Does online education put traditional universities at a ‘grave risk’?

Sixty-six percent of respondents to a recent survey said online college classes were “the same or superior” to face-to-face classes.

A university’s stockpile of faculty members with Ph.D.s soon could be irrelevant if online learning continues its rapid growth and provides flexibility for students of every age, said Clayton Christensen, an authority on how innovative technologies affect businesses and economies.

Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and author of The Innovator’s Dilemma and The Innovator’s Prescription, delivered the keynote address to an audience of higher-education officials March 7 at the American Council on Education’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Christensen outlined the ways upstart, innovative businesses have toppled the giants of industry—such as Toyota’s rise coinciding with American automakers’ downfall—and how that model might translate to colleges and universities.…Read More

States look to Indiana as a model for online instruction

There's no limit to the number of credits a WGU student can earn in six months.

Washington state could mimic Indiana’s successful model for online instruction if a state legislator’s proposed bill that would make online college classes more available to students there becomes law.

In a Jan. 6 announcement, Washington State Sen. Jim Kastama, a Democrat, said he soon would propose legislation that would form a partnership between the state and Western Governors University (WGU), a nonprofit online school formed in 1999 with about 20,000 students nationwide.

Kastama said teaming up with the Utah-based WGU would be a way for Washington to meet its “huge unmet need for higher education,” especially during the nation’s economic downturn, when millions have gone back to college to attain extra education while they’re unemployed or underemployed.…Read More

The top 10 higher-ed tech stories of 2010: No. 3

New federal rules are aimed at cracking down on misleading recruiting practices by for-profit education providers, who also are among the nation’s largest providers of online instruction.

Enrollment in online college classes grew by more than 1 million students over the past year as more people returned to school in the midst of the economic downturn—but this phenomenal growth might be short-lived, a new study suggests. That’s partly because of new federal rules aimed at cracking down on misleading recruiting practices by for-profit education providers, who also are among the nation’s largest providers of online instruction.

Following up on a promise made earlier in the year, the Education Department (ED) in October enacted new regulations that bar for-profit colleges from tying recruiters’ pay to the number of students they enroll, among other measures. The new rules came in response to investigations detailing “fraudulent” practices among recruiters for some for-profit colleges. Criticism of these institutions also mounted as figures showed that at least one for-profit school, the University of Phoenix, received $1 billion in federal Pell Grants during the 2009-10 academic year.

ED also proposed new regulations that would cut off federal aid to for-profit colleges if too many of their students default on loans or don’t earn enough after graduation to repay them. These so-called “gainful employment” rules met a flood of resistance from the for-profit industry, prompting ED to hold off on enacting them until further review.…Read More

Rapid growth in online instruction could wane, study says

Growth in online instruction has stemmed from existing programs, not from new initiatives.

Enrollment in online college classes grew by more than 1 million students over the past year, and while a new study shows that more educators think online instruction is equivalent in quality to face-to-face classes, fiscal pressure and government regulations aimed at for-profit schools could curb the online-learning spike, the study says.

As it did in 2009, Babson College’s annual survey of online education in the U.S. showed that more Americans are turning to flexible online college courses during tough economic times, when college enrollment typically rises.

The million-student increase marks “the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online,” said Elaine Allen, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group and an author of the research.…Read More

Online college classes: An answer to budget shortfalls?

Sharing online content could save California colleges tens of thousands of dollars per course, a new report says.

California’s use of online distance education is “limited,” and campuses across the state should partner with a leading online university to expand students’ access to a college degree through online college classes, according to an extensive review of the state’s college access.

“Using Distance Education to Increase College Access and Efficiency,” released Oct. 25 by California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), suggests campus officials could create more college access through online college classes despite the state’s budget woes that have raised tuition at many public institutions.

Bringing more online college classes to California, the report says, is the next step in fulfilling the Master Plan for Higher Education, a statewide framework published 50 years ago that promotes universal access to a college education.…Read More