I’ve said before that the development of online education here in the U.S. (and so, perhaps, elsewhere) is a race between the very fast for-profit Hares and the very slow public Tortoises. The Hare has seemed to be ahead over the last decade (with some help from its friends in high places) but eventually the Tortoise will win. (Unless, of course, the hare’s friends rig the game.) Slowly, one tiny step at a time, the public sector is developing its online education system. It’ll win eventually but its progress is agonizingly slow.
The Hare has suffered some real losses recently as the government begins to try to punish wrongdoing and to introduce some sort of regulatory sanity into higher education. Given the Tea Party shoot-yourself-in-the-foot gang now wagging the Republican dog, it’s been an unnecessarily slow process. I think those guys would fight against food regulation even if their own grandmothers were dying from eating salmonella ridden dog food. Still, the for-profits seemed to have been slowed if not stopped.
Now, as it turns out, we have a scandal at the University of Virginia which seems to be a case of the Hare trying to sneak into the Tortoise’s territory. President Teresa A. Sullivan was fired– and then “reinstated”– because she has been Tortoise like (public good over private profit) in her development of an online program. It’s classic 21st century capitalism. First the online industry expands bubble-like on pubic money, then they destroy themselves out of greed, and finally they offer their services to the public as experts.