ONLINE EDUCATION IS THE FUTURE, OR: ANOTHER REASON THE FUTURE WILL SUCK

Over time I have come to believe that there are only two facts that are inviolate in the context of discussing social, political, or economic issues. First, the preface "Now, I'm not a racist, but…" invariably indicates that an individual is about to say something staggeringly racist. Second, when free market enthusiasts attempt to sell an idea with the promise that it will "democratize" something – bringing broader access to a previously exclusive good, service, or market – two things are about to happen. A small group of people are going to get obscenely wealthy, and they are likely to do so as a direct result of a much larger and less exclusive group of people getting bent over and unceremoniously screwed. I'm tempted to paraphrase Hermann Goring's quote about culture ("When I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning") but in reality I do nothing so aggressive when the siren song of democratization is sounded. Instead I try to figure out who is about to be ground up in the wheels of techno-libertarian "progress." In the case of the shining promise of online (ahem, "non-traditional") classes democratizing higher education, the mill grist happens to be me, people like me, and the students we teach.

When I first read DIY U, with its "Are you shitting me? Jesus, you're serious, aren't you?" subtitle Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, I knew nothing of author Anya Kamenetz but I was willing to put my life savings on her being affiliated with either Cato or Fast Company. Sure enough she turned out to be a Fast Company Imagineer or whatever they call their practitioners of this brand of sycophantic free market leg humping:

The promise of free or marginal-cost open-source content, techno-hybridization, unbundling of educational functions, and learner-centered educational experiences and paths is too powerful to ignore.

That is an actual quote. Is it not self-evident that once we are all learning from "open-source content" (like Wikipedia!) the educational experience will be improved? This kind of bluster is par for the course for the magazine that spent the nineties promising us that the unregulated market would bring us to economic nirvana. Life was going to be one long technogasm laden with "innovation" and unfettered prosperity for all; we would all be wealthy once The Internets let every Tom, Dick, and Harry buy mutual funds. But I digress.

Being at the bottom of the academic hierarchy offers me unfair perspective on the changes that are sweeping higher education, and the reader will of course note that I bring some bitterness to the conversation given that most of these democratizations involve me getting paid $1000 per course for 16 weeks of work without benefits or any commitment beyond semester-to-semester temp labor. Would that this transition in academia from stable, albeit not particularly highly paid, tenured employment to the just-in-time Labor Ready model that is replacing real faculty with adjuncts/part timers be forced upon us without the patronizing mantra about how this is all for the good of the students.

Online courses are, for lack of a better term, shit. No one who has taken or taught one can claim in earnest to have learned more than they do in traditional courses. Few could honestly claim that they learned anything at all. When the author of DIY U describes a model of students "cobbling" together a self-guided degree consisting of "course materials readily available online," I cannot convince myself that the Yale-educated author believes that even as she is paid handsomely to type it. Perhaps 1/10 of a percent of undergraduates are mature and motivated enough to effectively direct their own course of study. What Kamenetz describes feels more like replacing the 12-course tasting menu at El Bulli with a trip to Old Country Buffet and calling it a wash. The idea that anything meeting her description would qualify as an education is prima facie ridiculous and requires no further discussion.

The real benefit, though, is that it will let more people go to college because everything will be cheaper. The adjuncting wave of the early 1990s was supposed to make education cheaper. It didn't. Now online courses are supposed to be making education cheaper (price being conflated with accessibility in this line of argument). Despite spreading like wildfire in the last decade – from dedicated online schools like University of Phoenix to the best (and worst) brick-and-mortar schools – the price of higher education only increases. So who benefits from replacing tenured faculty with adjuncts if not the students? If students aren't getting cheaper or better education from online courses, why are colleges so eager to establish them?

