• October 20, 2014

Outsourced Ed: Colleges Hire Companies to Build Their Online Courses

Outsourced Ed: Colleges Hire Companies to Build Their Online Courses 1

Rick Friedman for The Chronicle

Michael Tricoli, a manager at a medical-device company who has a young daughter, wanted an M.B.A. He got one online from Northeastern U., which outsourced much of his college experience to a private company.

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close Outsourced Ed: Colleges Hire Companies to Build Their Online Courses 1

Rick Friedman for The Chronicle

Michael Tricoli, a manager at a medical-device company who has a young daughter, wanted an M.B.A. He got one online from Northeastern U., which outsourced much of his college experience to a private company.

Michael Tricoli was a middle manager looking for a leg up in his career, so he got an online M.B.A. from Northeastern University.

Well, not only from Northeastern. Much of his college experience was outsourced to a private company.

The company, Embanet, put up millions to start the online business program. Its developers helped build the courses. Its staff talked Mr. Tricoli through the application. It even pays—and, in rare cases, refers for possible hiring—the assistants who help teach students.

In exchange, Embanet gets what Northeastern's business dean calls "a sizable piece" of the tuition revenue. He won't say how much. But Embanet's chief executive says its share can swell to a whopping 85 percent.

As more colleges dip their toes into the booming online-education business, they're increasingly taking those steps hand-in-hand with companies like Embanet. For nonprofit universities trying to compete in an online market aggressively targeted by for-profit colleges, the partnerships can rapidly bring in many students and millions of dollars in new revenue. That's becoming irresistible to an increasingly prominent set of clients. George Washington University, Boston University, and the University of Southern California, to pick just three, all work with online-service companies.

But the new breed of online collaboration can tread into delicate academic territory, blurring the lines between college and corporation. Derek C. Bok, a former president of Harvard University and author of a book on the commercialization of academe, questions companies' encroachment into teaching. He worries that bottom-line thinking will drive decisions about how colleges deliver courses. They might choose exam formats that are easier to grade, for example, to keep costs down.

"You're creating a whole set of temptations to make the choices that will increase profits rather than improve education," Mr. Bok says. 

 Embanet says its college partners retain academic control. And despite Mr. Bok's worries, the practice of contracting out parts of online education seems likely to expand.

A Small but Growing Industry

At least three new online outsourcing options have emerged in recent years: 2tor Inc., headed by John S. Katzman, founder of the test-preparation company Princeton Review; Colloquy Inc., a subsidiary of Kaplan Inc.; and Total Online Program Service, from SunGard Higher Education. Other online service firms—Embanet, Bisk Education, Compass Knowledge Group—have been around longer. Altogether, roughly a dozen companies, most of them privately held, compete for clients in this small but growing industry, says Richard Garrett, managing director at Eduventures, a consulting company.

Mr. Garrett frames the rise of these vendors in the context of a larger debate about the disaggregation of higher education. Companies are now playing a role in academics through course-management systems like Blackboard, tutoring services like Smarthinking, and grading assistance like Virtual-TA. Now vendors are taking part in the creation and delivery of courses as well.

This outsourcing of instruction represents a "new and controversial frontier in higher education," a phenomenon that was "virtually unheard of a decade ago," according to a policy paper published this month by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The arrangements can trigger faculty blowback, like the strife caused when one company, Higher Ed Holdings, attempted to develop online programs at the University of Toledo. Faculty resistance drove the company to pull out of discussions.

Colleges' budget pressures are driving these deals, but so is something else: investment capital.

Online companies that work with nonprofit colleges are benefiting from a surge in investor interest at a time when the government is scrutinizing the publicly traded for-profit colleges that have gobbled up so much of the online market.

Investors believe that traditional nonprofit colleges will eventually play a much larger role in online education than they have so far, says Trace A. Urdan, an education-industry analyst with Signal Hill Capital Group. At the same time, he says, they're more apprehensive about investing directly in proprietary colleges. The for-profit industry's underbelly has been on display recently, with the U.S. Education Department tightening its regulatory vice and Senate Democrats promising to crack down on "bad actors" to protect federal financial aid from being wasted through fraud and abuse.

Mr. Urdan points to another online partnership, between National Labor College and Princeton Review, as a significant example of how money is moving in "this new regulatory environment."

Investors, he says, are "looking to try to extract value from the growth in online education and working-adult education without having to be directly in the sights of the regulators."

The Marketing Spider Web

A closer look at Mr. Tricoli's experience offers a case study of what happens when selective colleges join with online outsourcing companies.

Mr. Tricoli was a manager at a medical-device company several years ago when he started thinking about getting an M.B.A. The suburban Boston resident was 35 at the time, with a young child and a job, so the flexibility of online classes was attractive. Like so many prospective students, he turned to the obvious first stop: Google.

The search engine steered him straight to the University of Phoenix. But, he says, its reputation left "a bad taste in the mouth." So he kept on Googling and soon struck a more attractive option: Northeastern. Here was a familiar name from Boston, a university endorsed by the leading accreditor in business education, AACSB International: the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Mr. Tricoli filled out an online form requesting more information.

He got it, quickly—from Embanet.

One of its representatives called him within 24 hours. It's the kind of snappy response you'd expect from a for-profit college. But while Embanet's pitch was confident, it was nothing like the predatory approach that has gotten some proprietary colleges into trouble.

"He wasn't one of those aggressive salesman that's just like, 'You gotta get in today because somebody else is waiting behind you and we have limited slots,'" Mr. Tricoli says. "That's one of the customer-service things that made me say, 'OK, this is going to be a good experience.'"

It's an illustration of how these companies can quickly convert a curious Net crawler into a tuition-paying student. Some companies veil their recruiting agendas in the guise of informational Web sites. Take Certificationmap.com, for example. The site, created by 2tor, explains the steps needed to become a teacher in each state. It's one of the first things you find by Googling "teacher certification." But the box seeking contact information reveals the site's other aim: to generate leads for the online graduate-education program that University of Southern California created with help—and $15-million—from 2tor.

Once inquiries come, companies have call centers to pounce on them. Shift workers like police officers and nurses can call at 2 a.m. and get a human being on the line, says Kathleen M. Burke, dean of George Washington University's College of Professional Studies, which has hired both Embanet and Colloquy. Private colleges have been slow to move into distance education, she says. For colleges that built their reputations serving undergraduates, she says, vendors offer the infrastructure to support the nontraditional students attracted to online courses.

"There's not the investment nor yet the will at many private institutions to plunk down millions of dollars to build a call center to support a group of students that many at the university still don't think of as the core group," she says.

For Mr. Tricoli, the personal service continued once he was admitted to Northeastern. An Embanet student-service adviser became his primary contact for questions. Books. Technology issues. Scheduling needs. Whenever Mr. Tricoli had an issue, he contacted the Embanet adviser—and always got a reply within 24 hours.

Crossing a Line?

What he didn't know was that Embanet touched his instructors, too.

Northeastern's business program uses a "master teacher" model. Professors prepare all the content, like lectures, syllabi, and exams. They meet with Embanet's developers, who make recommendations about designing the online courses and take care of most of the technical work needed to build them. Then the professors teach with help from "instructors" or "facilitators," sort of an online version of graduate-student assistants. Each facilitator works intensely with 15 students, checking homework, managing discussions, reviewing case studies. Mr. Tricoli says he had the most contact with these facilitators and with other students.

The facilitators, however, are on Embanet's payroll, not Northeastern's, says Thomas E. Moore, dean of the College of Business Administration.

This was news to Mr. Tricoli: "To me they were just another adjunct professor at Northeastern."

In fact, instructors mostly do come from "the Northeastern family," Mr. Moore says, meaning people familiar to the university because they are alumni or have taught the course before as lecturers. But on "one or two occasions," he says, the university has needed someone, "and Embanet has provided an instructor for us." In such a case, if Embanet recommends someone, Northeastern interviews that person and decides whether to make the hire, the dean says.

Embanet's financial reach extends beyond teaching assistants. The company even pays Northeastern for the salaries of tenured professors who teach online courses. "Embanet reimburses us for both the cost of course design and faculty teaching," Mr. Moore says.

Harlan D. Platt, a finance professor who has been at Northeastern for 30 years, compares Embanet's role to the DVD service Netflix. "Embanet has nothing to do with the education I deliver—nothing to do with the education my facilitators deliver," he says. "It's me. I'm the studio. I'm the actor. I'm the director."

In a short period, Embanet is helping to transform Northeastern's business college. The online programs have grown to 1,000 students and could reach 1,700 next year, meaning more graduate enrollment online than all the college's traditional graduate courses combined. Despite Embanet's cut of the tuition, the programs returned more than $2-million to the university in the past year, Mr. Moore says. In other words, that's how much Northeastern took in after expenses were covered, cash the college is using to reinvest in faculty.

But where some colleges see opportunity, Mr. Bok sees a "dangerous trend." Even though campus officials insist that they control hiring decisions, he doubts that a college would veto a company's recommendation in a situation in which students were waiting for a class, and time to find a teaching assistant was limited. Mr. Bok emphasizes that he is speaking generally, not about any particular institution. But as a matter of principle, he says, "you have crossed the line" by using a private company to recommend teaching assistants.

"You have now delegated an essential academic function, which is choosing who will assist in the teaching function, to a company," he says. "You could say it's not very important. But of course, the way principles break down is because the first thing is not very important."

Pulling Back

Some colleges that have used online-education companies have pulled back from outsourcing, at least to a degree, out of concerns over both academic principles and high prices. Although Embanet's chief executive says deals that cost colleges 85 percent are increasingly not the norm—at one conference, he characterized the company's cut as anywhere from 50 to 85 percent—Boston University came to see the price of outsourcing as too steep in the long run.

When Boston started a master's-degree program in criminal justice in 2003, it hired Embanet as a one-stop-shop for course hosting and design, marketing, and student services. Outsourcing was seen as a way to jump-start distance education at a university seeking to expand nationally beyond the academically congested local market. But faculty members grew frustrated working with external instruction designers. And the cost of outsourcing instructional design was greater than that of handling it internally, says Jay A. Halfond, dean of Metropolitan College and extended education at the university.

Over time, Boston decided to set up its own course-design shop, enabling the technicians to familiarize themselves with faculty and programs. It also took control over hiring and paying facilitators. The university still uses both Embanet and Compass for recruiting.

"We couldn't let an outside party be responsible for the quality of our instruction—that was just too problematic on a long-term basis," Mr. Halfond says. He added, "We didn't want to be dependent on a for-profit company in terms of our academic reputation."

Comments

1. elearners_com - July 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

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2. jacquie427 - July 19, 2010 at 08:00 am

The mission of an institution can be enhanced if the instructional group oversee the curriculum and receive professional development to stop power point and youtube glut of low quality content now occurring. Bottom line is to get faculty comfortable with web access possibilities. Many nonprofits are very apprehensive to make vendor relationships because of the prolific media coverage when things go wrong. More information about what works without the glitz packaging of marketing - Best practises peer review publishing studies would help make vendor partnerships more acceptable. Too few of my colleagues understand that using technology is more than low cognitive multiple choice tests, power point slide gluttony or watching online talking heads. Faculty need to understand the effects of the technology choices on the curriculum delivery results. Outsourcing will stay when the professional packaging of how a course looks or student immediate hand holding because of students' low technology skills takes priority over outcome analysis. Faculty professional development in teaching methods has always been expensive - financially and on professional psyche. Many faculty resist technology facilitation training because they see it as an invasion of their time in trying to keep up with content expertise. I handle a lot of technology professional development and many colleagues resent the time it takes to move into these new methods. It takes major trust in a working partnership for them to overcome the notion that society views them as lacking as professors. It is empowering to watch them handle effect online facilitation and they are energized by the possibilities. Put the energy into the tech integration best practices with faculty and watch student higher ed modern world workforce outcomes soar.

3. trendisnotdestiny - July 19, 2010 at 08:02 am

Once you open up a new profitable market in any sector, then it is enormously difficult to call for regulation and critical thinking after the fact. (especially as we have sucked the marrow out of other more traditional sectors in the economy over the years creating a dependence upon new innovative industries to sell to a saturated populace)

What more perfect time to implement the undergirdings of policy than during periods of economic uncertainty.... it sparks the divide between old and new technologies, economic efficiencies and real or perceived educational value in academe. I find it interesting though that as 'wired' as we are in this country, the lack of discussion about impact of people without access to the internet (especially as mass library closings commence across the country)....

4. 11180655 - July 19, 2010 at 09:41 am

Embanet is just providing information technology hosting services for some clients shown on this map. Not all of them are turn-key.

5. trekker1234 - July 19, 2010 at 04:08 pm

How about AACSB accreditation? Are the MBAs learning outcomes assessed in the online courses? What are the findings from the assessment of learning outcomes/assurance of learning?

6. laurelin - July 19, 2010 at 06:01 pm

I agree with the question about AACSB. Has Northeastern passed a re-accreditation visit with this particular program in place? What are their ratios of qualified to non-qualified and AQ to PQ faculty (including the 'facilitators' and over course of this entire program, not just during a re-accreditation visit)?

Was Mr. Tricoli tricked into thinking he would be taught by regular college faculty with terminal degrees? Was there full disclosure before he plunked down his money and committed to the MBA?

Just like adjuncts, these 'instructor/facilitator' employees of the outsourcer would seem to have little incentive to maintain high academic standards or to exert effort to detect or penalize academic dishonesty. If there are too many student complaints, then that 'facilitator' won't be offered any more work (and neither will the faculty developer, I guess).

By way of disclosure, I personally have great student evals and have won a teaching award, but I still get those student complaints (I'm considered a little demanding, apparently). As tenured-full, I have a little job security. Those complaints don't pressure me to water down my courses. After reading this article, I'm not so sure about the job security any more.

Sounds like regular tenured and tenure-track faculty may lose control of curriculum, like they've lost control of so much else in the academy. If faculty don't jump to offer online courses in just the manner administrators want, then the administrators will just outsource the work. They may be letting faculty develop the courses for now, but there's no reason the outsourcing couldn't progress to include course development, too.

I can just imagine where this is going in the long run. Faculty will have to dumb-down the curriculum. Students and their families will initially be pleased at how much easier and accessible degrees have become (until the student loans come due). Then Society will complain that new graduates just don't seem to have the knowledge or skills their employers expected, that the student loan default rates are soaring, that the new glut of degrees just doesn't seem to be lifting the economy, and that innovation just hasn't blossomed as expected.

I foresee a downward spiral. Luckily, I'm not that long from retirement. Maybe I'm wrong. At least for the moment, I can still keep on demanding their best from my students without fear of losing my job.

7. leemaxey - July 20, 2010 at 10:07 am

We are in a time of significant change. The numbers of students choosing to use more flexible and easier access means to obtain a degree speak for themselves. Elite institutions need to be part of the equation. Refusing to partake in the growing market of online education is not the answer. Perhaps elite schools will not use the wholesale outsource approach at Northeastern, but there are many business and development models that give the institution much more control.

However, who is to say that academic institutions with little or no online education experience/expertise can produce online courses that are instructionally better than for profit vendors. Many of these vendors have been creating online education since the early 1990's, and have created 1,000's of hours of high quality programs. Most of the the best quality instructional designers work to serve the corporate training market where they have been pushing the envelope between education, gaming, and embedded performance support.

There is a lot that can be learned if for-profits and non-profits work together. The bottom-line is the growing demand for education by an increasingly broader base of potential students. I see that as a positive for our world.

8. macfnb - July 20, 2010 at 10:18 am

The Learning House, Inc. is a provider of online education solutions for colleges and universities around the nation which brings tremendous support to faculty and staff.

A partner like Learning House that helps institutions focus on the quality of instruction, content and the user experience give institutions a leg up without the huge up-front expenses.

Many schools do not have the human or financial resources to build the same level of quality in nascent online programs when compared to their on-campus programs. Fully loaded and overloaded faculty schedules increase pressure and many colleges don't have the resources to create the support they need.

The partnership allows colleges to not only support their own faculty in the creation and instruction of online programs but brings much needed new revenue streams to schools while they serve the growing demand of students for online education nationwide.

As institutions feel the budget crunch and demand for quality online education grows, partners like the Learning House continue to provide service to schools looking to meet that demand.

9. jsener - July 20, 2010 at 01:21 pm

Excellent article, Marc! It succeeds in capturing the inherent tension involved in the current trend toward outsourcing education.

On the one hand, 'traditional' faculty need to be more reflective rather than reflexive about the sources of academic quality. "laurelin"'s comments are a good example; s/he assumes that "adjuncts" and "'instructor/facilitator' employees of the outsourcer...have little incentive to maintain high academic standards or to exert effort to detect or penalize academic dishonesty," that outsourced curriculum is necessarily "dumbed-down", and that knowledgeable graduates with employer-valued skills and capacity for innovation somehow just automatically flow out of the current system. Perhaps laurelin is an excellent teacher who not only holds high standards but has checked with employers and students to verify the efficacy of his/her teaching. If so, s/he would be a rare exception, and her other assumptions are equally dubious, and ultimately perilous. Having seen too many adjunct faculty who hold higher standards than their full-time or tenured counterparts, many vendors who make far more effort to relate their curriculum with employer's stated expectations, and too many traditional faculty who are clueless about the post-program outcomes of their students, "laurelin"'s comments strike me as coming from someone who needs to take a deeper look at the total picture.

On the other hand, there is a legitimate concern about outsourcing core functions of education and losing an adequate amount of control in the process. There is an inherent tension of values between academia and for-profit companies. For-profit institutions resolve this tension in part by limiting their offerings to those which are profitable or offer that prospect.

I agree with those posters who say that academia and for-profit companies can learn to work together if they can find common ground. As the article illustrates, there are models which appear to be working reasonably well, and others which are not.

New ways of doing things are challenging these traditions and calling them into question. At the same time, I believe that there are affordances to traditional educational approaches which need to be identified and preserved. So one thing that would certainly help is for traditional faculty to do a better job of defining their values and of how they deliver quality, instead of reflexively assuming that their existing approach is the gold standard. The latter is a recipe for getting swept away by change, and perhaps losing something valuable in the process.

10. matthewsm - July 20, 2010 at 04:17 pm

Northeastern's business program uses a "master teacher" model. Professors prepare all the content, like lectures, syllabi, and exams. They meet with Embanet's developers, who make recommendations about designing the online courses and take care of most of the technical work needed to build them. Then the professors teach with help from "instructors" or "facilitators," sort of an online version of graduate-student assistants.

Or as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote:
"They buy him a beer. They capture his skills on tape. Then they fire him."

11. profdave - July 20, 2010 at 04:37 pm

"Higher" education is relative to primary and secondary education. Our public education system is failing to produce students who qualify for college (under our old standards). Eventually, our corporatized higher education system will fail in the same way. It will still provide a higher level of education than students had from high school. It just won't be high enough.

12. deb_adair - July 20, 2010 at 05:02 pm

Outsourcing can make sense from a business perspective - as long as you retain in-house control over your core competency or area of expertise. If using an instructional designer, whether internal or outsourced, helps faculty engage in improving the quality of their courses it would seem a positive step. For example, having someone ask us why we use a particular learning activity - how it supports the learning objectives of the course - could make us re-think how we are teaching. As long as the responsibility for quality in the course remains with the faculty, having support in executing that shouldn't be a bad thing.

13. adjunctagain - July 20, 2010 at 07:16 pm

I have done many years of research into how people learn online. Because of this academic interest, I have also gone through a few universities' online faculty training programs to investigate how they implement the current research into the ways they train their faculty members. They were generally sound in applying current pedagogical trends are very good.

However, I went through one of these outsource vendors' trainings (you mentioned them above--HEH) and it was NOT a good experience. They did not give any applictions of best practices for online learning. The training alone required over 50 hours of time for NO PAY--just for the chance to become one of these TA/Instructor helpers for online faculty. After spending 30 hours to get through the first part of the training, their system crashed and I never heard from them again. This was after they "officially" hired me and required that I give them my social security number, my bank account number, etc.

Given the type of training they did and the apparently shoddy treatment of these people who are going to be the primary contacts for students, I would suggest caution in choosing vendors. There are likely very good ones who know how to apply and teach pedagogical principles of online learning. But apparently there are some that are very much lacking. Buyer beware.

14. lauraph6 - July 21, 2010 at 04:44 am

This article certainly raises questions about who is creating and teaching the class. I teach both online and in person classes. I have created my own lecture notes and used wonderful interactive tools provided by the publisher. I am an Adjunct and take offense at laurelin's comments (7/19) regarding the Adjuncts. "Just like adjuncts, these 'instructor/facilitator' employees of the outsourcer would seem to have little incentive to maintain high academic standards or to exert effort...” We adjuncts, pride ourselves on excellence and building strong classes where students are pushed and challenged. On what grounds do you insult the entire pool of part time faculty? I too have terrific student ratings. My online students say I respond faster than their live teachers. I have helped students stay in school because I care enough to call them if they missed class. Try to stick to the topic at hand and not insult groups of professionals who are dedicated to teaching.

15. aetolius - July 21, 2010 at 06:05 am

On top of that, adjuncts have a much greater reason to "maintain high academic standards" and "exert effort." Reason? No job security. We don't have the luxury of tenure and therefore are not guaranteed work the next semester. If anyone (and I'm not saying they don't), it's tenured faculty who have little-to-no incentive. Short of moral turptitude or financial exigency, tenured faculty are rarely released from service. I still think tenure is invaluable, but the aforementioned comment that adjuncts as a group have no reason to put-in the effort is just idiotic.

16. pilotguy - July 21, 2010 at 08:08 am

Inresponse to laurelin:

My research focuses on acceptability of online degrees in employment situations. You are, in fact, already correct -- many employers see online degrees as lower in quality than those earned in a traidtional-residential manner. Secondly, the idea of outsourcing / commercialization of education is not a new phenomenon. In the ealry part of the 20th century there were many of similar practices as today; agressive recruiting, outsorcing education, marketing practices. While many good things were (and still can be) said about the educational opportunities that distance education presents, questions were raised as to whether a company that exists to garner profits for its shareholders can act responsibilty in a field (education) that (philosphically) places people -- not profits -- first.

We seem to have re-arrived at this point in education.

IMHO The integration of higher education with corporate interests is a devolution. It's not an improvement on what we have in higher education. I see it as an abdication of the profession. Ultimately, I fear that the face-to-face, master-teacher/apprentice model will become less valued by the masses making that form of education exclusive and extremely expensive, reserved for only those with the resources to afford.



17. tmorrissey - July 21, 2010 at 08:21 am

The article mentions concerns about bottom-line thinking affecting curricular decisions as if this phenomenon is unheard of in purely academic environments (whatever "purely academic" means), and the explosion of universities offering online courses is certainly a reflection of budget driving curricular choices in my mind. One example: My son is a math ed major at a state university, and when he applied he was told that he would have the option of taking some online courses (he was transferring as an incoming junior). When he received his schedule in June, he discovered that all four of his math classes are online because now the university offers no on-campus courses for math majors. When he objected to the situation -- he's a good student but knows that he benefits from real interaction with professors and classmates -- his adviser told him not to worry because the online classes are "easier." He was also told that some of the professors are reluctant to meet in person with online students, believing that online should be truly that. Adding insult to injury,the online curriculum is higher priced, so he'll (we'll) be paying more in tuition for a delivery system he doesn't want in the first place. (He was also sent a bill for campus housing even though he'll be living at home -- so they want him to live on campus even though they're forcing him to take all online courses!) It was too late to retool his college plans for the fall (and he seriously looked into it), so he'll try to take courses that will transfer and do so in the spring to a university that provides on-campus experiences for math majors.

18. jhough1 - July 21, 2010 at 08:46 am

I am too old to be affected by this, but enough of a long-range thinker to know that movement to on-line teaching, perhaps often in combined form, is inevitable.

For this reason, someone should do some real thinking and research on this. Dept. of Education is almost all K-12. "Reform" there are "new' ones like charter schools.
When the budget cuts come, as they will, higher education at DOE is likely to be hard hit. Yet, higher ed is where the real change is occurring.

Among the questions that arise are (1) Student loans. Often for-profits are exploiting minorities--and those trying to improve themselves--and leaving them with huge credit problems.
This is tax money at a time of huge deficits.

(2) the accreditation policy. The failure of small colleges discussed elsewhere means they are bought for their accreditation.

(3) the adjunct problem. It is said that a good record is a negative at hiring for Phoenix because salaries are higher. I agree with most of what adjuncts in these postings say, but aren't they worried that in 10 years, they will be in the cold as new cheaper adjuncts are hired. Universities continue to grossly overproduce grad students in many areas, and should be reined in. The supply-demand situation is truly ugly. I think a lot of adjuncts should be using the experience to get jobs in high schools where salaries rise as the adjuncts get families.

19. tribblek - July 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

pilotguy , I agree with most of what you say. However, I wrestle with the idea that we can give EVERYONE a quality education. I don't "fear" that the master teacher/apprentice model with be reserved as exclusive. I think that system is how the world works. You get what you pay for, and if you can't pay for high quality, then you must pay for less-than-high quality.

I think we owe the OPPORTUNITY to get a quality education to every citizen. But the dream of every citizen receiving the highest quality education is not realistic, nor is it desirable. For if everyone is "best in show" then no one really shines.

I know my view is not popular... that's why I wrestle with it. But I think that we have (in the K-12 world) "promised everyone" a quality education that is consistent with a set of standards. It all sounds great, but not everyone responds to the system the same way: learners come in at all different levels, with different expectations, and with divergent learning preferences. A single system cannot turn everyone into the ideal learned citizen. At best, it should offer the same OPPORTUNITY for everyone.

Okay... my thoughts are breaking down... I'll go away...

20. cmpintl - July 21, 2010 at 10:13 am

Given the number and quality of comments, I must assume that Marc Parry has touched a nerve.

As traditional academic who founded a solely Internet based institution, I know from experience that learning how to develop effective online courses is not easy. The learning curve is very steep because teaching online is not the same as teaching in a classroom.

The term "shovel effect" developed by an online course developer at Baptist Christian College describes the result when traditional faculty are turned loose to create their own online courses. We call those courses "train wrecks."

No traditional institution should try this by itself. Of course controls have to be in place to assure academic quality, but, most important, traditional faculty must understand that there are distinct differences of kind, not degree, between online and classroom instruction.

My guess is that in years to come many institutions that traverse this divide will survive, and those that do not will fail. Dana College is their future if they don't begin now to create parallel online programs.

And, by the way, add one additional zero to the estimated cost your in-house planners tell you this will cost!

R. Bishirjian, Yorktown University, Denver, CO

21. mpressley - July 21, 2010 at 10:45 am

All accrediting bodies need to probe very deeply to ascertain the credentials of those involved in teaching such courses and the quality of the courses being delivered!

22. kevincorcoran - July 21, 2010 at 11:41 am

Maybe I've been around too long....I recall "doom and gloom" discussions when PowerPoint gained wide usage. When newly minted BAs serve as TAs for breakout "discussion sections" of large sections at presitgious universities, we hardly bat an eye...but, when there is an outside entity involved, we blanch. This may be a good idea or a very bad idea--probably is somewhere in the middle--but let's not let ourselves lose sight of what is most important...not what AACSB thinks, but is this serving students well?

23. jaysanderson - July 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

It would be interesting to compare the relative value of an MBA over the past 10 years or so with the increased number of MBAs being awarded during the same time period.

24. trendisnotdestiny - July 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm

It would be nice if we all had a common language... Chomsky has already written about it a decade ago in Profit over People.... He reminds us how this system works: 6 steps of business practices moving towards corporate control over revenue streams, hiring and research: gutting, streamlining and de-skilling the profession... Eventually, the university is co-opted by these six processes

1) Open Up - sell free markets to get internal access
(Get administrators/decision makers to share inside information
about the industry; sell privatized higher education as the wave of the future using technology, high ranking power and a malleable/distracted opponent)

2) Assess Profitability - once inside the industry's data, create a business plan that appears to be collaborative but favors industry at every turn... Use the information received from higher education to begin to see where the profit centers are and begin pushing the tensions around them... Identify opponents and faculty willing to align with a hyper-profit driven agenda...

