put some courses online. Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology soon did likewise, in a $60-million partnership that will offer interactive online classes starting this fall.

Knowledge Network has already notified current students of the program’s impending suspension, although degree programs will continue to operate through the partner institutions, Ms. Zebian said. She declined to disclose enrollment numbers.

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