The Logical End of For-Profit, Online Education

The best way to ensure at least some value to education is through time-defined study under monitored face-to-face supervision. Education can certainly happen otherwise; it can even end up being not very good in this set-up. But every other model cries out for scam.

In The New York Times today, Declan Walsh shows us that the ultimate result of the push for online education has been reached: A company in Pakistan is making millions by side-stepping “content” completely. The Wizard of Oz University–I mean Axact–has seen what goes on in for-profit online colleges and has taken that to the next step. Why even have a pretense of education when no education results anyway? Why not simply sell the certification?

As the Times points out, “diploma mills have long been seen as a nuisance. But the proliferation of Internet-based degree schemes has raised concerns about their possible use in immigration fraud, and about dangers they may pose to public safety and legal systems.” At Axact:

The professors and bubbly students in promotional videos are actors, according to former employees, and some of the stand-ins feature repeatedly in ads for different schools.

The sources described how employees would plant fictitious reports about Axact universities on iReport, a section of the CNN website for citizen journalism. Although CNN stresses that it has not verified the reports, Axact uses the CNN logo as a publicity tool on many of its sites.

Social media adds a further patina of legitimacy. LinkedIn contains profiles for purported faculty members of Axact universities, likeChristina Gardener, described as a senior consultant at Hillford University and a former vice president at Southwestern Energy, a publicly listed company in Houston. In an email, a Southwestern spokeswoman said the company had no record of an employee with that name.

The article ends with this irony:

“This is a university, my friend,” said one representative when asked about Axact. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

One thought on “The Logical End of For-Profit, Online Education

  1. Pingback: Actors, Videos, Robots, and More MOOC Reading Round-up |

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