Walmart has signed an agreement with American Public Education, a for-profit school known for teaching online courses to the military. Walmart employees will be able to get associates’ and four-year degrees at a discount and with credit for experience. The company will spend $50 million over a three-year period to cover books and provide additional discounts.
Without doubt, this agreement will only heighten the disdain that most academics feel about Walmart (if that is possible). In fact, the Chronicle of Higher Education called American Public University (the unit Walmart is contracting with) “a higher-education version of Wal-Mart.”
But it’s just another sign that the online revolution in education is closer than we think. Yesterday, InsideHigherEd reported that the NCAA is “de-certifying” Brigham Young University’s Independent Study program. About 500 high-school athletes take courses there; the reason is that they may be skimping on NCAA’s requirements for being college-ready.
What struck me was the statement that “at any given time, students are taking more than 100,000 high school courses and 22,000 college classes” — and that’s just in BYU’s program! We’ve been hearing figures about college students in online classes, but the high-school market seems to be below the radar.