3) De-regulate - change the rules in place before either through bureaucratic resistence, financial alignment with central decision makers or legislative/statutory laws within and outside the university... Gut previous rules around tenure, IRB, governance, state funding, tuition, industry on campus etc... Create mangerial buffers between those who resist and high level managers. Shift the rules towards profits over people

4) Cut Social Supports - Supports that were in place previously,
systematically remove. By limiting resources and cutting off
past systems that do not fit into the for-profit model, create a disoriented opposition who is already fighting a dominant entity who already possesses information, access,and the ability to effect change. (Adjuncts, limited state funding, bifurcated professorate, pay to play)... Tony Benn said it best: it is tough to get an exhausted, de-skilled and isolated group to take any action ---- this is what a hostile takeover looks like....

5) Privatize - the visible final phase of the takeover.... Now, the adversary is so weakened by the lack of information, operating on the outside of institution, changes in rules within and across academe and with overall lack of support (administrators, cohorts, incomes, work/life issues, exhaustive job descriptions and students who look to them for answers)....Create new branded structures from which to form a dominant and disciplined culture

6) Protect Profits - once a market is opened (maintain the systems that feed it until it is no longer profitable).... Selling open free markets here gets reframed successful industry leaders who have earned their place in the market... No more Open Up, they already have everything required to make profits... Sell Win-win ideology to combat this criticism...

Currently, we are in stage 5.... Three decades in academe and large corporations (like Moodys) have data, inside power players like Arnie Duncan & U of Phoenix crowd, have gutted public education across the country not just in higher ed (NCLB), and have been successful at owning more of the educational market than ever before (education stocks traded/growing on wall street)... We are watching the final moves to privatizing education and it is everywhere (as economic downturns are the perfect cover for these processes to flourish)... Frankly, all that will be left in the next decade without action is for indutry to pick up THEIR checks and watch educators battle for subsistence or compete for NIH plaudits....

Thanks for your article Marc, it hit a nerve

25. burck - July 21, 2010 at 01:36 pm

In my mind the biggest question is how Northeastern is able to charge so much for something that obviously costs a small fraction to deliver? To be frank, this could be any college. If the outsourced company can take 50-80% of the revenue and Northeastern still makes money, isn't this wildly over-priced by an entity that has a not-for-profit designation? In my mind, I'm less concerned with for-profit vs. non-profit issues and even academic ownership (the outsourced companies will use the same content and course models with all the schools under different brands) than with the ability to gouge students.

26. gloriawalker - July 21, 2010 at 02:08 pm

I developed and taught on-line for three years.The first students were normal. Later I had students that were strange. They did not want to meet in the chat for learning, they were angry that I did not give an identical test as the practice test and many abnormal study issues. The administrators discovered this was a money maker and everything changed. Students were given the grade of their choice. A clerk was placed to control the tests, what when in my tests and how often a student could take the test. I became so miserable that I decided to never teach on-line again.

Now it is ok for all schools to have on-line degree programs. What standards are use? What is the difference between the Capella and Harvard?

27. prof_truthteller - July 21, 2010 at 03:37 pm

It seems most commenters are gravitating toward that old argument of online vs. F2F. That is not the issue.

Comment 24, trendisnotdestiny hits the nail on the head. We've already lost the battles and the war is almost won-by the corporate side. I have argued endlessly against the privatization, capitalization, and monetization of education, and am appalled at the arguments put forward in support. Why people persist in believing that somehow, market forces can balance the powerful against the powerless, mystifies me. Research has shown it does not; see the work of Dan Ariely and others. Why would people with more money and more power be more ethical? Then replace the word "people" with "corporations" which by definition have no humanity or conscience on which to rely, only the demands of investors. They need only run some "eco-friendly" or "human touch" advertisements, which are cheap. (Dow, BP)

The issue is outsourcing, specifically of curriculum and teaching. Graduate assistants lose their job training and prep. Quotes from ONE faculty and ONE dean notwithstanding, outsourcing will always, always, sink to the lowest level- the lowest price. Remember the Chinese drywall?

But hey, maybe some day soon we can outsource our administration. Why not hire a corporation to provide us with a 24/7 online college president? or HR director? Advantages: no more bullying and petty tin-pot tyrant behavior, no more secret deals and backstabbing. Outsourcing the college's administration will reveal at last just how cheaply and easily it can be done. And then, due to the reduced overhead, more money for the investors! Yay! Where can I buy some stock? The real 100% online college.

Education has become an unplanned, discoordinated, and massive social experiment in which we, the people, and our children, are the experimental subjects. We are gambling with our future.

28. softshellcrab - July 21, 2010 at 03:48 pm

gloriawalker makes a very good comment. I was really impressed by many of the comments here, but I guess my own is kind of simplistic. I just think very, very little of online education. As the previous comment by prof-truthteller says, it will always be a drift (or race) to the bottom. I also feel that for respected, mainline schools like Northeastern to farm out their online teaching is simply a joke, and they make a joke of themselves. It would be bad enough if they taught the online courses themselves, but even much worse when they farm out the teaching. Online teaching does not really include any "teaching", and most programs and classes are all about not allowing any students to fail. I truly believe that all online classes and degrees should be required to be labeled as such.

29. carolklahn - July 21, 2010 at 04:00 pm

Thanks for all the job leads. :o) It may be too late in the tear to apply for university teaching positions, but I bet these guys are hiring like crazy.

30. hemingway - July 21, 2010 at 05:18 pm

These comments are frightening. The resistance to change is overwhelming. This is the 21st century and higher education is the only industry that has not been willing to make the changes needed to survive and thrive. If the corporate sector is taking over education in this country it is because we have not done the job as well as we should have. In my experience, after 35 years in higher education it is the those that only want to debate issues and never really do anything new that hold us all back, especially our students.

31. prof_truthteller - July 21, 2010 at 06:52 pm

Hemingway, sorry, but NO, corporate industry is not taking over because "we" have not been willing to change. (whoever this "we" is, I don't know perhaps you could define that) Corporations are taking over education because of neoliberal economics, which has the end goal of monetizing and privatizing everything and allowing the (in)famous "invisible hand" balance it all out.

Corporations are taking over education because of increasing cuts to education from public funds, which fuels a descending spiral of poorly educated citizens who DON'T KNOW WHY THEY OPPOSE whatever it is they oppose- they just know they are right. They saw it on TV! It was on the Internet! Poorly educated voters, easily manipulated by the advertising which has been bought by corporations with the consumer's own money. No government money, no support, no regulatory oversight, no public policy research, leaves a great big gap, big enough to drive a multi-trillion dollar corporate business tank right in and park it right there in the center of the education universe. And education then becomes another consumer product, that you are told by the paid advertising that you must have for a fulfilling, rewarding, and satisfying life. Which makes education just as much a lie as the new wrinkle cream or erectile dysfunction product.

I reject the assertion that education is an industry. Industry, by definition, is the making of some THING. Tell me what THING we make when we make education.

I reject the argument that education, or faculty, or teachers, or "we," are unwilling to change. That's so insulting. What "we" are unhappy about, is that these changes are NOT OF OUR MAKING OR CHOOSING but are imposed, and are not a product of careful thought, research, and planning, EXCEPT that of the corporations wanting to make money. That's the only planning going on as "we" willy-nilly experience a total sea change of our educational system. If you can PROVE TO ME with evidence that there is any actual planning and logical thinking overall that will guide our nation through these challenges, please point me to it. Where is the planning of how to educate our children and our young adults to take our place in society and perpetuate our cherished liberties after we are gone? Oh, let's ask the Apollo Group, they have some great ideas!

I think time will prove out my views. I am watching Arizona and California, and the way those states deal with, and are already dealing with, the lack of support for the civil society that we once enjoyed, to the point of taking it for granted by some, and to the point of outright hatred and opposition by others, that will spell the future of this country. If you have anything to be frightened of, you should be afraid- very afraid- of what life will be like for the "we" of which you are a part- if and when we get this no-government, no-taxes, no-regulation, no-safety net, no, no, nothing for "us" and everything for the nonentities of the corporations.

The assertion of endless debate with no action has some truth to it. But, tell me this, which would you prefer: a leap into an unknown chasm, or let's rappel down first and see what's at the bottom before we hit it.

Sure, faculty can endlessly argue. But that arguing has value in that all concerns, problems, issues, affects, impacts, etc., are aired and surfaced, and thus can be dealt with. Faculty are not stupid people and should not have their concerns arrogantly tossed off. They know what they are talking about, with their subject discipline, and with teaching it to others. That expertise should be engaged into the change process, but, because THERES NO MONEY IN IT and it's just easier to outsource the day to day tasks of teaching, because that serves the stock holders better, that is what is being done. NOT because it serves the students better-that is a side effect, and don't kid yourself, that is not the primary motivation behind this outsourcing trend. $$$$

32. trendisnotdestiny - July 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm


One other issue that doesn't get its proper recognition is the managerial class of adminstrators who artfully pit faculty, departments, & resource scavengers against one another in academe.

Prof_truthteller is spot on here! One of the biggest intrusions of neoliberal economics in higher education is the inculcated pressure and competition to bring in funds as a main function. This breeds a winners, wannabees, & losers type of individualism which foments a faux collaboration where common issues among fall by the wayside to the disparate issues between... or "an endless debate with no action".

33. raymond_j_ritchie - July 22, 2010 at 04:48 am

Marc Parry is a very good spin doctor able to make a silly idea look good. Should exchange notes with that faculty member in Texas who could see nothing wrong with outsourcing exam marking to a call centre in India. Why not combine both bright ideas?

The central problem with outsourcing is accountability. Are you getting the degree from the university or the education company? Who is responsible for who passes and who fails? Control of standards? Who is answerable for anything that goes wrong?

Pardon me if I sound like a dangerous radical but it all sounds like "capitalize the profits and socialize the costs". The company will gladly take the money but any scandals or disasters or expensive legal cases will be lumped on the university.

Goals, outcomes and team players will be the death of western civilization.

34. honore - July 22, 2010 at 08:39 am

If only we could outsource our mediocrity

35. prof_truthteller - July 22, 2010 at 10:35 am

And of course this article is only citing ONE student's personal experience, and a positive one, not a negative one. Where is the balance and the data?

36. philostitute - July 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Having taught online for years and being one of those overproduced PhDs who was forced to work in the for-profit sector to eat, I think we are at Chomsky's stage 6. I developed a course for Embanet and it was the worst possible educational experience ever. I know tons of my counterparts, none of whom, despite great schools, publication, teaching, etc can land a FT-TT job, and are forced to work in the for-profit sweat shops of academia. We are all called "faculty" or facitators and treated like migrant workers. No autonomy, just mandates and shut up. How I wish I had chosen another path... I am getting out soon.

The end is nigh people. We are selling credentials, not educating. Fool yourselves if you'd like, but those of you with tenure are the last generation. Education has been outsourced like the rest of America. We are enaged in creating compliant wage slaves and not educated citizens. Prof Trutteller has it correct. The era of F2F is over and online education with its watered down realities is here to stay.

37. 22011625 - July 22, 2010 at 03:40 pm

So Embanet can get up to 85% of the tuition. Guess the ban on incentive compensation only applies to for-profits?

38. marcintosh - July 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm

"Despite Embanet's cut of the tuition, the programs returned more than $2-million to the university in the past year, Mr. Moore says. In other words, that's how much Northeastern took in after expenses were covered, -

I think that it's mighty humorous that it's all about the money but they are non-profit institutions. Has a tax lawyer vetted the new business model for compliance with the structure of the tax status?

- cash the college is using to reinvest in faculty." Oh, I see . . . you mean adjuncts?

39. formerprof05 - July 23, 2010 at 10:19 am

Wow! I've been reading the "Chronicle" for several decades now, and this is one of the better discussions ever.

My vote for the best comments? truthisnotdestiny and prof_truthteller have it about right. I'm pessimistic about the future of higher education.

40. intered - July 23, 2010 at 01:37 pm

One line of reasoning yet to be explored herein is what happens when one decides to incorporate modern learning and evaluation sciences in the process of content development and management.

Most of those who teach insist on "rolling their own" content. They teach and evaluate under a century old model. While the teaching methods are merely inefficient, many of the evaluation methods are provable invalid. Yet, there are advantages to this century-old approach. The methods and requirements to needed to achieve proficiency are well understood and and therefore can be planned for and managed effectively. Additionally, there is strength in the diversity that results from having 10,000 professors of [fill in the blank] design their own 101 or 501 course.

We also lose a great deal by adhering to this antiquated approach to teaching. A "roll your own" approach is desirable for the few distinguished intellectual leaders who teach, especially when they teach unique content in a rarefied atmosphere. However, I see little justification for adhering to it when the subjects represent industry-standard courses that will be taught by (sorry) the undistinguished professors who make up the majority of the modern professoriate (student admissions are not the only standards to have declined). Demonstrated time to proficiency is the most important loss when an average professor teaches in an average way. This is an efficiency or productivity metric. The application of modern learning and evaluation sciences can reduce the average time to proficiency from 20% to 50% (the differences in time owing to the material to be learned, available resources, and the nature of the learners). Such application also leads to more durable and generalizable proficiencies; i.e., more positive effects on the lives and careers of students.

In my experience, this need not be an either/or decision. It is possible to structure content so that it embeds modern scientific findings of relevance to teaching and learning and, at the same time, provides opportunities for each unique instructor to add his or her unique content to the minimum effective standards provided for by the structured curriculum. The strengths that derive from intellectual diversity need not be traded in for the benefits of better methods of teaching and learning.

I don't know why so many of today's professors insist on teaching the same way their great grand-professors taught . . . but they do. And more than a few of them cry "intellectual freedom" whenever someone attempts to show them a better way, thereby showing that they confuse content with process.

Robert W Tucker

41. trendisnotdestiny - July 23, 2010 at 05:26 pm

Bob,

I hope you are well... as I can see you are putting words to thoughts in grand largesse so all must not be lost.

After carefully reading your post, I felt it important to create a meaningful dialogue after a series of unproductive ones. Your post, in the context of others before struck me oddly. I was wondering why you wrote what you posted now. Why now? What do you have to tell us that contributes to our nascent understandings?