The answer, as anyone on this side of the looking glass knows, is that it's cheaper – for the university. Adjuncts are cheap, desperate temp labor who don't complain. Online courses have essentially no overhead and are taught in the vast majority of cases by – you guessed it – adjuncts or graduate students who, if they finish the long trek toward a Ph.D., can look forward to taking a paycut to hop on the adjunct treadmill. These changes are not in the interest of students. Nobody sincerely believes that. They do not make education cheaper or better because that is not their intent. The goal is simply to make education more profitable. Universities like that. State legislatures (when the schools in question are public) like it even more.

Online education or the kind of choose-your-own-adventure college experience described in this book has a place. This role has been filled historically by community colleges, the primary clientele of which has always been adults who need work-related training. If, as a result of creeping credentialism, some low-level county government bureaucrat or State Trooper needs a 3-credit course in such-and-such to qualify for the next step up on the pay scale, then online classes are clearly a good option. They make sense because no one cares what is or is not learned in this instance. Passing the course is merely a means to a very specific end in the career path.

Over time, though, universities noted the profit margins inherent to this kind of business model. What was good for community colleges could be good for Big Ten U. or Private East Coast College. Like adjuncting, online courses have become a pandemic, especially at poorly funded, lower tier public institutions (Eastern State U., etc). Online courses are moneymakers, and thus of great interest to institutions that are chronically short on money. The proliferation of "Online MBA programs" you see on billboards and TV commercials represents nothing more than financially strapped and savvy institutions reacting logically by combining a highly profitable program in which no real learning takes place anyway – unless one counts Jack Welch books and management platitudes as learning, which I do not – with the lowest-cost delivery method. If anything colleges do can be described as profit-maximizing, this is it.

These changes are coming, and higher education in a decade or two will probably look quite similar to what Kamenetz and her supporters envision. I have neither doubts nor illusions about this. But I insist that we call it what it is. It is a lot of highfalutin language being thrown around by administrators to justify cutting costs – and not the costs to students. It is the replacement of tenured faculty with a permanent Ph.D.-holding underclass barely cracking the poverty line and undeserving of pesky expenses like benefits or offices. It is a way for state legislatures to continually slash higher education funding while rationalizing it as a good, or at least value-neutral, deed. It is a way to make changes that promise short term rewards to a group of decision-makers who will be long gone before the true costs – cohort after cohort of "college graduates" with even fewer useful skills and less useful knowledge than the already substandard ones churned out today – become painfully clear. It is a way, like everything else the think-tank conservatives and market acolytes sell to the public as a means of reducing costs or democratizing something, to make it more profitable. Not better, not cheaper, and not more accessible. Only a mind that conflates "better" and "more profitable" can continue to promise the former with a straight face.

(Read about the spread of adjuncting, including a copious literature review and arguments for and against, in this paper, appropriately entitled "Does Cheaper Mean Better?").

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57 Responses to “ONLINE EDUCATION IS THE FUTURE, OR: ANOTHER REASON THE FUTURE WILL SUCK”

  1. ZenPoseur Says:

    I don't object to your assertion that students don't learn anything in online classes. I do object to the implied premise: that students learn anything in a traditional classroom setting.

    College always struck me as less an education, and more a sorting engine — a certification process. At its best, academic learning — while real — is poorly retained and occurs at a pace that's positively glacial. At its worst, the sorting engine is just arbitrary, and academic achievement is divorced from anything resembling real talent or (God forbid) an actual working knowledge of the subject.

    On the other hand, I'm sure your classes are very nice.

  2. waldo Says:

    Scrap teachers, deregulate everything and elect Sarah Palin/Rand Paul. Oh, and guns for everyone. Libertarian paradise!

    As for $1000 per course for 16 weeks work, well, you should have listened to your mother and been a carny barker/evangelist.

  3. Z Says:

    On the day I graduate from law school (whee!), I can honestly say I'm terrified for my future children, because I've been convinced for some time that this is exactly the trend. I couldn't believe how ignorant and vapid were many of the people I graduated college with were (at a good school, at that). What was my degree worth if they'll give it to anyone who can pay?

