The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education's new animated video, which raises serious concerns about the claims and promises being made by the online education industry, has generated thousands of views on YouTube and reinvigorated conversation about the quality of online higher education programs.
The video, "Online Education: Teaching Millions or Making Millions?" is part of a national grassroots campaign to inform families, educators, higher education leaders, and policymakers about the very serious concerns of faculty members and educational staff who are on the front lines of higher education.
Upon the video's release, which coincided with the CFHE's 7th National Gathering in Albany, New York in May, the organization challenged Coursera Co-Founder Daphne Koller, EdX President Anant Agarwal and Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun to watch the video and participate in a public debate on the issues it raises.
Faculty and staff members have developed and implemented quality online learning tools for many years and we appreciate the value of these tools, but the gold rush to integrate online education products into higher education curricula without sufficient analysis of what works for students and what doesn't is very troubling to say the least.
The rush to use these tools is driven not by the needs of students, but by the needs of investors in companies looking for profits.
The CFHE video depicts the findings in our reports -- online education is a billion-dollar business motivated more by profits than quality education for students. The facts about online higher education must be exposed so that higher education institutions can make good choices about course offerings and so that families and students can ensure they are on the right path for a successful future.
The three reports by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE) that are the basis for the new video highlight strong evidence that widely publicized claims about the effectiveness of the online education industry's products do not hold up.
The papers focus on how these products affect access for students to a higher education; the actual costs generated to students as well as to a university or college; and the profits involved that appear to affect how the tools are used and evaluated.
The "Millions" video argues that the "promises" of online education companies are not new: the promise that online learning will dramatically expand access to higher education is the very same promise Americans were made prior to the housing crisis. Americans were told that lower income buyers could gain middle class "access" to home ownership through "products" that were ultimately catastrophic for the buyers, while profitable for certain sellers. The results of the failure to look behind the rhetoric were disastrous for the nation and for the lives of ordinary people.