Higher education is in the process of self-reflection where the form of our universities will be decided based on how we vote and legislate. There are those that call for more government oversite and those that discuss the need to allow for more variability in the market. While quality is important point of discussion so is the need for allowing different kinds of institutions to meet the needs of our growing population.
Consider now how very traditional schools are accepting online education as part of their core offerings in an effort to attract working adults. A demographic shift that has forced them to accept the benefits of virtual classrooms outside of the traditional 18 year old model. They saw the merits of a new way of doing things and incorporated them into their traditional model.
That would not have been possible unless some variability was allowed in the market to create avenue for developing an online educational system. At first stakeholders didn't like the idea but then accepted their ideas. The debate seems to have shifted from online to organizational structure as a method of determine outcomes.
I wonder what happened to outcomes and quality output?
One size does not fit all when it comes to higher education. New products, services and ideas need an avenue to grow and peculate outside of heavily bureaucratic institutions that have multiple layers of approval before something gets tested and used. Our education process should main its ability to be innovative and serve the needs of a changing population.
Think of variability in the market as a living lab. Ideas are tested on the fringes because large institutions don't have a strong enough early stake to try them out on their own. Individuals within those institutions have invented these products but getting university to use them is a different process--alternative places are sought.
Traditional institutions are protected by legislature, tax dollars, culture and public support insulating them from the need for change. New higher education institutions must do things different to survive. They have to differentiate themselves. American education is falling behind our European counterparts and doing more of the same isn't going to get us into a leading position.
Imagine if we legislated out of the system all variability. We might have found ourselves in a place where online education never came to exist on a mass scale, our population might be less competitive because they can't gain access to education that keeps their skills relevant, and as a nation we would stay behind the market.
A certain percentage of variability is beneficial to traditional and non-traditional institutions. It helps them explore new possibilities and how those discoveries can be adapted for the benefit of everyone. Non-traditional institutions have the capacity to change and accept new methods based on their entrepreneurial mindsets and have a place in the market.