Parry, M. (2009) Online Programs: Profits Are There, Technological Innovation Is Not Chronicle of Higher Education, October 19

A news report of a study by the consulting firm Eduventures, “Benchmarking Online Operations: Snapshots of an Emerging Industry,” (not yet available as of November 28, 2009, except to Eduventures members).

From the Chronicle’s news report

Online education has grown in popularity, yet it remains dependent on learning-management systems, with content-delivery built around text, says Richard Garrett, an Eduventures managing director.

“The underlying delivery model or pedagogical model hasn’t really changed much in the last five, 10 years,” Mr. Garrett says.

The study found that nearly all programs were either profitable or breaking even. Overall, 65 percent reported that their online programs were profitable. For for-profits, 100 percent were profitable; for nonprofits, 62 percent were. (With nonprofit colleges, “profit” is used in the sense of a surplus, with revenues being larger than expenses. Universities have various systems for handling the surplus.)

The Eduventures survey found that the widely used tools are e-mail, text discussions that don’t happen in real time, physical textbooks, and word and PDF documents.

That contrasts with what you find on the programs of distance-learning conferences, where the talk is often about Web 2.0 technology that allows students to interact with the content or the provider in tangible ways.


  1. Spot on,
    The real goal for me is to access good teachers whose pupils would benefit from e-learning strategies. It is also about accessing struggling teachers who would benefit from deploying an e-Learning framework as a way to audit their teaching altogether…From Schemes of works onwards…

    The problem is those who use a lot of technology (without having any impact on learning) and who scare the good teachers by pushing e-learning as an add-on to teaching rather than a student focused learning tool to make learning more effective.

    Low use of Web 2.0 is indeed counter productive!


  2. I have been recently engaged with the European project eJump 2.0 that deals with capacity building for teachers in terms of Web 2.0 tools. 3 online courses were designed in order to engage a selected group of teachers from Europe and Asia in a pilot run with different aspects of the use of these tools. My personal experience as one of the course creators and tutors was, among others, the identification of several drawbacks. The mentioned course can be roughly described as an attempt to confront Web 2.0 affordances with the context of a comprehensive e-course design. Here the main problems the way I experienced them:
    a) How to assure effective communication and collaboration in several different Web-spaces?
    b) How to avoid disorientation in scattered environments?
    c) How to justify the replication of functions that are already given in a “closed” and controllable LMS?
    d) How to justify the increased technological variety and the subsequent need of “learning the technology” before “learning what was inteded to be learned”?
    e) How to justify the supposed need for openness in a determined pedagogical context?
    f) How to justify a supposed need for openness widening the audience towards a anonymous mass instead of keeping it within a limited context?


  3. Snip…That contrasts with what you find on the programs of distance-learning conferences, where the talk is often about Web 2.0 technology that allows students to interact with the content or the provider in tangible ways….”

    Of course, most of those distance learning conferences are mounted as f2f events with Yeti sized carbon footprints and very un-Web2.0 no matter how profusely the Twitter stream flows on the big screen monitor.

  4. The Chronicle is navel-gazing again. The understandable but unexamined assumption of this article is that online education only occurs in traditional schools. The lack of imagination of traditional schools is old news evidenced by their continued attempts to move the traditional classroom to online environments. This is just one, narrow, way to look at online education. Web 2.0 learning is growing and credentialing (Western Governor’s?) is evolving.


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