There’s a kind of race going on in Higher Education, between that swift proprietary rabbit and the slow public turtles. So far the race has been to the swift, but no one should write off the slower public universities. In the first stage of the race the public institutions stumbled badly, in part becuase they are big bumbling animals and in part over feats about the effectiveness of online education. It’s the economy, stupid.
Depending on your point of view online education has either proven itself or simply proven that it won’t go away. Either way, the old ‘under-served markets’ and ‘economies of scale’ arguments really starts to make sense in a time of shrinking budgets. The potential for growth in online education in the California system alone is enormous (“California Dreaming: Remaking Online Learning at the U. of California“). The race may get interesting.
The key, though, is going to the competition over teachers in higher education. If the system continues to reflexively rely on graduate students and adjuncts as cheap labor, the expanded role of online education will just be more of the same. The new online system, just as the old, requires well paid teachers with secure jobs. It can’t become another “race to the bottom.”