Specifically, by focusing on the labor aspect of this article: teaching methods, evaluation, and proficiency outcomes etc., it seems to me that you plaster over larger problems that exist within the system and place responsibility at the feet of professors who are unwilling to change they way they do things...
The-Modern-scientific-thinking-integration argument???????? If we academics would just be more receptive to innovation and try something new rhetoric.... Where does this fit in the discussion of something yet to be explored????

I can admit not being completely comfortable with speculating on this one, but these words when you write them trigger my BS meter for "code words". Again correct me if I am wrong, but you sound like your talking about teaching innovation and business management practices... While I am sure you could teach us all a class on how to better integrate what we know about the world of evidence based outcomes today in our classrooms, this does not get at the root of the struggles of disconsolate and ambivalent members of academe....

Outsourcing is all about creating additional time to cultivate preferred revenues streams while shipping out all those things we don't want to spend time on.... Many of problems faced in higher education are attempts to limit or de-skill the professorate with innovative new ideas so as to create new markets of proprietary wealth .... fostering an indifference to a process of learning and privileging an outcome that will mostly benefit a few....

Would enjoy reading your response,

Lisbeth

42. intered - July 23, 2010 at 08:13 pm

@trend,

Good to hear from you too. Your post helped me see a missing fact in my post. Upon re-reading, I can see why you might ask, "Why these points in this context?" So . . . a serious answer coming your way.

I am very familiar with the third parties discussed in this article and several more not mentioned. Many of these entities to which one can outsource content development integrate the findings of modern learning and measurement sciences in the construction and management of their content. In varying ways, they create separate content development teams for each course. When properly executed, these teams contain the institution's best instructors for that particular course, pedagogical scientists, learning and technology specialists, and individuals who represent the realm of post-education impact to ensure that the objectives, activities, assessments, and outcomes standards are authentic to the non-academic world.

Having led, participated in, and observed such teams since the 1980's, I can tell you that a good development team will produce courses that are superior to all but the elite courses to which I referred above, and they will do so in a way that an instructor of modest means can achieve the specified outcomes each and every time he teaches the course. In other words, these processes, when practiced, raise the (median) educational bar substantially.

If you have never seen state of the science/art content developed in this way, I urge you to find a way to observe almost any of the original Cardean University MBA courses designed by the consortium partners (Stanford, Columbia, London School of Economics, and Chicago) in conjunction with the best and brightest international pedagogical scientists and platform experts one could find at the time (circa 2002). In the 1980's, even with the modest knowledge and abilities I possessed, I managed to design structured content that taught some basic principles of artificial intelligence to non-scientists such that they not only understood but were a bit giddy about the implications of Searle's Chinese Room Puzzle. Even "post-everything" neo-cynics such as you sometimes appear to be (notwithstanding that streak of exceptional rationality that pokes through every now and then), may change their world view when they actually dig into modern content.

Put differently, why, when virtually every science and technology advances every day, would we find it reasonable to teach the same way we did when Carnegie defined his "unit" in 1906? Does this sound reasonable to you? Yet, across the nation's college classrooms today, we still see the dominance of the "sit in this seat, listen to me talk, read this book, listen to me talk some more, ask some questions, take this (invalid) test" model that was perfected somewhere around 1910. Any takers for flying in a 1910 aircraft or getting their infection treated by a 1910 physician?

As for the emphasis on efficiency. It would be the main reason to do this, other than the fact that it can be done and represents an improvement.

Help?

Robert W Tucker




43. intered - July 23, 2010 at 09:36 pm

@trend,

I understand your concern for de-skilling and I am as concerned as you that the motives of some who do so are not in the public interest. Thus, we have one way of looking at the issue.

Is it not reasonable to expect the professoriate to embrace new knowledge, as some but too few do in fact, rising to the challenge of exploiting all there is to know about how to teach better, including more efficiently? My old friend Michael Scriven expressed this concern well when he identified the treason of the intellectuals, those who know better but choose to serve their interests above those of their students. These vendors, about which you and I share legitimate concerns, would have no blue sky in which to operate were it not for the Mandarins' tight grip on outdated pedagogy.

Robert W tucker



44. trendisnotdestiny - July 24, 2010 at 11:54 am

Bob,

I enjoyed reading your posts. Presently, I am contemplatng your comments and responses: 1) considering Scriven and 2) the 'why now' of evaluation science and 3) who's interests are most served....

At times, I question if there is not more that links our perspectives than divides them. You could not find someone more in agreement with the notion that lecturing at students using antiquated testing procedures is arcane at best... And yes, is there a substantive difference between amn integrated experiential understanding versus a memorized knowing... Yes, there needs to be a balance for educators between their own individualized content and what larger fields/disiciplines know.... Somehow, I think it is reasonable that most educators might land at these conclusions....

However, your most recent post was the most effective in getting me to consider your positonality. I believe your direct response using pieces of my earlier post is also representative of where higher education needs to go: using each other's language to develop a common understanding so disagreements can be sorted out and understood...

A more critical response pertaining to neo-cynicism may be forthcoming, but for now I am going to enjoy this moment of "post-temporary alignment with you Bob!

Streak of Irrationality

45. wendylynnelee - July 24, 2010 at 07:10 pm

Dear all,

This IS indeed a very interesting discussion. I'd like to contribute two observations:

1. Several of the participants in this discussion--most notably Robert Tucker of InterEd--are essentially using this comment space to advertise for their on-line "universities." If you, for example, google Inter-Ed--as Tucker no doubt intends--you'll quickly find your way to the University of Phoenix and eventually to Cardean. Moreover, a bit more research and you'll discover that Mr. Tucker claims to be a scholar--but that virtually all of his "scholarly" work is published by The Phoenix Institute--an institute he claims to have founded--effectively a vanity publication strategy. My point is that Tucker uses this forum among others to establish expertise and credentials that it is not obvious that he has. Hence, I am deeply loathe to take seriously the following claim:

"Having led, participated in, and observed such teams since the 1980's, I can tell you that a good development team will produce courses that are superior to all but the elite courses to which I referred above, and they will do so in a way that an instructor of modest means can achieve the specified outcomes each and every time he teaches the course. In other words, these processes, when practiced, raise the (median) educational bar substantially."

What establishes Mr. Tucker who--so far as I can determine--has never taught in a traditional academic institution--as an expert with the experience to compare on-line with traditional curricula? How many other education-entrepreneurs are using this forum to create the illusion that their on-line institutions are academically credible? Taking Tucker seriously as an academic is rather like taking David Horowitz seriously about threats to America. Horowitz has an MA in English literature. This does not establish him as an expert on the "leftist politics" of the academy. Yet Horowitz routinely masquerades as just this expert. Glen Beck has an on-line university too--but do any of us think that "university" in Beck's case means anything other than "there's a sucker born every day"?

Philosopher Jurgen Habermas and the critical theorists of the Frankfurt School spoke very eloquently to what are effectively marketing strategies to legitimate a product as if it were as good as the real thing. But we all know that astroturf is not grass, wood veneer is not wood--and on-line university marketers are not experts on academia and education. So why are we treating these marketers as if they could make the comparisons Mr. Tucker makes? How does he KNOW that on-line education can be as good? What ARE the outcomes he refers to? Test scores? Since when did test-scores become the sole arbiter of the quality of higher education? Contrary to Mr. Tucker's response to me in an earlier CHE piece, this is not elitism. Mine is a plea for that quality that can only derive from the EXPERIENCE provided in a real classroom with real instructors.

2. Jacquie427 may very well be the most honest about what these on-line degrees are really for when she/he says: "Put the energy into the tech integration best practices with faculty and watch student higher ed modern world workforce outcomes soar." The moment we in the academy concede that university education is simply about "workforce outcomes," we, as Bok argues, have already conceded the mission of the university to the bottom line of the corporation: efficiency and profit. On this criteria of what counts as education the selection process for what counts as valuable, as worthwhile, is radically different than that of the traditional university. On this criteria, the humanities, music, and the arts have no place save the homogenous general education 101 requirements. There is a world of difference between generating a workforce and a educating a citizenry, between creating easily satisfied consumers and instilling the critical thinking skills upon which a democracy depends. I think it neither paranoia nor old-fashioned nostalgia--as Tucker implies--to wonder whether the university isn't already lost. What I fear is that with it goes that capacity for not merely critical analytical, but critical creative thinking which is/was a university's central mission--and which cannot be accomplished without the experience only a real classroom and real professors and real students can provide.

Wendy Lynne Lee, Professor
Philosophy
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

46. trendisnotdestiny - July 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Wendylynnelee,

I really appreciated your comments... As a result of them, I went to the intered website and found some interesting information that many of your CHE readers probably have already researched...
Also, scanning the bowels of the website helped me answer 'the why now question' of Robert's last few comments...

Profits over people, outcomes over processes and stealth over transparency! Return on investment is the central measure justifying all other beliefs about education in the corporate world...

-----------------------------------------------------------------
QUOTED from http://www.intered.com/about/

Return-On-Investment

"The numerical return on your investment from InterEd's services will depend on many factors. ROI ratios of 20:1 to 50:1 are typical for our most used services; some services exceed 100:1 while other ROI calculations, such as those that might be made on our end-of-course assessments and reports, cannot typically be determined in a non-trivial way.

Whatever the final ROI calculation, our promise is that there is no better value when it comes to obtaining the intelligence you need, interpreted by proven innovators in adult-centered and corporate-focused higher education."
------------------------------------------------------------


47. wendylynnelee - July 25, 2010 at 12:02 am

Thanks very much trendisnotdestiny. One of the remarks above may put this an even starker light: referring to education as an "industry" as if students were not merely the consumers but the products for the 21 century workforce should send a chill up the backs of committed educators and real scholars. Some manufacture cars; some widgets; some on-line students--that is, "students": trainable labor suckered by the prospect of a "degree" and what the degree promises, a salary. In the end, the students are the ones being wholly and thoroughly cheated--and while I need to say more about this, this is why this is not a class issue. In short, the on-lines claim to democratize education. This is patently false. They fleece the student who cannot afford the university--while the privates get to remain the protected sanctums of the wealthy. The on-lines enforce class distinctions; they do not erode them.

In the end, the only difference between say, Glen Beck U. and InterEd is that GBU's mercenary motives are a bit more transparent.

48. wendylynnelee - July 25, 2010 at 11:46 am

In response to my undeveloped claim above concerning the widening of class divisions fostered by the on-lines, I think that Robert Tucker, once again, quite clearly puts the lie (however unintentionally) to the notion that access to on-line education can help democratize higher education. He writes:

"We also lose a great deal by adhering to this antiquated approach to teaching. A "roll your own" approach is desirable for the few distinguished intellectual leaders who teach, especially when they teach unique content in a rarefied atmosphere. However, I see little justification for adhering to it when the subjects represent industry-standard courses that will be taught by (sorry) the undistinguished professors who make up the majority of the modern professoriate (student admissions are not the only standards to have declined). Demonstrated time to proficiency is the most important loss when an average professor teaches in an average way. This is an efficiency or productivity metric. The application of modern learning and evaluation sciences can reduce the average time to proficiency from 20% to 50% (the differences in time owing to the material to be learned, available resources, and the nature of the learners). Such application also leads to more durable and generalizable proficiencies; i.e., more positive effects on the lives and careers of students."

By "antiquated approach," Tucker means in a classroom. By "roll your own," he means professors who are in control of their own syllabi and course content. By "unique content in a rarified atmosphere," he means content not immediately translatable into job-ready skills taught in that old-fashioned physical space called a classroom occupied by teachers and students--and their interactions. By "few distinguished" he means to leave the humanities to the privates--in direct contradiction to his claims concerning the on-lines' alleged capacity to level the playing field for those who can't afford a real education. By "industry standard," he means "according to the on-lines, boards of governors--the profit-visionaries of the new "university." By "time to proficiency," he means "bang for the buck"--and this bang is HUGE for the on-lines. By "positive effects," he means that operations like InterEd get students into the jobs that InterEd exists to feed. By "lives of the students" he means insuring the creation of good worker/consumers. "Modern learning and evaluation science" is corporate-speak for "training."

Learning to read through this particular variety of corporate-speak is vital to our being able to effect an active and articulate resistance to this assault on education. Much of this CHE comment thread is dominated by just this pseudo-expertise--in logic we call this jingoism. And it is clearly in the interest of the university-for-profit vision that students not acquire the critical thinking skills with which to evaluate this jingoistic propaganda. Indeed, if Tucker is correct, why educate professors at all? What do we need professors for?

Is is too cynical to claim that we in the humanities are not merely in the way of the InterEd's corporatized Brave New World of "education," but that--were we an organized resistance--we are in fact the enemy? I don't think so. It's a thoroughly Glen Beckian tactic to refer to those of us who passionately defend the humanities as "mandarins." This effects a recruitment of precisely those who'd fill their coffers with tuition money by making us out to be out-of-touch, arrogant, and uncaring--and ironically the on-line representatives to be in the corner of the students. For some in the professoriate it perhaps effects guilt or at least silence. But this is RANK manipulation and could not be further from the truth for the vast majority of professors who--while Tucker calls us "average" have in point of fact been providing countless students real and excellent educations. I teach at a state school. I am as good a professor as are any at the schools Tucker would reserve for the children of the wealthy. So are my colleagues. The effect of the on-lines is to widen economic class distinctions, to "democratize" only in the sense that, reduced to the lowest common denominator, the students of the less-well-off can be suckered into buying a "degree," while the children of the wealthy get to play in the humanities. It is not original to me, but somewhere in these trenches I read the following: The on-lines will "educate" the workers; the privates will educate their employers.

Not good enough. Not remotely good enough.

Wendy Lynne Lee

*Some of this is also posted on the Leiter Blog: leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2010/02/philosophy-departments-under-attack.html?cid=6a00d8341c2e6353ef0133f1c38644970b#comment-6a00d8341c2e6353ef0133f1c38644970b.

