Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Has a line been crossed? Yes!

An online tutoring company, Smarthinking.com recently announced it's offering a new service called Straighterline. Per their website, Straighterline offers "high quality, better supported, and lower cost required college courses - online, on your schedule."

As I understand it, what they have done is bundled their online tutor access with a reputable text book publisher and course management software so students can study independently for required courses and earn college credit.

Has Straighterline crossed the line or has it pushed back a boundary?

I think it is too early to tell. But I'm optimistic about it.

All students should get high quality education. But when it comes to required courses...(I'm thinking back to my Finite math course in college, or my Micro Economics course for my MBA.). Did those classes really need to be with a group in a physical classroom at a set hour? Did I need to pay thousands of extra dollars for these credits?

My intuition and my personal experience say, "No".

Of course this would be taking a bite out of the pie of traditional providers of these courses..the private/public colleges and universities. I think what gives these schools the heebie jeebies is that private tutoring is supposed to be a complement to public school education, not a replacement for it. What Straigherline is trying to do is move the boundary back a few feet on traditional public and private colleges. And for that, I'm sure they will get a lot of push back.

But if colleges and universities are going to look for people to blame...they should be pointing to themselves. The price of tuition, fees, room and board have risen over 35% in the last 5 years. It is the lucky few who do not need to worry about how they are going to pay for a tertiary education.

Of course, the out of pocket expense of higher education is not the only cost. There is also the "opportunity cost" or the income you forego by choosing to study instead of work. These are tough decisions one must make and many times life makes those decisions for you.

Flexibility is also a major perk. I started my MBA in the part-time program because my employer paid for a number of classes per semester, but boy...what I wouldn't have given for more flexibility on when and how I could have attended class...even if just for the required classes. In the end, after calculating how many years it would take to finish my degree and how little of a life I was able to have between school and work, I decided to leave my job and I eventually ended up finished my degree full-time and of course back then...off-line.

In my opinion, Straighterline is filling a need and, if executed well, I think they are on to something.

Do you think Straighterline has crossed the line... for better or for worse?

1 comment:

Jace said...

You write very well.