Mike Offerman raises two important issues in a recent post. First, he notes that some U.S. states discourage their students from taking courses from online, but ‘out of state’ providers. I agree with Mike that this needs to be reconsidered. The policies that inhibit students taking courses from out of state (or other jurisdictions) online providers is clearly not focused on the best interests of the student (to get more education) or even the longer term interests of the state (to have an educated citizenry). It serves, instead, the states’ desire to keep money flowing away from state-supported schools (i.e. “let’s keep the money in the family”). This is understandable, though short-sighted.
Second, Mike points to the trend of larger online providers growing more quickly. The most recent Sloan Report on online learning suggests that we may be seeing the start of a concentration in the market: the larger providers, like U of Phoenix, UMass and UMUC, are growing faster than smaller providers and this different rate of growth will continue. The reasons for the difference is not surprising: volume provides these institutions with economies of scale (allowing sufficient investment; keeping prices down) and a critical mass of intellectual capital (doing it well). All things remaining constant, I see these providers capturing a greater total share of students – but for all the right reasons: they do it well, and efficiently.