Monday, July 26, 2010

Innovating Out of the Status Quo

By John Glaser

Markets have a way of realizing totally unforeseen, yet marvelous innovations which lead entire sectors towards a new and better norm for society. Of course, this tendency doesn't stop at the education sector. As I've been writing about, the tech-ed, online education initiatives taking place are signs of a future new norm to come for higher education. The latest example of this kind of market marvel is reported upon by Sophia Li at the Chronicle for Higher Education. Nixty, a new website that lets any user take a create online classes, is in the beginning stages of development and is showing promise.
Nixty is unique, though, in also offering ways for students and instructors to connect with one another, he said. Students can ask other users questions, and instructors can collaborate to improve their teaching materials, Mr. Moriarty said.

But Nixty's current features are only the beginning of what its creators have planned, according to Mr. Moriarty.

In the next month, the five-person team behind Nixty plans to roll out a payment system for courses, Mr. Moriarty said. Instructors will be able to charge students who want to enroll in their courses, but Nixty will charge instructors $4.99 a month for three such courses and a commission of 20 percent of the money instructors take in.

Mr. Moriarty hopes to establish partnerships with several online institutions, including Excelsior College and Western Governors University, and he thinks Nixty will be a way for institutions to offer continuing-education courses online, he said. He also envisions Nixty helping students to earn course credit through the College-Level Examination Program.
Granted, it will be doubly challenging to innovate ourselves to a new norm for higher education with so much status quo reliance on established universities and institutions. And various long-standing government programs further cement our reliance on those institutions, from the Pell Grant to Obama's Dream Act. But increasing discontent over rising tuition prices, student debt, credential inflation, and other issues may lead enough Americans to alternative sources of education, making the tech-ed, online courses, and hybrid ideas seem like an inevitability.

We just have to hope no legislative obstacles come along which seeks to prevent these kinds of alternative developments and innovations. Fortunately, we may still have enough separation of education and state to avoid that type of harmful regulation.

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