Higher Education Institution Factors and Technology- Mediated Distance Education Strategy Decisions

David S. Murphy


Changes in student demographics, increased institutional costs and technological advances have increased interest in and use of technology
mediated distance education in higher education. This paper develops a model of strategy development and education value and then tests the
effect of three internal factors (institution type, size and location) on technology mediated distance education strategy classification. The null
hypothesis of no effect of internal factors on strategy classification was tested using PEQIS publicly available data set through the use of ordinal
regression. Implications for policy and practice, and for further theory development are future research are discussed.
Current demographic trends have not been kind to higher education institutions today nor will they be in the near future (Ross 2008). The
number of traditional age college students is declining. Many institutions have responded to a decrease in tuition revenue by raising tuition rather
than by reducing costs. Colleges and universities need to find ways to reduce their reliance on tuition-based revenue, reduce the need to raise
tuition by reducing institutional costs, attract more non-traditional students, and attract students from outside their traditional market areas.
Technology mediated distance education (TMDE) is one approach that may reduce education delivery costs and hence reduce pressure to
increase tuition rates, and attract non-traditional students and students from more distant or even global markets.
Technology-mediated distance education (TMDE) frees institutions from the time and location constraints of face-to-face instruction.
TMDE provides flexibility to higher education institutions (HEI) so that they can respond in a more timely fashion to challenges caused by
changes in student demographics, demands for accountability and increased public scrutiny, reductions in state and federal funding (Duderstadt
1999; Duderstadt et al. 2002; Katz 1999; Schwitzer et all. 2001). Competition for students is increasing and some institutions are being driven
towards TMDE so that they can compete with HEI that have already positioned themselves as providers of TMDE (Duderstadt 1999-2000,
Over the past decade technology TMDE has grown in importance with close to four million students taking at least one on-line course
in the fall of 2007. The 2008 Sloan Consortium survey of distance education of 2,500 colleges and universities indicates the growth of distance
education. Enrollment trends, as reported in the Sloan Study, are summarized in Table 1 below (Allen and Seaman, 2008).
However, the decision to offer TMDE has not been embraced by all HEI. Allen and Seaman (2007) reported that while about 59 percent
of institutions surveyed felt that online education was critical to the long-term mission of their institutions, 27 percent were neutral and 13.5
percent felt that online-education was not mission critical. Thus, in spite of increasing enrollment in online education, over 40 percent of surveyed
institutions do not feel that online education is mission critical.
The decision to offer online courses is a strategic one and one with significant long-term consequences. Oblinger, et al. noted in 2001 that,
"Distance or distributed education is one of the most complex issues facing higher education institutions today . . . Few institutions will be
untouched by the discussion and debate surrounding distributed education." This debate to a great extent may be focused on the quality issue.
There may always be a faculty cohort that believes that modes of instruction that do not include direct, personal interaction between students and
faculty is deficient. Nevertheless, given the pervasiveness and rapid growth of TMDE that complaint is not likely to impede its penetration in
This paper develops a theoretical model for the differences in strategic importance given to online education and the consequent strategic
decisions and reports on a preliminary test of the theory.

Full Text: