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Banking on distance education

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Title:
Banking on distance education
Creator:
Davis, Matthew Myers, 1971-
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Language:
English
Physical Description:
vi, 34 leaves : ; 29 cm.

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Subjects / Keywords:
Banking ( jstor )
College students ( jstor )
Corporations ( jstor )
Distance education ( jstor )
Education ( jstor )
Higher education ( jstor )
Learning ( jstor )
Liberal arts education ( jstor )
Universities ( jstor )
University administration ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF ( lcsh )
English thesis, M.A ( lcsh )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaf 33).
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Matthew Myers Davis.

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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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Copyright Matthew Myers Davis. Permission granted to the University of Florida to digitize, archive and distribute this item for non-profit research and educational purposes. Any reuse of this item in excess of fair use or other copyright exemptions requires permission of the copyright holder.
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40833559 ( OCLC )

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BANKING ON


DISTANCE


B


EDUCAT ION


y


MATTHEW MYERS


DAVIS


THESIS


PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE


SCHOOL


OF THE


UNIVERSITY


OF THE


OF


FLORIDA


REQU IREMENTS


IN PARTIAL


FOR


THE


FULFI LLMENT


DEGREE OF


MASTER UNIVERSITY


OF OF


ARTS FLORIDA


A



























Copyright 1998

by

Matthew Myers Davis




























I dedicate this paper to my parents, who always

supported me in seeking the type of education I could be proud of, even when that education threatened to make me completely incompatible with the rough world of modern capitalism.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


I could never have written this paper without the


contributions of several important people.


Dr. Robert Ray


gave me valuable guidance, both in exploring the canonical views of liberal arts education and in taking a rough, jumbled mass of ideas and turning it into a serviceable


thesis.


Dr. Gregory Ulmer provided me with a unique outlook


on computer -assisted education, one I was able to use as a filter for examining the ideological ramifications of the


programs I discuss.


C. Bradley Dilger gave me innumerable


pointers on how and where to find Internet arcana, and allowed me to use him as a sounding board, keeping me from


including ideas that would seem truly foolish.


And my


parents and brother were always willing to proofread and give suggestions whenever deadlines loomed over me.















TABLE OF CONTENTS


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


ABSTRACT


CHAPTERS


1 EDUCATIONAL PRESSURES


TIMELESS VALUES


VS.


VALUE ADDED


The Best That's Been Thought and Said I


The University


of Phoenix


TRADING FUTURES:


EDUCATION


AS COMMODITY


The Banking Model The Florida Bank


of Education


. 14 . 17


4 WHAT ARE THE STAKES?


The Western Governors University


Breaking the Bank: LIST OF REFERENCES


The Online Gambl


e


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


2


.iv


vi


3


1


4


9


.14


.22


23 26 33


. .34


. . . 4














Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

BANKING ON DISTANCE EDUCATION By

Matthew Myers Davis


December 1998 Chairperson: Dr. Robert B. Ray


Major Department


:English


Confronted with scarce resources, universities find

themselves compelled to develop cost-effective educational


programs.


Focusing on maximizing resources, universities


may be adopting a concept of knowledge that focuses on


knowledge that can be quantitatively established.


Such a


concept of knowledge is difficult to apply to the humanities, and many traditional forms of knowledge may suffer.


Distance


education programs magnify the physical reach


of universities, and in so doing, they magnify the ideological ramifications of the structure of the curriculum


they deliver.


By examining several of the most prominent


Distance education initiatives in America today,


this paper


examines some of the potentially damaqinq trends within















CHAPTER 1
EDUCATIONAL PRESSURES



Every morning, outside my office window, a line of cars stretches around the corner, trying to find parking,


circling like vultures,


looking swiftly from side to side


for the glow of the taillights of a departing car. Not


enough parking exists for the students here.


not going away any time soon.


The problem is


The University must grow,


the administration tells us. We must add another 1,500 students next year if we are to remain competitive with our


peer institutions.


either.


The growth probably will not stop there,


In a few years the University will likely enroll


5,000 students more than when I arrived last year.

The demands on the University's space currently tax the available facilities. Parking presents the most noticeable problem, but it is by no means the only one. Classroom space stretches thin: summer sessions are becoming nearly as crowded as regular semesters; every semester, a few more courses fill the evening schedule. Halt of my students wind up in my classes with no idea what the class is about--they











Many universities have similar


space problems.


Given


current economic realities,


these problems should not come


as a surprise.


Recently,


American students have heard


pronouncements that a


junior college degree is now the


minimal


credential


to participate in the competitive global


economy.


Numerous alternative


s to traditional


university


education vie for students eager


to attain those


credentials;,


to maintain a fighting chance,


many


universities are searching for methods to stretch their spatial and economic resources.

One way to stretch those resources is distance


education,


which offers college administrators an alluring


possibility- - they can add more students to the rolls without


having to find buildings in which to put them.


time,


At


the same


the institution can enhance its image as a


cutting-edge center of learning,


taking education into the


future.

Many students also find the possibilities of distance


education attractive.


of


Without having to satisfy the demands


traditional higher education,


they can gain certification


in many skills beyond the purview of vocational schools, skills that will substantially increase their employability.


Frequently,


students can work at one full-time lob while


2









3

they must keep in mind that these changes will have potentially serious effects on higher education, not all of them positive. Any changes designed to maximize resources will certainly affect curricula. Several prominent distance education ventures in the United States reveal dangers that may arise from thinking of distance education as a solution to resource problems-without first considering the potentially dire impact on some of the more redeeming aspects of traditional higher education.














CHAPTER


TIMELESS VALUES VS.


VALUE ADDED


The rationale for college education is changing

rapidly. Many of the traditional justifications for the


university are being supplanted by a more technical,


less


sentimental apologia. The rapid advent of distance education technology has aided the development of a new role for higher education, one clearly focused on developing career-oriented skills rather than providing a broad-based exposure to the liberal arts and sciences. As this new role for colleges gains acceptance, all but the most traditional-and financially secure-institutions may succumb to pressures that reshape their educational programs with a more vocational orientation.


The Best That's Been Thouqht and Said


Until fairly recently, many people believed that

university education produced better human beings. Young, inquisitive minds went off to be with the Great Books for a few years, and by communina with the "best that's hnn


2









5


little else in common, shared the assumption that a broad exposure to all of the disciplines would serve to produce


students well attuned to living in shared society


. In The


Idea of a University, John Henry Newman wrote:


[T]he drift and meaning of a branch of knowledge varies
with the company in which it is introduced to the student. If his reading is confined simply to one
subject, however such division of labour may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit, a point into which
I do not here enter, certainly it has a tendency to
contract his mind ...
It is a great point then to enlarge the range of
studies which a University professes, even for the sake
of the students; and, though they cannot pursue every
subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers
by living among those who represent the whole circle.
This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of
universal learning, considered as a place of
education. (89-90)

Newman believed that this wide exposure to great

ideas-both through instruction and association-was valuable

in and of itself ("Knowledge is capable of being its own


end")


,but theorists saw a liberal education as a means of


proper acculturation as well. Good societies required good citizens, and an education in the cultural tradition provided men with an exposure to wider ways of thinking. Matthew Arnold argued that exposure to culture was critical for social cohesion. In Culture and Anarchy, he argues that culture enables us to resist the temptation to act rashly:

ITlt isnnt 2t thin moment trim lwhnt rhe nmnritxr np









6

allow their thought and consciousness to play on their
stock notions and habits disinterestedly and freely; to get men to try, in preference to staunchly acting with
imperfect knowledge, to obtain some sounder basis of
knowledge on which to act. (262)

To most proponents of liberal education, broadening the mind ultimately brought the student back to a deeper awareness of some central truth, some "firm intelligible law of things." The more widespread a student's learning was, the more deeply seated his appreciation of this truth was likely to be. At its most ambitious, liberal education sought not only simple well-rounded gentility, but a philosophical understanding that improved both the student and society at large.

The twentieth century did much to discredit these

ambitions; indeed, one might say that culture itself lost


its stature in the wake of upheavals in Europe.


Arnold


believed that the "sweetness and light" of Western culture served as safeguards against indecency, and that an education that brought students close to that culture


inevitably humanized them. G know now that this is not so.


;eorge Steiner notes that "We

We know that the formal


excellence and numerical extension of education need not correlate with increased social stability and political


rationality"


(77)


. In his 1971 book In Bluebeard's Cash7s.











cultured people were capable of anything,


that liberal


education might not protect society from itself,


that


"obvious qualities of literate response, of aesthetic feeling, can coexist with barbaric, politically sadistic behavior in the same individual" (77)

As educators lost faith in Western culture's ultimately redeeming character, liberal arts curricula shifted to include critiques of the numerous inequalities and


injustices on which that culture depended.


