An online business model
How Big Can E-Learning Get? At Southern New Hampshire U., Very Big
But rather than limping along, this obscure institution is becoming a regional powerhouse—online.
With 7,000 online students, the university has grown into the second-largest online education provider in college-saturated New England, aiming to blow the University of Massachusetts out of the top spot. It recently began testing TV advertisements in national markets like Milwaukee and Oklahoma City, too, sensing that scandals tarring for-profit colleges have opened an opportunity for nonprofit competitors.
Academe is abuzz with talk of "disruptive innovation"—the idea, described by Harvard's Clayton M. Christensen, that the prestige-chasing, tuition-raising business model of higher education is broken, and that something new and cheaper, rooted in online learning, promises to displace it.
Southern New Hampshire, which is showcased in Mr. Christensen's new book, The Innovative University, offers a case study of what happens when a college leader adopts some of the Harvard Business School professor's strategies for managing disruptive change. Southern New Hampshire's deep dive into Web teaching raises many questions facing colleges migrating online: How big will e-learning get? What will that mean for campuses? How will it break apart the role of traditional professors?