At New Online University, Advertisers Will Underwrite Free Degrees

Angela Chen, Tidsskriftet for Universiteternes Efter- og Videreuddannelse, Aug 08, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Maybe this will work, but it has to be done well. The ham-handed model suggested in this article is not it ("students may be asked a question like 'Are you a runner?' ... if a student checks “yes,” he or she will thereafter see ads for a certain brand of running shoes). More likely such a site would collect demographic information that would be used to inform political and advertising campaigns not overtly associated with the program itself (for example, a tendency among influential students to speak negatively about a certain policy would result in a campaign around that issue) and brand placement and awareness campaigns inserted into learning material (for example, a series of placements in exercises intended to normalize, say, gun ownership or privatized health care). That, of course, is both the opportunity and the danger of advertising-supported learning.

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