The notion of


broad education as a way to reinforce a set of timeless Western values has slowly yielded to multiculturalismma" and the social and philosophical critiques that inform it, which have become the liberal arts' new rationale.

Recently, socially conservative critics of education have spilled considerable amounts of ink decrying these attacks on the "soul" of higher education. George Will, William Safire, Cal Thomas, and others routinely denounce the campus bogeyman of "Political Correctness." Feminism, Black Studies, Queer Theory and other movements associated with "identity politics" constitute an assault on "sweetness and light," these critics tell us, and now professors quake in tear at the thought of what will happen to them if they dare give voice to timeless truths.


7











The old view was that


,by recognizing and accepting


man's natural rights, men found a fundamental basis of


unity and sameness.


. .The recent education of


openness has rejected all that. It pays no attention to natural rights or the historical origins of our regime,
which are now thought to have been essentially flawed and regressive. It is progressive and forward-looking.
It does not demand fundamental agreement or the
abandonment of old or new beliefs in favor of the
natural ones. It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of life-styles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other
than the man who is not open to everything. But when
there are no shared goals or vision of the public good,
is the social contract any longer possible? (27)

The conservative opposition to multiculturalism fears

that once other cultural assumptions have equal weight in


students'


education,


the values that liberal arts education


originally sought to engender will be lost. Whether or not such fears are justified, multiculturalism, political correctness, or any of the other ideological strains that seek to provide an alternative reason for higher education are not the greatest threat to traditional values. At the very least, all of these ideologies accept the possibility of justifying a liberal arts education on grounds other than


it


s


material utility; all of them find the open marketplace


of ideas essentially redeeming.

But the rationale for college education is shifting


again.


The question of liberal education's purpose is


rapidly becoming academic (pardon the irony)


Conservatives


8









9

education, but from without. More and more, higher education conforms to the demands of modern high-tech capital formations, demands for workers proficient in a few highly-valued technical or professional realms. Newman said


of a student focusing on one pursuit,


"If his reading is


confined simply to one subject, however such division of labour may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit . .certainly it has a tendency to contract his mind."


Modern businesses, however, would rather not contend with a worker's whole mind; the contracted version will suffice, so


long as her aptitude for her task is sufficient.


The real


threat to liberal arts education-and perhaps to society as a whole-is the pressure exerted on the marketplace of ideas by the ideas of the marketplace.


The University.Qf.Phoenix


The University of Phoenix offers a profoundly different type of education than traditional universities provide. First, based in an office park in Phoenix, Arizona, it maintains only loose connections to physical campus space. Although some of the University's instruction takes place at its main "campus," much of it









10

America, although its success may soon give rise to imitators.

Also, the school caters to an entirely different type of student. Most of the traditional conceptions of university education assume that one is trying to mold young minds eager to gain cultural knowledge. The University of Phoenix has no interest in such university students. Indeed, it will not admit them. Phoenix only admits students who are


over


23


years of age and employed.


These requirements


illustrate the Phoenix concept. Its tremendous success derives from constructing programs around a strictly


career-oriented raison d'etre.


Phoenix concerns itself with


an entirely different set of values than do proponents of the liberal arts; rather than conveying cultural values, they focus on generating "value-added"1 by augmenting the skills of corporate employees.

Phoenix tailors its program to the needs of working

adults. Broadening the mind yields to education as the means to a vocation:

The cornerstone of our educational philosophy is the


recognition of the distinction be student still deciding on a caree


twe r a


student who has established personal goals. We know that education for wc harmonize with full personal and prc


.1................................


en the younger ~nd the adult and professional ~rking adults must ~fessional lives.


And we have developed or oarams that allow mnatjre









11

University of Phoenix materials make token gestures toward a


more traditional education


(they explain that AA degrees in


General Education serve "to strengthen students'


appreciation of the


larger social,


political,


scientific,


and aesthetic culture"


,but the University's appeal clearly


relies on its capacity to tree working men and women from


the obstacles that might otherwise impede their careers.


University touts the Apollo Learning EXchange


The


(ALEX) -the


online education utility developed by their parent


corporation,


the Apollo Group-with the following paean to


convenience.


For s class


tudents, Al schedules,


LE BX eliminates and overall


the traffic, confining lack of flexibility


associated with a traditional educational setting. Providing an atmosphere that fosters increased efficiency and productivity, more input, more feedbac and more access to information, Alex is the classroom busy students have been waiting for! (Online)


This emphasis on education that


is


less profound and


humanizing than convenient and career-oriented is not itself


pernicious.


But the University of Phoenix may create


tremendous pressure on traditional


universities.


Phoenix


proclaims proudly that it is the second-largest private


university in the country.


Seeing such success,


and the


emphasis on career development and convenience that spawned


it, many university administrators will be eager


to emnlov


k,











speculates that "non-elite institutions


.will be


reduced largely to examining and certifying students for


workplace readiness" (122)


Students' expectations will


change as they come to realize that a full slate of classes is no longer required to qualify them to hold management positions, and inexorably universities will modify their


programs to fulfill these new expectations.


Says Traub,


"the institution that


sees


itself as the steward of


intellectual culture is becoming increasingly marginal; the


others are racing to accommodate the new student"


(116)


A very few colleges and universities will be able to ignore the presence of ventures such as the University of Phoenix. Their prestige likely will increase, enhanced by the presence of universities that sell themselves on the basis of convenience and efficiency rather than the


contemplation of timeless values.


These few cater to


"thousands of students of comparatively high intelligence, materially and spiritually free to do pretty much what they want with the few years of college they are privileged to


have"


(Bloom 22)


fortunate.


The


.But many institutions will be less situation recalls Antonio Gramnsci' s


reflections on the Italian educational system, recorded in his prison notebooks.


12









13


is a steady growth of specialised vocational schools, in which the pupil's destiny and future activity are determined in advance. (27)

Trying to recruit students aware of convenient,


vocationally focused alternatives develop competitive strategies.


many universities will


While educators fight over


whose cultural


values govern liberal


education,


the


battleground itself is likely to disappear.


The battle over


society's educational


values will


likely become irrelevant,


as all


the


value becomes reducible to the ruthless calculus of


job market.














CHAPTER 3
TRADING FUTURES: EDUCATION AS COMMODITY



Traditional universities feel increasing pressure to keep up with the educational imperatives of the current economic climate. In their efforts to remain competitive, many university officials have developed programs to streamline their operations along the lines of corporate models. As they try to attract external funding for educational projects, universities increasingly must


emphasize their "productivity" and "efficiency."


These


criteria demand quantitative measures of success; the value of an education is no longer self-evident, so any attempt to


prove its worth requires numbers.


Only hard numbers


assure corporations that they are making a worthwhile


investment.


These numbers tend to validate certain types of


learning at the expense of others, emphasizing learning that can demonstrate a financial return.


The Bankinq Model of Education


Defining educational policy in terms of economic









15


against resources expended. Knowledge must be reducible to data; only then can one determine whether a university is maintaining an efficient dollar/datum ratio.

Radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire outlined some of the philosophical problems fostered by a monetary paradigm for knowledge. In his 1970 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire assails the dehumanizing effects of what he calls the "banking model" of education. Freire argues that traditional education treats information as a possession. Teachers, as mouthpieces for society's ruling classes, possess knowledge. Their job is to manage the transfer of that knowledge to students, who are seen as


receptacles


,empty and waiting to be filled:


Education thus becomes an act of depositing,


in which


the students are the depositories and the teacher 1


s


the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher


issues communiqu6s and make


s deposits which the


student


s patiently receive, memorize, and repeat.


This


is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as


far as receiving,


filing and storing the deposits.


(52)


In this educational model, students cannot realize


their potential to generate knowledge


.Indeed,


students come


to define their own worth in terms of their ability to act as fitting receptacles.

In Freire's banking model, the ruling classes "own"1









16

The educated man is the adapted man, because he is better "fit" for the world. Translated into practice, this concept is well suited to the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well men fit the world the oppressors have created, and how little


they question it. Ultimately, the c


(60)


onception that knowledge can be


transferred depends on a static conception of knowledge, one in which the students' responsibility is confined to passive


reception.


The only way that a lecture can convey


information to students is if the students have no


responsibility for generating it; and legitimate, ready for delivery


it must exist, predefined .The "banking" model of


education thus depends on defining education as transaction. Students receive access to information in exchange for their money, and for their capitulation. Knowledge is a commodity, and the most successful students are simply the most avid consumers.

It would be convenient to dismiss Freire's polemical critique of banking education. As a dedicated Marxist, he targeted his accusations at the authoritarian regime of late-1960s Brazil, and most of Freire' s proposed remedies were intended for illiterate peasants. Freire's relevance


for educator


s in post-industrial America seems remote. But


educational institutions in the United States increasingly









17


The Florida Bank


University of Florida President John Lombardi has

instituted a program for evaluating the cost efficiency of his University's departments that reminds us just how


relevant Freire' s attacks are.


Dubbed the "University of


Florida Bank," Lombardi's brainchild is an attempt to


quantify every aspect of educational


efficiency


.The Bank is


a set of spreadsheets that calculate whether a department is


a debtor or creditor


to the University as a whole.


The


central


operation enabling the calculations is the


conversion of various types of credit hours into monetary


equivalents;,


one could scarcely think of a more


literal


example of the equation of knowledge with money


The Bank arose as a response to the University's


diminishing sources of new external income.


introductory statement to the Bank,


In an


Lombardi and Provost


Betty Capaldi explain the financial pressures that


led to a


search for heightened financial responsibility and accountability:


Each decision we make about money influences our ability to fulfill one or another university mission. In this highly resource-constrained environment, our success depends as much on our ability to do more with









18

policy. But the process of figuring out how to do more inevitably produces conflicts with some of the more traditional conceptions of what education should do. For one thing, in order to quantify departments' relative efficiency, one must have some basic unit of comparison, one that necessarily glosses over qualitative distinctions between academic disciplines. How can one evaluate the Philosophy department's performance, unless it is comparable


to that of the Engineering department?


To make such


comparisons, one must assume that all forms of teaching are


fundamentally the same:.


"We began collecting the


university's many funding sources into a common presentation for all units and then matched information about productivity and quality against resource and expenditure


data "


(italics mine)


Operating on the assumption that academic performance

can be measured in trans-disciplinary units of measurement, the administration makes detailed comparisons of departments both in terms of the cost of keeping them and how much revenue they bring into the University. For the purposes of securing state revenue, the bank weights different types of credit hours (graduate vs. undergraduate, lab vs. class, small class vs. large, correspondence vs. on camnus. etc.l









19

legislature for more money. But things are rarely so simple.

One of the performance benchmarks the Bank maintains is a three-to-one ratio of externally-sponsored to State-funded


research dollars. In the short term,


this benchmark clearly


favors departments doing research easily convertible into patents or other sources of corporate revenue. In the long term, this benchmark virtually guarantees that departments whose research tails to line up with corporate priorities will be forced to change: either they will chart courses that make them attractive outlets for corporate money, or they will retreat into chronic "debt" to the University and slowly wither. English classes may be small, and therefore good for attracting state moneys, but they are unlikely to draw the external research funding that would allow them to be in good financial standing relative to other departments.

One very attractive way for departments, and whole

universities, to maximize both credit hours and corporate support is through Distance education programs. One may enroll more students than the confines of the campus would allow. Without having to fund more buildings, and in some cases without having to hire any new faculty, an institution can enroll hundreds of new students. At least as imcortantlv. Distance sducatinn inlitiatiPSR are \JirtHAl]\









20

business schools have been quick to recognize the lucrative possibilities of online education. One serious threat to the traditional structure of university learning is that, in order to develop Distance education efforts of their own, other schools may have to start thinking like business schools to make themselves attractive partners to corporate sponsors.

Though effects of the 'banking" model disturb many educators, the current pressures on academic resources practically demand some form of stringent cost control. As Lombardi and capaldi note in defending the Bank against potential detractors:

Most of us would prefer that these issues of money
would disappear, leaving us to focus our attention on
other, more intellectually challenging matters.
Nonetheless, everyone's mission depends on the University of Florida Bank. We cannot expand a
department, create a major, fund a grant, build a
building, renovate a laboratory, award a fellowship, or
maintain a walkway without engaging the Bank...
Almost all priorities in the university come back,
eventually, to the budget that identifies the sources
and uses of funds. (Online)

Few college and university administrators are so candid about the harsh reality that intellectual endeavor has become primarily an economic concern. But many colleges around the country are responding to the same sets of concerns that comoelled the develonment of the Hnivsrsitv nf









21

to the efficient, technical dictates of the business c ommun ity .














CHAPTER 4
WHAT ARE THE STAKES?



The influences of banking and corporate accounting


inevitably shape Distance education initiatives.


Once a


basic equivalency between monetary and informational


exchanges is established,


educational institutions will


learn to maximize resources by mimicking practices


established by banks and corporations.


Many Distance


education programs try to extend classroom transactions into


remote


locations as ATM networks and online banking have


extended the teller/customer relationship onto the streets


and into the home.


Institutions searching for ways to


increase their coverage find obvious attractions in the technology that obviates the need to assemble customers/students in one place.


The further


the technology progresses,


the fewer


resources become necessary for


transfers.


the institution's various


But rushing to adopt the technologies that allow


this extension of resources may push educational institutions to woo corporate entities that have no stake in


education other


than their own.interests.


Thes nartnerghinq









23

stake as they contemplate an online future facilitated by an outside corporation.


The Western Governors' University


One of the most ambitious Distance education plans in


the works today


's


the Western Governors' University





.The WGU comprises a


consortium of governors, led by Utah's Mike Leavitt and Colorado's Roy Romer, who have joined forces to create an accessible interstate educational institution. WGU plans satellite offices in most of the Western United States anid Guam, but the "delivery" will largely occur over the Internet. WGU demonstrates that, rather than conceding the business-friendly Distance education market to businesses like the University of Phoenix, states and other traditional sources of higher education funding can opt to join forces with them.

WGU's non-localized structure could produce some

interesting results. One possible result is that where a student earned her degree will become less important than


the components of the education


or "competencies" as WGU


terms them)


. As


the WGU's Vision Statement puts it,


"Where









24


"Western Governor's University has certified that I have competency in the following areas."


The idea of


"competency-based" education underpins this


new enterprise.


Rather than adopt a major,


a student may


develop a


"profile" by assessing the skills and knowledge


she already has.


Once the student determines what goal


s she


needs to reach,


she and the University identify specific


competencies that will


till


the gaps of


the student's


existing skills.


Thus


the breadth of a student's education


would be determined almost solely by spec


ifi


c career


goals.


Nothing is inherently wrong with tailoring one's


education to fit one's intended career;,


few people are


lucky


enough to


indulge in an education without any demonstrable


relevance to a future source of


income.


But WGU can train


students


in the competencies that will make them attractive


employees because corporate '"advisors" guide the development


curriculum and delivery.


The names on the WGU's advisory


board include some of the most prominent companies


American high technology:


Microsoft,


Sun Microsystems,


AT&T,


3Com Corporation,


IBM,


Apple


,and Novell.


These companies


know well what competencies their


short run


CC r fln' f Cnfli ' C


employees will need in the


,and WGU is able to provide students with these


k~)I~L~r~rTI~. I


of


in









25

businesses. And few, if any, distribution requirements or core curricula impede students on their paths to getting that training. For people who wish only to be certified that they may hold the jobs of tomorrow, a better arrangement could scarcely be found.


Naturally,


the arrangement is even better for the


corporations involved. Under the aegis of a multi-state educational experiment, corporations get to guide and


monitor the training of students.


"Unlike other distance


learning efforts, the WGU will bring together and act as a broker for both traditional and non traditional educational


providers, from universities, employees for specific skills.


to corporations that train "I Corporations have access to


a potentially huge body of students who, because of geographical constraints, might not otherwise be able to attend. This access allows them both to pick from a highly skilled employee base and to build market awareness and


loyalty for their products. Even more ideally,


they are able


to accomplish these goals with the enthusiastic backing of the Western Governors, so their own investment is relatively small. The returns for the companies involved are potentially quite large; their downside is comparatively limited.









26


Corporations channel publicly-sponsored research into directions useful for corporate development:


[C] orpor ate yet another information -


training a way of bri processing


employees up to profit transformation of the means of supplying the public expense. (43)


dvocates view online education nging their problem-solving, ,t"just-in-time"l educated
-making speed.. .they envision delivery of higher education a ir properly prepared personnel


as


the s a
at


To argue that education should be free of potentially employable skills would be ludicrous. But educational institutions focusing on providing corporations with employees trained to handle the skills of tomorrow are aiding the corporation more than the student. With a focus on a well-rounded education, a student stands a better chance of learning the skills of the day-after-tomorrow. And the university may avoid being converted into white-collar votech education.


Breaking the Bank: The Online Gamble


Educational institutions seeking corporate assistance in putting their materials online have several partnership models aside from WGU's. The University of Colorado provides another. Rather than start a DE program from scratch, Colorado opted to build its









27

functions into online presentation.

Real Education pulls together a package of numerous media-including the World Wide Web, streaming animation, chat rooms, email, and telephone-and uses them to transplant


professors'


course material from the classroom environment.


But classes are only half of the picture. Many universities offer some courses online, but few are able to offer students complete degree programs. Real Education endeavors to create a full simulacrum of the University's administrative functions:

Let us put your university online. We can build you an


online catalog, bursar'


center,


s office, library, career


student union, and bookstore


.Student


s can also


register, proce


ss


financial aid, and receive academic


advising; all from any computer (Online)


.anywhere.