    Answer: nothing (hence the whole law school endeavor). Future college graduates will find that their Bachelor's degree is worth even less than mine was, and that their only options are graduate school (in a VERY limited number of fields) or a lifetime of laboring for free in "internships" with the mechanical bunny of permanent employment held out eternally in front of them.

    If I had a child graduating high school tomorrow, I would advise them to start on the internships right away and maybe go to community college part time. Which is more useful, four years of internships or a college degree that costs you $100,000? It's a no-brainer.

  4. Zeric Freeman Says:

    Often online education has been criticized as being shallow or surface level by traditional academia yet there is another school of thought which implies online education is a direct reflection of what the economy necessitates. Meaning could it be technology has simplified labor to such an extent which has negated the need to fulfill a 4 year college degree. According to statistics the quality of education is declining yet we manage to support an economical system which has almost doubled in comparison to the population when America was considered to teach quality education. What this alludes to is the corporate machine which is the underpinnings of our economy has invested a lot of time and money to incorporate more and more technology to be more efficient. What I mean by efficient is using the least amount of resources as possible to get the best results; this can equate to hiring the least amount of staff members to produce a sought out goal. In the past corporate america place more of an emphasis on hiring staff which had a more quality education because the work in the economy required it; it was crucial to be a walking encyclopedia. In todays day in age technology has created more efficient means of processing data, and more efficient means of marketing services, and more efficient means of processing sales which has devalued the need to be highly educated regarding your position. Lets look at a couple of position where we can see examples of this; Social workers. In the past social workers were required to be adorned with a number of certifications along with a bachelors degree in order to qualify to be a social worker however things are different now. Today, if you have a G.E.D. and a car you qualify to be a social worker. Teachers are widely employed under emergency teacher certification which required less than 2 years worth of college however in the past this was unheard of. Nurses in the past had to undergo 2 years of college before they could think about touching a patient now a days you can acquire a enough education to lead you to active work in less than 8 months. The available jobs in the economy do not require staff members to be highly educated to execute the job description subsequently more and more universities are adapting to this and actuating curriculum which only emphasize shallow information. Is it the online universities fault because they have recognized businesses in the economy follow a trend of employing less educated staff members. With this said I agree with the author of the article the education online is not quality education but who experiences more of an injustice the student A who received the least amount of education for a lower price or student B who received the best education the country has to offer but pays more for the education than student B receives. The injustice occurs when student A lands the same jobs which student B lands which is the trend in our economy.

  5. va Says:

    Today, if you have a G.E.D. and a car you qualify to be a social worker.

    Zeric Freeman is either an ignorant fuck, or the University of Phoenix now strategically deploys spam bots. Eh…sounds more like a spam bot.

  6. kathequa Says:

    Just got my BA and on my way to graduate school. Most of my online classes were crap. The online classes that were actually worth a damn, I wish that I had taken the professor in a classroom setting, as I knew that I would have gotten much more out of them. Unfortunately, time was a factor and online classes were convenient, but since I paid for school myself, I often felt completely gypped. And not to sound TOO old, but there is such a disconnect with youth today as it is, I wonder how online degrees will affect the incredible lack of social skills that is already developing.

    First, the preface "Now, I'm not a racist, but…" invariably indicates that an individual is about to say something staggeringly racist. Second, when free market enthusiasts attempt to sell an idea with the promise that it will "democratize" something – bringing broader access to a previously exclusive good, service, or market – two things are about to happen. A small group of people are going to get obscenely wealthy, and they are likely to do so as a direct result of a much larger and less exclusive group of people getting bent over and unceremoniously screwed.

    Ed – I couldn't have said it better!

  7. Nancy Irving Says:

    Pray God, Zeric is not a native speaker of English.

    If he is, we are REALLY f*cked.

  8. displaced Capitalist Says:

    Regardless of whether young people go to college or take online courses, there an axiom I heard once about business school which should apply to all schools:

    "If you are paying for your own education then you are doing it wrong."

  9. Elder Futhark Says:

    Pish and tosh! Get out of the way of the golden-future-profitization-model, old fuck! And all hail hydrized-hyphenization-speak!

