Magazine article University Business

Higher Education's Economic Innovation: The Promise and Potential of Online Education

Magazine article University Business

Higher Education's Economic Innovation: The Promise and Potential of Online Education

Article excerpt

INNOVATION IS NOT A TERM typically used within higher education circles. Rich in tradition and history, American higher education has been sometimes labeled a bureaucratic, traditionally mired venture that does not change with the times. But this generalization is, in so many ways, incorrect. We have one of the most innovative and complex postsecondary systems in the world, with breadth and depth in our educational delivery. From the Ivy Leagues to our sprawling research-one public institutions, and from our rich historical church-affiliated private institutions to our world-renowned community college systems, America knows higher education.

Higher ed has always been vital in underpinning our economic growth through innovation. Our system led research and development during the Cold War, keeping America a step ahead of its enemies. We embraced the education of hundreds of thousands of returning GIs from World War II, curbing an economic labor crisis in the 1950s.

During the civil rights movement, our institutions led the charge to make college affordable and accessible to all, creating a bridge for uplifting the economic position of millions of Americans. In the 1970s, the burgeoning community college system led the charge to tackle the monumental training needs of our workforce and to retrain dislocated workers from primarily manufacturing sectors to rising service and technology-based sectors, making America's workforce one of the most productive in the world.


A conversation must ensue as to higher educations role in leading America through this current economic crisis and into the 21st century. Across many campuses, one of the most innovative, yet sometimes controversial initiatives in recent years has been the embrace and development of online programs. Avoiding the philosophical debate between online educational delivery and traditional on-campus programs, worth considering is the philosophy of the creation of online learning and its relevance in economic growth.

American success has always had its underpinning in thinking beyond what is for what could be. Over the last 10 to 15 years, online learning has grown out of the specific needs of our citizens. Today, this growth continues in response to America's changing economic and social climate. …

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