education's digital future


Some owners of private colleges turn a tidy profit by going nonprofit

After a recent government crackdown on the multibillion-dollar career-training industry, stricter limits on student aid and devastating publicity about students hobbled by debt and useless credentials, some for-profit schools simply shut down.

But a few others have moved to drop out of the for-profit business altogether, in favor of a more traditional approach to running a higher education institution.

And the nonprofit sector, it turns out, can still be quite profitable.

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What's a MOOC worth?

While I hadn't planned on writing about a single theme over at the Degree of Freedom site this week, it turns out that one developed anyway on the subject of what a MOOC is worth.

This began from an analysis of property rights derived from a MOOC class I just completed on Property and Liability in which I tried to see if some of the rules taught in that class (that potentially infinite property rights can apply to a single object, that -- in a perfectly efficient market -- property rights will gravitate to their highest valuing owner, etc.).

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Beware of the high cost of ‘free’ online courses

That the acronym MOOCs rhymes with “nukes” seems apt. Massive open online courses, or MOOCs — led by two profit-making start-ups, Coursera and Udacity, founded by entrepreneurial Stanford professors — are a new disruptive force in education. Leading universities have scrambled to join or offer alternatives like edX, a collaboration of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and others.

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Colleges assess cost of free online-only courses

VIRGINIA M. ROMETTY, the chief executive of I.B.M., recently urged her employees to take 40 hours of continuing education this year. The company would not reimburse tuition, but would pay for expenses, like textbooks.

The offer inspired Todd Watson, an I.B.M. executive in Austin, Tex., to update his knowledge of corporate finance. But who needs tuition? Instead, he signed up for a free finance class created by the prestigious University of Michigan and offered by a start-up called Coursera. The company promotes massive online open courses — known as MOOCs.

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Why MOOCs may drive up higher ed costs

Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are wonderful things.

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Your massively open offline college is broken

I wrote a thing last fall about massive open online courses (MOOCs, in the parlance), and the challenge that free or cheap online classes pose to business as usual in higher ed. In that piece, I compared the people running colleges today to music industry executives in the age of Napster. (This was not a flattering comparison.) Aaron Bady, a cultural critic and doctoral candidate at Berkeley, objected. I replied to Bady, one thing led to another, the slippery slope was slupped, and Maria Bustillos ended up refereeing the whole thing here on The Awl.

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Free education: learning new lessons

TOP-QUALITY teaching, stringent admissions criteria and impressive qualifications allow the world’s best universities to charge mega-fees: over $50,000 for a year of undergraduate study at Harvard. Less exalted providers have boomed too, with a similar model that sells seminars, lectures, exams and a “salad days” social life in a single bundle. Now online provision is transforming higher education, giving the best universities a chance to widen their catch, opening new opportunities for the agile, and threatening doom for the laggard and mediocre.

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