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With all the talk about the unbundling of higher education, some recent developments have me wondering whether some of the newer developments we’re seeing are actually reinforcing the existing hierarchy in this market to the benefit of elite schools. . .  and at the expense of everyone else.   

About a year ago, I mentioned a great 1981 article titled “The Dismantling of Higher Education,” by William K.S. Wang (Improving College and University Teaching, Volume 29, Number 2, Spring 1981, pages 55-69).  In the article, Wang discussed five primary services performed by traditional universities – imparting information, counseling, credentialing, coercion, and club membership – and how they were (and are still, for the most part) performed by traditional universities. . . and how they might be replaced.  Here is a brief synopsis of Wang’s idea:




This article – which was written over three decades ago – anticipated some of what we’re beginning to see as we apply technology to the higher education market. We now have a more developed for-profit sector, MOOCs, education apps, a growing market for certificates, a rethinking of how credit is awarded, etc. 

But a recent article points out how – so far – the MOOC movement favors the elite schools.  And it made me want to reiterate ten questions we posed this fall about the rise of MOOCs, to see what you think now.  The questions are:

1.     Will licensing of MOOCs created by highly-respected schools “crowd out” faculty from the licensee schools?

2.     How might licensee schools feel about their new role as “facilitators”?

3.     Will licensing MOOCs increase access?  Might organizations licensing the content decide to focus on fee-paying schools and create two tiers of content – paid and free?

4.     If all schools have access to all of the same MOOCs, how will schools differentiate themselves in the marketplace to attract students?

5.     If different universities license the same course materials, but have different grading standards, how will we compare outcomes across universities?

6.     Might the difference between schools come from the quality of facilitation/support offered by licensee school faculty, rather than the MOOC faculty, since that will become widely available, and perhaps commoditized?

7.     If more schools use the license model, could we eventually end up with a handful of “top” schools producing the content and a small number of large schools offering the degrees? 

8.     Will Coursera-type companies become the publishers in the new higher education market?

9.     Who decides what content/teachers are “best”?  Will it become true that courses from Coursera partners will be viewed as “superior” to courses from other schools because they are frequently licensed?

10.   Will license deals like this drive a wedge into the higher education market, essentially enhancing the star power of the best-known universities and leaving the schools with less-developed brands weaker?



What do you think?  Has your perspective changed over the past few months?

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