It can hardly have escaped your attention that there is a new game in town – and that game is blended learning. Both disruptive action man Clayton Christensen and free-course behemoth Coursera have recently swung round to the idea of educational institutions not being broken, merely tired-looking.
The thinking being that the whizzy and exciting private sector can provide content and materials, because learner engagement is all about being presented with shiny things to coo at. And if those shiny things are on a computer, even better.
In other words, Coursera and Christensen have invented ACADEMIC PUBLISHING.
Now publishing was a great way of making money right up until the invention of the internet. These days, even huge and faintly terrifying enterprises like the mighty Pearson are issuing profit warnings, due to the huge and increasing amounts of high quality content available freely online.
Sales are so far down that they have moved into the murky (and now, oh so nostalgic) world of the MOOC. And have begun spouting the kind of disruptive natural event nonsense that Christensen was doing in 2011. (exclusive video footage of celebrity mountain goat Michael Barber describing the issue in measured terms)
Both academic publishing and what I guess I’ll now call “alternative education structures” are predicated on the idea that there is somehow money in delivering higher education. I mean – just look at the money universities can charge students! There must be something in that?
Student fees are rising because public investment in HE is dropping. The canonical example of tuition fee madness is the US, and this article neatly debunks the all-consuming meme.
“Tuition revenues are up substantially due to higher prices and more enrollments, but not enough to offset losses of public funding,”
But such has been the anti-education hype (for example, the always useless Fast Company) that it is generally assumed that Universities are just greedy.
Both universities and the (private sector) supporting industries around them are squeezed because of a deliberate global policy decision to end the conceptualisation of education as a public good.
So – there is no gold. There is no news.
Just a largely defunct industry and a mess of clueless entrepreneurs chasing a non-existent pot of gold.