Corporate Deals in Online Education

Udacity has concluded a deal with Georgia Institute of Technology for an online master’s program. “Georgia Tech this month announced its plans to offer a $6,630 online master’s degree to 10,000 new students over the next three years without hiring much more than a handful of new instructors,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

The details of this deal reveal the extensive and rapidly growing influence of for-profit corporations in higher education, especially in online education and MOOCs.

Udacity and Georgia Tech both aim to generate enormous profits through their partnership. Inside Higher Ed reports that “Georgia Tech will receive 60 percent of the revenue and Udacity the rest. The money to Georgia Tech will flow through its research corporation.”

In order to generate profits, Georgia Tech intends to coopt its faculty and transform them into income generators. “Professors and the computing college both stand to gain from the effort,” Inside Higher Ed reports. “A professor will receive $20,000 for creating a course and $10,000 for delivering the content — meaning most professors will receive $30,000 per course. Professors will receive a royalty of $2,500 each time the course is offered again.”

There will be sweeping changes in educational labor with this contract. Udacity and Georgia Tech will create “two classes of educators” to work with the new master’s program. Inside Higher Ed indicates that “on Udacity’s side are company staff who will be helping students with ‘non-academic and academic tasks,’ according to the contract. On Georgia Tech’s side is a new category of personnel who will help instructors manage the massive classes but, unlike teaching assistants in traditional courses, these employees are unlikely to be graduate students.”

So, corporate workers and non-academic university staff will be managing courses, including some “academic tasks,” apparently including grading and interacting with students.

Forget about all the old worries about “degree mills” or about a consumer model of education creeping into academic life. This move represents an actual corporate takeover of higher education, and at the master’s level.

Inside Higher Ed provides a lengthy report on Udacity’s deal with Georgia Tech.

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This entry was posted in Academic Freedom, Digital Humanities, Globalization, Humanities Education, Information Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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