Higher-education institutions may be skittish about the uncertainties associated with innovative uses of information technology to build learning communities. But a growing collection of external providers -- mainly proprietary, for-profit institutions -- are embracing them. A brief review of these external providers can yield several insights for higher education, allowing them to size up the competition, suggesting some concrete models of technology-based reforms worth borrowing, and even offering opportunities for collaboration as well as strategies for competition. Because the literature on these new providers is scant, we limit ourselves to discussing just a few examples.1
The proprietary training sector covers a wide range of schools and providers. Some grant degrees; others offer only short courses and____________________
|•||How many of these online external providers are offering contract training?|
|•||How many are now shifting over to offering "serious" higher-education courses?|
|•||How are growing demands for "knowledge workers" affecting the demand for these providers?|
|•||What will new business practices that rely on them look like (presumably decentralized, networked, transformed by information technology itself)?|
An understanding of external providers would give higher education a better foundation for thinking about how to train knowledge workers and, therefore, how to compete (or partner) with new providers that are already training them.