Thursday, January 20, 2011

Good News And Bad News About My College + Online Learning is the Future:

As my close readers may know I am an Associate Professor at Mercer County Community College (the County that serves, among other places, Trenton and Princeton, NJ). We are feeling Gov. Christie budget cuts and, therefore, have to disproportionately rely on student tuition to close our budget gap. And our enrollment is slightly down.

Yet, enrollment is UP 30 PERCENT at "The Virtual College," in which I not only teach, but multiple sections and have for years.

A friend -- a prominent figure at a DC think thank -- once asked me what teaching online was like. And I answered, it's not unlike blogging. You convey information -- lectures with hyperlinks -- online and set up various discussion mechanisms, not unlike comment threads at blogs.

And student and professor work -- again not unlike blogs -- is "asynchronous." If I want to do all my blog posting after midnight, but you want to do all of your reading of my posts in the early morning, we can as long as deadlines are met.

There are academic integrity issues with which online educational institutions, admittedly, struggle. Though, in live classes, having folks who are not the students write term papers has been going on since colleges have been in existence.

But Moore's Law probably will soon solve those issues as it closes the gap between online and face to face learning.

A major advantage of online learning is the ability to hyperlink to ever expanding Internet resources. As college classrooms move towards universal wiring, that gap closes.

Likewise, it's easier to keep tabs on students who are assessed in a live setting. But eventually -- within the next 20 years, I predict -- retina and fingerprint identification will be boilerplate in all computers so we will know if it's really YOU taking that test at home online.

We currently offer "blended" courses (hybrids of live and online). I predict future "blending" will not involve blending online and face to face but synchronous with asynchronous learning. A big loss with online classes is the inability to interact with X numbers of students "live," spontaneously. Certainly Skype like technologies becoming boilerplate will close that gap as well.

Retina scan, fingerprint check, we are ready to roll. Very soon in the future.

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