Do historically black colleges and universities need to get serious about online education?
Perhaps, says the latest report from the Digital Learning Lab at Howard University. An increasing number of historically black institutions are wading into the online medium — often with the help of for-profit developers. Still, the vast majority of HBCUs do not offer online programs.
Perhaps all of the back-and-forth about StraighterLine — the news stories, the blog posts, the assorted incidents of backlash, the endless tug-of-war over who awards credit for what — might be boiled down to two essential questions: Are StraighterLine’s courses truly more or less equivalent to the courses that many college students are already taking? And, more broadly, at what point does any educational experience — specifically, in StraighterLine’s case, an introductory-level general education class — become worthy of college credit?
Historically, universities such as Columbia, Oxford, Yale, Princeton and Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have defined their value by exclusivity as much as by excellence. The institutions positioned themselves as purveyors of an important public good — a corps of graduates fit to run a nation — but the classrooms and curriculums that ostensibly transform talented high-schoolers into cardholding members of the adult elite have been walled off from the general public.