    We at FNA Industries are currently perfecting first person shooter and MMPORG versions of higher education. It is not enough that you not learn anything in a chaotic and unstructured manner, you should also become addicted to it!

    Beta versions of World of Learncraft sport Level-14 Doctors of Philosophy panting workplace versions. World of Workcraft v 3.0 here we come!

    When You Think of Your Future, Think FNA!

  10. Elder Futhark Says:

    Oh, fuck it. Yes, please, do. We meant to say: "panting for".

    Did we also mention that it is addicting AND fun?!

    IT'S ALSO FUN!

  11. glf Says:

    Years ago I got my B.S. degree via traditional classroom settings and I'm currently taking a year-long online program in order to get certification in a totally different career field. So far, I don't think there is a big difference. The only thing I feel that is missing is the ability to have an immediate conversation with the instructor; although communication via email is good in its own way because I can put more consideration into what I'm asking than if I were to blurt it out in class. The bonus, of course, is that it's self-paced as long as I complete the program within a year. I suppose I will find out once I'm employed in my newly chosen career field whether or not my online education was lacking. But then again, the major requirement that potential employers are looking for whenever I've searched the want ads is the certification, so once I take the certification test (given by two different major organizations & not the school) I will know if I had wasted my time, effort, and money on the program.

  12. anotherbozo Says:

    As a recovering academic who never himself got tenure, and who unwittingly contributed to the stampede toward adjuncts (in the 80s I got adjuncts to teach for $600 per course in NYC, saving my dean much moolah), I should be too abashed to comment. But not only am I glad I got out when I did (with a much better source of income, and what is not?), I continue to feel outrage at our gallop toward mediocrity. Online courses! Another means!

    With the quiet reflection that doesn't necessarily come with age, I've become more and more certain that critical education takes place person-to-person, and the caliber of the person on the giving end is of absolute importance. So much is communicated that is extra-verbal, even in the how-to-think department. Attitudes. Openness. Curiosity. It's a cliché but it's true that factual mastery is not what education is all about. And personal interaction with some excellent minds, in classes and one-on-one when I could ambush them, is what I deem the backbone of my own education. Fortunately none of them–this is back in the dim sixties–were adjuncts.

    I could rant at length, but the last time I tried to post here I failed. Let's see if this works.

  13. ladiesbane Says:

    Online classes look great to me. It's not that I didn't purely adore having my exceedingly overpriced undergrad classes disrupted by illiterate legacies who couldn't keep up (who could blame them, after spending all night chugging booze and screaming up and down the halls?), but my future was mortgaged once. Twice would be too expensive.

    Prospective students should think about why they are going to school. For general knowledge, buy a book. For earning power, get an HVAC certificate. To charm future employers, complete any course of study to prove that you can finish assignments (and, possibly, negotiate grades.) But if you want to sit at the feet of a great mind who can impart distilled knowledge, try to be born rich or win the lottery. It doesn't pay for itself.

  14. Evan Says:

    AFAIK, the tasting menu at El Bulli is on the order of 30+ courses. HAVEN'T YOU BEEN YET‽‽‽‽

  15. anotherbozo Says:

    @ladiesbane: Some of the minds were pretty great at Berkeley in the 60s, with zero tuition and student fees about $120 per year. Those days are gone, but state systems shouldn't be overlooked; some of them are quite fine. Good reasons for Johnny to keep up his high school GPA: life is competitive.

  16. Kristyn Says:

    At my university, online classes are actually more expensive than regular classes. For my fall semester I am taking one class online with a $102 "distance education fee". So although it costs less in overhead and they can cram more people into the course, they still charge more. Cheaper for students?

  17. Zeb Says:

    As a current undergrad interested in someday entering academia, I am terrified by this shift.

    However, I suspect that the transition won't be a complete one. There will always be a demand for good, old-fashioned education, albeit a much smaller demand than that for mere certification. I suspect that the education system will bifurcate, with most current universities becoming technical/job training colleges, and a handful remaining in the old model.