Real Education presents an attractive alternative for universities eager to establish an online presence. The university is free to focus on its "core competencies," to borrow a term from business circles, and leave the presentation to specialists. Professors may concentrate on the content of courses, and the university's external vendor finds the best way to transfer that content into a presentation suitable for electronic means of distribution.


Conflicts


,however, arise. Having finished producing









28


mediation. Once the professor's texts have been re-worked for electronic presentation, though, the situation is much less firmly under her control. Noble notes with alarm some of the possible results of the translation of professor's course content into electronic form:


Once faculty put their course mate


knowledge ana course design skill material is taken out of their pos to the machinery, and placed in th administration. The administration to hire less-skilled, and hence ch deliver the technologically pre-pa also allows the administration, wh of this commodity, to peddle the c


rial online . . . th embodied in that session, transferred e hands of the


e


is now in a position eaper, workers to ckaged course. It


ich claims owners ourse elsewhere


hip


wit. kno'


bout the original designer's involvement or even wedge, much less financial interest. (47)


Aside from this potential peril to faculty jobs and intellectual property, the translation of traditional university functions presents a hazard to the information being transmitted itself. Real Education claims to transfer the classroom experience to the Internet and phone lines. But many theorists of technology doubt that anyone can make such a claim. For the process of translation to avoid distorting the content, the content must be independent of the technology of delivery. But this independent status is far from assured.

In Critical Theory of Technology, Andrew Feenberg

divides the prominent theories of technology into two camps:









29

be of any ideological character, merely extending their effects. Feenberg notes that the instrumentalist position is "the dominant view of modern governments and the policy sciences on which they rely"; its assumptions clearly inform Real Education's program.

Substantive theory, however, maintains that technology

is itself ideological. Technology "constitutes a new type of cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control." Repackaging classroom education thus necessitates new forms of control over both students and information. Feenberg gives a modern example of technology's intervention in a traditional interaction to demonstrate the two theoretical camps' differences:

The substitution of "fast food" for the traditional
family dinner can serve as a humble illustration of the
unintended cultural consequences of technology. The
unity of the family, ritually reaffirmed each evening,
no longer has a comparable locus of expression . ..


An instrumentalistsl might reply that welflprepared fast food supplies a nourishing meal without needless social complications. This objection is blind to the cultural implications of technology. Instrumentalist theory treats "eating" as if it were merely a matter of ingesting calories . . . In adopting a strictly functional point of view, we have determined that eating is a technical operation that may be carried out with more or less efficiency. (7 -8)


The family dinner provides a useful parallel for the college campus. Both have traditicrnallv claimed] avlo











utility transferable to fast-paced lifestyles(


settings more conducive to


drive-thrus and Internet courses)


Setting aside the temptation to fixate on the theoretical


possibility of


"well-prepared fast food,"


and by analogy


well-prepared online education,


one may still see that


simply transplanting the college experience into a new


environment may alter


of


completely the cultural significance


that experience.


A Net-savvy colleague of mine showed me an interesting sidebar to the instrumentalist/substantive conflict that


Real Education presents. for an organization (in


One can trace the


Internet routes


this case realeducation.com)


back to


so that one can contact its administrators,


using the UNIX command whois realeducation.com.


person for administrative, listed for realeducation.co


REALCASINO.COM i


s


The contact


technical and billing concerns mn is bbrad@REALCASINO.COM.


a Caribbean-based online gambling


concern.


An instrumentalist,


of


cour se,


would argue that


the


two real.coms simply perform the same neutral process:


converting the functions of


two social institutions to


online environs.


But


if,


in the search for Distance


education alternatives,


we are forced to admit


that our work


is even remotely analogous to that of a casino,


we must


30


its server,









31


solutions chosen to meet corporate character. If


that demand have a distinctly


corporations themselves were the


only ones affected by these solutions,


educators would have


little cause for


alarm.


Sadly,


though,


most people who are


in the business of higher


eventually.


education will be affected


Few institutions can ignore completely the


increasingly business-oriented drift of


Current


education.


trends in distance education are alarming


because most fail


to consider


that not all kinds of


knowledge may simply be delivered. Attempts to convey


knowledge from one place to another


can only be successful


with the moribund conception that knowledge


is simply data,


a quantity that sits still,


waiting for


delivery


.F'reire and


Newman would probably have agreed on very few things.


both saw


But


learning as a fundamentally humanizing experience,


one that could not be reduced to the demands of


professionalism.


A distance education program concerned


only with increasing the efficiency and scope of


"delivery"


inherently threatens such a conception of education.


The


idea of


educating student


s who are not in the same


physical location need not be harmful


to higher


education.


Campuses may be physically attractive


,and even conducive to


learning,


but


they are not a prerequis


Dynamic learninq


_ __.









learning experiences. On the contrary, most are engineered to effect simple transfers of static information. Students


need college degrees to survive. Corporations need well


(if


narrowly) educated employees to thrive. Colleges' and universities' mission faces redefinition as the fulfillment of both of those sets of needs. Distance education environments provide some telling examples of this shift in emphasis, but not the only ones.

If liberal arts education is to remain available to

students other than the very privileged, educators will have to address the ramifications of packaging information for remote delivery. As long as concerns over space and financial resources continue to predominate in justifications for distance education, any learning that cannot demonstrate its costwefficiency faces an institutional threat. We may be sentimental, but many educators believe the most important lessons of a liberal arts education resist documentation on a profit/loss statement. Any university without the luxury of ignoring the contemporary corporate climate will have to start phasing out these lessons, allowing knowledge to flourish that can easily show its technical utility, ultimately to supplant more ephemeral forms of knowledge altogether.














LIST OF REFERENCES


Arnold,


Matthew.


Culture and Anarchy.


Samuel Lipman,


New Haven:


Yale UP,


1994


Bloom,


Allan.


The Cl


osing of the American Mind.


New York:


Simon and Schuster,


1987


Feenber g,


Andrew.


Cr1


ti


cal


Theory


of


Technology.


New York:


Oxford UP,


1991.


Freire,


Paulo.


Bergman Ramos.


of


the


New York:.


Oppressed.
Seabury Pr


Trans.


ess,


Myra


1973.


Gramsci,


Trans. York:


Antonio.


Hoare,


Selection
Quintin,


International Publisher


s,


son


Geoffrey Nowell.


New


1971


Lombar di,


John


material


24,


s


"University of Florida Bank."


.http:


1998)


/


Online


/www. aa .ufl1. edu/aa/dass/bank


(March


Newman,


John Henry.


The


Idea of


a


University.


New York:


Longmans


,Green


&


Co


1947


Noble,


David


vol.


49


"Digital Diploma Mills."


no.


9


Feb.


1998)


pp.


37-


Monthly Review, 59.


Real Education,


materials.


Inc.


"Welcome t


0


Real Education


http://www.realeducation.comn


1998)


"'


Online


(March 24,


Steiner,


UP


Geo


rge.


In Bluebeard's


Castle.


New Haven:


Yale


,1971.


Traub,


James


.''The Next University:


Drive-Thru U."


The


New Yorker


.October


20


&27


,1997


,'pp.


114-123.


University


of


Phoenix.


Online materials.


"University


of Phoenix Home Page."


http://www.uophx.edu(March 24,


1998)


Western Governors'


University.


"SmartStates."


Online


ed.


Pedagogy


from the Fri


and Smith,


Notebooks.


Online
















BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH


Matthew Myers Davis was born in 1971.


He was raised in


Miami,


Florida.


After


graduating from Oberlin College


1993,


he spent several


dissipation. department at


years travelling and wallowing in


Specializing in Media Studies the University of Florida, he


in the English


completed his


Master


of Arts degree


in December


of


1998,


and promptly took


a leave of absence,


frightened by the very educational


tendencies he chronicled in his Master's thesis.


in










I
opinion


certify


it


presentation


that


conforms


and


is


I have


read


to acceptable


fully


adequate,


this


study


standards


and of


that


in my


scholarly


in scope and quality,


as


thesi


s for


the degree of


Master Ar s.


Robert


B.


Ray,


'!hair


Professor


of


English


certify


that


I


have


read


this


study


and


that


in my


opinion


it conforms


presentation and


is


to acceptable


full


y adequate


standards ,in scope


of


scholarly


and


quality,


a thesi


s for


the degree of


Mas


"-7 ,ry7


Gregory


Professor>


L .Y6Lmer


of


English


Thi


s thes


i


s


was


submitted


to


the Graduate


Faculty


the Department


Sciences partial


and


to


fulfillment


of


English


in


the Graduate


of


the


the College of


School


and was


requirements


f or


Liberal accepted


Arts


and


as


the degree of


Master


of


December,


Arts 1998


Dean,


Graduate


School


a


I


as


of


ter f Arts.




