I enjoyed your summary and interpretation of the JIU case study. In the third paragraph, you describe aspects in the relationship between the education provider and educational quality in online courses. You argue that online content delivery is weaker than campus-based education because of the separation, or “unbundling” (Ogden, 2008, p. 10), of the course content creator and the class teacher. It is not entirely clear from your description if you also hold this opinion or if you are only reporting on the JIU situation. Nevertheless, I’d like to explore this notion of unbundling and question if this is necessarily an aspect of online content delivery or if unbundling is a different issue. This question gains importance in terms of value in education when it is used as a method of attacking online delivery as was done by James Perley (Ogden, 2008). A basic question must be asked; did Perley use a straw man argument: the setting up of an irrelevant and flawed position (i.e. linking online course delivery with unbundling) in order to attack it? If Perley’s criticism of online education by questioning an aspect of its delivery can be demonstrated to be a straw man attack, Perley’s statement can only be understood not in terms of evidence-based, rational argument formation but in terms of unarticulated values (Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004).
To answer this question, we must distinguish between four possibilities of delivery type: unbundled online; unbundled campus; bundled online; and bundled campus. If at this point, examples of each type can be found, an argument can be made that Perley’s opinion is an unsupported value judgement. This, however, is not enough. For if it can be shown that unbundled delivery produces weaker educational outcomes, Perley’s values may be defensible. So we must look for evidence of educational outcomes in each of the delivery modes.
Guzman and Trivelato (2011) provide evidence for the existence of unbundled campus-based higher education courses. Guzman and Trivelato’s (2011) case study investigated how knowledge structures may be codified, stored and transmitted in for-profit mass higher education institutions in Brazil. A key research question centred on the possibility of commodifying courses that are created by content designer experts and packaged to be taught by lower status instructors. The primary finding was that serious incongruences existed between these two groups, in particular the degree to which tacit knowledge could not be codified successfully enough to permit its dissemination by lower-level instructors.
Although Perley’s association of unbundling and online delivery can be shown to be demonstrably false, his value sense that unbundling may be detrimental to education is supported by Guzman and Trivelato (2011). But to follow this logic through, the accreditation of any course, online or campus-based, that utilises unbundling methods is at risk. However, a further aspect of quality becomes apparent; what are the methods of understanding quality in bundled courses? Is there a parity between bundled and unbundled courses here? This question also needs to be asked, but most quality indicators at the higher education, non-vocational, level do not directly address value-added education, i.e. the demonstrable rise is achievement through standardised testing over the duration of a single college course (Tam, 2001).
Guzman, G., & Trivelato, L. F. (2011). Packaging and unpackaging knowledge in mass higher education-a knowledge management perspective. Higher Education, 62(4), 451–465. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-010-9398-3
Hitlin, S., & Piliavin, J. A. (2004). Values: Reviving a Dormant Concept. Annual Review of Sociology, 30(1), 359–393. http://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.soc.30.012703.110640
Ogden, J. (2008). Cyber U: The accreditation of Jones International University. Durham, NC: The Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.
Tam, M. (2001). Measuring Quality and Performance in Higher Education. Quality in Higher Education, 7(1), 47–54. http://doi.org/10.1080/13538320120045076