49. prof_truthteller - July 25, 2010 at 02:25 pm

Thank you Wendy for your clarification of intered's quasi-sensible, pseudo-scientific, admin-robo-speak. However, what's chilling is that this gobbledygook that he and other "educational industry" consultants generate is exactly what chancellors, presidents, vice presidents, and more importantly, boards of trustees, want to hear and find compelling and believable. They just lap it up, especially when seasoned, as intered does here, with some spicy anti-faculty bias: "roll your own" to suggest dirty and possibly illegal habits; "undistinguished" and "average" among other aspersions cast our way. Oh, yeah, and the "antiquated" methods charge. As if "antiquated" by definition is a negative. Faculty resist change because they are old-fashioned, selfish, comfortable in their sinecure of tenure, blah, blah, blah. A lie repeated often enough starts to sound like the truth.

However, I would warn against arguing too much with intered. I suspect he is flogging the blogs for two reasons: to learn what arguments might be put up against what he does for a living, so as to better argue against them or defuse them; and looking for job leads.

Back to the topic of outsourcing, faculty laid off or deprived of raises and still trying to make ends meet can now outsource themselves to China, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere. You'll only get $12 an hour, or less once you pay the fees, and no benefits of course. Welcome to the new global economy, where we're all poor. Check out Elance, oDesk, Rent-a-coder, People per hour, Sologig. Maybe interd will get an online job!

50. intered - July 25, 2010 at 04:36 pm

@wendylynnelee, et. al,

How gauche! It would appear that your world view permits one to be an objective, truth-seeking intellectual only when ensconced securely within the academy, even if in a small wing. Choosing to leave that academy, as I have, seems to give you, and others, license to impute uninspiring motives to me, motives that you judge to be beneath those of you or your colleagues.

Your attributions to me, my roles (current & historical), my organization's business and goals, and the relevance of any of the aforementioned to the issues I address here are riddled with factual and inferential errors.

But the real issue to me is how quickly you can become petty when one dares to challenge a cherished belief. Instead of sticking with the issues, you impugn the challenger's character and motives. That kind of sleight of hand may work on radical talk shows (either side) but anyone laying claim to being a philosopher should have long ago transcended such bad forms of reasoning.

I presume you are a philosopher because you say you are but you certainly do not represent the tradition of philosophers with whom I grew up and trained. I hope you can teach your students to be more alert to the dangers of the kind of reasoning you have bestowed on and about me.

Why are you all so defensive? There are important, exciting and complex issues to be debated here. Questioning my motives will not make them go away. Yet . . . you can't seem to get past securing you navels!

@trend . . . I had thought better of you.

51. wendylynnelee - July 25, 2010 at 05:55 pm

Thank you sincerely Prof_Truthteller for your observations. You are dead-on about what chancellors want to hear. Our own in the PASSHE system and board of governor members seem only too excited about the promise of efficiency--packaging it as "access," as democratizing, as reaching out to the nontraditional students makes for good marketing indeed--but bad education. Good marketing--and the crass exploitation of those most vulnerable--students who have only marginal access to the academy. I appreciate too your caution with respect to InterEd. I'm sure you're right that Mr. Tucker does have two goals here--to legitimate himself as if he were an academic capable of judging the quality of these on-line programs--and he is manifestly not, and--as you rightly point out--to determine what strategies will be deployed against him. He is also advertising his wares--using the CHE as a billboard. And what better a venue? Just posting here offers a veneer of credibility--and for free.

As for Mr. Tucker's exclamation that my arguments are "gauche," he offers no evidence for this pronouncement other than to repeat the claim that I'm a mandarin "ensconced securely within the academy." Would that he could know how utterly absurd this claim is. Ensconced securely? Hardly. I fought my way as a first generation college-goer and welfare recipient to get through my undergraduate at University of Colorado. I supported my kids on Pell Grants and Stafford loans. I earned my way through graduate school at Marquette on scholarships, more-than-part-time crappy jobs, and free government rice and cheese. I point this out because I am PRECISELY the student that operations like Mr. Tucker's exploit and fleece. The education I worked my arse off for is the hardest thing I have ever accomplished--right up there with giving birth and running the Boston Marathon--just as it should be. The InterEds, Phoenix', Cardean's, and Walden's of the world cheapen the real work gazillions of us put into real educations and meaningful degrees.

Moreover, the answer to access for students like myself and countless others is not "outsourcing," It is making the university more readily accessible--on a campus--through daycare programs, more professors and more courses. We ALL know these strategies work. The issue is the expense. Why do the real work of making a genuine education accessible when you can make a fake education seem both plausible, easy, and less expensive--for the institution, that is--not the student.

It is also notable that Mr. Tucker does not deny my accusations about his credibility as an education expert. Instead he endeavors to impugn my character by implying that I am a poor professor--if a professor at all. I, however, come with all the trimmings of a real academic--including legitimate publications published after anonymous review. Google me, Mr. Tucker. I don't doubt that Tucker is an education INDUSTRY expert--but this has very very little to do with education. He does not spell out the factual errors I have committed--so I can only assume he's bluffing. I have not impugned Mr. Tucker's motives; I have exposed them. And this is to say nothing other than what can be found simply by googling InterEd, and doing a little research on Mr. Tucker's career.

I have no idea what cherished belief Mr. Tucker accuses me of becoming "petty" about. Is it that the mission of a university is connected to the exploration of ideas? Yup--I plead guilty. I'll cling to that one. Is it that universities ought to be home to free and unfettered-by-corporate-interests science? Yes--I'll hold onto that one too. Is it that students deserve to have meaningful interaction with their professors and other students in a space unencumbered by "efficiencies" and "outcomes"? Absolutely. THIS is what a university is. THIS is its essential place is a democracy. THIS is how citizens are created. What cherished ideas is he prepared to jettison for the sake of "efficiency" (code for "profitability")?

Mr. Tucker does not specify a single "bad form of reasoning" he attributes to me. Be specific, sir. Otherwise why should I take you to be engaged in anything more than name-calling?

Defensive? Yes. The very philosophy departments you claim to have spent time in, Mr. Tucker, are the ones your vision of education eliminates, and that you can't see this defies reason. You can, and you do. But enough of your personal griping. There are exciting and complex issues in academia. Unfortunately, we won't have either the opportunity or the wherewithal to entertain any of these if the vision of education you and your business partners represent becomes the status quo. Why? Because higher EDUCATION will have been vanquished in favor of "workforce outcomes"--neither exciting nor complex, but merely profitable--for some.

Wendy Lynne Lee

52. wendylynnelee - July 25, 2010 at 08:24 pm

To get back to the issues: here is my central question: Why are any of us who have legitimate experience, credentials, and genuine expertise in academia even entertaining the pseudo-robo-talk "arguments" of the Robert Tuckers or Embanet's Steve Fireng? Why would we in the professoriate allow folks whose experience has nothing to do with education and everything to do with marketing inform us of the value of our disciplines?

Don't we as responsible academics who care about knowledge-independent-of profits have a responsibility to critically evaluate, expose, and resist this usurpation of our profession?

Google the CEO of Embanet, Steve Fireng, and you'll discover that his credentials are entirely connected to the education INDUSTRY--not education, but the manufacture of on-line outsourced "degree" programs. His positions are almost exclusively in the "education management industry," and his degree from Northern Arizona is not in any academic discipline that qualifies him to determine the value of education--much less specific programs like those in the humanities. His BSBA is in management--and he lists no other academic credentials (www.linkedin.com/pub/steve-fireng/10/38/bb6). What makes him a credible developer of ANY academic program? Why should he be applauded for doing on-line what no academic department would permit within a department, namely orchestrate and direct programs (or appoint others to this task--how can he even recognize the requisite experience and expertise in those others?)?

In his Embanet "Letter from the CEO," Fireng appeals to "severe economic constraints" and "demands on institutions" as a justification for outsourcing programs (as in: entire programs) to on-line services like Ebanet. In other words, very much like the Chancellor of the PASSHE (and other) university systems, he effectively exploits a "crisis" in Shock Doctrine fashion as an avenue for marketing his "alternative." In the very next paragraph, Fireng claims to serve universities and colleges--not through education--but through " a unique revenue-sharing model that allows for the development and delivery of fully online degree programs with no initial capital investment from our partner institutions." In other words, Mr. Fireng knows that his audience's first and primary interest is about revenue--not education. Am I taking a fair shot? After all, he does refer to "highest academic standards" at the end of this paragraph--right after he drops the names of several universities with whom Embanet has contracted. In other words, he uses, for example, Boston University to advertise for Embanet and BU's academic standards as a pitch for his corporation. But why should we buy this? How does BU's high standards support Embanet's? They don't. This isn't a letter; it's an advertisement.

If we agree on the most fundamental principle that those who have the relevant education and experience ought to have a meaningful say in their fields or disciplines, then we should find the Embanets and InterEds beneath contempt. Contracting with Embanet and InterEd is rather like going to a hospital administrator instead of to a doctor if I think I am ill. And it's as if the hospital administrator thinks he/she can treat me--that I don't need that "mandarin" of a doctor. Not quite following? How about this: I wouldn't go to the salesperson at the used car dealership to get an assessment of what's wrong with the car I just bought from him/her. Why? Because I have no reason to think they have the expertise to make this diagnosis--and every reason to think they'll try to dupe me.

Same raw deal here. Again--at least Glen Beck's motives are transparent.

Wendy Lynne Lee

53. gent258 - July 25, 2010 at 08:57 pm

Has anyone done research on the quality of online degrees? My fear is that soon we will have a entire population of "college graduates" who never set foot on a campus or saw a live professor face to face. Maybe the next innovation will be a drive-through education delivered by McDonald's. "Hold the literature, hold the math...You can have it your way."

54. intered - July 25, 2010 at 09:01 pm

@ms. Lee,

Here are a few:

1. "Several of the participants in this discussion--most notably Robert Tucker of InterEd--are essentially using this comment space to advertise for their on-line "universities.""
FALSE: I neither work for nor represent an online university. I do not do anything nor offer any service that would ever be offered to you or any of your colleagues. It is arrogant of you to assume that only your motives are appropriate.

2. "Moreover, a bit more research and you'll discover that Mr. Tucker claims to be a scholar--but that virtually all of his "scholarly" work is published by The Phoenix Institute--an institute he claims to have founded--effectively a vanity publication strategy.
FALSE: My last book was published by Rutgers Press. Since then, I have found more effective ways to effect change. In 1991, I did found and edit a small journal on assessment and accountability which was sponsored for awhile by the Phoenix Institute and thereafter my personal funds when necessary (journals lose money in most fields, especially that one). I did write editorials for the journal, but not scholarly work. And . . . the point is?

3. "What establishes Mr. Tucker who--so far as I can determine--has never taught in a traditional academic institution--as an expert with the experience to compare on-line with traditional curricula? How many other education-entrepreneurs are using this forum to create the illusion that their on-line institutions are academically credible?"
CLAIMS IN EXCESS OF REASONABLE ABILITY TO KNOW; UNAWARE OF MODERN SCIENCES: While it has been a more than three decades since I taught, I have taught in twice as many traditional as non-traditional institutions, coming to the latter by happenstance. I have been carefully examining innovations in the application of learning and measurement sciences as they apply to higher education since 1983. Over the years, I have also had the privilege of working with distinguished pedagogical experts. With respect to the notion of "traditional curricula," please don't try to go there Ms. Lee. I won't claim to know what you produce in the way of curriculum but I think we all know that most "traditional curricula" consist largely of dog-eared syllabi instantiated by medieval instructional practices and invalid assessment methodologies. If you would care to provide a set of a few hundred records of the assessments you employ in your philosophy courses, I will be pleased to analyze them in relation to modern measurement scientific standards. With respect to you blanket claim about online universities, may we ask for your evidence? Are you speaking such cases are the online business programs at Arizona State or the online Cardean MBA that was backed by five of the arguably most elite business schools in the western world? Does your university have online programs?

4. "So why are we treating these marketers as if they could make the comparisons Mr. Tucker makes? How does he KNOW that on-line education can be as good? What ARE the outcomes he refers to? Test scores? Since when did test-scores become the sole arbiter of the quality of higher education? Contrary to Mr. Tucker's response to me in an earlier CHE piece, this is not elitism. Mine is a plea for that quality that can only derive from the EXPERIENCE provided in a real classroom with real instructors."
FALSE ASSERTION; UNAWARE OF MODERN SCIENCES; STRAW MAN: I am not a "marketeer" (clearly used by Ms. Lee as a pejorative term). In fact, I have not had the opportunity to become much of an expert in that discipline (although, I see facets of it as a fascinating branch of the behavioral sciences; also, I do note that your institution markets aggressively in some respects; this is fine Ms. Lee, I just wonder if your powers of observation have detected that). Beyond that, Ms. Lee's comments and their implications are so out of touch with modern evidence that one scarcely knows where to begin . . . start, perhaps with the latest DoED meta-analysis comparing online with F2F learning. Personally, I see weaknesses in that particular meta-analysis but it will acquaint you with the last 30 years of scientific evidence. Personally, the first time I compared online learning outcomes with the same degree offered F2F by the same institution was in 1999. After controlling for inputs (at that time those applying to online education were early adopters and had higher incoming GPAs, etc. so we needed to adjust their higher outcomes downward) the learning outcomes between the two groups were indistinguishable. The only statistically significant difference we found was that the LSAT of the online students was greater across the board. Last, this may have no effect on Ms. Lee but other may have noted the straw man argument she established with respect to test scores: assertion asked & answered in the absence of evidence, and then attacked by Ms. Lee.

5. "In short, the on-lines claim to democratize education. This is patently false. They fleece the student who cannot afford the university--while the privates get to remain the protected sanctums of the wealthy. The on-lines enforce class distinctions; they do not erode them. "
NOT SURE WHAT TO CALL THIS OTHER THAN RIDICULOUS RANTING: I do not possess the latest numbers but the majority of the nation's universities -- public, independent, for-profit -- now offer a variety of complete degrees online. Again, which "on-lines" (sic) are you speaking of? Since most universities now offer online degrees, you'll need to help us out here. In my experience, I have yet to occasion a single senior expert in this field, and I work with or correspond with many of them, who would not say that online education has increased access. For starters, Ms. Lee, you might want to consider the various kinds of physical and emotional handicaps that might be manageable in an online program but would prevent the individual from showing up in your classroom. Your arrogance seems not to care about these individuals. If the above doesn't resonate, Ms. Lee, how about providing your evidence that on-line universities fleece students who cannot afford university? By the way, do you have any knowledge whatsoever pertaining to the cost structure of programs? Online programs generally (not always) carry a price premium, irrespective of which institution offers them.