Full Text
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PAGE 1

BANKING ON DISTANCE EDUCATION By MATTHEW MYERS DAVIS A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1998

PAGE 2

i' > Copyright 199 8 ' . ,. by Matthew Myers Davis

PAGE 3

I dedicate this paper to my parents, who always supported me in seeking the type of education I could be proud of, even when that education threatened to make me completely incompatible with the rough world of modern capitalism. : j

PAGE 4

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS r I could never have written this paper without the ' ' . contributions of several important people. Dr. Robert Raygave me valuable guidance, both in exploring the canonical views of liberal arts education and in taking a rough, jumbled mass of ideas and turning it into a serviceable thesis. Dr. Gregory Ulmer provided me with a unique outlook on computer assisted education, one I was able to use as a filter for examining the ideological ramifications of the programs I discuss. C. Bradley Dilger gave me innumerable pointers on how and where to find Internet arcana, and allowed me to use him as a sounding board, keeping me from including ideas that would seem truly foolish. And my parents and brother were always willing to proofread and give suggestions whenever deadlines loomed over me. iv

PAGE 5

TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGMENTS iv ABSTRACT vi CHAPTERS 1 EDUCATIONAL PRESSURES 1 2 TIMELESS VALUES VS. VALUE ADDED 4 The Best That's Been Thought and Said 4 The University of Phoenix 9 3 TRADING FUTURES: EDUCATION AS COMMODITY 14 The Banking Model of Education 14 The Florida Bank 17 4 WHAT ARE THE STAKES? ' * . 22 The Western Governors University 23 Breaking the Bank: The Online Gamble 26 LIST OF REFERENCES 33 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 34 V

PAGE 6

Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts BANKING ON DISTANCE EDUCATION By Matthew Myers Davis December 199 8 Chairperson: Dr. Robert B. Ray •' * Major Department: English . ' < Confronted with scarce resources, universities find themselves compelled to develop cost-effective educational programs. Focusing on maximizing resources, universities may be adopting a concept of knowledge that focuses on knowledge that can be quantitatively established. Such a concept of knowledge is difficult to apply to the humanities, and many traditional forms of knowledge may suffer . Distance education programs magnify the physical reach of universities, and in so doing, they magnify the ideological ramifications of the structure of the curriculum they deliver. By examining several of the most prominent Distance education initiatives in America today, this paper examines some of the potentially damaging trends within higher education in general . vi

PAGE 7

CHAPTER 1 EDUCATIONAL PRESSURES Every morning, outside my office window, a line of cars stretches around the corner, trying to find parking, '• circling like vultures, looking swiftly from side to side for the glow of the taillights of a departing car. Not enough parking exists for the students here. The problem is not going away any time soon. The University must grow, the administration tells us. We must add another 1,500 students next year if we are to remain competitive with our peer institutions. The growth probably will not stop there, either . In a few years the University will likely enroll 5,000 students more than when I arrived last year. The demands on the University's space currently tax the available facilities. Parking presents the most noticeable problem, but it is by no means the only one. Classroom space stretches thin: summer sessions are becoming nearly as crowded as regular semesters; every semester, a few more courses fill the evening schedule. Half of my students wind up in my classes with no idea what the class is about-they enrolled because it was the only required class with space available . 1

PAGE 8

2 Many universities have similar space problems. Given current economic realities, these problems should not come as a surprise. Recently, American students have heard pronouncements that a junior college degree is now the minimal credential to participate in the competitive global economy. Numerous alternatives to traditional university education vie for students eager to attain those credentials; to maintain a fighting chance, many universities are searching for methods to stretch their spatial and economic resources. v' One way to stretch those resources is distance education, which offers college administrators an alluring possibilitythey can add more students to the rolls without having to find buildings in which to put them. At the same time, the institution can enhance its image as a cutting-edge center of learning, taking education into the future. Many students also find the possibilities of distance education attractive. Without having to satisfy the demands of traditional higher education, they can gain certification in many skills beyond the purview of vocational schools, skills that will substantially increase their employability . Frequently, students can work at one full-time job while gaining the professional skills to move on to a better one. As administrators seek ways to get their institutions' curricula online, maximizing their space and their money.

PAGE 9

3 they must keep in mind that these changes will have potentially serious effects on higher education, not all of them positive. Any changes designed to maximize resources will certainly affect curricula. Several prominent distance education ventures in the United States reveal dangers that may arise from thinking of distance education as a solution to resource problems -without first considering the potentially dire impact on some of the more redeeming aspects of traditional higher education.

PAGE 10

CHAPTER 2 TIMELESS VALUES VS. VALUE ADDED The rationale for college education is changing rapidly. Many of the traditional justifications for the university are being supplanted by a more technical, less sentimental apologia. The rapid advent of distance education technology has aided the development of a new role for higher education, one clearly focused on developing career or iented skills rather than providing a broad-based exposure to the liberal arts and sciences. As this new role for colleges gains acceptance, all but the most traditional -and financially secure institutions may succumb to pressures that reshape their educational programs with a more vocational orientation. The Best That's Been Thought and Said Until fairly recently, many people believed that university education produced better human beings. Young, inquisitive minds went off to be with the Great Books for a few years, and by communing with the "best that's been thought and said," came to a deeper, more profound understanding of the world. Philosophers of education, with

PAGE 11

5 little else in common, shared the assumption that a broad exposure to all of the disciplines would serve to produce students well attuned to living in shared society. In The Idea of a University , John Henry Newman wrote: [T]he drift and meaning of a branch of knowledge varies with the company in which it is introduced to the student. If his reading is confined simply to one subject, however such division of labour may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit, a point into which I do not here enter, certainly it has a tendency to contract his mind . . . It is a great point then to enlarge the range of studies which a University professes, even for the sake of the students; and, though they cannot pursue every subject which is open to them, they will be the gainers by living among those who represent the whole circle. This I conceive to be the advantage of a seat of universal learning, considered as a place of education. (89 -90) k w; ., ' Newman believed that this wide exposure to great ideas -both through instruction and association-was valuable in and of itself ("Knowledge is capable of being its own end"), but theorists saw a liberal education as a means of proper acculturation as well. Good societies required good ' citizens, and an education in the cultural tradition provided men with an exposure to wider ways of thinking. Matthew Arnold argued that exposure to culture was critical for social cohesion. In Culture and Anarchy, he argues that culture enables us to resist the temptation to act rashly: [I]t is not at this moment true, what the majority of , people tell us, that the world wants fire and strength more than sweetness and light, and that things are for the most part to be settled first and understood afterwards. . .Therefore the true business of the friends of culture now is, to dissipate this false notion, to spread the belief in right reason and in a firm intelligible law of things, and to get men to

PAGE 12

6 allow their thought and consciousness to play on their stock notions and habits disinterestedly and freely; to get men to try, in preference to staunchly acting with imperfect knowledge, to obtain some sounder basis of knowledge on which to act. (262) To most proponents of liberal education, broadening the mind ultimately brought the student back to a deeper awareness of some central truth, some "firm intelligible law of things." The more widespread a student's learning was, the more deeply seated his appreciation of this truth was likely to be. At its most ambitious, liberal education sought not only simple well-rounded gentility, but a philosophical understanding that improved both the student and society at large. The twentieth century did much to discredit these ambitions; indeed, one might say that culture itself lost its stature in the wake of upheavals in Europe. Arnold believed that the "sweetness and light" of Western culture served as safeguards against indecency, and that an education that brought students close to that culture inevitably humanized them. George Steiner notes that "We know now that this is not so. We know that the formal excellence and numerical extension of education need not correlate with increased social stability and political rationality" (77) . In his 1971 book In Bluebeard' s Castle, Steiner ties the decline of cultural authority to barbarities perpetrated by ostensibly cultured people. After the World Wars and the Holocaust, we knew that

PAGE 13

cultured people were capable of anything, that liberal education might not protect society from itself, that "obvious qualities of literate response, of aesthetic feeling, can coexist with barbaric, politically sadistic behavior in the same individual " (77 ) t.;<, ^ „ As educators lost faith in Western culture's ultimately redeeming character, liberal arts curricula shifted to include critiques of the numerous inequalities and injustices on which that culture depended. The notion of broad education as a way to reinforce a set of timeless Western values has slowly yielded to "multiculturalism, " and the social and philosophical critiques that inform it, which have become the liberal arts' new rationale. Recently, socially conservative critics of education have spilled considerable amounts of ink decrying these attacks on the "soul" of higher education. George Will, William Safire, Cal Thomas, and others routinely denounce the campus bogeyman of "Political Correctness." Feminism, Black Studies, Queer Theory and other movements associated with "identity politics" constitute an assault on "sweetness and light," these critics tell us, and now professors quake in fear at the thought of what will happen to them if they dare give voice to timeless truths. Allan Bloom typifies the conservative reaction to multiculturalism in The Closing of the American Mind, an early salvo in today's "Culture Wars":

