Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Latest in Online Education

Last week, we blogged about the University of Toledo and how it was considering outsourcing some of its coursework to Higher Education Holdings in exchange for a percentage of tuition revenues. This effort has apparently been stymied by some of the faculty at UT, according to an article published by Inside Higher Ed yesterday.

The faculty questioned the quality of education that could be provided by an online provider - a valid concern. However, the same concern has to be raised over the quality of education being provided in a physical classroom, especially given the lack of outcome-based measurements of what students are actually learning. Furthermore, the proposed online program would have offered two graduate-level education degrees online at a fraction of the cost of on-site instruction. Judging by the poor results of educating the nation's youth, I would argue that the online program couldn't be any worse than the current educational training programs being provided by the colleges. Not to say that these types of contractual arangements are the cure-all to the education problems, but it is at certainly worth giving the "old college try", rather than flat out rejecting it, especially when the arrangement will reduce costs and tuition significantly at a time when families are struggling to afford college and student debt levels are burying both graduates and non-graduates.

In a semi-related story, education entrepreneur Shai Reshef plans to open the virtual doors to the University of the People this April. UoP is
"the world’s first tuition-free, online academic institution".
The institution will charge students application and exam fees on a sliding scale that is based on the relative wealth of the student's home country. UoP courses will be staffed by
"A community of educators, comprised of active and retired professors, master level students and other professionals, will participate and oversee the assessment process."
I'll be anxious to hear more about the success (or failure) of this innovate effort to increase access to the world's socio-economically disadvantaged.

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