From Massachusetts to California, as many as two dozen state university systems, individual flagship campuses and other public universities are talking publicly (or quietly) about undertaking ambitious online learning initiatives.
Some are focused on enrollment or revenue growth, some on better serving the millions of working adults or other populations of Americans that traditional higher education has historically struggled to reach.
Some aim to join the ranks of regional or even national players like Arizona State, Southern New Hampshire and Western Governors Universities; others strive to retake or hold on to state residents now studying online at institutions elsewhere.
“The time for us to act is now,” Marty Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts, said in announcing the system’s online plan in a speech last month. “It’s predicted that over the next several years four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them.”
Whether they’re thinking big or small, wanting to move fast or slow, in one way or another institutions and states want to move more aggressively into online education than they have heretofore — raising several key questions:
- How many additional institutions can “go big” online, in some cases overcoming cultural, political and other barriers?
The View From the Ground Level
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- Missouri and Louisiana are among the state institutions plotting major online growth.
- Arkansas’ freestanding eVersity has grown slowly since 2015.
- Will these striving institutions largely focus on state residents now studying online elsewhere, or try to expand the pool by reaching adults who aren’t enrolled now at all? To the extent they target the latter, how successfully will they be able to transition to educating students they have historically struggled to attract? And can they price their programs low enough to attract those students?
- Will institutions that want to build significant online presences develop new structures and student bodies from scratch, or will a meaningful number of them try to catapult their way to online prominence by imitating Purdue University’s purchase of Kaplan University? To the extent they choose a middle path — using corporate providers to fuel their growth — will they face significant blowback from politicians, faculty… (continue reading)