Executive Summary of the First Paper in the CFHE Series on Online Education and MOOCs

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The “Promises” of Online Higher Education: Profits 

With so much national focus on the “promises” of online higher education to expand access and to reduce costs, one truth about online higher education rarely mentioned is that it is big—Very Big—business.   Understanding and assessing developments in online higher education require that we look at them not just through the lens of industry slogans—“innovation,” “expanded access,” and “reduced costs,” but also through the lens of corporate interest and influence.

This paper examines ways in which investors and corporate leaders have “followed the money” to be made in online higher education–expanding rapidly in areas where profits were robust, moving into virgin territory when new laws or other changes created new possibilities, tweaking their ventures when faced with bad press or regulatory crackdown, and always shaping their sales pitch to make each move appear a boon for students…

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