Online Higher Ed: If You Can Read This You Could Be Getting College Credit Right Now!

In today’s paper NYT’s Dillon takes a look at online “virtual” higher education. Obviously, there are some serious problems here requiring attention. More seriously, aren’t the boosters and skeptics both overstating their cases? I’m sorta skeptical about a lot of this and the history of the for-profits in higher ed is not overly encouraging but seems sort of too soon too tell too much either way about this new wave and there is some promise in this medium. There is a basic market share issue here for higher education, particularly as “non-traditional” students become more traditional. That’s got ’em panicked, but with most edutechnology issues the promises tend to outweigh the results.

Would be nice to know how the problems breakout among different online colleges. Is it a prevalent problem across the board or some bad apples? What’s the industry doing to self-regulate? And, not sure it’s fair to ding the virtuals for having lobbyists and seeking special things from government…Good Lord, they have lobbyists!!! That hardly makes them unusual in higher education and sounds a lot like what traditional universities do, too. All those earmarks don’t write themselves…In other words, the notion put forward in the article that higher ed can’t get a hearing with members on the Hill is simply ludicrous. Also, do the universities really want to go down this road about how there is no record of effectiveness from the virtuals, especially just now? “We need to measure the effectiveness of higher education providers!” just doesn’t seem quite on-message for them…

Does seem though that, like K-12 choice, this is going to happen regardless, fighting it is like fighting gravity, and the debate ought to be about ensuring quality.

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