Turtle v. Rabbit

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.”

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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