There’s a pair of stories on the Online Learning Update blog this week that point to the slow but steady evolution of the online learning system. Step by step, we are moving from a system dominated by rapid growth of the proprietary schools to a more complex, shifting landscape in which public schools will grow more rapidly and the for-profits will begin to focus on more substantive issues related to the quality of their programs and the value of their institutional capital.
The proprietary schools have to catch up on the respectability front, in other words, and the public online schools need to catch up on availability. One industry study, conducted by DeVry (“Online education gaining credibility in labour market: Survey“) suggests that perceived quality and accessibility, are closely related and that proprietary schools’ reputations are improving precisely because they allow students to pursue an education while working.
On the tortoise side, the California State system has announced plans for a California online school (“CSU plans for online university education“). The California system, of course, has an enormous advantage in institutional capital and if they can get a large enough system up and running in a reasonable amount of time, they can compete successfully with the proprietary system. They have some time: it’ll be years before any for-profit has a comparable reputation.