DC, August 24, 2010...In 2002, Dr. Fred DiUlus started to rate and rank online universities. He did it for free and he continues to
do it for free as a public service uninhibited by advertising or hidden agendas. His eBook rating of online accredited universities
is the Best Worst Online Degree Programs He was the first in the world to do it. No one in academia, he says, seriously paid
online universities much mind nor took them very seriously in early 2000. Mainstream educators, for the most part, thought
online education was of no useful value except to gin up buckets of money for the for-profit, privately run, online schools.
Some of the most successful financially he says are the public companies that run the University of Phoenix, Capella University, and Grand Canyon University along with several others. Many desperate, financially hard-pressed traditional non-profit
schools in need of more money have found online education to be the quintessential 'cash cow'. Their entry into the
market place has legitimized to a large extent the total online for-profit industry.
Even though the schools that
are for-profit are severely criticized for what many feel are obscene profits at the expense of education, the view and perception
of online education has changed dramatically in the last eight years. Growth of online program providers that DiUlus currently
rates has gone from a little over 20 in 2002 to over 300 in 2010.
Dr. DiUlus credits a growing positive view of
online education coming not only from the early adopter, non traditional, students heading back to school to get their postponed
degrees, but also from the new overwhelming number of traditional students who have experienced both classroom and online
education before entering college. DiUlus cites his own research that shows a new generation of scholars believes by a margin
of three to one, that online education beats learning in a classroom hands down.
Today's global economic climate
has financially challenged many institutions that are heavily vested in brick and mortar projects forcing them, whether they
like it or not, to seek out funds wherever it might lead. For most that has lead to offering online classes. However, DiUlus
points to online programs at some large schools as financial disasters. MIT, Columbia, and The University of Illinois at Urbana are just three examples he cites. "MIT and Columbia pulled the plug years ago and
literally all of MIT's 1500 online courses are now free. Illinois, on the other hand is a recent tragedy. They inescapably
could not seem to get out of their own way, says DiUlus, to manage the program properly.
DiUlus argues that leadership
from the top must be dedicated, persistent and passionate about the contribution online education will make to a university.
Frankly, he says it must shake off the traditional fears of alumni and 'set in their ways' faculty. The University of Akron is an example of forward thinking leadership in DiUlus' book where the school rates
near the top in online programs. Illinois can barely muster a so-so ranking and MIT and Columbia are not even rated.
"From the beginning" DiUlus states, "I wanted to provide the most objective and realistic evaluation. I scrubbed
the name off the building. I wanted to know what was inside and who the leaders were. I wanted to know if the professors could
teach online and if so were their students walking away with a first rate education." That, he said, smacked in the face
of how schools were traditionally rated. Take away the sports teams, the buildings, the alumni, the research grants, and a
recognized scholar here and there and you find a school laid-bare. "You see", he says, "only the faculty, the
administration and the students in the end count and if push comes to shove we can ditch the administration." This is
the only way you can judge online schools he says. The rest is window dressing.
Traditional schools entering online
education do not necessarily provide the best programs. The fact is, DiUlus comments, that many in higher education heading
for retirement in the next five to ten years could care less whether their university succeeds in online education. "Many
tenured faculty pay lip service to the phenomena and know something has to be done about it but that's it for them."
That attitude DiUlus points out, leaves the door open for the new giants of higher education tomorrow who may neither be the
traditional college or colleges born and bred in the USA.
Many of today's seasoned academics grouse that they
can't retain the copyright from the development of their courses online and that they are being severely restricted in
both the design and delivery of classes they create online smothering their academic freedom to do what they want versus what
they can do in a classroom. This rubs off on the students as it did in Illinois, MIT and Columbia and the students will walk
away. Add in the growing generation gap between older professors and younger students separated by a huge technology gap,
DiUlus concludes, and it clearly illustrates the distance between student and faculty has never been greater or more dramatic.
It's a serious public relations foul-up says DiUlus but the schools are afraid if they push too hard, their
traditional courses will be skewered. "Schools are afraid of ruffling the feathers of alumni, benefactors and faculty
while knowing full well that their students already know that online delivery is better. DiUlus says it's a nasty Catch 22 for traditional schools.
As a result, new startup and older exclusive online
schools are chipping away at the market share of traditional colleges and the onslaught of well-funded, highly effective online
learning machines are hitting American shores. The traditional education industry in America DiUlus says is in for a massive
shakeup of revolutionary proportions.
A fundamentally sound education taught online does not require bricks or
mortar. It requires, DiUlus says, passionately dedicated online teachers who can deliver a first rate education online. Premier
universities of the future are those that will do justice to both sides of the house equally. Several of his top ten ranked online schools evidence that very fact. He warns that if traditional schools, no matter how old
or how long they have been around don't grab hold of this and do it right, they will cease to exist.