6. "The InterEds, Phoenix', Cardean's, and Walden's of the world cheapen the real work gazillions of us put into real educations and meaningful degrees."
FALSE: Here and in a variety of other places in her posts, Ms. Lee has assumed that InterEd is an online university. The actual universities she mentions do not need my comment. However, since Ms. Lee mentions Cardean, I will toss in a word for the original concept (don't bother to rail, that Cardean has been defunct for years for reasons that had nothing to do with educational quality). The original Cardean University MBA courses were designed by the consortium partners (Stanford, Columbia, London School of Economics, and Chicago) in conjunction with the best and brightest international pedagogical scientists and platform experts one could find at the time (circa 2002). I had the privilege of examining Cardean's curriculum a few years after the design work was completed. In my judgment, it remains the best designed content I have seen in U.S. higher education, although some programs are rapidly closing the gap.

Ms. Lee, as are so many members of the professoriate, is out of touch with the changes in "what there is to mean by higher education" (recall Steven Toulmin's distinctive way of asking this question Ms. Lee, another friend). She is unaware that, for many programs, the majority of the students are career-established working adults who have families and are not seeking citizenship education or, sadly, a foundation in philosophy and critical thinking (although . . . ). She is unaware that the small niche markets for the smart and the rich that defined higher education in 1906 are now a handful among dozens upon dozens of much larger and distinct markets, each having different learners, learner goals, best instructional methods, and much more. I would urge you to become familiar with Wittgenstein's family resemblance construct as it applies to modern higher education (my preference is Malcolm's disavowed unpublished notes from W's last lectures in Philosophical Psychology). This is what higher education is today.

I see no benefit in pursuing this further Ms. Lee. I think I have offered enough of a response to inform reasonable people. While you will certainly believe what you will, I will tell you that my motivations herein are driven by passion for a vision that you do not share. I respect differences in vision. Those who know me know that I champion them. I do not respect and I condemn the kind of arrogance that underwrites implications or, as you did in some cases, assertions that those who choose to leave the academy and who offer services in some way related to it proffer opinions only to feed their profit motive. Tease out the implications of that kind of reasoning if you will.

Philosophy departments are important, potentially much more important than is generally recognized, even by the departments themselves. Will these University of Phoenix's that you mistakenly think I am lead to the demise of philosophy departments? Personally, I doubt it but I have no evidence. I do think that defensive, backward looking arrogance will not advance their cause and may harm it. These departments need creative, forward-looking individuals who can again show us how material their contributions are to our cultural wellbeing. It is my sincere hope that you can become that forward looking individual. Perhaps I'll read someday of your accomplishments.

55. intered - July 25, 2010 at 09:05 pm

Material typo: "Personally, the first time I compared online learning outcomes with the same degree offered F2F by the same institution was in 1999." Should be 1989.

56. trendisnotdestiny - July 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Response to the Tucker Diversion

Wendylynnelee
1. "Several of the participants in this discussion--most notably Robert Tucker of InterEd--are essentially using this comment space to advertise for their on-line "universities.""

Robert Tucker
FALSE: I neither work for nor represent an online university. I do not do anything nor offer any service that would ever be offered to you or any of your colleagues. It is arrogant of you to assume that only your motives are appropriate.

Trend: Why should anyone on this site trust you when your motives or interests are openly tied to the very corporate model that most are resisting?
---------------------------------------------------------------

Wendylynnelee
2. "Moreover, a bit more research and you'll discover that Mr. Tucker claims to be a scholar--but that virtually all of his "scholarly" work is published by The Phoenix Institute--an institute he claims to have founded--effectively a vanity publication strategy.

Robert Tucker
FALSE: My last book was published by Rutgers Press. Since then, I have found more effective ways to effect change. In 1991, I did found and edit a small journal on assessment and accountability which was sponsored for awhile by the Phoenix Institute and thereafter my personal funds when necessary (journals lose money in most fields, especially that one). I did write editorials for the journal, but not scholarly work. And . . . the point is?

Trend: Wendy speaks to credibility here and in the first comment
-----------------------------------------------------------------

57. wendylynnelee - July 26, 2010 at 09:17 am

Mr. Tucker,

To begin, my name is not @ms.Lee--I am not a hologram. My name is Professor Lee or Dr. Lee, and I expect to be addressed with the same respect I address you.

1. You mince words here. InterEd is not--you're correct--an on-line university. It's a service for managing on-line universities--hence an even more appropriate target for the criticism of this particular CHE article. I'm more than happy to let CHE readers be the judge of the thoroughly corporate-speak "About Us" on the InterEd site: www.intered.com/about/. Your protest does not help you, and your profit motives are made abundantly clear on your website. My claim is that this motive is unequivocally not consistent with the appropriate aims of education and will have a stifling effect on the production of knowledge. Students are not merely future workers, and career-building is not the only purpose of education.

2. Indeed, I stand corrected. You DID publish a book way back in 1996: For Profit Higher Education: Developing a World Class Workforce. The title speaks for itself--and in favor of every argument I have made in these comments. Again, I am more than happy to let CHE readers judge for themselves. The book description can be found at:

books.google.com/books?id=sUkQ6E57kw8C&pg=PA136&lpg=PA136&dq=For-Profit+Higher+Education,+robert+w.+tucker&source=bl&ots=mSblk3yK9o&sig=e5ivqB79XgHESjIS81PKh32WeKs&hl=en&ei=MH1NTM6aOsH48AbSgbU2&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false.

Other publications, for example, "The Rhetoric of Quality" is published--so far as I can see since the citation is very poor--by the Assessment and Accountability Forum--a "publication" of Inter-Ed that cites the Phoenix Institute--a VANITY publication. Same goes for "From Mandarin Class to Market Player: Four Factors Redefining Quality in Higher Education" and every other claimed publication. See: www.intered.com/other-publications/.

The point is that you should have to reach back to 1996--14 years ago--to make claim to a legitimate publication speaks volumes about your scholarship. The much bigger point, however (and since this is not about YOU) is that what research demonstrates is a pattern among the entrepreneurs of the on-lines and the out-sourcing corporations to create a veneer of academic authority by "publishing" in non-refereed "journals," cite each other to create the appearance of legitimacy, and create websites aimed not at academics but at administrators looking to corporatize and privatize their institutions.

3. Well and good. Finding your CV on-line proves to be quite daunting--unlike my own. Show us where you have taught--ten years ago. Where are you tenured? What courses? If you have academic credentials, please offer them. Distinguished pedagogical experts? Name them. Otherwise, my question stands: What gives you the authority to determine what counts as quality course content in higher education?

The claim to dog-eared syllabi demonstrates only that in your ten years since classroom experience you have fallen entirely our of touch with what professors do. Your description of the "mandarin" is, I assure you, simply laughable. Of course there are poor professors. But this is by no means the standard case. Moreover, even were this true, it in no way authorizes you as an expert in their replacement. Analogy: Even If the theory of natural selection were false (as highly implausible as your claim about "mandarins"), this in no way confirms Intelligent Design as true--and no one with any functional critical thinking skills would think so. Your "mandarin" argument is a straw offered up as an excuse to market on-line universities and outsource corporations; when you have to make up an enemy in order to legitimate your claims, you should know you're on slippery ground. And you DO know.

As for assessments of my philosophy courses--let me know if you'd like to see my evaluations. I am more than happy to make them public. It is also wholly question-begging that you should offer to analyze them according to "modern measurement standards." This presupposes precisely what's at issue, namely, whether such "assessments" have anything at all to do with quality of instruction. Indeed, you make clear that you'd remove the "roll your own" (quite a smarmy form of reference) creation of syllabi from instructors entirely--reducing to the lowest common denominator the content of a course. The notion that humanities courses can be so assessed is simply absurd on its face, Mr. Tucker. Do you really believe that a student's comprehension of T.S. Elliot's "The Wasteland" can be so assessed? Shakepeare's "Othello"? Moby Dick? The paintings of Kandinsky? The p[hotographs of Robert Maplethorpe? Plato's "Theatetus"? Aristotle's "Poetics"? Wittgenstein's "Philosophical Investigsations"? Really? Seriously? Do you really think that the thinnest framework of a moral sensibility in a marketing course can be taught and assessed in this fashion? Only if students are regarded as widgets, and only if "success" means measurable exam scores. There is FAR more to education than this.

4. Please re-read 3.

5. You miss the point. On-lines may very well increase access, but--read above more carefully--not to anything remotely like the quality of education found in a classroom. So the question is access to WHAT? Where the motives--as your clearly claim ARE the motives--are the money, assessments of quality cannot be objective.

I am not out of touch with the"what there is to mean by higher education." What I recognize is that the corporatizing and privatizing of higher education can only mean the end of its original and worthy mission. I can only conclude from Mr. Tucker's responses that he holds this traditional mission to be passe. That may be true. But if all the university is for is the training of future workers to fit precisely the jobs that corporations design for the on-line university and their fellow out-sourcing corporations--Like InterEd and Embanet--there will simply be no place for the humanities. This is a loss of immense magnitude. It is the loss of every discipline that cannot be assessed in terms of its market profitability--art, philosophy, music, literature, poetry--that, in other words, which humanizes us. Wittgenstein (and you are welcome to look up my Ph.D. dissertation on this excellent thinker, Mr. Tucker) would be mortified.

Wendy Lynne Lee

58. signaledu - July 26, 2010 at 12:24 pm

What makes this discussion difficult and complicated is that there are good and bad courses in both online and onground contexts. Similarly uniformity in courses is not necessarily bad, just as every personally-designed course by a professor is not necessarly good.

What the corporate purveyors of education get right is that they place students rather than professors or their content at the center of the equation. This is not to say they do everything right because they don't. The original Cardean failed because it was all about the supremacy of the content and completely ignored what the student/customers wanted.

In my experience of 13 years of following higher education and content publishers is that every organization and instructor is convinced that their content is superior. Unfortunately they can't all be correct.

Outsourced vendors bring expertise that traditional schools don't currently have. Successful organizations and professors will be the ones that draw strength from the outsourcers and actively engage with the new medium.

Trace Urdan
Signal Hill Capital Group
turdan@signalhill.com

59. trendisnotdestiny - July 26, 2010 at 01:18 pm

Trace,

Sell crazy somewhere else....

QUOTE
"What the corporate purveyors of education get right is that they place students rather than professors or their content at the center of the equation."

What you mean is you want control over what students learn so that they can be more productive and malleable for you later down on the line when they need employment to pay off their huge educational sub-prime mortgage.....

QUOTE
"Outsourced vendors bring expertise that traditional schools don't currently have. Successful organizations and professors will be the ones that draw strength from the outsourcers and actively engage with the new medium."

Wow Infomercial Trace, in just two sentence you captured all the nuance and information that the academy needs to really know...

1) Claim superiority by virtue of market principles w/o evidence
2) Misrepresent traditional schools to fit neoliberal world view
3) Use 'Assumed Consent' to paint a picture of success
4) Evoke the feeling: Get with the program or get left behind
5) Never mention that your livlihood is dependent upon changing public education into private commerce

Hey have you ever thought about a promising career in payday lending? There are huge profits to be made on the backs of financially illiterate people all over the globe (especially on-line)... You could be SUCCESSFUL, DEVELOP AN EXPERTISE and ENGAGE the public with usurious short term loans. In my 20 years of experience, you would be perfect at it.....

Traditional Educator Capital Group & Hedge Fund

"Reminding you, that elite forms of sarcasm are still legal"

60. wendylynnelee - July 26, 2010 at 01:49 pm

Again--one more outsourcing corporation using CHE as its billboard. And Trend is quite correct: Student-centered is merely code for convincing students that what they want is precisely what one of these "educational" corporations has to offer. And why on earth should it be up to students what the discipline options are at a university? They come to learn--not to determine what ought to be available to learn. It is in no way in the best interests of students to have this kind of power. And it is a complete negligence of responsibility on the part of administrations to pander to this crass "Have it your way" vision. But it is also a LIE. Student-centered is part of the advertising--but certainly what's at the "center" of this vision is the MONEY.

The strategy deployed by Glen Beck U. is not different--convince Americans that the ship of state is sinking, that Glen Beck U. can help them arm themselves for the Take-Back-America Revolution, and Voila--you've got sign-ups. Consider the simply vacuous mission statement of the Signal Hil Capital Group: "Our mission is to get to the right answer for our clients, without fail. To each client challenge we bring to bear our strong technical expertise, extensive market experience, and vast network of contacts to devise winning solutions, whether the problem is generating returns in the equity capital markets, raising growth capital, or finding the right strategic home for an asset." Honestly, what does this even mean? The pitch to prospective students: Convince them that the recession will sink their economic ship; convince them that your program is a real degree that can be translated into real opportunity--and that without it, they're in trouble. Voila--you've got sign-ups.

As trend implies--the only expertise offered by outsourcing corporations is how to convert a vital public institution into "private commerce," a commerce no less that will make folks like Tucker, Urdan, and Fireng very very rich--at the direct expense of students who are swindled.

61. intered - July 26, 2010 at 02:07 pm

Watch out Trace, you won't find any rationality here. These few folks are so far inside the old academy that their primary contribution to rational discourse is to understand the nature of the service provider core. Fortunately, they represent a small fringe and make their own best case for passing them over. Ironically, they seem to have little good to say about the very executives in their own and other institutions who are struggling mightily to preserve their right to be self-involved and childish.

I do think I'll use this "dialog" in another forum to illustrate one of the problems confronting USHE.



62. intered - July 26, 2010 at 02:24 pm

Trace,

I agree that one cause of failure in the original Cardean points to supremacy of content but only in the sense that Andy burned $85M, largely on content, before getting the first 500 seat contract. On the other hand, what content, and taught by really bright and deeply knowledgeable people who were actually successful in the world! Nothing has yet to touch it.

