Is this the future of online education?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by me again, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Kizmet you have a good argument, but that being said the rules of economy as you know are based upon seemingly exclusive motivations that work towards a common good. As a seller/producer I want to sell my goods and make as much money as possible. As a purchaser/consumer I want to buy my goods as cheaply with the best quality as possible. These motivations are contrary yet proven to be a working model in the free market.

    What I don't understand is why this is okay in everything from medicine to technology but somehow the same priciples applied to education causes so much wailing and moaning.

    While it’s true the middle man may walk away leaving the school worse off than before, there is no motivation to do so. The middle man will use innovation, technology, etc. to hedge his/her investment to ensure success. They are motivated by profit and for them to walk away is an unacceptable loss, especially where investors are concerned. From a business standpoint I believe the investors and middle man stand as much if not more to lose.

    Secondly I have yet to find a for-profit school or a school using a for profit service that has actually become worse off because of that service. They may exist but if they do, I haven’t heard of them and I would argue that they would certainly be the exception.
  2. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Exactly my thoughts. The days of entitlement are becoming limited, our economy simply cannot continue to sustain the way things were done 100 years ago.

    Maybe for the sake of maintaining quality and academic integrity these guys would be willing to take a pay cut? :D
  3. DBA_Curious

    DBA_Curious New Member

    What about our economy demands a graduate degree be based around classes of 1,000 students with little to no feedback because a coach is handling 100 + students?

    Or is this more a case of an education 'bubble' where people are demanding graduate degrees be made as easy as possible so they can enjoy the perceived benefits of a graduate degree, which, of course, are based on the older, tougher model.

    This is a trick we're playing on ourselves because the minute a field is flooded with 'degrees' that require very little real work, those degrees will be worth very little. We're already seeing it happen with the MBA degree and that's the main reason I added my CPA license as a form of external validation.

    I'm all for accessibility and equal opportunity but graduate degrees that aren't a transformative experience are really a misnomer. It used to be that a Master's degree certified you as somewhat of an expert. Is that still the case?
  4. me again

    me again Well-Known Member

    Is this part of a long-term "education bubble"?

    That is certainly a part of the puzzle, but it's not the only issue. As these degree holders begin to multiply, based on the corporations exponential growth theory, the costs for labor (such as for adjuncts and full-time professors) will continue to be driven down. However, when taking a long-term approach, such as looking 10 or 20+ years down the road, the following seems to be very insightful:

  5. japhy4529

    japhy4529 House Bassist

    Actually, one of the programs at Lamar (MEd in Educational Technology Leadership) does not require a teaching certificate.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 27, 2009
  6. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    This sounds similar to how many of Athabasca's undergraduate courses work, except that up there it's done in house and the tutors, as they're called, have doctorates. I don't see why this is necessarily an invalid form of education, it's basically just gussied up independent study.

  7. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I think me again answered your question/challenge but obviously there is a demand within a price curve, the trick is to get the university within that price curve which is where the HEH solution comes into play. You have an MBA so you know this stuff... ;)

    As stated above, I don't see all the fuss, how is this worse than correspondence courses which have been around for decades?

    Lastly I also disagree with there being a glut of MBAs disproportionate to demand. To be sure there are more of them than in the 1980s and the number is growing, however I personally feel that the market demand from employers seeking employees with that level of business expertise has grown alongside that increase in employment pool. I have no data other than my own hiring experiences of late to go off of but it is still true to this day that "good help is hard to find". Although it is true, no longer is earning an MBA a contract to an executive salary, but then I wonder if that was ever the case...
  8. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I think you've made a mistake in assuming that everything is "OK in everything from medicine to technology." I have a very clear idea that there are people all across our country who believe that there are many problems with these areas.
  9. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    To be certain there are but I don't think the debate centers around the profit status of the organization like it tends to in education.
  10. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    This is actually an interesting point, which at first seems to go against the concerns I raised earlier.

    My own experience in dealing with the bureaucracy of various bricks-and-mortar schools, all non-profits, is that there is often a level of academic arrogance; the idea that "we have no need to provide great service; our students are captive." I think that a lot of school adminstrators, while they may not state it that way, simply don't think in terms of being in a competitive marketplace and needing to provide a superior experience in some way in order to differentiate themselves. I agree that nearly all of the for-profit schools I've heard about "get that" and the message is clearly conveyed to the administrators.

    But "getting that" can also work against the notion of academic integrity and actual educational quality; if a for-profit is all about "giving people what they want", and many people want the fastest, cheapest education they can get, then said for-profit may try and cut corners as much as they can without incurring the wrath of their accreditor.

    And so farming out grading to a separate for-profit entity that has no accountability to the accreditor or anyone else, while it may serve the purpose of lowering costs, may actually shield (at least temporarily) the school from the responsiblity of ensuring the quality of the work and the people providing it.

    I'm guessing it won't be too long before the regionals step in and update their regulations to address this issue. I can't imagine they would think positively of an institution under their review farming out a large part of the actual academic experience to a third-party for-profit company taking a large chunk of tuition; oue could argue that in some ways, it is almost as though the school is "renting" its accreditation and status to an unregulated third party in exchange for 20% of the tuition.

    Of course, that's exactly what MIGS was trying to do... so maybe Shelia was simply 10 years ahead of her time.
  11. DBA_Curious

    DBA_Curious New Member

    Ahhhh but that's the trick. There's a demand for the benefits of a graduate degree as they exist today. But if we keep lowering the standards of the product, we'll have to hope that we can fit our existing expectations in with the new realities.

    In other words, we're lessening the product so that more people can enjoy the benefits of the product, which will lessen (and perhaps at a faster rate) right along with the product itself.

    As I said earlier, it's a neat trick we're playing on ourselves ultimately. Let's keep demanding that degrees mean less while hoping we can enjoy the old status of these degrees. At some point, it'll work out that degrees mean a lot less.

    And as you said, I'm a MBA so I do know this. Chalk it up under how higher supply creates lower demand.
  12. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    You may actually have something there. Farming out the grading to a 3rd party, who is not contractually bound to any quality control or oversight could be a disaster.

    That being said I do not think that "giving people what they want" is necessarily issuing a degree, but instead an opportunity to earn a degree by virtue of the service, from a reputable and accredited school. For example the interests of the investors would be against that of selling degrees or doing anything which could hurt the school's reputation or compromise their accreditation and/or ability to confer degrees. In essence this would be akin to cooking the golden goose for dinner. Short sighted and narrow.

    I believe it can be done without impairing academic integrity, especially when the school gets paid regardless of whether the student actually passes anything or not. Again this is a glorified correspondence course.
  13. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    You have a valid argument and history would be on your side in this debate as the MBA has seen something of a drop in prestige, but not unusually so when you compare it to other degrees. In the 1980's having an MBA was something very unique and prestigious, of course in the 1980's having a BS degree was more than enough to set you apart from the crowd and build a healthy career on. So given that, your argument could be applied across the entire spectrum of postsecondary education, the MBA losing prestige is simply a sign of the times and not necessarily unique unto the MBA itself but can be applicable to higher education as a whole.

    Secondly I'm looking forward. The baby boomers are retiring out, though not as quickly after the recent economic disaster. Sooner rather than later the U.S. will see increasing employment and skills gaps. In fact some technology sectors will see this in less than 10 years, in some areas of technology we are already experiencing this. We're already beginning to see it increasingly in medicine and in engineering. As this trend grows there will be fewer and fewer professionals who have the requisite training and skills needed to keep things running, an economic pendulum effect will take place as the boomers will leave a void that the following generations simply cannot fill adequately as there are just not enough Gen Xers and Gen Y skilled labor.

    Lastly I believe that demand even now is not as low for skilled labor as some would have us to believe. Indeed having an MBA may not be a guarantee for employment but it is still certainly enough to set you apart from a crowd, doubly so if you add additional credentials on top.
  14. Chip

    Chip Administrator

    I am remembering a number of conversations here on degreeinfo back in 2002 or 2003 where several professors (mostly adjuncts, I think) who were members here at the time were talking about academic integrity and quality issues at U of Phoenix; in a nutshell, there were repeated cases where admissions was letting in people who were grossly underqualified for college level work, and more than one case where the administration was overruling professors on grades, because the student couldn't get reimbursement for less than a "B", and there was the implication of a nodding understanding that the employer (one or more large tech companies) wanted grades of "B" or higher, or they'd send their students somewhere else.

    I am very willing to believe that these may have been the early growing pains of a school probably run by people with no background in academia, and/or that these were isolated cases in which a single administrator or small group was promulgating a policy that wasn't the policy of the seniormost people at UoP. I'm also quite willing to believe, based on the newer reports of a number of degreeinfo posters, that this issue either no longer exists or is an anomaly if it does still happen.

    However... it is exactly this sort of thing that one has to be careful of whenever there's any sort of partnership where profit can potentially conflict with integrity.

