Monday, April 16, 2012

82. Teaching is moving online.

No matter what ambitions people may have when they enter graduate school, they are likely to find themselves looking for academic teaching positions when they leave (see Reason 29). With a future of teaching and research in mind, graduate students come to imagine that their lives will be quite different from those of the “cubicle drones” to whom they like to compare themselves. But an academic spends very long hours at his desk. Classroom teaching is the one aspect of his working life that looks fundamentally different from what an office worker does, and even that--dramatized by an unfortunate recent episode in Florida--has lost much of its charm (see Reason 65).

Traditional teaching, however, is increasingly being replaced by alternatives made possible by the Internet. Academic job announcements posted by all kinds of institutions now routinely include references to course management software, distance education, and “virtual learning environments.” Because of the enormous oversupply of PhDs (see Reason 55), people who once envisioned themselves lecturing in front of classrooms are being squeezed into teaching jobs in which much (if not all) of the “teaching” involves sitting at a computer. Even those jobs are scarce, and may become scarcer in the future as technological advancements allow fewer professors to teach more students. In Wired, Steven Leckart reports the prediction of Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun that in 50 years “there will be only 10 institutions in the world delivering higher education.” In 2011, Thrun and his colleague Peter Norvig offered an online version of a Stanford computer science course in which 160,000 students enrolled. Whether or not Thrun’s prediction proves to be accurate, technology has already turned a sizable share of college teaching into cubicle work (minus, perhaps, the cubicle). That share will only grow.



65 comments:

  1. One of my first teaching assistantships was for an online course. I was in charge of moderating a discussion board, grading exams, and holding office hours (which students barely ever attended). In a way, it was nice because I did not have to spend time and energy creating lesson plans. However, it was rather impersonal, as I came to know very few students, and grading is my least favorite part of teaching. I much prefer to teach in person.

    Even courses these days that are "in person" at the college or university are more and more reliant upon online resources, I would not be surprised if teaching in a classroom becomes obsolete in the next few decades. Professors regularly put videos, podcasts, or power points of lectures online, so that students do not really need to be present. Students have come to rely on syllabi being available online, and can often even do homework and see their grades online.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't see seminars ever going online completely, though. Yeah, you can download the syllabus and get access to online course reserves, and you can even post on the discussion board, but you still have to talk to the other students. Skype or whatever isn't practical for ten people who all need to discuss the readings together.

      Delete
  2. It's hard not to think that we're on the cusp of an upheaval in higher education. Traditional college graduates have crushing debt and useless degrees, while online degrees cost a fraction as much. Remember when there was a stigma about online dating?

    That's why this is a dumb time to bet on an old-model career in academia. You can see the writing on the wall with the Khan Academy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree. Thrun's course was the proof of concept. His new company Udacity and MITx are the beta version. In a few years this model will be huge.

      Delete
    2. "Remember when there was a stigma about online dating?"

      There still is. That's why I think online will not dominate everything. Online dating is a good example. While it lost the worst of the loser stench that used to permeate it, it has plateaued and is not as lucrative a business as it once was a few years ago.

      The dating world does have an online component that wasn't there before but it's not going to replace meeting people in the "real world."

      Similar with education.

      Delete
    3. MOOCs aren't as good as your ideal class. But I've rarely seen the ideal class. More often huge impersonatonal ecture with student's turned off, alienated , surfing the net, many absent professor does no grading, few office hours, knows no one 'a names (if you even get a prof rather than adjunct). Fair comparison is between a MOOC and that reality. http://news.sciencemag.org/education/2014/05/lectures-arent-just-boring-theyre-ineffective-too-study-finds

      Delete
  3. I don't believe this will happen. Online teaching isn't teaching; it's instruction. It works great if you want to drill someone to perform a task, but if you are trying to teach him to think he needs the one-to-one interaction with an educated mind.

    Books have been around for ages. That's not a whole lot different from canned lectures. There will always be a demand for a teacher.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They already sell those canned lectures - I bought one by Joseph J. Ellis at the bookstore's bargain bin the other day.

      Somehow it doesn't replace taking his class at Mt. Holyoke.

      You're right, it's not teaching.

      Delete
  4. I'm all for online teaching and alternatives to the traditional model of higher education in general. In theory, it should work. It should be much cheaper and much more convenient. Go read the current reviews of online universities, though, and get back to me. If you think you have a bitter and pessimistic view of higher education, you haven't seen anything until you've read comments by students about the University of Phoenix. Even the online programs at better universities (while not that bad) don't seem to be viewed at the same level as the full-time programs.

    I'm perfectly aware the Khan Academy has received much more praise. The problem that still exists, though, is in coming up with a successful credential-granting program.

    It's not impossible. For instance, the CFA Program (Chartered Financial Analyst) grants designations outside of academia and is pretty well respected in the financial industry (it's not an online program and many people take prep courses for the tests, but a large number of people earn the designation by simply teaching themselves the material).

    I haven't seen any major undergrad programs online yet, though, (or really any) that would be viewed with the same amount of respect as a regular bachelors degree--as paradoxical as that might sound. Thrun might have the right idea in trying to get his top 1,000 students jobs, but where does that leave the other 19,000 who made it through the course?

    I don't think all of this is impossible, but I wouldn't bet on it replacing brick and mortar just yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We depend too much on credentials, to our detriment. Too often, a credential we depend on is a worthless measure of a person's ability to do things; meanwhile, we often overlook those who don't have a "credential", but have what it takes to do what needs to be done.

