Hillary Clinton Calls for ‘Bringing Integrity’ to Online Education

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Hillary Clinton’s higher education plan includes a goal of bringing more integrity to online education as it makes higher education more affordable.

The plan calls on a need to restore integrity to online learning and highlights that there will be zero tolerance for programs that fail to live up to their promises. Online education experts consider Clinton’s take on online education narrow.

Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact plan consists of a comprehensive agenda that highlights that tuition increases are the result of across-the-board reductions in financial student support across the country.

Clinton’s grant program proposal brings in a “stop loss” provision that doesn’t allow states to spend any less than what they’re currently spending on higher education, Forbes’ John Ebersole writes.

Ideas such as getting aid recipients do part-time work, the expansion of Americorps and the reduction of student loan interest rates were also included in her $350 billion agenda. Clinton introduced the concept of risk-sharing in which academic institutions will be required to pay back a federal financial aid percentage should students default on their loans.

Last year at an Academic Partnership’s sponsored conference, Clinton said that there’s really no substitute for classroom learning and that technology should be considered a tool rather than a teacher.

Critics argue that her view on online education is based on misconceptions of the sector as a market “dominated by for-profit diploma mills looking to take advantage of unwitting students,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“As someone who has worked in distance education since the late ’80s, I did not realize that I worked in a field devoid of integrity,” Russell Poulin, the director of policy and analysis for WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) said. “If they are not equating online learning with for-profit colleges, then I’m at a loss as to why they would want to throw a whole industry under the bus.”

According to a 2015 WCET analysis, online education is flourishing. While the online higher education sector is expanding, enrollment at for-profit colleges is plummeting. In 2013, 2.6 million college students were in distance education while 1.28 million were enrolled at a public college or university.

As both Inside Higher Ed and The Daily Caller agree, Clinton’s argument that online higher education needs more integrity implies that there’s none to begin with.

George Siemens, a Learning Innovation and Networked Knowledge Research Lab researcher, agreed with Clinton’s plan to make higher education more affordable, but said that her zero tolerance policy should apply to conventional on-campus education and not just virtual:

“Anyone with even passing familiarity with distance [and] online learning literature would realize that quality and rigor have long been an important aspect of learning design and delivery,” Siemens said. “A bigger challenge involves tackling what passes for ‘quality’ in many physical university classrooms.”