Delivering Education: Online Providers Versus Universities

  • Allene Duenes

e-Learning for Adults: Who Has the Goods? Delivering Education: Online Providers Versus Universities

Who is delivering effective learning to the burgeoning e-learning marketplace for working adults, using the new technologies? There are four primary groups competing to provide e-learning: Traditional universities now adding online curricula. The online MBA for global executives at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business is a good example. New e-learning platform technology providers who also offer content as part of their service. See, for example, DigitalThink's catalogue of courses. Educational departments of corporations who train their large global workforces to reach short-term revenue objectives, as represented by Cisco System's e-learning courseware demos. Newly emerging for-profit online universities, such as Walden University. 

As mentioned earlier, the difference between training and education has been blurred by the convergence of corporate and university interests in using the Internet to facilitate learning. Businesses have always been interested in application, seeing education as a means to deliver their service or product, not as an end in itself. But there is such businesses like  the company that proposes useful services for students - on the site of the company there are a lot of essays examples that have a lot of different types like case study essay examples, critical  essay samples etc.... Yet with the advent of new technologies and the so-called knowledge economy, knowledge itself is becoming a differential advantage for business. While continuing their emphasis on skills, businesses also want employees to build shared knowledge about their work that can be transferred elsewhere in the company as best practices. 

Meanwhile, colleges and universities are losing income to online education delivery firms, which bring skills and knowledge to the workplace—and to the working adult—in a way that lets employees gain education without leaving the job or disrupting their lives. Conditions change so quickly that colleges and universities are hard pressed to keep up with the changing knowledge. However, leading-edge universities such as Duke are responding by reshaping their executive education departments to better focus on the evolving needs of corporations. Although Duke is radical in creating a for-profit subsidiary (Duke Corporate Education), it points the way to how a university can address corporate educational needs. According to recent Corporate University Xchange research, corporate universities have on average a $15 million budget, 90 full-time employees, and 4,000 students (Corporate University Xchange, 2000). They also train thousands of adults across the globe to meet immediate short-term business objectives.

 Corporations are therefore driving the growth of e-learning delivery. They plan to double their rate of spending on e-learning providers in the next two years while holding traditional university spending constant. Providing the money and the need is what funds the development of adult e-learning, but short-term profit emphasis can lead to narrow learning solutions that are not broadly applicable, do not yield portable skills, and do not develop knowledge that benefits the employer and the overall economy in the long run. e-Learning technology suppliers have cost-effective, learner-friendly, customized asynchronous solutions that are globally scaleable. However, many also lack understanding of adult learning methodology and produce courses that dull the user's experience instead of expanding it. The technology is there, but it is often put to poor use, such that the experience does not interest the learner or solve the business problem being addressed. e-Learning instructional design is still in its rudimentary stages. Traditional universities have a well-developed sense of effective adult learning. 

They have quality content based on freedom of expression and rigorous research. Although they are beginning to catch up, to date they have been slow to embrace new technologies and add e-learning to the mix, and corporations often still find them too theoretical and their curricula too standardized to be customizable to corporate short-term needs and the busy schedules of working adults. New for-profit online universities, such as Walden University and Unext's Cardean University, offer an approach that focuses on working adults and employers as customers, integrates the benefits of technological delivery, and claims an understanding of adult education theory. 

They offer an integrated solution that holds promise as the comprehensive answer to delivering value to working adults, employers, and the overall economy. Although it is still too early to tell how this integrated model will work, the University of Phoenix Online, currently the largest online education provider, already has more than 20,000 registered students and is growing rapidly. The broader question of how online learning is best blended with synchronous and face-to-face learning is still being worked out in the marketplace and is a few years away from being answered conclusively.