In the discussion thread: College credit recommended for free online courses [View all]
Response to melm00se (Reply #7)
Thu Feb 7, 2013, 02:40 PM
mike_c (33,787 posts)
9. unfortunately, the driving force behind online higher ed is not access...
...but rather profits, at least in most cases. That is especially the case at state universities, where classroom instruction and the tuition students pay for it is subsidized by state taxpayers. Online courses at those institutions are often offered through university extension or some similar institutional arm, which means they do not receive state support. Often the university's costs for offering the same courses online are substantially less, compared to offering those courses in state-support classrooms, while students in self support are pure profit and no cost to the institution's operating funds. It's a financial windfall for the university. At my institution, for example, students pay nearly three times as much per credit for self support classes online as they pay for the same classes on campus. There is still considerable debate about whether they receive the same value for their inflated costs.
It might not be so bad though, if those extra costs were the value added necessary for real distance learning, as you suggest-- increasing access for students who would otherwise be unable to attend school. In practice, however, that's not what happens. Not counting MOOCs, which are not usually offered for credit (there are a very few experiments with that happening right now, e.g. the OP and the recent contract between Udacity and San Jose State), nearly every student in most online courses is already a student matriculated at the institution offering the course. In other words, they're mostly not students who can't attend school otherwise-- they're students at the school who can't get into classes in time to graduate, otherwise.
In other words, many state universities are underfunding classroom instruction and closing needed sections of class, then opening those same classes online, at much higher self-support cost, to the students who would otherwise enjoy state-support access in the traditional manner. It's undermining educational opportunities for less well off students who cannot afford the higher costs, or forcing them to take on additional debt. It's the for-profit model of higher education being rolled out at not-for-profit state universities.
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unfortunately, the driving force behind online higher ed is not access...
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