My view of the causes of the Cardean failure centers more downstream. The Cardean MBA students who were also working professionals at these leading institutions absolutely loved the content. Most raved about it and referred other students in by the handfuls. I have thousands of records of process data on that point. In that sense, Andy wasn't out of touch at all. I think the problem you suggested is much more true of Michael Crow's Fathom project at Columbia.

Bob

63. wendylynnelee - July 26, 2010 at 03:45 pm

And alas--all that Mr. Tucker has left in his magic bag is name-calling. No argument; no defense--merely name-calling. He's compelled to try to diminish the credibility of our claims by referring to us a a "small fringe," and then taking his "dialog" to another forum where he's presumably less embattled. He'd be surprised at how many of us there really are are out here prepared to defend our disciplines, our students, and our university missions. His response to Trace says it all--it's all about the money.

64. wendylynnelee - July 26, 2010 at 05:19 pm

For an interesting perspective on Fathom, please see:

chronicle.com/article/After-Losing-Millions-Colu/6818/

One suspects that what future ventures into the for-profit education industry learned was that far more money could be made if the quality of the programs could be sacrificed--hence the birth of "efficiency" AND outsourcing.

Also see: www.studymentor.com/Obituaries.pdf.

65. trendisnotdestiny - July 26, 2010 at 05:54 pm

@Bob


QUOTE
"Watch out Trace, you won't find any rationality here. These few folks are so far inside the old academy that their primary contribution to rational discourse is to understand the nature of the service provider core."

Interesting tactics you use here Roberto:
1) Defining Corporate Rationality = 50:1 return on investment
2) Diminish deserved criticism to occurring in small groups
3) Rebrand & Divide academy into (Old and New) - Edward Bernays?
4) Project roles onto educators using corporatists language


QUOTE
Fortunately, they represent a small fringe and make their own best case for passing them over. Ironically, they seem to have little good to say about the very executives in their own and other institutions who are struggling mightily to preserve their right to be self-involved and childish."

Small Fringe to be passed over
Cultivating administrative resistance
Childish
Self-Involved

Wow, there is not too many things you won't do Bob for a buck. Kid yourself about the size of resistance to you. Imagining that there is whole new market for just you if we can just get students & educators on board. Manipulating the inter-relational tensions within academe and selling the notion that the resisting professorate by nature self-involved and childish....


Turning higher education into a mass corporatist propaganda model for future employees is a mistake. To challenge our former deceased president: Privatization is not the solution but the problem!


66. wendylynnelee - July 26, 2010 at 06:13 pm

Tucker's remarks epitomize straw fallacy, don't they? Misrepresent and ridicule your opponent in order to make his/her arguments appear inconsequential. What's behind the corporate-speak, methinks, is actually someone who doesn't have any morally defensible arguments to justify this corporatizing of higher education. Were there such arguments to be made, there would be no need for the carefully crafted code, euphemisms, robo-talk....Were these folks interested in reaching out to academics, they'd learn to speak to academics. But the aim here is not to get us on-board, it's to get us out of the way. And Mr. Tucker knows this--however much he has convinced himself that this future of higher "education" is education, and however much he may think that he has earned his profit margin legitimately. He hasn't, and he must be feeling a teeny bit of a pinch--otherwise he'd not go to the trouble to warn Trace about our "irrationality," and he'd not ditch a tough discussion for another forum. What likely really worries Mr. Tucker is that Trace might be a rational--potentially decent and thinking human being who could read through this thread and reconsider what he does for a living.

I very much hope so. For the irrationality lay in the belief that the only things that have value are those that can be "scientifically measured," commodified, and then sold for more than their worth.

67. signaledu - July 27, 2010 at 08:26 am

Bob -- I did not mean to suggest the Cardean content was not excellent because I believe it was. Only that Cardean failed to appreciate that excellent content alone was not enough and maybe not even the most important thing (duck!).

trendisnotthedestiny --

I think the successful growth of online away from traditional higher ed is illustration enough that there is demand from other populations for something not being provided in the traditional academy. Likewise the failures at traditional schools to "do it right" themselves (aka University of Illinois) is evidence of their lack of expertise (or will, or organizational ability.)

The fact that universities are hiring the vendors in the first place is, I believe, sufficient evidence that they at least believe they lack the necessary expertise. Or perhaps that it's the simplest way to drive a solution through a complex, stakeholder-driven organization.

As for me selling crazy? I'm just selling what the folks are buying.

68. intered - July 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

Trace,

Indeed, while I have never assisted an organization so deeply staffed with true genius and near genius (made my time at Oxford seem like kiddy camp), there was a lack of appreciation, bordering on disdain, for the roles of marketing and enrollment. When we built the post-GM front end, we had to force the organization to recognize the milestones of achieving the first 100, first 500, etc. enrollments. The work involved in letting the public know what Cardean had to offer and helping prospective students make the enrollment decision was simply not of interest to most of them. They were predisposed to the "build it and they will come" fallacy that is ubiquitous in public institutions, the difference being that there were no taxpayers to bail them out.

All of this said, these individuals were exceptionally quick studies. Self-serving dogmatism was nowhere to be found. In a matter of months they did a 180 that would take a public institution 35 years to accomplish and enrolled more than 1,000 MBA students. The problems, as I said earlier, were to come later and were of a different nature.

I take the time to accord this credit to the original Cardean team because I think we place too little effort exploiting modern learning and measurement sciences to improve how we teach. These failures represent not only intellectual treason, they represent the most profound kind of disrespect for the student. This criticism applies across the board. Publics and most independents, and most for profits, have no scientifically based content development and management systems. In these settings you will still find pre-scientific reasoning with professors asserting that the important parts of what they teach cannot be codified or assessed, blissfully unaware of the contradiction that since their students presumably receive grades, that these professors, if intellectually honest, managed to make that assessment and, unless it was based on divine inspiration or witchcraft, others can employ the same criteria. Of course, if you profess to teach without measurable learning objectives, it is easy to pronounce yourself a success. Some of the large for-profits, on the other hand, have migrated to structured content but in a least-cost minimalist way that leaves much to be desired from a pedagogical perspective. Frankly, it looks better from a distance than it does upon close inspection.

Cardean got all this generally ignored stuff right. They had the kind of deep respect for education, and for students, that transcended the empty rhetoric that can be found dripping down the halls of ivy.

Soon, I am predicting (and if not, hoping), these features will become market distinctives and then drivers. One can only hope . . .

Robert W Tucker

69. wendylynnelee - July 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

Signaledu couldn't be clearer about the mercenary aims of his edu-corporation. This is the ethos of the on-lines and outsource corporations: "I'm just selling what people are buying." Never mind that it's a rip-off of students; never mind that such an ethos underwrites the marketing of absolutely anything--regardless consequences; never mind that it elevates profit over human welfare, knowledge, or anything that looks like a moral sensibility. At least he's honest: It really IS all about the money--that is, the money HE makes.

And it contains an outright lie. These folks aren't just selling what people are buying. No, they're working fast and furiously to manipulate, advertise, and schmooze their way into the wholesale creation of the desire for their product--appealing to precisely those constituencies of potential students, those underrepresented markets of vulnerable "education" "consumers" that they know they can bamboozle. Their strategy is not one iota different that the car manufacturer who convinces us that we "must" have that Hummer, or the mouthwash maker who tells that we'll be socially ostracized if we don't use their product, or the alcohol distributor who assures us we're more likely to get laid if we just drink their booze.

Crass? You bet. Crass. But NONE of these pose the danger to working, struggling people that this on-line outsourcing of education poses. Why? because the consequences of buying a Hummer, a mouthwash, a brand of alcohol are limited--the consequences of being swindled by a fake promise of education are life-long and they are devastating--even if the "graduate" gets a job. Why? Because he/she believes a falsehood--and has been cheated out of one of the most significant of all human pursuits.

"Just selling what folks are buying"? Would you, signaledu, sell nuclear waste? Weapons to North Korea? Children into sexual slavery? What's the difference between any of these--and selling the tools for crafting a fake education?

You should be ashamed.

For an excellent and articulate defense of the humanities please see: www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/27/vondassow.

Wendy Lynne Lee

70. trendisnotdestiny - July 27, 2010 at 11:20 am

@Trace

QUOTE
"I think the successful growth of online away from traditional higher ed is illustration enough that there is demand from other populations for something not being provided in the traditional academy."

Business Language
1) First, the SUCCESSFUL GROWTH in a privatized system is code for profitability as you have little evidence that on-line education is benefitting students comparitively (especially in this job market)... So, you may be growing your business, but let's not call that successful growth (the sub-prime mortgage, S&L and payday loan industries also had "successful growth")

The Demand Argument
2) Trace, there is an incredibly high demand for cocaine, high fructose corn syrup, nicotine, hookers, weapons grade uranium, & a McDonalds Happy Meals too. The notion that demands exists to satiate your needs for profit is absurd (its the other way around in a predatory system that allows you to sell an occupational future to many who may only experience greater indebtedness).

The Lack of Will
3) Why should anyone pay for your products when a library card and a bus pass could achieve the same outcomes of knowledge delivery. The only thing you are able to sell effectively is a perceived outcome held hostage to a notion that all of us are capable of American Dream (see home ownership & housing crisis for how well that went for most middle class Americans; it went well for the banksters).

QUOTE
"The fact that universities are hiring the vendors in the first place is, I believe, sufficient evidence that they at least believe they lack the necessary expertise."

1) No Trace, not really! Again you draw incorrect conclusions. Universities are operating on the conveyor belt of productivity in an escalating arms race to increase enrollments, NIH grants, win competitive brand wars with neighboring institutions etc... (all while they have been increasingly starved of public resources having to rely on private industry and their business model of having to get better each quarter over quarter.)

They are looking to cut costs period.... This does not translate into sufficient evidence of necessary expertise on the part of vendors, but rather an engineered manufacturing of consent where they are opportunistically looking to gut the essential features of education through outsourcing for profit (see GATT or NAFTA).

QUOTE
"As for me selling crazy? I'm just selling what the folks are buying"

Oh, you are innocent then? Like Switzerland? You are doing what you want to do regardless of the consequences to others (justifying it by pretending in some small way you are helping others against the evil traditional educators). How juvenile!

I will remind you (Oh Swiss Bankster), By selling a product to students who do not have as much information as you that makes you responsible for those outcomes. When students begin to identify the gap between what was promised and what they received, I do not want to hear about some paid-off columnist in NY Times uttering (caveat emptor or that in this society it is the individuals' fault for not achieving their goals while you sit in some carribean resort sipping mojitos). Already, we have had enough of that!

You are not just selling product here; education is about changing lives for the better; not for your profit


71. trendisnotdestiny - July 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

Sweet Ole Bob,

"These failures represent not only intellectual treason, they represent the most profound kind of disrespect for the student."

The most profound disrespect for the student???? hmmmm
I wonder how the following treasons qualify:

1) Gutting public education funding
2) NCLB standards
3) Seeling space for credit cards vendors on campuses
4) Larger trend of Increasing Tuition & adjunct service reliance
5) Pay-to-Play, Academic Entreprenuers, & Grantsmanship
6) Sallie Mae Executive Pay during the 2000's
7) Finances of Textsbooks & Disapperances of University Presses
8) No Teaching Tenuretrack processes (institutional de-emphasis)

Treason and profound disrespect for students began a long time ago is not a talking point for corporatists to exploit, but has longer deeper origins than in-classroom instruction practices

72. signaledu - July 27, 2010 at 11:48 am

trend/Ms. Lee --

For clarity. I am not a vendor of outsourced services, I am an analyst. So when I suggested I was selling what folks were buying I was using the phrase in the same context that I thought trend was using it -- my ideas.

But at some level, yes, I clearly have more faith in the ability of the market and consumer choice to drive better solutions. At that fundamental level I'm not sure we're going to convince one another of anything.

If I could try to leave this debate on a constructive note, I would say that to the extent the practice of online education or the provision of educational content by outside vendors is a destructive force in your institution, try to engage in steering the online conversation and solution in a positive, constructive direction.

I really believe that if your object is to stamp out the practice of online degrees, your project is doomed.

Trace Urdan
Signal Hill

73. wendylynnelee - July 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Robert Tucker: "Publics and most independents, and most for profits, have no scientifically based content development and management systems. In these settings you will still find pre-scientific reasoning with professors asserting that the important parts of what they teach cannot be codified or assessed, blissfully unaware of the contradiction that since their students presumably receive grades, that these professors, if intellectually honest, managed to make that assessment and, unless it was based on divine inspiration or witchcraft, others can employ the same criteria. Of course, if you profess to teach without measurable learning objectives, it is easy to pronounce yourself a success."

Honestly, Mr. Tucker, what ARE you talking about? "Scientifically-based content development"? For a course in Medeival Literature? Expressionist art? Bauhaus architecture? Hegel's use of the dialectic? The cross-cultuyral study of religion? There is no contradiction whatever in my delivery of grades and my assessment of the quality of a student's work--I KNOW my field. I KNOW the content of my courses. I have been thoroughly vetted and accredited with respect to the expertise I claim to have. I EARNED tenure and promotion. I continue to engage in the project of education. Of COURSE, there is an element of subjectivity built into the assessment of student work. But if you think that this has been eliminated through this sham of a science of measurement, you are sadly mistaken. Test questions must still be drafted, and will be so by a human being whose determination of what's of value will govern that drafting. The notion, moreover, that knowledge can be "codified" is flatly anathema to the very idea of knowledge. It fails to distinguish between knowledge and information--the latter can be codified because it is unchanging; the former cannot because it is a project--not a thing. Your "scientific measurement" is demonstrably pseudo-science--right up there with astrology and creationism.

Here's what Tucker really means: Those disciplines that cannot be made to conform to the "new" "scientific" method are simply not useful to the vision of the "new" university. After all, it's the test scores that look good on the job resume for the employer whose staffing needs ultimately drive the course content. Tucker's, in other words, is a VALUE judgment not about how a subject ought to be taught, but about what should be taught at all, And like Mr Urdan--apparently all that should be taught is simply that which conforms to "I just sell what people want."

