Stephen Downes has posted about The Economy of E-Learning. These paragraphs from his conclusion summarise some of his key points:
As can be seen from the discussion above, the educational economy is shifting from what might be styled as a ‘production’ mode to what might be styled as a ‘service’ mode. In some cases, new production (such as buildings and other infrastructure) is neither efficient nor desired; in other cases (such as content and software), digital technologies are allowing production to be undertaken by the consumers themslves.
Faced with the choice between providing the same type of education to a smaller number of people or adapting to more cost-effective educational organization, corporations and governments will opt for the latter, especially as it is demonstrated that these alternatives are effective (you will notice a lot of this latter research taking place in the field now). Consequently, economic opportunities will exist, not in the production of new goods that will not be purchased, but rather in the support and servicing of increasingly self-managed educational activity.
This is all consistent with ideas being promoted by Downes and others about Web 2.0, emergent knowledge, connectivism, aggregated services replacing monolithic LMS, and more. There is clearly a need for us to be thinking about how educational institutions might respond to these changes.