HOW “SOCIAL” IS SOCIAL CLASS
What type of consumer is your hybrid offering designed to attract?
Adult learners tend to be more open to an online experience because it
allows them to balance their professional and personal lives with their
educational pursuits. Traditional students—those aged 18 to 24—tend
to want face-toface, classroom-based learning. Corporations may prefer
a little of both, to allow employees to work and study at the same time.
Segmenting the market by consumer types and needs—adult, tradi-
tional, current, new, credit, non-credit—and designing programs that
fit these segments and needs are important early steps.
The above quote is from an article published in a recentInside Higher Ed.(Greene 2006) It begins with the question “How can colleges best mix on-campus and online delivery of instruction?”—an initial move down a conceptual road that frames higher education firmly within a business management rhetoric. The phrasing is not “education,” but “the delivery of instruction.” The distinction is important. Postsecondary “education” typically suggests dynamic interaction, active give-and-take, open inquiry, contentious questions concerning content and pedagogical method, and informed professionals making decisions at the level of the classroom. These aspects of education are difficult to sell, difficult to make portable, and famously impossible to quantify with validity. In contrast, “instructional delivery” suggests a much more stable, transposable entity—something that can be packaged and delivered for a fee: a commodity. Surrounding the commodity is a constellation of contracted relationships—of prescribed roles, identities, values, and niche packaging—that are characteristic of a market. The political economic rhetoric of the article is built on clear objectives and rationalized operations, on organizational efficiency and measurable outcomes. This rhetoric defines education according to the terms of capitalist economics: it is driven by the imperatives of exchange and competition. Success and failure can be quantified