The Specialists — from
April 5, 2010

Is the “bundled” model of higher education outdated?

Some higher-ed futurists think so. Choosing the academic program at a single university, they say, is a relic of a time before online education made it possible for a student in Oregon to take courses at a university in Florida if she wants.

Since the online-education boom, the notion that students could cobble together a curriculum that includes courses designed and delivered by a variety of different institutions — including for-profit ones — has gained traction in some circles. “As it has with industries from music to news, the logic of digital technology will compel institutions to specialize and collaborate, find economies of scale and avoid duplications,” journalist Anya Kamenetz wrote last week in an op-ed. “Excellent [course] content,” noted the author and higher-ed innovator Peter Smith in an interview earlier this month, “is increasingly commodified and available (emphasis DSC).” Leaders in the liberal arts community recently nodded at the idea that even small colleges could soon teach from open courseware “modules.”

From DSC:
Even at the predominantly face-to-face college where I work, I know that several students have supplemented their educations and/or fulfilled their educational degree programs with online-based courses from other schools. And many students attend several colleges or universities in their pursuit of a degree. So this idea of piece-mealing a degree via the combination of virtual and physical means is not far-fetched at all.

Also, did you notice the word commodity? Anyone who has followed my announcements through the years (as seen here, here, here, and here) will see that I have warned institutions to take steps to guard themselves from becoming a commodity.

Signing off for now with the reminder…do not underestimate the disruptive impact of technology.