Why the Internet Isn’t Going to End College As We Know It

July 18, 2012 at 1:26 am 5 comments

What an interesting argument in this piece from the Atlantic. As we mentioned previously, Internet technologies cut into older markets if they impact the revenue stream. So far, MOOCs are not impacting the revenue stream. This article goes further to point out that even the for-profits aren’t generating the quality to be much of an impact on traditional universities. Maybe quality doesn’t matter all that much in higher education (as discussed previously), but it does matter if the sense of quality (or lack thereof) impacts success in the job marketplace. If the for-profit’s can’t compete with the non-profits in terms of getting jobs, and they can’t touch the non-profits revenue streams, then there really isn’t much threat from for-profits or MOOCs.

New innovations don’t disrupt old industries by merely competing with them. They do it by cutting into their source of revenue. The music industry ignored the Internet, tried to sue it out of existence, and then let Apple effectively monopolize digital music sales, which gave Steve Jobs the power to set prices at 99 cents a song. Journalism saw its ad dollars whittled away by the profusion of online media outlets and Craigslist.

As George Washington University’s David Karpf has noted, if the Internet is to conquer higher education, it needs to hit colleges in the pocket book. And so far, there’s no sign of that happening.

The simple truth is that nobody has figured out how to build a cheap, high-quality online university. Not even close. So far, the biggest investments in Internet education have come from the for-profit sector, and their results have been, to put it lightly, lacking. For-profit graduates have worse job prospects and earn less than their peers who attend nonprofit schools. A new study released this week suggests that many for-profit diplomas are literally worthless in the marketplace. This even holds true when you control for student characteristics like wealth. And so perhaps not surprisingly, their alums are responsible a disproportionate fraction of student loan defaults.

via Why the Internet Isn’t Going to End College As We Know It – Atlantic Mobile.

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Georgia Tech will partner with Coursera Can We Fix Computer Science Education in America? | Techland | TIME.com

5 Comments Add your own

  • 2. Deepak Kumar  |  July 18, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I can’t understand how people, after so many similar advances, still get hung up on how some new thing is going to replace an old existing thing. Most of the time what happens is the ‘space’ gets expanded. Like, in the case of MOOCS, they are expaning the space of a learning medium. They are not headed to replace the university. They are creating a new space for sem-formal learning….

  • 3. Cecily  |  July 18, 2012 at 10:32 am

    To the extent that the Internet and online courses are just new media, I don’t think the university needs to be too concerned about being replaced– books, TV, radio, movies, etc. have not caused the university to disappear. I think the bigger fear is that the Internet has the potential to eventually challenge the funding model of education, breaking the geographical and political monopolies that dictate current funding streams(similar to the way that the Internet challenged the funding model of music, by making it possible and profitable to sell smaller chunks because you could decouple from the physical constraints of media–the size and cost of a CD or tape). For this to happen education evaluation will probably need to be decoupled from education delivery, and a “right” number of evaluation options would need to exist– too many, and people will not be able to keep track of which ones are and are not quality, too few, and the same political problems that pervade the current system are like to exist. Such a change could be good or bad, depending on how it is executed, but it really is not a technology problem, so much as it is a political problem at this point.

    A lot of this too depends on how much employers buy into the product that is being produced. University of Phoenix runs quite a few classes to help educators get a license or a Masters degree. They charge roughly double what the community college does, but they provide excellent customer service, and the state office of education is perfectly willing to accept credit from them for a license. Because the professional licensing division(state office of education) will accept their credit, and because they are willing to work on a more flexible schedule(take any class you want, start it within 3 weeks max of expressing interest, and be done in three weeks after starting), they have managed to make quite a bit of money in that sector. Most of the people doing their license this way though have already been hired into relatively undesirable positions though– positions with a lot of different preps or positions in less desirable schools. To the extent that is true, the people coming from traditional non-profit ed programs are more likely to be hired into the desirable positions in the desirable schools, so you could argue that those degrees are still more valuable from a job quality perspective.

  • 4. Dennis J Frailey  |  July 18, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Having been part of a highly successful internet based graduate education program, my reaction is that the author of the Atlantic article did not do his or her homework.

  • 5. Erin  |  July 20, 2012 at 5:39 am

    A MOOC is a substitute for a textbook, not a university degree. It is the textbook publishing industry (and their revenue stream) that is in the crosshairs, not universities.


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