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31 January 2013

Online Courses "at" a Liberal Arts College

Everyone seems to be talking about the promises of online higher education. Here is the problem that I think most in the world of traditional brick-and-mortar higher education are slow to realize regarding online courses: MOOC's will win, and the rest of us will lose. Given the choice to take a course online from Mitch Duneier at Princeton or from Brad Koch at Georgia College, students will invariably (and correctly) elect for the former. The Georgia Colleges of the world will always lose to the Princetons of the world--if we try to play the same game, that is. Liberal arts colleges offer a very distinctive product to students. It is a residential experience on a small(er) campus with few(er) students and direct, intimate contact with their professors. The difference between MOOC's and liberal arts colleges is like the difference between televangelism and an old-timey tent revival; the message is essentially the same, but the experiences are worlds apart.

When institutions like Georgia College uncritically float along with the shifting tides of higher ed, they misallocate resources and dilute their brand. We cannot--and should not--compete with MOOC's. We should instead own the value of our unique identity and fill our niche.

Orgtheory has a nice series of posts related to this topic (here, here, and here).

UPDATE (2/6/2013): A interesting related article here.

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