    Maybe the system that had come up was simply unsustainable.

  18. Crazy for Urban Planning Says:

    Good comments and good post.

    I have struggled for about a year and a half to find a job in Urban Planning after graduating with a MA in Planning. The online "blackboard" portions of my classes were a huge waste of time.

    I have decided that Z is right on with his/her comment: the fact is a degree doesn't buy you anything. If you have an 18 year old with some concept of what they want out of life – tell them to volunteer and figure out how to do the job, otherwise you have to convince potential employers you are worthy of a position despite the fact that a learning curve does exist in the first few months. Someone told me a good piece of advice last week. "Getting a degree is like buying a fishing license – it gives you an opportunity to cast a line, but you still need to reel in the big fish."

  19. Zeb Says:

    Also, it seems that there's another trap waiting for adjuncts. In order to get tenure (or have a shot at it) at any big research university, you have to write and research. In order to do that, you need time. Adjuncts spend all their time teaching, which while noble, counts for very little at most research universities, from what I hear.

  20. party with tina Says:

    It seems to me that if we actually want to educate every human being as far as college, college will have to go to shit, the same way that public schools did. Every person on the planet does not have equal ability in the academic arena, school itself is perhaps not right for everyone. So we should decide whether we want a society that only educates those whom are qualified to learn, or a society that would rather educate all of it's people to the same extent. Or perhaps if we begin to recognize the differences in people we could specialize schools more appropriately. It is quite clear, however, that quality cannot be maintained while trying to mass manufacture a one size fits all system for the masses.

  21. Ray Says:

    I think you're shortchanging Old Country Buffet in your allusion to the diner's experience. Learning from "open source content" sounds more like going to the Food Pantry, where you can make a gourmet meal out of whatever they have on the shelf this week.

  22. party with tina Says:

    Or hanging out in a library.

  23. Nunya Says:

    Party with Tina,

    Your sentiments align perfectly with every authoritarian class in history. I assume you include yourself as one of those who is deserving of an education while those unwashed masses should accept their lot in life and get busy serving their betters.

    America has a lot of flaws but one of its earliest commitments was to educate its children, in spite of sometimes grinding poverty. This, above all other things, is what allowed America to survive and thrive. To relegate any of your fellow citizens to illiteracy it to betray your nation. Shame on you.

  24. party with tina Says:

    I'm not saying we should stop teaching people the three R's. We should, however, stop forcing people to go to schools when they are not prepared or interested, just so that our population gets more merit points for having MOAR HIER EDUCASHUN.

    The only service schools are giving to adults now is a shitload of debt, and no marketable skills. We expand higher education and now you can become a specialized sociologist, as if that of any real use. Many of the most demanding jobs merit wise are being filled by immigrants, contrastingly, that is not doing our populace any favor. I'm talking about engineering and such, I had a French tutor, while I was younger, a man from paris with a masters in mathematics, who was working as a civil engineer for the city where I lived building new on and off ramps for carpooling, and specifically buses (good project :D).

  25. party with tina Says:

    He moved here because the job market in Europe is, and has been, a little bit worse than in the U.S., and filled a job no American could be found to do.

  26. beau Says:

    @tina – That French guy had the opportunity to move to the USA, and teach you, because he had a fucking excellent, quite possibly state funded, European-style education. I'm sure there were, are, and will be quite a few Americans teaching English in France.

    I hesitate to point this, or anything at all, out to someone who CANNOT SEE THE VALUE OF THE STUDY OF SOCIETY. I fear it may be a wasted effort.

    "So we should decide whether we want a society that only educates those whom are qualified to learn, or a society that would rather educate all of it's people to the same extent."

    Now, just for the sake of argument, lets read that as a legimate area of concern. Its not, but lets go with it. You know who might be able to help us with that? You know, the study of society, its trends and structures, and the practical application of that study to guide the further development of said society?

    Is it –

    a) You?
    b) Tea Bagger Vance (the mythical, possibly-not-actually-there, solitary black Bagger)
    or
    c)Sociologists?

