Privatization of online higher education is on the rise. For-profit online education corporations like Academic Partnerships, Kaplan, Wiley, Pearson, and Blackboard contract with public and private nonprofit institutions to provide digital platforms for educational content, recruit students, manage enrollment, facilitate the development of course materials, and more. While the use of digital platforms and online teaching tools can enrich education, elements of the contracts that institutions make with for-profit online education corporations can present problems in areas of interest to faculty, particularly academic freedom and shared governance.
To find out more about how online education is operating at different institutions, the AAUP launched an informal privatization survey this fall.
So far more than four hundred respondents have spoken up about online education contracts at their institutions, and this is what they have to say:
- Shared governance takes a backseat. 57 percent disagreed with the statement “faculty exercised oversight of the education components of the contract.”
- Quality is not a focus. 66 percent disagreed with the statement “educational quality has improved as a result of the contract.”
- Reputation may be at risk. 74 percent disagreed with the statement “the reputation of our institution will be improved because of the contract.”
The emerging themes are clear. Shared governance is not playing a robust role in the development of online education contracts, and as a result quality and reputation may not meet the highest standards. There is a solution: faculty can develop their own proposals for these contracts and demand a seat at the table.
Political Organizer, AAUP
P.S. Join us on Wednesday, October 24, at 1pm ET for a live discussion with David Hughes of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT chapter to hear about the chapter’s anti-privatization efforts and get tips for your own chapter campaign (RSVP here).