    Now... I'm sure the same thing happens in various circumstances with nonprofit entities; how many academically awful students are admitted to very prestigious schools because their parents give money for a new building? But I think it takes it to a whole different level when you actually start farming out portions of the actual bread-and-butter delivery of academic services that is the core competency of the school.

    Not to say it can never, ever work, but it just seems as though it's something to be enormously cautious about, particularly when EIGHTY PERCENT of the income from that student is being sent to the third party; if the school is really still supposed to be providing a substantial portion of the services (professor preparing and delivering lectures, spending time with students stimulating learning and thinking, etc, not to mention basic admistrative overhead costs) I can't see how they can possibly be even close to breaking even if they're giving away 80% of the tuition.
  15. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    This can happen in the case of non-profit schools as well. I'm not trying to name names here, but the on company site classes that a major military contractor in North Texas has which are facilitated by a well known Texas B-school are circumspect according to a very, very close friend of mine who has attended one of their courses. The company pays for the course out of departmental budgets, everyone shows up after work once per week for 3 to 4 hours, (largely engineers) so they can work towards their MS in Management or whatever it is, cohort style, with a wink, wink, nod, nod, we have to do this for promotions, etc. and they are of course graded as a group for whatever they do in these courses. Do this for about 18 months or so and WHAM!... you've go yourself a highly respectable masters degree offered by a ranked B-school that you didn't really earn, at least in a traditional, academically rigorous fashion. Sometimes the classes are even taught by an adjunct who works for the company either indirectly or directly. The school's investment? Almost nothing...

    Again it's credentialism at its worst but what can we do right? In the case of the OP I'm not crying fire until I see smoke.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2009
  16. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

    Excellent points broheim. I have a relative who is a teacher. She went for her masters at a non-profit. They worked in groups, and I honestly did not see her put that much effort into it. It sounds like a very similar structure to what you are describing.

    If someone could take advantage of this low cost accredited degree for a credential, I so go for it!

  17. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    Maybe there needs to be an external independent organization that gives the comp exams for programs as opposed to the school itself. It would be similar to the subject GRE for undergraduates, but more complex and more in line with current comp exams. It wouldn't matter if you earned your MBA from Basketweaving State or Harvard as long as you passed your independent comp exams. This might solve the issue where grade inflation plays a role as well as the above example where the B-school in Texas gives out a degree for showing up essentially. If the graduates can't pass this exam, it would look horribly bad on the school that "taught" them. It might better police the schools and force them to stop offering sub-par programs. These independent comp exams could be instituted for any degree, not just business degrees.

    Additionally, it might help level the playing field. Based on current rankings, I think most people would hire a graduate from Harvard rather than someone from Basketweaving State. What if the Harvard grad finished at the bottom of their class and the Basketweaver was a superstar? That might change some decisions but currently, there really isn't a way to figure that out.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2009
  18. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    I see the logic, but technically isn't the whole point of accreditation to ensure quality if nothing else?

    Also I don't think we will ever see comp exams that would level the playing field among top ranked B-schools and Basketweaving State, there's just too much money and power in play.
  19. bazonkers

    bazonkers New Member

    True, maybe it wouldn't totally level the playing field because there are many intangible benefits to attending the top programs. It would, however, assure employers that both students received a proper education in whatever course of study they completed.

    As for accreditation, one would think that would be the case but it doesn't appear to be so. I haven't heard of one fairly well known school that has ever lost it's accreditation for grade inflation, etc. I think there definitely was (maybe is) a quality issue with the University of Phoenix for example, yet they continue to keep their accreditation. Maybe the accrediting agencies need to be tougher?

    Certain graduate programs require undergraduates to take the subject GRE in Psych, Physics, etc. in order to better judge how qualified they are for graduate study. These undergrad students come from accredited schools, yet many graduate programs still require an independent exam to measure their knowledge.
  20. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    The problem I see from an employer perspective in hiring graduates, certified or not, regardless of where they went to school, is that there are so many variables that come into play in the workplace that are impossible to detect or discover until someone is actually working for you. Of course there are plenty of paper tigers out there who look like rock stars on paper only to show up and barely be able to spell their name on a report.

    Then again you occasionally have someone within the organization who is kicking tail and taking names with little or no formalized education that you know of.

    I don’t think standardized testing will necessarily mitigate that or show us the differents between the rock stars and the rocks. Unfortunately we’ve seen this play out in IT certifications especially towards 2000 where MCSEs were popping out of the woodwork without a lick of experience or skill thanks to boot camp style providers. Where there’s money, there’ll be a way…

    At best I see just another loophole for them to jump through, which sure as Bob's your uncle, they will.

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