A controversy brewing at the University of Illinois is an example of how the growing popularity of online degree courses is stirring up schools where professors aren’t comfortable about giving up their traditional style of classroom teaching.
The University of Illinois is a public school – clearly not a for-profit organization like Phoenix or Capella Universities. Nonetheless, the possibility of significant profits is driving a proposal to create a major online school involving several different branches of U of I, which could ultimately have more students than the current “brick and mortar” university.
University of Illinois President Joseph White’s plan for an online “Global Campus” has run into a firestorm of opposition from professors and administrators at his school. As a result, his plan has modified so that it now gives the schools current faculty more control.
This is big business. The university’s plan to offer online bachelor’s degrees for a total of about $20,000 (a price that actually includes a computer for the student) is expected to draw about 9,000 students a year a decade from now. Eventually, it’s expected to top 70,000 students per year.
Changing over to this centralized online system poses problems for the schools within University of Illinois system, because they each have their own individual online programs which earn revenue. But the combination of growing demand for online courses and the efficiencies they can offer for schools make it likely that U of I and other universities will gradually move toward massive, centralized “online campuses” in the next few years.
Professors complain that many of the online courses will be taught by part-time or “adjunct” teachers. The truth, however, is that classes at most large schools are already taught by adjuncts. With more and more students finding they can get degrees from well known schools at a lower cost online, it seems likely that more state universities will jump into the competition against each other to be national leaders in e-learning.