Alright. This is WAR!!!

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by jmetro, Apr 22, 2007.

  1. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    If you want to be incensed (sp?) with the pomposity of the ignorance of this man, please read:

    He is so whimpy as to not post an email address on the York University site.

    I did a 98-page paper disputing the underlying theme of his article when I was an undergrad at WGU.

    I personally would like a sensible debate with Mr. David F. Noble about the merits of distance learning.
  2. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator

    Why don't you call him?
  3. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Okay, I read some of this........what struck me was the following...

    UCLA fought an agreement between California State Universities and private fortune 500 companies like Microsoft, GE, etc. to prevent both distance ed and corporate interference in higher education.

    Here is the missed point...what makes higher ed worth the cost, the time and the bull crap you have to sacrifice and put up with is the eventual payoff....IE those silly trifling corporations who dare criticize the ivory tower of UCLA.

    “In the United States as well, resistance is on the rise. Last year faculty and students in the California State University system, the largest public higher educational institution in the country, fought vigorously and effectively against the California Educational Technology Inititiative (sic) (CETI), an unprecedented deal between CSU and a consortium of firms (Microsoft, GTE, Hughes, and Fujitsu)”

    What they fail to realize is that without jobs waiting on the other end of that degree, they serve no purpose other than perhaps personal satisfaction. But Harvard wouldn't be Harvard without commanding power and money upon graduation.

    How does that old saying go? Don’t bite the hand that feeds? Don’t piss in the breakfast milk? Don’t crap in your own backyard? Etc. etc.
  4. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    I guess I don't want a debate that much...

    Yes, I saw that he posted his phone number on that document. I thought about calling him just to say that I thought he was missing the point of DL.

    Quote:"After several years of high- profile hype and millions of dollars, the flagship Western Governors' Virtual University opened for business this Fall, offering hundreds of online courses. Expecting an initial enrollment of 5000, the WGU enrolled only 10 people, and received just 75 inquiries. Intended to put a positive spin on this disaster, WGU marketing director Jeff Edward's doubletalk unwittingly hit the nail on the head: "it points out that students are pretty serious about this." Serious enough, that is, to know crap when they see it. "

    All I know is that you should walk in my shoes for a while and then take a WGU course of study and then try telling me my program is "crap".

    First, big business wants smart, capable, educated fodder for the corporate engines. It is in their best long-term interests to ensure that their knowledge-worker employees are well educated.

    Secondly, we all know that distributed knowledge systems are the foundation of our modern society. That is, collaborative knowledge - tapping the power of the hundreds of millions of minds who share and borrow knowledge - is ultimately at the root of all functional advancements in technology. With the advent of forums such as, the entire world can share and borrow knowledge making the aggregate knowledge-level of the world just a little bit higher.

    Finally, while it might play to the strengths of a weak logician to poke fun at new growth theories it does nothing to advance the boundaries of knowledge. Which is something that distance learning does. By providing an excellent education via distance-learning you are increasing knowledge distribution. For every several million people so exposed we increase the likelyhood of creating another Gutenberg or Edison.
  5. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

  6. Gail

    Gail New Member

    Isn't that 10 years old?
  7. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Ultimately the questions revolves around automation...

    Primarily, these arguments seem to show the silliness of academic relationships with the corporation. As an after thought they seem to show the ROI proposition isn't being validated.

    Again, I agree with friendorfoe that corporations have a vested interest in ensuring that people are graduated who actually possess the required level of competency. That's my whole counterargument to the propriety issue - it is perfectly acceptable for the corporate world to demand and expect certain types of skills from graduates. It is in the best interests of the schools to provide these skills, the companies to fully utilize these skills, and the students to seek after and attain the required expertise.

    Now the second argument makes a lot more sense. If any enterprise doesn't meet operating revenue costs they will fail to thrive. If that is WGU, or Union, or any program, business, or person. We all must make our operating costs. But with that in mind, let's imaging how we might lose money in this kind of endeavor: We take a standard curriculum and automate it. We put error correction mechanisms in place to ensure that the information being presented is being received accurately. We then play the same curriculum over and over again only updating curriculum as new knowledge is created and new ideas must be considered. How might we lose money? Well, what if we have too many administrators? What if we hire too many highly-qualified faculty? How about too many servers with redundant WAN links? How about too much threshing of the curriculum? How about too much change in the marketplace to keep up effectively?

    I guess there are lots of ways we could lose money in this kind of an endeavor. But wait...

    If you're thinking straight you'll note that all of these examples are costs of doing business and if the costs are at a certain level the revenues need to be raised to meet them. Like the darn UoP, the cost of the degree program somehow "proves" the innate value of the servers, instructors, administrators, and redundant WAN links. You see, like anything in business the value proposition exists because companies want certain skills, students want those skills, and the educators want to provide those skills. The more demand on a given resource the more expensive that resource becomes. So that at the end of the day you end up with $100K per year education from Ivy-League schools versus $20K or less from not so well connected or not so extravagant a college (in terms of spending).

    But take the example of BYU in moving towards more distance programs. If you have a solid educational process and are methodological in transposing each competency from the B&M to online process, you can very easily use the law of scale to achieve your revenue goals. This then would provide the same level of education at a lower cost per student thus driving profits.

    I myself have a dream of pure competition between schools. Wait...What's that you said??? We have it?

    As any economics major can tell you, when perfect competition exists and there is no longer an oligarchy of schools authorized to provide instruction, the aggregate profit of the enterprise should tend towards zero. Think with me, millions of sellers of a product to millions of buyers the price demanded by the seller will tend unerringly towards the cost of the production of the good. Therefore we should state that all educational institutions whether they want to be, or not, are in matter of fact non-profits. Eventually the for-profits will be driven out of the market or if they choose to remain in business will be driven to lower internal costs of production to maintain viability and decrease selling price to meet market equilibrium.

    As we all know, holding the price unnaturally or artificially high for a good college education will without a doubt cause a surplus of seats waiting to be filled with happy learners. The inverse of course is true. If you pull a WGU and hold your prices unnaturally below market equilibrium you will be taxed to capacity. Or maybe not.

    I suspect that there will be minor price fluxuations over the next several years as WGU administrators seek to find market equilibrium. But I suspect that now really is the time to put distance learning to the test. I believe we have enough providers now to give the bricks and morters a run for their money. If that is the case, then higher education costs should go DOWN throughout the entire system.

    We really should find out how many DL providers there are and how many seats are available each year without taxing capacity. This would give us information about market utilization of the service as well as provide us with a good indicator as to how much demand is considered sub-equilibrium, or not.

    Thanks for listening.
  8. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Quite right.

    Yes, Ms. Gail, I'm sure that this argument is well over 10 years old.

    Yes, Kizmet, I'm now happily involved in this particular war. I'm glad to be a commander general behind all ya'll admirals and stuff. I'll just fight the war by telling both sides when they're being stupid and trying to build consensus.

    Anyway, since we're at it...

    I found out about this little backyard squabble while doing google research on online PhDs for myself (since that's what I'm thinking I want). I ran across the "Bloom off the Rose" argument first (released in 1998) and then quickly read all five of them. I agreed wherever possible and disagreed intensly enough to post here.

    We really need devil's advocates in this world otherwise we won't ever really know what we're thinking. So I appreciate the man's thoughts.

  9. Gail

    Gail New Member

    I'm sorry but I just have to ask this again: Isn't that piece nearly 10 years old? It says 1998 on the top of the web page.

    DL has come a looooooooong way since 1998 so I guess I don't understand the uproar about something so incredibly out of date.
  10. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Well it might not come as a surprise to some but...

    To me this argument was a surprise. It was full of straw men and in my opinion not well considered.

    But you're right, no big deal...

    I just wanted my say.

  11. Gail

    Gail New Member

    It's all good.... vent away!

    I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything.
  12. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    You've happily entered a war that has been over for some time.
    Stand down soldier.
  13. John Bear

    John Bear Senior Member

    JMetro: "I'm sure that this argument is well over 10 years old."

    JBear: A bit. In Bears Guide, I quote the following from The Grenville Diaries, 1834, as debated in Parliament, when the University of London was considering granting degrees based on distance learning:

    Lord Brougham: Pray, Mr. Bickersteth, what is to prevent London University from awarding degrees now?

    Mr. Bickersteth: The universal scorn and contempt of mankind.
  14. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    I remember that...

    I remember that one. You're right, of course, it all stems back to fear of change. He does have a legitimate concern about the long-term viability of the economics of the new educational system but with enough MBAs, we should be able to prevent any loss of life resulting from starting new schools.

    As a personal note:
    John Bear,
    I really appreciate your research and your willingness to speak up.
    It feels like someone is in my corner, fighting with me against a cumbersome establishment.
  15. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Perhaps in theory, although in practice there's nothing close to a free market in higher education. In particular, Title IV funding drives prices up. It's no accident so many for profit schools' tuition rates are close to the Title IV maximum.

  16. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

  17. jmetro

    jmetro New Member


    You're right, of course, that so much still needs to be done to create a free market out of the oligarchial monopoly that currently exists. And I personally am a believer in "education for all" and therefore education loans for everyone who needs them. This of course means that there are more students competing for a limited number of seats which does in fact tend to drive the aggregate price higher.

    My point in beating the horse which hopefully is already dead after having so many (BillDayson and John Bear, as examples) champions of DL already deal extensively with this issue, was to put more of a economic spin on the discussion since what stood out the most to me was the lack of foresight on the impact on business resulting from the expansion of the "gold standard".

    Therefore, while it is true that a substantial increase in students may cause equilibrium price to rise, we are nowhere near market saturation at the present. In fact, with the addition of RA DL programs such as Northcentral, Capella, UoP, Walden, WGU, and others, we have to see a shift in supply upwards. When supply goes high the price will go low meaning that if everyone plays their cards correctly we might be able to actually have reasonably priced educational opportunities for everyone who wants them.

