Category: Distance Ed

Academic expectations for online education have dipped, while the quality and enrollment are still up, according to a new survey, reported by Inside Higher Ed.

The new report, “Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States,” which surveyed more than 4,700 colleges and universities, concludes that the growth of online enrollment is slowing  and that a gulf is widening between institutions that “have” online courses and programs and those that “don’t want” such online courses.

According to Jeff Seaman, co-director of the group that conducted the survey, “I think its better to call them the ‘have’ and the ‘don’t want’ — since the very beginning we have seen a group of institutions for which online was not a good fit (typically smaller schools and many of the traditional liberal arts institutions). This has not changed. What has changed is they now have had a much more negative view about all aspects of online learning (its quality, its value, its role in higher ed, etc.).”

Read more at Inside Higher Ed.


The National Labor College, an AFL-CIO backed institution, is closing due to declining interest, some untimely building project expenses, and a failed distance education attempt. The closure is another indicator of big labor’s decline and a reminder that distance education isn’t an automatic panacea.

The college’s president, Paula Peinovich, said other colleges, especially small religious colleges, should learn a lesson from the Labor College’s demise.

Quoted in Inside Higher Ed (IHE), Peinovich said, “I think many, many small colleges that are supported by major social and religious organizations are learning this lesson: visions, wonderful visions that bring together the best for the institution and its supporting organization can be changed by time – time and tide.”

IHE noted that there’s another lesson Peinovich has: don’t build fancy buildings without a business model that works. “Don’t build a lot of buildings,” she said. “Hear me, hear me, Catholic college presidents.”

For the full story, see Inside Higher Ed, “Labor College, backed by the AFL-CIO for decades, closes because of finances” 


Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen applies his famous “disruptive innovation” theory to the latest buzz in higher education–the Massive Open Online Course or MOOC–in a recent Wired magazine article: Beyond the Buzz, Where Are MOOCs Really Going?

Kelly Services CEO Carl Camden explains here how the world of work is changing rapidly and the “good jobs” college students (and their professors) imagined awaited them after graduation simply won’t exist. He expects the number of  “free agents,” more than 40 percent of employees today, to rise to over 50 percent within the decade. The company/organization-based “jobs” with benefits and retirement perks will steadily devolve into “work” that may be full time, but won’t entail the same benefits and perks of the old “job” economy. Those days, he suggests, are gone.

A provocative perspective worth considering for its employment implications for colleges focused on “career” training under the old “jobs” world and for those seeking an education in the liberal arts tradition.

Check out the video clip here.

Duke University has published a report evaluating its first MOOC course , “Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach.” The detailed report is extremely helpful for seeing how both students and faculty members participated in and evaluated their experiences with this triall MOOC class.  Only 2.5 percent of the whopping 12,000+ students who initially enrolled took the final exam. So for all the buzz and hype and work that went into the course, only a tiny  percentage of students saw it to the end and benefited fully from it.

But this was the university’s first attempt, so where it goes from here is anybody’s guess.

Here’s the full Duke MOOC Report.


The growing popularity–or at least hype–of the so-called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, may be changing the higher ed landscape and forcing administrators at bricks-and-mortar colleges to ponder the future of their own institutions. According to a recent NY Times article,

“The spread of MOOCs is likely to have wide fallout. Lower-tier colleges, already facing resistance over high tuition, may have trouble convincing students that their courses are worth the price. And some experts voice reservations about how online learning can be assessed and warn of the potential for cheating.”

The challenge lies mostly for voc-tech-oriented colleges and universities where job competency has never been their strong suit.  Those who receive training and skills through other experiences and need but a bit of theory may soon fulfill the dream of the Land Grant universities– Continue reading

A UCLA philosophy professor argues that the buzz over distance education is highly overrated. It confuses cool new gym equipment with working out and getting in shape:

“Education is not the transmission of information or ideas. Education is the training needed to make use of information and ideas. As information breaks loose from bookstores and libraries and floods onto computers and mobile devices, that training becomes more important, not less.

Educators are coaches, personal trainers in intellectual fitness. The value we add to the media extravaganza is like the value the trainer adds to the gym or the coach adds to the equipment. We provide individualized instruction in how to evaluate and make use of information and ideas, teaching people how to think for themselves.

Just as coaching requires individual attention, education, at its core, requires one mind engaging with another, in real time: listening, understanding, correcting, modeling, suggesting, prodding, denying, affirming, and critiquing thoughts and their expression.”

Read more at Don’t Confuse Technology With Teaching – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Department of Education has quietly announced that it will not enforce its very controversial state authorization rule, which required colleges to get government permission in every state where students enrolled in distance ed programs. The low key announcement with such a huge implications for colleges all over the country was probably due to the Obama administration wanting to downplay its embarrassment over the court’s recent rebuke of its gross regulatory overreach. The Obama ed department’s heavy handed push for state authorization threatened to cost colleges millions and throw the higher ed industry into turmoil. The only major beneficiaries of the fed action would have been government universities-no surprise there. Many small colleges faced closing or limiting their distance ed programs due to the high costs of meeting the new state authorization demands. But the biggest losers would have been distance ed students facing fewer low cost education options. For more on this major development, see today’s report in Inside Higher Ed: