This week, Washington-area billionaire Michael Saylor announced his plans to launch an online university providing "Ivy league-quality" education to anyone for free via the Internet. Saylor has promised to spend at least $100 million to get his university off the ground. According to the Washington Post, however, this money will apparently not be used to pay lecturers. Says Saylor, "People line up and fight to get on the Charlie Rose show . . . I think they'll fight to get in the studio." Saylor breaks no new ground in using technology to bolster distance education. In fact, another group of investors including Michael Milken has promised up to $100 million to establish a for-profit, online university. Already established universities such as Cornell and Temple are partnering with for-profits to develop and market their online education programs. And Stanford, Yale, and Princeton are investigating a partnership to collaborate on a distance education program. Saylor's vision of a free university is, however, thus far unique and captures some of the on-going debates in the imbrication of technology, big business, and education. While some laud increased access to education and learning resources, others wonder how the influence of big business will color educational programs, and still others are sceptical that classrooms with taped teachers, such as Saylor's, will be effective.
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