    Take your time. We'll wait.

  27. Zeb Says:

    I think tina takes it to an extreme, but I see nothing wrong with dividing up education based on goals. Some people only want to go to college for certification or job training, while others want to go for more rounded, traditional courses of study. There's nothing inherently better in either of these, they're just different goals.

    Forcing people who only want to get a degree in, say, business management to take classes on Shakespeare dilutes the experience for those of us who would rather study Shakespeare. Likewise, forcing an English major to take a business class unnecessarily taxes the resources of business professors and cheapens the experience for those students.

    I'm in favor of limited general education requirements, because it's important for society to have people who can write coherent sentences, understand basic government, know basic math/history, etc. But perhaps, for certain, more job-oriented degrees, those requirements should be fewer.

  28. goddinpotty Says:

    Most colleges are little better than way overpriced day care centers, a way to string adolescence out for another four years. And day care workers get paid shit. This is not the fault of the teachers, and it's not even the fault of the "students", it's the fault of the creeping credentialism that you allude to. Most students are in college not to learn anything but because that's what you do to have a life that's above the lumpenproletariat level. But paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to allow these young people four years of uninterrupted drinking and fucking is no long viable. The same thing could be accomplished much more cheaply.

    This doesn't help the real issue you are raising, which is the surplus of people who actually are interested in intellectual activity and feel they ought to get paid for it, relative to demand. That sucks, but since when does the world owe you or anyone else a living?

    I suggest we shift the economy over to 20-hour work weeks, so everyone can spend half their time doing whatever pays the bills and the other half in pursuit of whatever mad dreams they want, which would include pursuing political science or philosophy or whatever, or detailing Camaros for that matter.

  29. party with tina Says:

    Beau, I wasn't arguing that doing research studies on the public are useless, I was saying sociology degrees are because they leave the holder with a lot of debt, and little or no job prospects, while anyone with a math degree, for example, could come up with an intriguing study, and would have no trouble understanding the body of work related to the subject.
    and
    The tutor was working on the side in order to keep his native tongue fresh in his mind. He was actually a masters in mathematics working as a civil engineer. A job an that no qualified Americans were taking.

    My whole point is that, I feel as if we as a society (Left-wingers and right-wingers) have a goal of expanding exposure to higher education, and we are doing it at the cost of quality. I don't think blaming Capitalism is entirely appropriate.

  30. party with tina Says:

    Oh, and Beau, I believe the college systems in europe are quite a bit more competitive.

  31. Peggy Says:

    Nunya, as a high school teacher who's busy counseling my seniors about what to do next year, I have to say that (party with) tina's right: college is not for everyone. Seriously. I have kids who are great with hands-on work and would make kick-ass mechanics, plumbers, chefs, what-have-you, and are interested in these things and driven to do them… who would almost certainly fail out of college. I have an ongoing argument with one of the coaches about whether or not Athlete should pass his classes–here's a hint: athlete can't really read or write, has failed the state's 9th-grade exams SIX TIMES, and Coach's argument is "if he can just get into college, he can make something of himself." Uh, if "something" is "a guy who's in a shitload of debt and failed out of college," then yeah. Yeah he can.

    I was brought up in a highly competitive environment where everyone planned to go to college. I thought that was the best plan for everyone involved. Having gone to college and seen kids who were only there because their parents insisted that they go, and now teaching high school and seeing kids who are GREAT kids with lots of talents that are NOT measurable in an academic setting–kids with dyslexia or other learning disabilities that are great at lots of things, but can't write, for example. Forcing them to go to college will do nothing but put them in debt and make them wage slaves. This applies to kids at all ends of the economic spectrum.

    Accusing party with tina of being an authoritarian who hates the poor because she suggested that college isn't for everyone is insane, and makes it pretty clear to me that you have no idea what you're talking about. College ISN'T for everyone, just like my success as an English major doesn't mean I could've just as well been a math major. Conflating public education (reading, writing, arithmatic) with college education (differential calculus, 18th-century poetry, macroeconomics) is also pretty ridiculous. College being completely free wouldn't make me any more successful at finite math, just like it wouldn't make a kid with severe dyslexia or a low IQ any more likely to succeed at astrophysics.

