Launching and sustaining innovative new academic programs is typically a complex enterprise, especially distance education projects, and more particularly, such initiatives attempted by individual institutions with little or no prior experience in this arena. Inherently parochial, colleges and universities usually experiment with online courses on their own, but increasingly, as institutions engage in more ambitious efforts to develop full programs of study offered at a distance, they are recognizing, enthusiastically or reluctantly, that collaborative arrangements may make the difference between success and failure, especially for those with little expertise and few start-up resources. Partnerships are being forged between two or more higher education entities, and even more remarkably, there is growing evidence of academic institutions partnering with for-profit corporate organizations. Unfortunately, these unions too often result in more collisions than collaborations, especially when there are differing values among the parties involved. Through the presentation of selected mini-case studies representing several actual higher education-corporate partnerships, this chapter identifies and analyzes a number of ethical dilemmas, some philosophical and others practical, which should be considered by those who enter into distance education partnerships.
Distance Education Partnerships
Organizational arrangements in which partners with differing attitudes and values enter into collaborative agreements to design and deliver new academic programs are increasingly common. Long known for their parochial approach in the knowledge industry, colleges and universities are suddenly being challenged by new educational providers able to compete with them, often utilizing a for-profit mode as a strong incentive to encroach into a domain in which institutions have enjoyed a monopoly for so long. The “forced marriages” that now occur with some frequency between these unlikely partners exacerbates the danger of having two or more players with disparate goals and distinct means of achieving them.