Online and Outsourced in Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed today posted this story about a proposal for Nevada to create an online community college. This raises some great questions that I’ve had on my radar for some time, but that have really complex (maybe unknowable) answers:

  • Can online education really ever replace f2f education? What gets lost/gained in that transition?
  • How can we examine the social effects–both good and bad–of open enrollment (or “remedial,” as the article calls them) institutions? Of online-only programs?
  • How does the development of online education affect f2f education even in cases where it does not serve as a replacement?
  • All other things being equal, what type of education do students prefer–and why?
My primary concern at this point is that online open enrollment options may greatly increase the number of students who are forced (often by their employers) into educational situations that are financially, intellectually, and emotionally costly for them in really unproductive ways. That’s not to say that I don’t support the missions of online and/or open enrollment programs (I work at both types of places, and I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t support them). Rather, it underscores the importance for such institutions to keep student benefit at the forefront of their mission. 
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