“Five years ago, Southern New Hampshire University was a 2,000-student private school struggling against declining enrollment, poor name recognition, and teetering finances. Today, it’s the Amazon.com of higher education. The school’s burgeoning online division has 180 different programs with an enrollment of 34,000.” Read the rest of “The Amazon of Higher Education” at Slate.com.
I spend most of my waking hours (and I suppose a fair amount of my sleeping hours too) inhabiting two worlds that have both been heavily disrupted by technology: 1) writing and publishing, and 2) higher education. SNH provides a road map for how even smaller universities can bet big on online education and reap huge dividends. There will always be a place for the traditional, straight-out-high-school, student — trust me, no parent wants their kids going to college in their basements — but focusing exclusively on those students is almost always going to be a losing proposition. Just as in publishing, it’s critical to a book’s survival to have that book available in as many formats and markets as possible, higher education must deliver learning to as many different groups (eighteen-year-olds, working adults, long distance learners) and in as many different formats (face-to-face, online, hybrid) to ensure their long-term success. Public universities may not be able to turn the corner as fast as a private institution like Southern New Hampshire, but that’s all the more reason not to delay.