Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Debate Rages over Online Education

Some online course offerings from the University of Minnesota

In my next post I will be reflecting on my current experience teaching an online course.  In casual conversations I have found that the topic provokes strong opinions and categorical statements.  Here is a sample of the current debate regarding online courses. — Larry

Where robots fail: Why education can’t just be digital
 . . . kids and their parents tell us every day that they need a real person to teach them, to learn with them, to react in real time to errors and successes, and to provide the kind of personal warmth and encouragement that computers cannot provide.

The Case for Online Education
Saying that online education will never be as good as offline (because it's not currently as good) is like taking one look at a Model T, saying that it's unsafe, and urging everyone to switch back to horses. The reason online classes will eventually be better than offline classes is simple: We can measure and respond to students' behavior much more easily and quickly when education is digital than when it is analog.

Differences of Opinion on Online Courses
Given MOOCs’ huge enrollment, is “a strange paradox: these professors are simultaneously the most and least accessible teachers in history” . . . .
While MOOCS are a great equalizer when it comes to students around the world, they are a great unequalizer when it comes to teachers,” giving rise to a list of online celebrity professors who come to define their fields—a possible risk to “the biodiversity of the academic ecosystem.”

"Surfed Too Long" CC photo by Matt Joyce
Can MOOCs and Universities Co-Exist?
The distinction between "campus-based" learning and "distance" learning will be blurred in the years ahead. It's already happening. We are finding that some graduate students at Pepperdine who are receiving face-to-face instruction are also asking that some of their coursework be delivered online. They want both/and. Thus, it won't just be nontraditional students in remote locations who will benefit from online instruction. 

 Study Finds Online Courses in California Community Colleges See Major Growth—But Student Success Rates Lag
Online course enrollment at California’s Community Colleges —the nation’s largest postsecondary system—has increased by almost 1 million since 2002. Today the colleges offer more online courses for credit than any other public higher education institution in the nation. Online participation has increased among each of the state’s largest ethnic groups . . . . But overall online course success rates are lower than those for traditional courses.

The Case For Online Education
No one is arguing an online course, no matter how brilliantly designed for immersive interactivity and engagement, will ever equal sitting in a Harvard seminar with a senior faculty member. Blessed with admission to Harvard and the time, proximity, and money to attend in person . . .the smart move is to be in the room. But for the rest of knowledge-starved humanity worldwide, is it better to be excluded entirely from that seminar, or to attend virtually in the most collaborative, learning-rich manner possible? The answer seems obvious.

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