Magazine article Academe

Colloquy on Distance Education Held

Magazine article Academe

Colloquy on Distance Education Held

Article excerpt

One of the most striking trends in higher education in recent years has been the proliferation of online distance education enterprises, both as independent entities and as arms of otherwise traditional colleges and universities. Many institutions have seen distance education not only as a tool for reaching students, but also as a potential source of income. To explore its profitability, the Chronicle of Higher Education organized an online discussion in February around the question, Is anyone making money on distance education? In a background piece prepared for the discussion, Chronicle reporter Sarah Carr noted that many institutions are not in fact seeing the positive cash flow they had anticipated, and that some distance education leaders predict a slowdown in the field.

The Chronicle's guest respondent for the online discussion was A. Frank Mayadas, the director of the Sloan Foundation's Asynchronous Learning Network, a program that supports asynchronous distance education, primarily through grants. In asynchronous distance education, students can complete assignments at any time within a framework of deadlines; in synchronous distance education, students and the instructor "meet" at specified times in, for example, a live online chat session. (The Sloan Foundation provided funding for a round-- table on accreditation of distance education programs hosted by the AAUP last fall.)

Mayadas replied to questions and comments sent in by Chronicle readers. Many of the questions centered on the cost of providing quality online education. One participant noted that for more than a century universities have used various media to offer courses to students separated from their professors by distance. Why, she asked, do institutions suddenly expect that doing so will be profitable now that distance education has moved to the Web? …

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