  32. Nunya Says:

    Peggy,

    You're right… not everyone needs to go to college… and they don't. Six out of ten Americans never set foot on a University campus. My argument isn't that everyone needs to pursue a university education but to argue the simple truth that rich kids get into and graduate college… almost invariably whereas smart kids from low income areas seldom attend and even more rarely graduate from college.

    The two tier educational system we have in this country is appalling. As a nation, we refuse to have equal funding for all public schools and leave a horribly underserved inner city and rural core of kids that will be pretty much exactly the same as their parents are; poor and ignorant.

    Apprenticeships are going to start coming back in a huge way but we'll see the middle class kids taking them over because they're starting to realize that the way to a stable future rests not in corporate america or academia but with concrete, difficult to obtain skills.

    It's a shame that higher education has been turned into job training instead of a time of mind expansion and learning for learning's sake. The rise of selfishness and ignorance to social responsibility has a lot to do with this, in my opinion.

  33. Nunya Says:

    And Tina, it's pretty obvious you slept with your French tutor. Way to go.

  34. beau Says:

    Market fundamentalism has turned every institution (without exception) into a factory farm – maximum profit, minimum expenditure.

    Just replace the disease riddled, drug addicted, faeces splattered (and soaked to the industry standard 11% of net weight – yum!), 42 day-old genetic frankenstein we refer to as "chicken" with illiterate, ignorant, I-spent-three-years-quoting-Tom-Friedman-at-my-lecturer-now-gimme-my-degree "graduates", and you have the tertiary education model.

    Hopefully Zeb is right, and certification and education can coexist. But those MegaAgriCorps didn't just shrink traditional farming, they have effectively killed it.

  35. party with tina Says:

    somebody should go ahead and google party with tina…

  36. Zeb Says:

    I think the analogy with family farming–a shift which drove my own grandfather out of business–is probably too much of a stress. Market forces function much more sharply (and peculiarly) in agriculture.

    I suspect that there will always be a subset of people drawn to traditional education, by which I mean the medieval leftovers we still enjoy. Learn your Quadrivium, expand your mind, go into academia and keep doing intellectual work. Yet this will always be a fairly small group of people as it always has been; (un?)fortunately, most students simply aren't interested in this type of education.

    Almost every student I've met outside of a handful of majors, like philosophy, attends university to get a job. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, but I have to imagine that it holds fairly constant.

    That said, it benefits society to support those students who ARE interested in pursuing X degree for its inherent worth. The benefits may not always manifest themselves clearly or readily, but they're there.

  37. Nunya Says:

    Party with Tina = Taking Crystal Meth

    Wow, I did not know that. Hey, if you want to come over and regrout my kitchen counters I'll buy you a twelve pack of Mountain Dew.

  38. beau Says:

    @Zeb – Aw, c'mon. That analogy was apt. APT! I was trying to get at the 'race to the bottom' thing.*

    I'm so with you on your last paragraph, I almost don't want to disagree with anything else you said. But I will, 'cause your model doesn't allow for the ambient, osmotic learning that changes the lives of so many (just to avoid confusion, not my life. I arrived at university a commy faggot heretic).

    *On a side point, I believe market forces were pretty stable (albeit cyclical) in agriculture pre-1920/30s factory farming revolution, though I may be mistaken. I also believe that market forces are getting pretty fuckin pointy for ed and his colleagues at the moment. Again, perhaps I am misreading that.

  39. beau Says:

    Oh, nunya. Someone owes you a drink for that effort.

    SOOPOIB.

  40. beau Says:

    That's "superb" with a gangster accent, by the way. Not some new, viral acronym.

  41. Steve Says:

    Oh, nunya. Someone owes you a drink for that effort.

    SOOPOIB.