As for Mr. Urdan, he fails to rise to the bar of addressing a single one of either "trend's" or my claims--preferring instead to simply bypass what he cannot possibly defend. He makes a correction: He's an analyst--AKA: A yet-further-outsourced corporation aiming to cash-in on the corporatizing of education. I have to say, however, at a time when the notion that the market can be counted on to provide good solutions to human problems has been thoroughly debunked by the grotesque failures of BP, the "health" insurance companies, Big Pharma, and the outsourcing of the military, it does take some guts--not to mention a hefty dose of denial--to make the sort of claim he does. One has to wonder if "the market" just is these folks religion--no matter how poorly their god performs, no matter how much suffering it produces, no matter how many people are exploited and commodified--the market god must be good. Wow! really, just Wow!

Mr. Urdan could well be right--that the on-lines are here for the long-education-destroying haul. But how ironic--and fitting--is it that what he advises is that we in the academy join forces with those who would gut our institutions, abolish our positions, and cheat our students. He advises that we agree to become co-opted. No thanks. Education, like life, is about far more than the money.

74. trendisnotdestiny - July 27, 2010 at 02:21 pm

Wendylynnelee,

Thanks for your transformative posts... the amount of time, thought and diligence you put in recent comments is impressive. I am positive that our educational system is for having you in it!

Trend

75. trendisnotdestiny - July 27, 2010 at 02:21 pm

is better for having you in it ---

76. wendylynnelee - July 27, 2010 at 03:11 pm

Thanks trend--I really really care about my profession and my students; "transformative," that's really kind of you. I am profoundly grateful to get to be in the academy, and in philosophy particularly, and I know I am not alone. Many more of us need to drop the veneer of academic politeness--the "better-to-ignore-and-maybe-the-bad-guys-will-go-away" "attitude, realize that our tendency to exercise reserve is being used against us, and become engaged in the trenches of these issues. As long as WAAAY too many of us sit quietly reading these posts--but not responding--folks like Tucker, et. al., will continue to use CHE as their FREE advertising venue. And that's exactly what they're doing--not just here, but in article after article. I have wondered at some moments whether CHE really is just a chronicle--that is, just a record of the life--and conceivable death of genuine higher education--or it's advocate...I hope very much that the latter is true. But as I re-read through these comments.....well, it's worrisome--and scary.

Wendy

77. mominschool - July 28, 2010 at 11:51 am

Wendy: You seem to have anger issues and don't seem to be able to read and respond to what it said. If your students saw this transcript, you would look foolish, IMO. It's as if you have you own private agenda. Don't rage at me now. I don't care!

78. betterschools - July 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

wendy & trend -- Rhetoric like this is a perfect example of why higher education has to and is changing. Arrogance. Self-adsorption. Inability to see beyond one's own experiences.

79. wendylynnelee - July 28, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Why should we take name-calling seriously from folks who don't have the guts to use their names? Is THIS your demonstration of the critical thinking skills you've acquired through your on-line education? If so, you've just made my point in spades! Why not just call me "yucky"?

Arrogant is the assumption that knowing something about marketing makes one an authority of education. It does not.

Self-absorbed describes the narrow-minded focus on personal profits as opposed to the welfare of students--much less the university, it's community, or the democracy of which it is an essential component. Another name for this is greed.

And Inability--what? To see beyond the profit margin? That's not me, I'm afraid that likely describes you.

Betterschools commits fallacy of self-projection: The need to ascribe to others those rather detestable characteristics that one recognizes in oneself--but cannot afford to own. In this case, projection is also self-parody on the part of betterschools in that BS cowers behind anonymity.

As for anonymous mominschool, I'd be more than happy for any of my students to read every word I have ever published on this or any other topic. Google me. Read more. Your post is called name-calling fallacy of dismissal and ad hominem: ridicule the speaker personally in order to dismiss their claims. You'd neither bother to have posted if you didn't care nor resorted to a cheesy fallacy if you had a legitimate argument.

Put up, or shut up folks. What's your argument for the superior quality of on-line education? Why is outsourcing education good? Who benefits? What's the empirical evidence that corporatizing and privatizing education is good for students? Good for scholarship?


80. betterschools - July 28, 2010 at 08:58 pm

It's hard to believe that anyone who is ostensibly a professional in higher education is unaware of the research that has taken place in their profession for the last 30 years.

There are hundreds of citations online pointing to research comparing the efficacy (learning rate, learning amount, retention, application, impact, generalization to new contexts, etc.) of online, blended, and face-to-face learning.

Of the few hundred studies and reports I have reviewed, roughly 35 possess the methodological rigor, availability of variances and error terms, etc. required for inclusion in a meta-analysis. The US Department of Education conducted a similar assessment and determined that 46 met their criteria. The conducted a meta-analysis on those 46 research studies.

It is worthwhile to review their full findings. On this point, the conclusions were:

1. Blended instruction produces the greatest learning
2. Online instruction produces better learning that face-to-face
3. Face-to-face instruction produces the least

Complexity, caveat, and ceteris paribus constrictions abound in this research and its interpretation, all of which are appreciated by the open-minded; but these are the generalizations and trend lines. This is an exciting field; much more research is needed and is underway.

A few starting points:

http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf

http://rer.sagepub.com/content/74/3/379.abstract


81. trendisnotdestiny - July 29, 2010 at 12:39 am

@ betterschools

I do not know you or your thoughts minus two posts... so I am not going to attribute positives or negatives to your person, intelligence or your experiences... they are yours to do with as you please.... (despite your willingness to project)

However, I do know how business works after spending a decade in the brokerage industry during one of the most profitable periods that world stock markets have ever seen. Also, I do know how industry works to co-opt power in new markets like that of the merger occurring between business and education (as the power of state having been subsumed by the corporatocracy). As a result, I have read extensively on many sides of the neoliberal turn:

1) US consumption based society predicated on access to cheap debt
2) installing dictators in the southern cone to sell free markets
3) starting overt and covert armed conflicts for resources
4) predatory capitalism in information age (data mining)
5) most heavily solicited and drugged society in the world
6) elevation of the finance industry as our master
(references to this available upon request)

The way I see it is that your few starting points exist not as means to draw conclusions about higher education but more as that higher education has been co-opted to spew out enough acceptable results to justify the inevitable exploitation of profits from demographic information with new technology. Online classes and universities are a perfect example of setting up a market cheaply and wall street/managerial class of academia will follow... This is not about student outcomes (this is the hook for people who do not know better (no pun)...

The only EVIDENCE that we know is that educating people who cannot afford it is parallel to selling mass homeownership this last decade. Follow the for-profit stocks in higher ed! Their prices have quintupled during the last decade as many other industries were stagnant. This has been and continues to be an orchestrated intrusion into higher education by industry; anything other than is naive or purposely ignorant of recent historical economic trends.

Lastly, selling the American Dream when the next two decades are full of massive structural, ecological and demographic upheavals in this country is unjust and immoral, especially funded by debt. The debt many students incurr permanently insures that they are maintained in an generational underclass. You want to educate them for profit? That 40K education they spend on a worthless degree could be gotten with a $5 library card and $20 bus pass....






82. betterschools - July 29, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Sorry Trend. To me your posts are irrational and devoid of solid facts or assertions. While you circumnavigate large social issues of genuine concern, you do so like a fanatic, poking and jabbing, but accomplishing nothing. My post addressed a single question related to the efficacy of online education. I offered it so people could follow the research trail and judge for themselves. Based on your posts, such rational inquiry is of no interest to you. Without reading or responding to a shred of evidence, you blast off on unspecified "massive structural, ecological and demographic upheavals . . ." and proffer patently faulty parallels between the housing market, where there is no investment in human capital, and an education, which returns lifelong benefits of many forms, including financial in most cases.

I agree with your sentiment that we live in troubled times, less troubled than some times in our history and more troubled than others. As before, we will continue to effect solutions to our problems. These solutions will come from constructive, hard working individuals who can remain focused on the problem and who are capable of assessing and acting upon evidence. Solutions will not come, and have never come, from those who wave their hands about and rant. These individuals are part of the problem, not the solution.

I'll not respond to any more of your posts, here or elsewhere, so long as they are so unfocused and unconstructive. If you care more about solutions than random dissing, I invite you to become engaged. First, learn the hundreds of simple facts that you appear to lack on this topic. Then, offer modest suggestions for improvement that lie within your sphere of comprehension.

83. trendisnotdestiny - July 29, 2010 at 02:33 pm

@ betterschools,

For someone who values simplicity and not obfuscation... Then address the main point...

Tell us up front - do you think the market actors will perform educational functions better than the current professorate (make this a central argument versus your blustering about arrogance, self-absorption, and irrationality)? Tell us that making profits on educating as many people as possible is good... Tell us Greed is good... Hold yourself accountable to negative consequences of what you are calling for instead of selling us more the same debt-sponsored American Dream crap...

Does everyone need to be educated? Yes or No
Does everyone need to enter the debt for diploma model?
Has unregulated business overstepped its competence?
Have universities and colleges morphed into corporations?
Have they shaped research to fit market interests?
Do shareholders concerned about anything other than profits, hiring a malleable & indebted labor force?
How was the housing bubble formed? (expanding markets, public policy or poor individual choices)


The belief that privatizing higher education began with the DoED meta analysis or with Dr. Bernard's work in the past decade is absurd... For someone so concerned about simple posting and clear outcomes, you fail to address the economic implications and outcomes for people other than "the potential" of the consumer with an education. Unemployment is not an issue that will go away any time soon, especially as we have taken on the Japanese model of recessionary economics due to insolvent banks. Selling education with no place to go is immoral and self-serving.

Also, where will YOU be when a whole generation gets a piece of paper that isn't worth price paid? What then? Will you sell individual responsibility like it is ice water? Nevermind that no one addressed how face to face teaching has been gutted over the past two decades to make any comparisons appear favorable...

Let's just be honest here... privatizing forces have been working for a long time to penetrate one of the last perceived points of resistance in this country (the professorate).... Your evidence based crap is code for business to use legitimizing power in a hostile takeover of higher ed... This isn't irrational unless you need adminstrators/professors to sell your product students. Most people get that technology, media, banks, wall street have taken over, however there are the disingenuous few who cannot admit that these interests own us... Dick Durbin (US Senator from Illinois admitted as much on Bill Moyers show on PBS)...

betterschools, evidence is about power not outcomes; outcomes can be constructed to fit power's needs... the only difference between the housing and educational bubbles is that with the housing crisis foreclosure and bankruptucy were possible but with student loan debt (you can never wipe that out). No one is neutral and no one innocent.

Would love to have a debate with you on housing/higher education bubbles? Since you seem to be so sure of your and others'human capital. I invite that conversation!

84. trendisnotdestiny - July 30, 2010 at 03:26 pm

betterschools and inter-ed are the same person here.... Sad commentary Robert that you feel the need to morph into a new form of authority when your existing authority is challenged in rigorous and profound ways.

Thanks to Wendylynnelee

85. rchappy - July 31, 2010 at 01:17 pm

As a person who has degrees from both traditional and non-traditional colleges, with over 25 years in my field (an engineering discipline), I feel I can speak from experience on the issue. My experience has shown that attending some classes was an incredible waste of time, while others were incredibly beneficial. I also found that some online courses were plainly pointless, while others were very worthwhile. As a matter of fact, my daughter is getting ready to start at a major university, and the upperclassmen are giving her the rundown of professors to avoid (not due to the difficulty, but due to the quality).
The point is that the traditional college is fast becoming an albatross. The costs have far outweighed the benefits. When a student has to create a debt that he (or she) can never earn to repay, it is not a good investment. Even some of the more well known financial experts are downplaying formal education. While academia wants to belittle professionals as not providing an appropriate education, they need to take a better look in the mirror. In so many cases, the "professional professor" is unaware of the industry. That is very apparent in the engineering world. Most students upon graduation are quite deficient in critical tools that are basic in the industry, and then their employers have to bear the brunt of providing that education. And for this, the student may have incurred more debt than his future home will cost.
At this point in time, I could not in good conscience counsel anyone who is not in engineering, medical or other fields that require a great degree of technical knowledge to go into debt for a college education. The worst part is that I'm speaking as a great lover of education.
In my mind, some of the great problems in post secondary education is tenure and the lack of involvement of the corporate world.
Tenure, as anther poster mentioned, removes all incentive to continue to grow and learn. No other field is protected from younger, cheaper takeover. Longevity in professional teaching in my mind is an indicator of the lack of growth.
Corporate involvement - Professionals in their field will be a much better baromter of their professions. Being capable in a profession does not mean being an effective teacher, so must be vetted and evaluated. But while they may not be a good teacher, could provide incredible value in determining course content.
I once heard a high school teacher complain that he felt he should be able to determine what he teaches, and not the school board. This is exactly the problem with academia. They are providing a service to customers, whether they like it or not. The proliferation of charter schools and for profit colleges is an indication of that. Ultimately if you don't serve your customers, you won't have customers.

86. betterschools - August 01, 2010 at 01:32 pm

@rchappy,

You pack a lot in your analysis. I suspect one would have to have significant experience with various institutional types, as we both have, to understand everything you said. I disagree with one point: you seem to suggest that we should toss out the traditional institutions because they have become excessively out of touch. Some of their employees are certainly that; one need only read this blog to see how out of touch they are.

However, the administrators are not out of touch; they are simply saddled with an outdated system that makes it difficult for them to effect change.

Whatever the causes of the various problems, the higher education markets have become so large and diverse that I believe we need all three institutional types, and perhaps more, such as the new hybrids we see emerging, to respond effectively to the needs of our society. The solution, I believe is to bring the publics and some of the independents into the 21ct century (skipping the 20th; most of these institutions operate on late 19th century models). How to effect those changes is beyond the scope of this discussion but I believe it can be done largely through incentives that reward meeting the needs of the society rather than the professoriate. While those who teach are certainly among the most important employees in the system, they are by no means the only stakeholders. Incentives that reward all stakeholders for providing efficient services to students in the form they ask for will go a long way toward ameliorating the problems you identify, and others. Remember, roughly half of the nation's students are now adults and most of them work, vote, have families, mortgages, etc. It is no longer our "grandfather's university" where everyone was 17 and needed proxy parents to guide them.

You are right, though, in noting that if the publics continue to be successful in resisting change as they have thus far, they will continue to be marginalized to the point that state legislatures will de-fund them or they will become so small that they will be of little consequence. You will see doors closing. This would be the wrong outcome.

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