Fifth week at EduMOOC was a week for reviewing the business process and their social implications relating to various business models of ODL systems - Public, Private & Open - Online Learning. I found the following two blogs written by Sir John Daniel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth of Learning (http://www.col.org/BLOG) very much relevant to the fifth week’s EduMOOC topic.
- eLearning and for-profit provision of higher education
- Observing Private-Private and Public-Private Partnerships in Higher Education
In the first blog Sir John Daniel discusses three important findings in a report by Tony Bates titled “2011 Outlook for Online Learning and Distance Education”. This includes (1) 21% expansion of enrolment in fully online (distance) courses in the USA between 2009 and 2010 compared to a 2% expansion in campus-based enrolments,(2) the fact that despite this growth institutional goals for eLearning are unambitious (3) in the USA the for-profit sector has a much higher proportion of the total online market (32%) compared to its share of the overall higher education market (7%). He also refers to some interesting information available in Whitney's recent newsletter including an article by Howard Horton on the Online Imperative in Higher Education.In the second blog Sir John Daniel discusses the for-profit and public-private partnership systems in higher education.
Various reports say that, in the case of e-learning based ODL, for-profit institutions are far ahead of public /not-for-profits institutions. Majority of world’s (public) universities are yet to explore the possibilities of e-learning based ODL in its full ambit. For-profit/private institutions have recognized the magical economics of e-learning, that is, to be cost effective to the institution as well as the learners while making profit! To be time efficient to the institution even while offering flexible time schedule for the learners!
As we have discussed many times before, further expansion of conventional face2face setups to meet the ever increasing demand for higher education is almost impossible in most parts of the world. Therefore Open Distance Learning (ODL) is the only workable solution. In the case of ODL also deviation from conventional methods are inevitable now. No more we can think about printing and mailing study materials for learners from all over the world - yes it is the era of transnational education. Hence it is seen that ‘e-Learning ready ODL’ is the ideal solution. Now we have yet another crucial factor to be considered along with the economics of e-learning - the global climate change factor. The influence of climate change factor on the e-learning economics is mainly because it can reduce travel and stationary requirements (including the use of paper) for studies - hence it reduce environment pollution.
Now coming to the Open Online Education, if your motive is just learning/facilitate learning and you do not need credential services of Universities, rich repositories of open course materials are available in www - you will get it in all forms - text, audio, video and live streaming. The free course materials of more than 13,000 courses in twenty languages published by around 250 universities and associated organizations in the OpenCourseWare Consortium is an ideal example in this respect.
Another noteworthy initiative in Open Online Education is the OER university (OERu) project which aims to build a consortium of Universities to provide Open Distance Learning courses using Open Educational Resources, credential services from member universities and online faculty support from' volunteers international'.
However my personal opinion is that policy makers and governments should come forward to ensure recognized study and flawless credential system for e-learning based Open Distance Learning. The basic platform we require for this is a Transnational Qualifications Framework. The initiatives like European Qualifications Framework (EQF) and the Transnational Qualification Framework for the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) project of Commonwealth of Learning etc give us great expectations. Such efforts should be converged to build a truly Transnational Qualifications Framework.
Apart from regular e-learning based ODL courses, public universities can also think about customized courses for industrial houses. Nowaday, most industrial houses recruit employees through campus selection process. Bright undergraduate students are being selected during their final stages of the degree programme. For their continued lifelong learning needs Universities can offer customized e-learning based ODL courses in cooperation with the industries concerned. This is an area, comparatively unexplored by the public universities, that can bring in financial sustainability to a greater extent. Moreover this is the ideal way for universities to effectively support the development process in any country.