PAGE 14

8 The old view was that, by recognizing and accepting man's natural rights, men found a fundamental basis of unity and sameness. . . The recent education of openness has rejected all that. It pays no attention to natural rights or the historical origins of our regime, which are now thought to have been essentially flawed and regressive. It is progressive and forward-looking. It does not demand fundamental agreement or the abandonment of old or new beliefs in favor of the natural ones. It is open to all kinds of men, all kinds of lifestyles, all ideologies. There is no enemy other than the man who is not open to everything. But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible? (27 ) The conservative opposition to multiculturalism fears that once other cultural assumptions have equal weight in students' education, the values that liberal arts education originally sought to engender will be lost. Whether or not such fears are justified, multiculturalism, political correctness, or any of the other ideological strains that seek to provide an alternative reason for higher education are not the greatest threat to traditional values. At the very least, all of these ideologies accept the possibility of justifying a liberal arts education on grounds other than its material utility; all of them find the open marketplace of ideas essentially redeeming. But the rationale for college education is shifting again. The question of liberal education's purpose is rapidly becoming academic (pardon the irony) . Conservatives who want to save the university as an institution of culture from the threat of multiculturalism have it all wrongthe most serious threat to the traditional liberal arts comes not from within the traditional institutions of higher

PAGE 15

9 education, but from without. More and more, higher education conforms to the demands of modern high-tech capital formations, demands for workers proficient in a few highly -valued technical or professional realms. Newman said of a student focusing on one pursuit, "If his reading is confined simply to one subject, however such division of labour may favour the advancement of a particular pursuit . . . certainly it has a tendency to contract his mind." Modern businesses, however, would rather not contend with a worker's whole mind; the contracted version will suffice, so long as her aptitude for her task is sufficient. The real threat to liberal arts education and perhaps to society as a wholeis the pressure exerted on the marketplace of ideas by the ideas of the marketplace. ^ , ,, > i -.y: ...... . , The Universitv of Phoenix The University of Phoenix offers a profoundly different type of education than traditional universities provide. First, based in an office park in Phoenix, Arizona, it maintains only loose connections to physical campus space. Although some of the University's instruction takes place at its main "campus," much of it takes place online and at peripheral campuses or affiliated businesses around the country. Second, Phoenix is one of the few for-profit institutions of higher education in

PAGE 16

America, although its success may soon give rise to imitators . Also, the school caters to an entirely different type of student. Most of the traditional conceptions of university education assume that one is trying to mold young minds eager to gain cultural knowledge. The University of Phoenix has no interest in such university students. Indeed, it will not admit them. Phoenix only admits students who are over 23 years of age and employed. These requirements illustrate the Phoenix concept. Its tremendous success derives from constructing programs around a strictly career or iented raison d'etre. Phoenix concerns itself with an entirely different set of values than do proponents of the liberal arts; rather than conveying cultural values, • they focus on generating "value-added" by augmenting the skills of corporate employees. ' \, -•'tfi Phoenix tailors its program to the needs of working adults. Broadening the mind yields to education as the means to a vocation : The cornerstone of our educational philosophy is the . recognition of the distinction between the younger student still deciding on a career and the adult student who has established personal and professional goals. We know that education for working adults must harmonize with full personal and professional lives. And we have developed programs that allow mature students to benefit from the integration of work and school. (Online) Given their focus on working adults. Phoenix inevitably conceives of its mission largely in terms of convenience.

PAGE 17

11 University of Phoenix materials make token gestures toward a more traditional education (they explain that AA degrees in General Education serve "to strengthen students' appreciation of the larger social, political, scientific, and aesthetic culture"), but the University's appeal clearly relies on its capacity to free working men and women from the obstacles that might otherwise impede their careers. The University touts the Apollo Learning Exchange (ALEX) -the online education utility developed by their parent corporation, the Apollo Group-with the following paean to convenience : For students, ALEX eliminates the traffic, confining class schedules, and overall lack of flexibility associated with a traditional educational setting. Providing an atmosphere that fosters increased efficiency and productivity, more input, more feedback, and more access to information, Alex is the classroom busy students have been waiting for! (Online) This emphasis on education that is less profound and humanizing than convenient and career or iented is not itself pernicious. But the University of Phoenix may create tremendous pressure on traditional universities. Phoenix proclaims proudly that it is the secondlargest private university in the country. Seeing such success, and the emphasis on career development and convenience that spawned it, many university administrators will be eager to employ similar approaches. James Traub makes a disturbing projection in "Drive-Thru U, " a profile on Phoenix in the New Yorker. He cites Arthur Levine of Teacher's College, who

PAGE 18

12 speculates that "non-elite institutions . . . will be reduced largely to examining and certifying students for workplace readiness" (122) . Students' expectations will change as they come to realize that a full slate of classes is no longer required to qualify them to hold management positions, and inexorably universities will modify their programs to fulfill these new expectations. Says Traub, "the institution that sees itself as the steward of intellectual culture is becoming increasingly marginal; the others are racing to accommodate the new student" (116) . A very few colleges and universities will be able to ignore the presence of ventures such as the University of Phoenix. Their prestige likely will increase, enhanced by the presence of universities that sell themselves on the basis of convenience and efficiency rather than the contemplation of timeless values. These few cater to "thousands of students of comparatively high intelligence, materially and spiritually free to do pretty much what they want with the few years of college they are privileged to have" (Bloom 22) . But many institutions will be less , fortunate. The situation recalls Antonio Gramsci's reflections on the Italian educational system, recorded in his prison notebooks: . . The tendency today is to abolish every type of schooling that is "disinterested" (not serving immediate interests) or " formative" keeping at most only a small-scale version to serve a tiny elite of ladies and gentlemen who do not have to worry about assuring themselves of a future career. Instead, there

PAGE 19

is a steady growth of specialised vocational schools, in which the pupil's destiny and future activity are determined in advance. (27) Trying to recruit students aware of convenient, vocationally focused alternatives, many universities will develop competitive strategies. While educators fight over whose cultural values govern liberal education, the battleground itself is likely to disappear. The battle over society's educational values will likely become irrelevant, as all value becomes reducible to the ruthless calculus of the job market.

PAGE 20

CHAPTER 3 TRADING FUTURES: EDUCATION AS COMMODITY Traditional universities feel increasing pressure to keep up with the educational imperatives of the current economic climate. In their efforts to remain competitive, many university officials have developed programs to streamline their operations along the lines of corporate models. As they try to attract external funding for educational projects, universities increasingly must emphasize their "productivity" and "efficiency." These criteria demand quantitative measures of success; the value of an education is no longer self-evident, so any attempt to prove its worth requires numbers. Only hard numbers assure corporations that they are making a worthwhile investment. These numbers tend to validate certain types of learning at the expense of others, emphasizing learning that can demonstrate a financial return. The Banking Model of Education Defining educational policy in terms of economic resources risks redefining knowledge as an economic category. An education becomes susceptible to description by a ledger sheet, where information covered can be weighed 14

PAGE 21

against resources expended. Knowledge must be reducible to data; only then can one determine whether a university is maintaining an efficient dollar/datum ratio. ^ Radical Brazilian educator Paulo Freire outlined some of the philosophical problems fostered by a monetary paradigm for knowledge. In his 197 0 book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire assails the dehumanizing effects of what he calls the "banking model" of education. Freire argues that traditional education treats information as a possession. Teachers, as mouthpieces for society's ruling classes, possess knowledge. Their job is to manage the transfer of that knowledge to students, who are seen as receptacles, empty and waiting to be filled: Education thus becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues communiques and makes deposits which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. This " is the "banking" concept of education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filing and storing the deposits. (52) ,*» In this educational model, students cannot realize their potential to generate knowledge. Indeed, students come to define their own worth in terms of their ability to act as fitting receptacles. In Freire' s banking model, the ruling classes "own" information, licensing teachers to distribute it to deserving students. Naturally, "deserving" students are those willing to accommodate themselves to the demands of those in power .

PAGE 22

16 The educated man is the adapted man, because he is better "fit" for the world. Translated into practice, this concept is well suited to the purposes of the oppressors, whose tranquility rests on how well men fit the world the oppressors have created, and how little they question it. (60) Ultimately, the conception that knowledge can be transferred depends on a static conception of knowledge, one in which the students' responsibility is confined to passive reception. The only way that a lecture can convey information to students is if the students have no responsibility for generating it; it must exist, predefined and legitimate, ready for delivery. The "banking" model of education thus depends on defining education as transaction. Students receive access to information in exchange for their money, and for their capitulation. Knowledge is a commodity, and the most successful students are simply the most avid consumers. It would be convenient to dismiss Freire's polemical critique of banking education. As a dedicated Marxist, he targeted his accusations at the authoritarian regime of late1960s Brazil, and most of Freire's proposed remedies were intended for illiterate peasants. Freire's relevance for educators in post industrial America seems remote. But educational institutions in the United States increasingly insist on making literal the metaphoric linkage Freire describes between knowledge and money.