  42. James Says:

    Here's another link:

    http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/19/study-finds-that-online-education-beats-the-classroom/

  43. Wiley Coyote Says:

    On-line education is a reflection of credentialism and continuing education requirements. Carping about profit-motives is lame, based on some suspicion that profit is bad. The profit model can be attached to University of Phoenix, and its kin, but not to University of . And Phoenix, et al., are only taking advantage of the credentialism explosion.
    It amuses the Hell out of me that the government will guarantee loans for buying a house, going to school, and, in a way, having children, but it is hard to pull a dime out of the teeth of the feds for a small-business loan, a micro-loan. A lot of these students would be better off investing in a small business than going to school.

  44. anon Says:

    thanks for the great post.
    i almost did some online "facilitation" for Art Institute (AI) a couple years ago – didn't even make it thru the training, it was so mind-numbing and gross. another friend of mine whent thru with it. for him it turned into a game of developing an endless library of "good job!" and "that's very interesting, can you tell me more?" that he could easily copy&paste into the online forums, depending on his mood.

    i realized that at ITT Tech (where I used to work until they realized i was temporary – and a teacher) they're working towards that same facilitation model – but in the classroom! they're more interested in (and can somehow get accredited by having) someone proctor a 2-hour ITT-prepared powerpoint "lecture" followed by a 2-hour "do the tutorials out of the book and if you have question i'll see if i can help" session. all for around $1700 per course.
    yuck!

  45. Master of the Obvious Says:

    Right, online education sucks. It's shit. Like this online discussion sucks. Like this blog is shit. Like having this discussion face to face would be SO much better. Clearly no one is learning anything by reading or participating in this thread. Clearly the only people participating in it are those few folks sitting in the room next to you right now. Clearly.

    Is it not possible you are both right? That online courses and other innovations Kramanentz describes have a role for increasing access and decreasing costs, but that the *business* of higher ed is also terribly broken, including the move to cut costs on the backs of adjuncts. And is it anyone else's fault if you didn't see the pyramid scheme you were buying into by getting the PhD in the first place? Just because it is an education machine, doesn't make it any less of a machine.

  46. Townsend Harris Says:

    For those public institutions new to massive budget cuts, keep an eye on *the* institution with decades of deep experience with massive budget cuts: watch my beloved CUNY. With all due sarcasm and cynicism, we're now public higher education's bellwether.

    And here's how we're going to lead the flock: big budget cuts to the institution, more students stuffed into more classrooms, freezes on replacing tenure lines, and further 'adjunctification' of classroom teachers. And that's just CUNY warming up, because here's how we'll really *show* the way to you third-rate public pikers in other states: tuition hikes that go right into the public treasury to reduce taxes on the wealthy and build more prisons. Yup, that's right, more students at CUNY brings more money into the public treasury as we disinvest in higher education. The idea is simple: why invest now in our young and risk making money off them later as taxpayers? Why not make the money, for sure, right now, this semester? This is government competing efficiently in the marketplace for higher education.

    More students are more than good for the public treasury, they're great for it. New York's political leaders still draw inspiration from the late Tammany Hall politician who advocated "honest graft". George Washington Plunkitt said "I seen my opportunities and I took 'em."

  47. Diana Says:

    I attend a SLAC and over the summer am taking two courses on Umass online, and so far I am really impressed. Yes, I would rather had taken in person, but over the summer have to live in two different places (divorced parents), so online is the only choice I have. I don't see why anyone here thinks there is so much different between online and in person. The first course I have finsihed already (it was talk by a guy who also taught the class live at times, who was great). They videotaped his lecture, we used the same book as the live course, students could send in questions, so someone please explain the difference between the live and online. The second course I have just started, but it seems good too. This guy is on the internet with us all the time, responding to questions.

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  49. Driving Lights Says:

    well, online education is good too but it should be more concentrated on specialized courses '`-

  50. Candy Paint Says:

    somehow i am not verym much convinced about online education, i still prefer old school .:*

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