From The Chronicle (October 13) comes an interesting piece on BlackBoard’s move to start offering pre-designed courses in the online higher education market.

With this, they join other companies that have begun selling not only technology and services, but actual academic content – once thought to be fully sacred and beyond commercialization (save the textbook industry).

Inside Higher Ed produced a follow-up report on this initiative. In this article, the line is again drawn between sacred academic work and the commercial world. Philip Regier, Dean of Arizona State University’s online programs, is quoted as saying: “Some things, we would never turn over to the private sector . . . ” We might find it interesting to revisit that quote in the coming years.

Yet . . . new business models for academic content are desperately needed, of course. Online course content is typically poorly funded and often created by Instructors with limited time, skills, or interest in the process. (This isn’t what they were hired to do.) Much of content can and should be produced by specialists (graphics, programming, subject-matter, etc) and then shared (or sold). This will raise quality and drive down costs for students, schools and tax-payers.

Let’s hope that we make these decisions based on the student’s and taxpayer’s best interests rather than the desire to protect traditional roles and responsibilities (territory?).

From The Chronicle

By Jeff Young

Anaheim, Calif.—Blackboard announced today that it is teaming up with a for-profit education provider, K12 Inc., to sell online courses to colleges that want to outsource their remedial offerings.The companies say their plan will offer a new way for students who lack basic skills to get caught up. Blackboard would sell online courses that are designed and taught by employees of K12. The courses would be delivered on the Blackboard course-management system. It is the first time that the company has sold full courses, rather than just software to deliver them.

Read the full story here.

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