Domestic, For-Profit, Investors, Opinion, Recruitment, Required, Retention Rates, University & College - Written by Paul Glader on Thursday, September 22, 2011 7:00 - 0 Comments
Opinion: Online Ed & For-Profit Schools Need “A Harvard”
Let’s face it. There isn’t one. Yet.
To me, this shows the industry still has a lot of maturing to do. And this is my challenge to the industry. Focus on quality. Create a champion school that truly shows the potential for technology in education or blended education.
So far, the most heartening sign is when Stanford University hosts a class about Artificial Intelligence online and sees thousands of people sign up for it. But this is one class. Most of the other coursework online from MIT, Yale or other top schools is open source for good will and not for actual coursework. The story earlier this week about University of California adding 26 online classes is also heartening. But its budget for the program is shaky.
So far, in the online education market we largely see:
1) Free curriculum online from top schools like MIT. With no degrees.
3) For-Profit schools that cater to adult-learners, working students, students in the military and underprivileged populations. They offer degrees, but are not well-regarded (details below).
4) Curriculum companies like K12 Inc. and others contracting with school districts and high schools to provide online curriculum to these schools.
Education technology firms should continue to partner with high schools, community colleges, and universities to offer general classes and remedial tutoring. Perhaps they should also introduce a university at the top end to prove the potential for online education? Instead, they are largely creating bottom-feeder institutions that, so far, try to gobble up federal money. They are often creating institutions that give students a canned, quick education that isn’t worth as much in the marketplace. The industry has been tainted by these actors.
Yes, online education theoretically helps the masses – adult learners and underprivileged learners. And that’s good. This is a noble mission and should continue. But – because admission standards are lower, coursework is perceived as less rigorous and default rates are higher – it also creates a perception and a reality of lower quality. It reminds one of maxims such as, “buy cheap, buy twice.”
The start of good business is providing a good product. So far, the degrees from for-profit colleges are not as well-regarded as most traditional universities. The admissions standards and academic standards for online coursework have proven to be low. A report by Mark Kantrowitz,publisher of FinAid.org in 2009 showed that For-Profit enrollees averaged 20.6 on the ACT, compared to 23.4 by other college students. They showed lower high school GPAs as well.
Schools like Frei Universitat’s Center for Global Politics has two Master’s Programs online (90% of the work in your home country, 10% of the work in person at Frei’s campus in Berlin). It’s an oasis of innovation (though low-fi, without video or power point to accompany reading material and syllabi) in a sprawling, traditional campus on the West side of Berlin. We need to see more models like this.
Harvard University has inspired generations of students and faculty since it was founded in 1636 with money from John Harvard. Who will create the Harvards, the MITs and the Berkeley’s of the online education world? When will the University of Phoenix stop being the punch line for comedians? That’s when for-profits will be taken more seriously and less at risk to die a greedy death.
Glader is managing editor of WiredAcademic.com and a Robert Bosch Fellow in Germany for 2011-2012. You can reach him at Paul@WiredAcademic.com.
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