EducationPop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Businesslike?

I often peruse the Chronicle of Higher Education and get ideas for these posts from there.  Today I saw this article, where the “dirty words” are business terms and the premise is we should stop pretending college isn’t a business endeavor.


The article walks the idea back by saying colleges serve the students, which is entirely true.  Service industries however imply that customers must in the end of the transaction be satisfied or the transaction will not be completed.  However, being accepted at a college doesn’t guarantee success, which is how the business model plays out in the minds of students.  My colleagues and I have received evaluations (like probably every teacher out there) most likely from students who are not succeeding in class that blame us for not being to inject the information (not to mention the required skills) into them.  The difference between education and a service industry is that the “consumer” brings the most crucial component to the relationship – the ability and willingness to learn.  Learning is not easy, especially as the learner progresses in a given program.  There is a whole area of work examining exactly how learning is accomplished, and the short answer is we still don’t know, so yeah the way college currently happens won’t help every student succeed.

What we do know though is the student has to commit to the process – they can’t simply be passive  but must participate in their own learning.  I recently had a conversation with a colleague about how college seems to be one of the few cases where the consumer seems happy to get less than what they payed for – cancel a class, throw out an assignment, and you get cheers.  Not very business like, I’d say.

In Dan’s recent post about the dialog mode of teaching, he mentions MOOCs and the rise of online resources.  Studies show that success rates are low, lower than more traditional classrooms, and this may be due to lower investment by the students.  They didn’t pay for it after all.  (Did I just start arguing with myself over whether the business model is valid?)  I would still state that the relationship between college and student is inherently different from buyer and seller in that the buyer is the one doing the bulk of the (internal) work in college situations.  I as the seller try to make the product as accessible as possible to the buyer using best practices and evidence-based methodologies, but it’s still not as simply as my pouring what the student needs to know into their brain.  Yes the student pays to be there – they’re paying for my time and effort to make that knowledge and those skills accessible and to do my best to help them master it.  A college professor’s gotta eat, ya know.

Here’s my question to you: am I kidding myself in thinking college shouldn’t be based on a business model?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in the afternoon (ET).

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Apostrophobia is a college professor at a women's college in the US. She teaches biology, does pedagogical research on her guinea pigs (aka students), and has an existential fear of misplaced apostrophes.

1 Comment

  1. July 31, 2014 at 4:05 pm —

    I think you are spot on, it should not be based on a business model. Education is not a business and I know lots of other people who would agree. I also know lots of administrators that would not agree. I have been told time and time again that education needs to be run like a business in order to make the money the schools need to survive. I suppose that is a valid point but it seems that by running the schools this way tends to harm both student (consumer) and teacher (service provider).

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