Technology for education, not profit

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Last weekend, about 400 invited participants from the higher education community attended the star-studded, Future of State Universities conference in Dallas.

The conference was hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt. The speakers ranged from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa to Arizona State President Michael Crowley to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the latter though video conference.

According to a statement, Hunt said the conference is meant to help state universities find a “new and sustainable model” through offering solutions, “including an increased focus on technology and online education that will allow them to flourish in the future.”

However, as Inside Higher Ed reports, serious questions arise when looking at the conference’s sponsor: Academic Partnerships. The group is a for-profit company whose mission is to, “assist public universities in extending the reach of their brands and academic excellence through online learning,” according to its website.

The role of technology is crucial to the future of higher education and UT, and is clearly expressed in reports ranging from UT’s Commission of 125 to the Task Force on Enrollment Strategy to the UT System’s Framework for Academic Excellence. The University launched the Course Transformation Program last year to allow professors of large undergraduate courses to design technology supplements to assist in learning.

Yet the role of Academic Partnerships in sponsoring the conference shows the increasing trend of sleazy, back-door emergences of for-profit companies in higher education, as they try to capitalize on a growing market and public funds.

As we negotiate the future of higher education, let’s make sure to let education dictate the technology, and not the other way around.

Printed on Friday, October 14, 2011 as: Technology for education, not profit