I wrote a post several weeks ago about UF Online, partially based on a phone interview with the executive director Betty Phillips.
Several weeks ago the University of Florida Online program opened for the Spring 2014 semester, accepting 600 transfer students, and the new program will accept Freshmen starting August 2014. This announcement comes just 2 years after the Florida legislature commissioned a study from the Parthenon Group on how to best leverage online programs in the state, and this program is probably one of the highest profile new online programs in the US within the past few years (along with California’s online initiative, Open SUNY, SJSU / Udacity and GaTech / Udacity). [snip]
What UF Online is, however, is an exclusively-online baccalaureate program leading to a UF degree for lower costs than the traditional on-campus experience. This is about expanding capacity and access to a research university, and the program aims to meet the same academic standards as the traditional UF experience . . .
Well it seems like the situation in Florida changes rapidly in multiple directions. Just two and half months after she officially took the new position, Betty Phillips has abruptly resigned. By all appearances, this move was unexpected as the University of Florida appears to have been caught flat-footed. The Gainesville Sun reports:
But less than three months after she officially began as director of UF Online on Jan. 1, Phillips — the wife of former UF Senior Vice President and COO Win Phillips — is no longer in charge of that program.
In an administrative memo sent out to faculty after 9 p.m. Tuesday, UF Provost Joe Glover didn’t even mention Betty Capaldi Phillips by name.
“Due to changes in personnel, effective immediately, Associate Provost Andy McCollough will become responsible for the administration of UF Online. Consequently, issues related to this program should be directed to his attention,” Glover’s memo said.
The memo was not posted on the Administrative Memo web page until late Wednesday afternoon.
The article describes that Phillips plans to return to ASU in a teaching role, focusing on research into personalized learning. I’m not sure if personal or HR issues were involved, but the article described other details:
Phillips had given up her job as provost and executive vice president of ASU — a position she held since 2006. She took a substantial pay cut to return to UF — from the $425,000 she earned as provost at ASU to $285,000 salary to run the online program here.
Meanwhile, her husband, Win Phillips, stepped down as COO in December and took a position with Innovation Square, UF’s technology startup incubator downtown.
When I did my interview, I had asked about the UF Online staff now that the program has started (they accepted 583 transfer students in January). Phillips’ replied that there was only two people, including herself. This resignation is much more significant than a single leader of a functioning program office departing – this is a complete change of the program office.
I’ll share more information as it becomes available.
Update (3/14): Carl Straumsheim has an article at IHE today that includes interviews with Andy McCollough from UF and Todd Hitchcock from Pearson. It’s well worth reading.
Until Florida can fill the position, W. Andrew McCollough, associate provost for teaching and technology, will lead UF Online. He said Phillips has chosen to return to ASU as a faculty member.
“She, in discussing the matter with me, had evinced after she had gotten herself immersed in the management of and the directing of UF Online that her first love at this point was functioning as a faculty member and doing research on online learning,” McCollough said. “It became evident to her that she would have difficulties fitting that preference into her waking hours here at the university.” [snip]
“The work doesn’t stop because the person in the director’s seat changes,” McCollough said. “The truth of the matter is in the work that is being done by faculty and instructional designers and videographers and web developers and marketing. The people that are doing the real work continue to do the real work.”
I personally think the explanations are part of the story – something doesn’t add up here.