Slate recently ran a piece about the phenomenon of major textbook publishers offering online courses to colleges and universities to resell to their students:
As these online course products have improved, more and more schools have plugged them into their curricula. The result is a creeping homogenization of basic classes throughout many U.S. universities. That’s raising some uncomfortable questions, starting with: Why should I pick one school over another if they offer the exact same classes? And: Why are universities buying ready-made frozen meals instead of cooking up their own educational fare?
For the schools, adopting these online courses is part of a complicated trade-off. Colleges and universities are under pressure to roll out more online offerings, for a number of reasons. In some states, such as Florida, legislatures are leaning on public universities to expand online classes to produce more grads at a lower cost. At many community colleges, the classrooms are spilling over, and expanding online becomes a way to meet soaring demand. Finally, some schools just fear being left behind as more material migrates online. [Emphasis added.]
The article suggests that, for the most part, students like these offerings. As indicated in the emphasized text, this puts even more pressure on mid-range institutions to demonstrate their value to students. Interestinger and interestinger.
The full Slate piece is here.