    As an extension of this discussion comes a discussion of costs and profitibility. While we all like to think that profit is a great thing (and it is, I like to have a little bit left over at the end of the day personally), if the system were working properly profit at all educational institutions should tend towards zero. Adding more DL programs will make the system function more appropriately toward that end. Here's why I say that: We know that in the long-run as the number of sellers increase the competition will also increase. They will attempt product differentiation but again, in the long-run, education is only education and a program can be copied or enhanced. That's why we say that in pure competition, the revenue targets tend to equal the cost projectsions. That is, educators become non-profit enterprises - simply seeking to meet their costs for each additional student they enroll.

    I believe that DL provides true competitive advantage. We build the program once and then replay it many many times thus lowering our cost of doing business. When our costs go down, we will eventually be required to lower our prices to maintain our competitive edge. Because our internal cost structures are sometimes substantially lower than B&M schools, we have a natural competitive advantage.

    That's all I was trying to say. With more entrants in the marketplace, the equilibrium price will drop until price equals cost at which point peole will start pulling out of the higher education business. You see entrepreneurs are trying to run the spread right now. And they are, in fact, doing quite well!

    NOTE: I am not a troll. I make no monies of any kind from any colleges or universities except as a adjunct instructor. I am not a university business consultant and have no particular axe to grind. I have no skeletons in my closet tht urge me to speak my opinion. I simply saw something that seemed unfair, tested it with reason, and found it wanting. That's what started this thread.

    Thanks kindly for your ears (read: eyes).
    Jacob Metro
  18. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I don't know that I agree that for profit schools are on borrowed time. I do believe that all organizations, like people, will eventually deteriorate and die, but in this case, not because they are for profit.

    I am of the "highly conservative" opinion that in general, self serving business endeavors will be more innovative and quick to adopt to change than the slow moving machine which is the non-profit university.

    Some key differences in for profit vs. non-profit (as I see them) are:

    1.) For profit schools do not seem to have as many tenured faculty drawing 6 figures teaching 2 or 3 classes a week and conducting research the rest of the time such as many large non-profits do. Just because a school is non-profit, that doesn’t mean that nobody profits from them.
    2.) For profits use a lot of adjuncts who work in the industry that they teach in or instructors who teach elsewhere and this is a part time gig. I don’t believe that this lowers the quality whatsoever, in fact, as vocations go, I am of the opinion it is better to learn from someone working in the field than from a purely theoretical stance.
    3.) The market is not an even playing field, even online. For example, I would expect to pay many times the amount of tuition to acquire an online degree from Harvard (were it to be offered) than from University of Phoenix, the ONLY reason I would pay the difference in the tuition is because of the school’s (Harvard) reputation. Thus there is a large disparity in brand recognition, especially from large state schools and Ivy Leagues.
    4.) For profits will be motivated to innovate and lower costs. They will change along with market demands and market curves. They are probably more likely to associate with private industry in order to attain workplace viability for their graduates. Again, all as a self serving endeavor, it just so happens that their willingness to help themselves helps the industry and student as well. Non-profits are not so motivated, many relying on large alumni contributions, etc.
    5.) Non-profits, especially tax funded, operate like bureaucracies. For example, I pay taxes every quarter for a local Community College that I attended from 1996-1998. There it was difficult to enroll, the professors answered to nobody, the student was that inconvenient thing between them and some “quiet time”. I was treated with disrespect, disregard and contempt. The student body tended to feel much like myself. Enrolling was confusing and arduous with huge lines to wait through only to find out that they didn’t handle this or that and you had to wait in another huge line. Many people would become discouraged and just leave. I distinctly remember the looks on some of their faces. The college wasn’t concerned, they were solvent through tax dollars, not tuition. Honestly, there were times when I felt that they almost didn’t want you to enroll.

    Now to be fair I also attended Southwestern where I was treated like I mattered, but they were operating online, kind of in a small startup fashion. There was at least one professor that I had that saw their small Wichita storefront and he remarked to a buddy that they wouldn’t last a year. A couple years later he was teaching for them and they have actually grown. How? I don’t know for sure, but I did get the feeling that “the customer is always right” kind of attitude and friendliness from them. One could even say that maybe they were acting in a self serving “make a customer” kind of way. Either way I’ve seen crappy service on both sides of the fence, but more often than not, that familiar odor is wafting from the non-profit sector.

    I don’t think for profit schools are going anywhere soon. Ashford University will be a neat experiment. Here you have a for profit company running a campus based school in a small town. They are competing against non-profit schools for students as well as athletically. It will be interesting to see how for profit matches up to non-profit on an even playing field.

    My .02
  19. Faxinator

    Faxinator New Member

    Heh. When I read the headline, I thought immediately of the film "Johnny Dangerously":

    "This is FARGIN WAR!"

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