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Distance Education Sells Out

New York Times University?

What do Ball State University, Thomas Edison State College, Rosemont College and City University of New York have in common (besides being inferior to Penn State)? These four schools are teaming up with the New York Times to offer distance learning courses for credit which will award certificates to students for completion of this course. The certificate will bear the seal of both The New York Times and the university offering the course.

Roughly two years ago, The New York Times decided to enter the distance education market in order to increase their revenue by cashing in on their name. Felice Nudelman, the director of education for the Times, thinks that a certificate bearing the name of the educational institution and the Times will “absolutely” make a résumé look more impressive. Nudelman also said that the content of the Times will probably “have as much depth and breadth as a good liberal arts curriculum.” It must be noted that professors from the partnering institutions will be teaching the courses. The Times will advertise the programs online and in print, as well as supplying the professors and the students with resources incorporated in its New York Times Knowledge Network.

Penn State, on the other hand, actually has a good liberal arts curriculum. Even though we may not be partnered with the Times or any other outside institution, we still have a fantastic distance-ed program that many people choose. The World Campus and Career Services are partnered together to develop a series of online, self-guided career workshops which are available at no cost to students with active Penn State Access Accounts. Graduates from the Penn State World Campus are working for such companies as JPMorgan Chase, Boeing, and AT&T.

The big question remains of whether distance learning programs like Penn State’s will suffer because of this. I feel that it is highly unlikely. It would take a lot more than just a name of a company on a certificate to actually attract newer students to a program which may be otherwise inferior. There is no way that having the name of a company on your certificate guarantees you a job with the company. The degree is not a training course, it’s just a marketing tool to help push their name and a cheap shot to increase revenue by cashing in on their name.  Students would hopefully choose  a program based on its merits, not its sponsorships.

Does this mean that other distance education courses will start being sponsored by companies like Walmart, USA Today, and Google? If so, which one (if any) should sponsor Penn State? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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