Group Challenges Motivations of Online Education Industry

A new video is taking aim at the claims and promises being made by the online education industry.

The video was made by a group of faculty leaders from California, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and other states, who have formed a new initiative, the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (CFHE).

The video, "Online Education: Teaching Millions or Making Millions?", has been the impetus to many conversations about the quality of online education says Susan Meisenhelder, reporting for the Huffington Post.

The release of the video came out at the same time as the CFHE's 7th National Gathering in Albany. where the group was voicing its serious concerns about the offerings of Daphne Koller's Coursera, Anant Agarwal's EdX, and Sebatian Thrun's Udacity, the three largest online sources for higher education. The group's contention is that the online tools are being used to garner profits, not to meet the needs of students.

The CFHE has challenged the leaders of the online programs to watch the video and participate in public debate on the issues discussed in the video, which is a result of three reports by the CFHE. The reports centered on how the products affect access for students to a higher education, the actual costs to students and the universities and colleges involved, and how profits affect how the tools are used and evaluated.

The video compares the promises of the online education organizations to the promises made to Americans prior to the housing crisis. The promise was that lower-income families could get middle class access to home ownership through "products" offered by private sellers, which, obviously, resulted in catastrophe.

The CFHE came into existence to address accessibility to higher education for all sectors of society and to include the voices of faculty, staff, students, and communities in the process, not just administrators, politicians, foundations, and think tanks.

The growing crisis in higher education in the US, according to the CFHE, includes defunding by states; higher costs reducing access for low-income students; requests for accountability and efficiency resulting in lower quality educational experiences; and reforms that are not grounded in research.

The CFHE says that although college and university faculty have initiated reform, students, families, communities, civil rights organizations, unions and allies will be needed to make a difference.

The campaign started at a January 2011 meeting in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"We recognized that all of us were working incredibly hard to cobble together a quality education for our students under crumbling and toxic circumstances," said Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Assn., which represents Cal State University employees. "Because of our isolation we were simply losing the battle. This is about changing that dynamic, tearing down walls among faculty but more importantly bringing together faculty and other groups passionate about higher education."

The video can be viewed on YouTube and at

07 2, 2014
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