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17 The Florida Bank University of Florida President John Lombardi has instituted a program for evaluating the cost efficiency of his University's departments that reminds us just how relevant Freire's attacks are. Dubbed the "University of Florida Bank," Lombardi 's brainchild is an attempt to quantify every aspect of educational efficiency. The Bank is a set of spreadsheets that calculate whether a department is a debtor or creditor to the University as a whole. The central operation enabling the calculations is the conversion of various types of credit hours into monetary equivalents; one could scarcely think of a more literal example of the equation of knowledge with money. The Bank arose as a response to the University's diminishing sources of new external income. In an introductory statement to the Bank, Lombardi and Provost Betty Capaldi explain the financial pressures that led to a search for heightened financial responsibility and accountabi 11 ty : • ' , . ; Each decision we make about money influences our ability to fulfill one or another university mission. In this highly resource constrained environment, our success depends as much on our ability to do more with what we have as it does on our ability to find additional resources. (Online) One would be a fool to argue that the ability to do more with what we have is anything other than good financial

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18 policy. But the process of figuring out how to do more inevitably produces conflicts with some of the more traditional conceptions of what education should do. For one thing, in order to quantify departments' relative efficiency, one must have some basic unit of comparison, one that necessarily glosses over qualitative distinctions between academic disciplines. How can one evaluate the Philosophy department's performance, unless it is comparable to that of the Engineering department? To make such comparisons, one must assume that all forms of teaching are fundamentally the same: "We began collecting the university's many funding sources into a common presentation for all units and then matched information about productivity and quality against resource and expenditure data " (italics mine) . ' Operating on the assumption that academic performance can be measured in trans -disciplinary units of measurement, the administration makes detailed comparisons of departments both in terms of the cost of keeping them and how much revenue they bring into the University. For the purposes of securing state revenue, the bank weights different types of credit hours (graduate vs. undergraduate, lab vs. class, small class vs. large, correspondence vs. on campus, etc.) at different dollar values per credit hour. Thus, because small classes are more expensive, they are theoretically encouraged, because they allow the University to ask the

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legislature for more money. But things are rarely so simple. One of the performance benchmarks the Bank maintains is a three-to-one ratio of externally sponsored to State funded research dollars. In the short term, this benchmark clearly favors departments doing research easily convertible into patents or other sources of corporate revenue. In the long term, this benchmark virtually guarantees that departments whose research fails to line up with corporate priorities will be forced to change: either they will chart courses that make them attractive outlets for corporate money, or they will retreat into chronic "debt" to the University and slowly wither. English classes may be small, and therefore good for attracting state moneys, but they are unlikely to draw the external research funding that would allow them to be in good financial standing relative to other departments. One very attractive way for departments, and whole universities, to maximize both credit hours and corporate support is through Distance education programs. One may enroll more students than the confines of the campus would allow. Without having to fund more buildings, and in some cases without having to hire any new faculty, an institution can enroll hundreds of new students. At least as importantly. Distance education initiatives are virtually guaranteed to attract the interest of companies eager to show off both corporate largess and technological sophistication. Not surprisingly, at most universities.

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20 business schools have been quick to recognize the lucrative possibilities of online education. One serious threat to the traditional structure of university learning is that, in order to develop Distance education efforts of their own, other schools may have to start thinking like business schools to make themselves attractive partners to corporate sponsors. Though effects of the "banking" model disturb many educators, the current pressures on academic resources practically demand some form of stringent cost control. As Lombardi and Capaldi note in defending the Bank against potential detractors: Most of us would prefer that these issues of money would disappear, leaving us to focus our attention on other, more intellectually challenging matters. Nonetheless, everyone's mission depends on the University of Florida Bank. We cannot expand a ^'*"!' department, create a major, fund a grant, build a building, renovate a laboratory, award a fellowship, or maintain a walkway without engaging the Bank . . . Almost all priorities in the university come back, eventually, to the budget that identifies the sources ^ and uses of funds. (Online) Few college and university administrators are so candid about the harsh reality that intellectual endeavor has become primarily an economic concern. But many colleges around the country are responding to the same sets of concerns that compelled the development of the University of Florida Bank. More and more, amid calls for "accountability," universities find themselves compelled to commodify education as they move to accommodate themselves

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21 to the efficient, technical dictates of the business coiTununity . . 5 , * f V

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CHAPTER 4 WHAT ARE THE STAKES? The influences of banking and corporate accounting inevitably shape Distance education initiatives. Once a — basic equivalency between monetary and informational exchanges is established, educational institutions will learn to maximize resources by mimicking practices established by banks and corporations. Many Distance education programs try to extend classroom transactions into remote locations as ATM networks and online banking have extended the teller/customer relationship onto the streets and into the home. Institutions searching for ways to increase their coverage find obvious attractions in the technology that obviates the need to assemble customers/students in one place, -, The further the technology progresses, the fewer resources become necessary for the institution's various transfers. But rushing to adopt the technologies that allow this extension of resources may push educational institutions to woo corporate entities that have no stake in education other than their own interests. These partnerships may have telling effects on the institution of knowledge itself, and educators need to take into account what is at 22

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23 stake as they contemplate an online future facilitated by an outside corporation. The Western Governors' University One of the most ambitious Distance education plans in the works today is the Western Governors' University . The WGU comprises a consortium of governors, led by Utah's Mike Leavitt and Colorado's Roy Romer, who have joined forces to create an accessible interstate educational institution. WGU plans satellite offices in most of the Western United States and Guam, but the "delivery" will largely occur over the Internet. WGU demonstrates that, rather than conceding the business friendly Distance education market to businesses like the University of Phoenix, states and other traditional sources of higher education funding can opt to join forces with them. WGU's nonlocalized structure could produce some interesting results. One possible result is that where a student earned her degree will become less important than the components of the education (or "competencies" as WGU terms them) . As the WGU's Vision Statement puts it, "Where learning takes place will no longer be as important as what a student actually learns." Thus, rather than saying, "I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from the Western Governor's University," a former student would likely say.

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24 "Western Governor's University has certified that I have competency in the following areas." The idea of "competency -based" education underpins this new enterprise. Rather than adopt a major, a student may develop a "profile" by assessing the skills and knowledge she already has. Once the student determines what goals she needs to reach, she and the University identify specific competencies that will fill the gaps of the student's existing skills. Thus, the breadth of a student's education would be determined almost solely by specific career goals. Nothing is inherently wrong with tailoring one's . education to fit one's intended career; few people are lucky enough to indulge in an education without any demonstrable relevance to a future source of income. But WGU can train students in the competencies that will make them attractive employees because corporate "advisors" guide the development of curriculum and delivery. The names on the WGU's advisory board include some of the most prominent companies in American high technology: Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, AT&T, 3Com Corporation, IBM, Apple, and Novell. These companies know well what competencies their employees will need in the short run, and WGU is able to provide students with these competencies. In today's economy, this arrangement sounds perfect to many students. One knows in advance that one is getting training in skills guaranteed to be useful to prominent

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businesses. And few, if any, distribution requirements or core curricula impede students on their paths to getting that training. For people who wish only to be certified that they may hold the jobs of tomorrow, a better arrangement could scarcely be found. Naturally, the arrangement is even better for the corporations involved. Under the aegis of a multistate educational experiment, corporations get to guide and monitor the training of students. "Unlike other distance learning efforts, the WGU will bring together and act as a broker for both traditional and non traditional educational providers, from universities, to corporations that train employees for specific skills." Corporations have access to a potentially huge body of students who, because of geographical constraints, might not otherwise be able to attend. This access allows them both to pick from a highly skilled employee base and to build market awareness and loyalty for their products. Even more ideally, they are able to accomplish these goals with the enthusiastic backing of the Western Governors, so their own investment is relatively small. The returns for the companies involved are potentially quite large; their downside is comparatively limited. Historian David Noble argues that this type of corporate partnership arrangement is fairly typical of the Distance education plans currently in development.

