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On-Line "For Profit" Universities: A Quixotic Mix or The Wave of the Future?

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I am an On-Line Professor.

I have taught for two different major On-Line Universities. One was a secular university, the other an explicitly religious institution, namely an Evangelical Protestant On-Line University.

Both University systems submitted high academic-sounding credentials, both have excellent curricula, yet both are "for-profit" institutions, complete with shareholders, a C.E.O. (yes, who ever heard of a "CEO" of a university!), and both seek to maximize profit at all costs.

So, are On-Line Universities the "wave of the future"?

To answer this question, well, "Yes!" In a recent conversation with Human Resources of a major regional university system in Florida, the Human Resources staff shared that whereas traditional classes are "plateauing" in their enrollment, the on-line versions of the same classes are quickly expanding in their enrollments. But this is a non-profit institution of higher learning, supported by state tax payer dollars and as good of a degree as any from a state school in America.

But what of "for profit" universities? Can a "for-profit" institution maintain its quality, its academic integrity, and its mission as an institution of higher learning?

Here, the answer is less direct.

Concerning quality of curricula, I have found (somewhat surprisingly and joyfully), that the level of academic content is outstanding. Anyone who knocks an On-Line University has not actually looked at the level of intentionality, academic credentials, and overall quality of the core block of instruction. Courses in critical thinking, cultural diversity, world religions, finance, etc. are common within such core curricula. Moreover, the level of pedagogy is similarly outstanding.

But what about the profit-motive and how this effects Faculty courseload, time interacting with students and at times, the quality of the Faculty? (present company excluded! :-).

Here the level of quality diminishes, however, as the profit motive ends up pushing faculty work load ever higher thereby either over-loading the faculty or causing the faculty to treat his or her teaching in much the same way as an attorney treats his or her clients, namely through instituting the "billable hour" (granted a billable hour at best only $20/hour which is miniscule compared to attorneys).

As the work load of on-line for-profit Faculty increases, and time interacting with students decreases, the academic integrity of such institutions is in fact compromised. As a Faculty member, does one work for minimum wage (literally $5.15/hour) or does one severely limit classroom interaction, feedback on papers, etc? Here is the crux of the dilemna, the Scylla and Charybdis if you will. Profit or perish says the university. Work at McDonald's wages or work at a decent "livable" wage says the Faculty.

For those of you who may be products of such on-line universities (profit or non-profit), or for those of you who may be teaching at such institutions, I would LOVE to hear your feedback. After all, the University of Phoenix, the grandfather of such On-Line Education is a for-profit force to be reckoned with, and perhaps the largest university in America.

Blessings ABUNDANT, Rob J King--RobJKing 01:59, 22 April 2007 (UTC)

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