Getting past the ‘false dichotomy’ in online learning

Education Dive

by Hallie Busta

Marni Baker Stein, chief academic officer at Western Governors University, discusses a “tension” she sees between traditional and new models of postsecondary education.

News earlier this year that Western Governors University would not have to pay back $713 million in Title IV funds was seen as a vote of confidence for alternative instructional models in higher education.

While a 2017 audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General found the nonprofit online college’s competency-based education (CBE) model didn’t square with current rules for online learning, a subsequent review by its Federal Student Aid office cited new guidanceand “a reasonable and good faith effort” by the college to abide by it as a reason to drop the penalty. The OIG signed off on the move.

But that such a massive fine was handed down at all was an indicator of philosophical differences within higher ed on what the future of postsecondary instruction should be, particularly where online learning is concerned.

The industry is working out those differences now in a negotiated rulemaking session, though some observers fear they won’t reach consensus. In the meantime, colleges and universities are continuing to… (continue reading)