Friday, September 02, 2011

Some Thoughts on Online Education:

I've gotten to the point where I typically teach 1/2 my load online, so I have some authority on the matter. Many traditional professors are resistant to online education and I understand their concerns. My friend John Fea, of Messiah College, is one of them.

In this thoughtful post, Dr. Fea blogs about his concerns. I left a comment here which I reproduce below:

1. Where I teach students want online education. There are a variety of reasons for the demand: One, I suspect, is not having to go to campus and block out that time for the professional obligation. In short, the flexibility.

2. There is debate as to how much $ (if at all, given infrastructure costs of running virtual colleges) online edu. currently saves. But it does save in terms of room space, and for the college, it solves logistical issues by eliminating the need for an actual classroom.

3. Yes, there are shortcomings; but think about how much one can learn using free online source materials. I learn so much more from sites like the Volokh Conspiracy than I do from my [PA] continuing legal education requirements.

I've never met you in person (I think I will at the David Library). But think about how much we've learned from one another using the Internet.

4. What follows is something every traditional face-to-face educator needs to take very seriously: Whatever shortcomings online education currently has will probably be solved as Moore's Law progresses. The gap between online and live will close. It used to be that one benefit of online was the wealth of resources available at your fingertips from the Internet. As classrooms move towards universal wiring that gap closes.

However, the "see your face and hear your voice" gap will also close when all computers in their boilerplate features have web cams, Skype like communication software and fingerprint and retina scanning measures.

This is not sci fi, pie in the sky prognostication. This is what it means to advance exponentially which IT currently is. (Again, Moore's Law.)

This is a change that needs to be embraced, in my opinion. I'm just worried about what the creative destruction may do to many universities and previously thought "safe" tenured jobs.

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