Technology growth in the 1990s prompted a surge of online-learning collaborations. The groups prodded member colleges to put classes online, pooled courses into collaborative degrees, and supported online programs with promotions. Some became little more than state- or systemwide online catalogs.
Fast forward to 2009: With budgets strained, every state is looking at how it pays for online learning, which can be a big expense. “As these organizations have evolved over the last decade, how they were set up and funded is becoming more important,” says Rhonda M. Epper, co-executive director of Colorado Community Colleges Online. If a virtual university was paid for with a grant or one-time financing, or relies on a big appropriation, “those are getting looked at more closely and maybe reconsidered,” she says.
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Some virtual universities have found financial footing through entrepreneurial savvy, per-course fees, revenue-sharing deals, and other income sources. Marc Parry, News Analysis: Online Education Grows, but Painfully, The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 22, 20009.
Indeed, as traditional universities seeking entry into online erducation has struggled, a new generation of on line institutions have begun to develop new models, unconstrained by traditional and technologically outdated assumptions about education and its pedagogy. The state appears ready to encourage more online education.
"Online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning, according to a new meta-analysis released Friday by the U.S. Department of Education. The study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took "blended" courses -- those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction -- appeared to do best of all. That finding could be significant as many colleges report that blended instruction is among the fastest-growing types of enrollment." The Evidence on Online Education, Inside Higher Education, June 29, 2009.It can be cost effective, leveraging resources. On line education i likely to assume a greater role in the education of larger segments of the American populaiton int he coming decade. Though it will not replace traditional face to face education, it can serve as a useful methodf for education many otherwise unable to take advantage of traditional education methodologies.
More importantly, on line and technologically driven education, and the production of knowledge useful for education, are increasingly being communicated online. Except perhaps for maintaining hierarchies of academic standing among professors, traditional means of producing and communicating knowledge--the scholarly article, the monograph and similar hard copy forms--are beginning to share space with on line publication. Whether as a supplement to traditional means of communicating knowledge or as a substitute form, on line knowledge production is becoming more and more important.