Members of the academic community have very strong opinions about online education. These opinions are often negative and based on myths, not evidence. Some like to share their negative perceptions in the comments section of articles or blogs about online education. Here is an example from the comment section of a recent Inside Higher Ed article entitled, “Online Education Ascends.”
Are we really ready to accept that the students are the best judges of the quality of an education they are just starting? And all kinds of things are here to stay, and most of them are horrible. That’s hardly a selling point. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. Online education for most administrations is a selling point and has very little to do with educational quality. (By: 3rd Tyrant)
I think 3rd Tyant’s comment was in response to Stewart Sutin’s comment that online education is here to stay. Sutin shared some well researched tips about how to ensure the quality of online education by:
- Carefully selecting online instructors
- Providing instructors with adequate training and access to course design specialists
- Providing adequate budgets to support faculty and quality programs
- Providing ample tech support
- Ensuring institutional objectives extend beyond enrollment growth
I agree with all of the above. I also appreciated Chris’s reply to 3rd Tyrant’s comment,
“Why the assumption that in-person is high quality but online is not?”
I’m guessing 3rd Tyrant has bought into the common myths about teaching online and hasn’t done research on the subject. 3rd Tyrant and other online education naysayers need to take time to learn the facts about teaching online. The video below does an excellent job of responding to the ten most commons myths about teaching online.
This video is one of the many excellent resources from Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence.
I just attended an excellent webinar titled “Online Education: More than MOOCs.” The free webinar was presented by Inside Higher Ed editors Scott Jaschik and Doug Lederman who clearly demonstrated that they have a solid understanding of the history of online education, which goes beyond the recent hype about MOOCs. They do an excellent job of explaining how traditional online courses and MOOCs are not synonymous, and acknowledge that too many pundits and non-experts do a disservice by not differentiating between the two which also drives me crazy.
Doug and Scott also discussed many of the key issues colleges and universities are facing today as well as changing faculty roles in the digital age. Many of their comments were based on data collected from recent surveys, recent articles on the subject, as well as conversations they’ve had with faculty and administrators. I was also very impressed with their responses to some of the questions asked by the people attending the webinar.
You can download a booklet from Inside Higher Ed that includes both news articles and opinion essays on this topic and click here to view a link to the recording of this brief, but very informative webinar.
Once a peripheral offering in higher education, online and distance education is becoming essential to the mission of many colleges and universities today. More and more vendors, also known as “Bundled Service Providers” (BSPs), are competing to cash in on the continued growth of online education in higher education. Services offered by the BSPs include market research, lead generation and marketing, admission counseling, course development and 24/7 technical support. Most BSPs charge on a revenue share basis where the vendor keeps 20% to 65% of the gross revenue for a course/program. One vendor, Academic Partnerships made $4 million from its share of tuition from Arizona State, over $10 million from Florida International University, and $18 million from Ohio University’s nursing program in 2012. (Source: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2013/05/31/nonprofit-colleges-should-be-wary-new-breed-profit-players-essay).
Some of the major players in this space include:
The eagerness of for-profits to enter the online education higher education market sounds very familiar. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, dot-coms and for-profits were jumping onto the distance learning bandwagon to launch new online programs. NYU Online, Virtual Temple, US Open University and Arizona Learning Systems were very popular until the dot-com bust which forced the closure of many of these new online ventures.
Some faculty members are beginning to push back on some of these partnerships. An October 11, 2013 issue of Inside Higher Ed, reported on a recent clash between faculty and administration at Rutgers about a partnership with Pearson. Faculty were concerned about intellectual property rights and academic freedom as well as sharing the revenue from tuition with an outside vendor.