I taught at the University of Phoenix for about a year, and here are some comments.
The educational model as far as students go is very good. The most important thing that it does is foster a sense of community among students. What I found at both MIT and UoP is that most of the actual teaching isn't done by the teacher, it's done by students interacting with each other, and the only thing that the teacher can do is to provide a good environment for interaction.
I also learned about what I call the "Sadaam Hussein effect" which is that students do not tell you if you are being a lousy teacher, and UoP has a mechanism to deal with that. The first algebra course that I taught, I was being too abstract and irrelevant but none of the students could communicate that fact to me. What UoP does for your first course is to have an outside mentor who does a mid-course survey of the students, and the reviews I got were scathingly bad. I changed my teaching practice and by the end of the course, I got decent reviews.
So why am I not teaching there now….
The problem is that while UoP is wonderful at fostering a sense of community among students, it's not that good at fostering a sense of community among teachers. I never really got connected with the other teachers or the administration, and so I didn't know who to lobby in order to do things like get a business calculus course started. The pay for UoP adjunct faculty isn't that good and the work is grueling. For the first few courses, the cost-benefit was good because I was learning new things, but after about the fifth or sixth course I figured that I learned as much about online teaching that I was going to and there was no clear path to get to the next level.
This also gets to why I'm talking about MIT OCW rather than UoP or for that matter University of Texas at Austin. Don't misunderstand what sounds like "negativity." MIT's courses, curriculum, and culture are deeply flawed and dysfunctional because all human systems are deeply flawed and dysfunctional. The thing that makes MIT different is that I have some idea who I need to talk to, and who I have to convince in order to get something done, and I know based on the conversations that I've already had that MIT is receptive to change, whereas I haven't gotten "permission to be passionate" from either University of Phoenix or the University of Texas at Austin.
What is interesting is that as the technological limits to communications are removed, the limits and barriers become human and cultural. I need to sleep sometime. I can only think about one thing at a time. It takes time and energy to establish human relations and mobilize political resources for change.
At one level, it greatly concerns me that MIT is going to get steamrollered in the next several years, but at another level, I need to remind myself that MIT has already cleared a lot of the major political and cultural hurdles. It is scary for someone in a university administration to say what they actually think, because they are (justifiably) afraid of the "media storm" that will result if the wrong thing gets said. Getting courseware online sounds easier than it is, and I don't doubt the huge number of political and logistical hurdles that OCW had to cross to get to this point, including how to handle "media storms" like the one over the Japanese woodcuts.
So I just need to take a deep breathe, let things happen, and get back to figuring out why Chinese derivatives act the way that they do.