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The Emerging Landscape of Educational Delivery Models

This article was originally posted at e-Literate

Traditional education or online education. In the past decade it seems that the dominant conversation has been around the potential for online learning, both from for-profit and non-profit options, to disrupt education as an industry.


What I believe we are seeing in 2011 and 2012 is a transition to an educational system no longer dominated by traditional education and one or two alternative models. As my colleague Molly Langstaff has described, educational technology and new educational courses and programs are interacting to create new language and models for education. What does this emerging landscape of educational delivery models look like?

While I do not claim to be able to solve this problem, I would like to offer a more descriptive view than the dichotomy of traditional and online education describes.

There is a growing number of models on how to deliver education effectively, which is natural given the investment and interest in fixing or disrupting education (and yes, I know these terms are over-used and often ignore the innovations happening within traditional educational circles). Not all of these models will end up thriving in the long-term, but I do foresee that there is room for more than just two models.

For example, here’s one list of models, followed by a view of how they differ in terms of course design and the channel by which information is created and transmitted:

  • Traditional Non-Profit Face-to-Face Programs
  • Non-Profit Online Programs
  • For-Profit, Both Face-to-Face and Online Programs
  • Competency-Based
  • Open Education Practices
  • Massively Open Online Courses, or MOOCs
  • Flipped Classroom


Why does it matter that we describe these educational delivery models with finer granularity than just traditional and online? Because the aims of the models differ, as do the primary methods of how these models are created and delivered. As an example, there are really two variations of MOOCs with quite different approaches – witness the Stanford and MITx version vs. the rhizomatic version. Given the changing landscape, the judgment of how successful these models will become, as well as how well learning platforms help solve the associated problems should differ as well.

I plan to write several upcoming posts looking at some of the key attributes of these models and how educational technology is serving these models.

UPDATE: Graphic changed to clarify faculty involvement with instructional design team

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