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26 Corporations channel publiclysponsored research into directions useful for corporate development: [Cjorporate training advocates view online education as yet another way of bringing their problemsolving, information-processing, "just intime" educated employees up to prof it -making speed... they envision the transformation of the delivery of higher education as a means of supplying their properly prepared personnel at public expense. (43) To argue that education should be free of potentially employable skills would be ludicrous. But educational institutions focusing on providing corporations with employees trained to handle the skills of tomorrow are aiding the corporation more than the student. With a focus on a well-rounded education, a student stands a better chance of learning the skills of the day after tomorrow . And the university may avoid being converted into white-collar votech education. Breaking the Bank: The Online Gamble ,> : ^ Educational institutions seeking corporate assistance in putting their materials online have several partnership models aside from WGU's. The University of Colorado provides another. Rather than start a DE program from scratch, Colorado opted to build its Distance education infrastructure around its existing degree programs. It teamed with Real Education , an independent corporation specializing in translating traditional universities'

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27 functions into online presentation. Real Education pulls together a package of numerous mediaincluding the World Wide Web, streaming animation, chat rooms, email, and telephone and uses them to transplant professors' course material from the classroom environment. But classes are only half of the picture. Many universities offer some courses online, but few are able to offer students complete degree programs. Real Education endeavors to create a full simulacrum of the University's administrative functions: Let us put your university online. We can build you an online catalog, bursar's office, library, career center, student union, and bookstore. Students can also register, process financial aid, and receive academic advising; all from any computer . . . anywhere. (Online) Real Education presents an attractive alternative for universities eager to establish an online presence. The university is free to focus on its "core competencies," to borrow a term from business circles, and leave the presentation to specialists. Professors may concentrate on the content of courses, and the university's external vendor finds the best way to transfer that content into a presentation suitable for electronic means of distribution. Conflicts, however, arise. Having finished producing course "content," professors have rendered themselves superfluous. In a classroom situation, a professor's notes remain in her possession, and classroom interactionwhether lecture or discussionrelies heavily the professor's

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28 mediation. Once the professor's texts have been re -worked for electronic presentation, though, the situation is much less firmly under her control. Noble notes with alarm some of the possible results of the translation of professor's course content into electronic form: Once faculty put their course material online . . . the knowledge and course design skill embodied in that material is taken out of their possession, transferred to the machinery, and placed in the hands of the administration. The administration is now in a position to hire less skilled, and hence cheaper, workers to deliver the technologically pre-packaged course. It also allows the administration, which claims ownership of this commodity, to peddle the course elsewhere without the original designer's involvement or even , knowledge, much less financial interest. (47) ; Aside from this potential peril to faculty jobs and intellectual property, the translation of traditional university functions presents a hazard to the information being transmitted itself. Real Education claims to transfer the classroom experience to the Internet and phone lines. But many theorists of technology doubt that anyone can make such a claim. For the process of translation to avoid distorting the content, the content must be independent of the technology of delivery. But this independent status is far from assured. In Critical Theory of Technology, Andrew Feenberg divides the prominent theories of technology into two camps: instrumental and substantive. Instrumental theory sees technology as essentially neutral; it inscribes no values of its own. Technology may be used to advance purposes that may V

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be of any ideological character, merely extending their effects. Feenberg notes that the instrumentalist position is "the dominant view of modern governments and the policy sciences on which they rely"; its assumptions clearly inform Real Education's program. Substantive theory, however, maintains that technology is itself ideological. Technology "constitutes a new type of cultural system that restructures the entire social world as an object of control." Repackaging classroom education thus necessitates new forms of control over both students and information. Feenberg gives a modern example of technology's intervention in a traditional interaction to demonstrate the two theoretical camps' differences: The substitution of "fast food" for the traditional ... family dinner can serve as a humble illustration of the unintended cultural consequences of technology. The unity of the family, ritually reaffirmed each evening, no longer has a comparable locus of expression . . . ... An "instrumentalist" might reply that well -prepared fast food supplies a nourishing meal without needless social complications. This objection is blind to the cultural implications of technology. Instrumentalist theory treats "eating" as if it were merely a matter of ingesting calories ... In adopting a strictly functional point of view, we have determined that eating is a technical operation that may be carried out with more or less efficiency. (7-8) ""J -; 'f ';s The family dinner provides a useful parallel for the college campus. Both have traditionally claimed a value greater than simply their utility (food and information consumption) . In both situations, to apply technology is to insist that their value is, in fact, their utility --

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30 utility transferable to settings more conducive to fast-paced lifestyles (drive-thrus and Internet courses) . Setting aside the temptation to fixate on the theoretical possibility of "well -prepared fast food," and by analogy well -prepared online education, one may still see that simply transplanting the college experience into a new environment may alter completely the cultural significance of that experience. A Net -savvy colleague of mine showed me an interesting sidebar to the instrumentalist/substantive conflict that Real Education presents. One can trace the Internet routes for an organization (in this case realeducation.com) back to its server, so that one can contact its administrators, using the UNIX command whois realeducation.com. The contact person for administrative, technical and billing concerns listed for realeducation.com is bbrad@REALCASIN0.COM. REALCASIN0.COM is a Caribbean -based online gambling concern. An instrumentalist, of course, would argue that the two real.coms simply perform the same neutral process: converting the functions of two social institutions to online environs. But if, in the search for Distance education alternatives, we are forced to admit that our work is even remotely analogous to that of a casino, we must reassess the stakes of the venture. Because much of the future demand on academic resources results from corporate needs, not surprisingly most of the

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31 solutions chosen to meet that demand have a distinctlycorporate character. If corporations themselves were the only ones affected by these solutions, educators would have little cause for alarm. Sadly, though, most people who are in the business of higher education will be affected eventually. Few institutions can ignore completely the increasingly business-oriented drift of education. Current trends in distance education are alarming because most fail to consider that not all kinds of knowledge may simply be delivered. Attempts to convey knowledge from one place to another can only be successful with the moribund conception that knowledge is simply data, a quantity that sits still, waiting for delivery. Freire and Newman would probably have agreed on very few things. But both saw learning as a fundamentally humanizing experience, one that could not be reduced to the demands of professionalism. A distance education program concerned only with increasing the efficiency and scope of "delivery" inherently threatens such a conception of education. The idea of educating students who are not in the same physical location need not be harmful to higher education. Campuses may be physically attractive, and even conducive to learning, but they are not a prerequisite. Dynamic learning experiences can, and do, take place in electronically mediated environments. Unfortunately, few distance education experiments so far seem engineered to produce dynamic

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learning experiences. On the contrary, most are engineered to effect simple transfers of static information. Students need college degrees to survive. Corporations need well (if narrowly) educated employees to thrive. Colleges' and universities' mission faces redefinition as the fulfillment of both of those sets of needs. Distance education environments provide some telling examples of this shift in emphasis, but not the only ones. If liberal arts education is to remain available to students other than the very privileged, educators will have to address the ramifications of packaging information for remote delivery. As long as concerns over space and financial resources continue to predominate in justifications for distance education, any learning that cannot demonstrate its cost efficiency faces an institutional threat. We may be sentimental, but many educators believe the most important lessons of a liberal arts education resist documentation on a profit/loss statement. Any university without the luxury of ignoring the contemporary corporate climate will have to start phasing out these lessons, allowing knowledge to flourish that can easily show its technical utility, ultimately to supplant more ephemeral forms of knowledge altogether.

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LIST OF REFERENCES Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy. Samuel Lipman, ed. New Haven: Yale UP, 1994. Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster, 19 87. Feenberg, Andrew. Critical Theory of Technology . New York: Oxford UP, 1991 . Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Trans. Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Seabury Press, 197 3. Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks . Trans. Hoare, Quintin, and Smith, Geoffrey Nowell . New York: International Publishers, 1971. Lombardi, John. "University of Florida Bank." Online materials, http://www.aa.ufl.edu/aa/dass/bank (March 24, 1998) . Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University . New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1947. Noble, David. "Digital Diploma Mills." Monthly Review, vol. 49, no. 9 (Feb. 1998), pp. 37-59. Real Education, Inc. "Welcome to Real Education." Online materials, http://www.realeducation.com (March 24, 1998) . Steiner, George. In Bluebeard' s Castle. New Haven: Yale UP, 1971. Traub, James. "The Next University: Drive-Thru U." The New Yorker. October 20 &27 , 1997, pp. 114-123. University of Phoenix. "University of Phoenix Home Page." Online materials, http : //www . uophx . edu (March 24, 1998). Western Governors' University. " Smar tStates . " Online materials. http : //www. westgov . org/smart/ (March 24, 1998) 33

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Matthew Myers Davis was born in 1971. He was raised in Miami, Florida. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1993, he spent several years travelling and wallowing in dissipation. Specializing in Media Studies in the English department at the University of Florida, he completed his Master of Arts degree in December of 1998, and promptly took a leave of absence, frightened by the very educational tendencies he chronicled in his Master's thesis.

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I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a thesis for the degree of Master. Professor of English I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, a thesis for the degree of Master>ipf Arts, Gregory L./Ulmer Professor^ of English as This thesis was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts. December, 1998 Dean, Graduate School