KAIT in Jonesboro reports that Arkansas State University has completed its first year of a distance learning program that lets students take master-level classes over the internet.  The courses are designed by faculty, but the large number of students requires “coaches” to do most of the grading and interacting with students on a day to day basis.  ASU administrators say the program has been a success. 

That depends on who you ask.  The program was started by a private company called Higher Education Holdings and has created quite a stir on the campus.  Companies like HEH are able to offer schools huge class sizes (which means more $$).  Some professors think it’s akin to outsourcing a master’s degree.  Others say it will hurt the school in the future because students who graduate from the program will have no physical connection to the campus, and might not make donations to the university’s endowment.  According to an article in Inside Higher Education that appeared a couple of months ago, faculty at ASU were not consulted about the decision to use the compnay.   

If the fight over Higher Ed Holdings at Toledo was an all out brawl, the debate at Arkansas State University has been more of a boxing match — but gloves are still optional. The concerns Toledo faculty expressed are shared by many at Arkansas State, where professors fear they’re being forced to develop cookie-cutter courses that can be used by thousands of students at a time…

“I simply refuse to be part of this HEH scam,” wrote Rowe, who is president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, as well as vice president of the state chapter. “ASU-[Jonesboro] has decided on quantity over quality and I will not participate in this ‘pending’ fiasco.”  


The report by KAIT did not consult any faculty members about the program.

UPDATE: An astute reader notes the Jonesboro Sun has the reaction of some faculty members.