      It's going to be tricky, but we ought to figure out how to get by without credentials. There are ways to do it ("What Color is My Parachute?" is a fantastic resource for doing such things), but to do so takes skill as well.

      Delete
    2. Sure, there's a way--IQ tests and work experience.

      The problem: The Supreme Court declared it illegal for employers to use IQ tests to pick employees (in the 1940s, I think).

      As for work experience, people can and do get by mainly on work experience (as opposed to where you got your degree and what kind of degree you received) right now--it's just a lot more difficult without a college degree to get your foot in the door for quality work experience on which you build a good career. For all the problems of higher education, it offers an alternative route for that besides networking and family connections.

      Find some other way to do that and we might have something.

      That's why I think Thrun has the right idea in trying to get his top 1,000 jobs. I think that's a more crucial factor in this being successful than the certificate. The problem is there's still the other 19,000 who made it through the course.

      Delete
  5. Something should be said, too, about the way that technology has burdened instructors teaching regular classes. Students expect everything from syllabi to lecture notes to be online now. Putting all of that online and keeping it updated is no small task, and it's just more to do on top of preparing lectures, grading student work, committee work, etc... all that stuff we had to do back when students actually had to come to class.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not to mention the burden of student emails. i would have loved to be a prof in the days when students had to show up when it was convenient for the prof in order to contest a grade.

      Oh, and don't get me started on the "hotness rating" on Rate My Professor.

      Delete
    2. Oh, that hotness rating is how many choose their sections for required classes. Students have told me that frankly.

      Delete
    3. You can put "Rate My Professor" down, but frankly I wish it had been around during my second tenure at grad school.

      Why? I frequently had instructors whose behaviors were not to be believed. Foreign nationals who could not communicate course times let alone complex engineering concepts (twice!). Lecturers who changed course lecture times and places on a whim. Professors that winked at ridiculous levels of cheating (several times). Profs with TAs that clearly violated university regulations in grading assignments by nationality. Professors with exams that did not reflect lecture or textbook material (several times). Professors who reused exams *with all the academic dishonesty you can imagine that entails.* Professors who tried to flunk entire classes of students (including one that went after *an entire graduating class* in the department - there was a real disaster that was hushed up).

      I'll admit there's a fair amount of stupidity on Rate My Professor, as there is on other public rating systems. However, because school faculty, administration, and other students refuse to openly discuss problems involving their own faculty and departments, there's definitely a place for a forum in which such problems can be mentioned. And if it *had* been around in the late 90s, I might not have wasted years of my life in a profoundly dysfunctional department.

      And frankly, if Youtube had been around, I would have ensured that a number of faculty were publicly shamed.

      Delete
  6. I love my cubicle! And I love that it comes with a 6-figure paycheck, 19 paid vacation days a year (and federal holidays), a pension, health insurance, and 40-hour workweeks. And I REALLY love that I'm not in grad school anymore sharing a dank office in a rat-infested basement with other grad students who are only interested in impressing each other with how smart they are.

    Good riddance to grad school!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Too many years in higher education have made me cynical about virtually every claim that we in the industry make to justify our very, very expensive existence. We must be good salesmen, though, because we convince smart parents to shell out as much as a couple hundred thousand bucks for each kid they send us.

    The online model hasn't been perfected yet, but you can bet with players like Stanford and MIT competing against each other to improve it that it'll get better fast.

    They have nothing to lose. The elite schools will always be around, because they're a social commodity that wealthy and powerful people value (and middle-class strivers obsess over). For the countless other colleges and universities out there (all way overpriced relative to the value of the credentials they offer), the future is not looking good.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm not sure if online classrooms are the be-all or end-all of education, but even so, this is an important thing to keep in mind.

    While Norvig's class had over 160,000 students in it (I wanted to be one, but didn't participate, due to family reasons), only about thirty or so got credit for the class: those who were actually enrolled, personally, at Stanford University. That's bad if you want a degree, but if you just want knowledge--or even need knowledge for that startup you always wanted to create--then such a thing is fantastic!

    I, for one, hope to go opposite of online instruction: I hope I can figure out how I can become a tutor or mentor of sorts, independent of formal institutions.

    And this is where this point really hits home: people are gradually learning that education isn't about getting a degree. It's about learning things that will edify you, and will even perhaps help you to support a family. You don't necessarily have to go to a formal educational institution to get that. And as more people figure that out, there's going to be less of a need for tenured professors at institutions.

    And this is where things get both exciting and scary--because it's something new, it will likely be better, but we don't know what's going to happen because it may turn out to be worse!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Epsilon Given wrote: "people are gradually learning that education isn't about getting a degree."

    I think you said that backwards. You should have said that people are gradually learning that getting a degree isn't about becoming educated.

    Getting a degree is all about getting a credential so that you can get a job (maybe).

    Because our system here in the USA requires one to have a credential to get a job doing just about anything (a stupid idea, but an idea which stubbornly persists), the USA now needs an efficient credentialing system that scales well for the many millions of people can obtain the required credential.

    Online instruction is an easily scalable way to crank out the (useless) credentials required to enter the workforce. Classic "live" teaching in a classroom does not scale well and is too expensive to sustain going into the future.

    A select few elite will still be able to afford a classic college setting, and many fools who really cannot afford it will continue to incur massive debt for this experience, but gradually the word will get out and the vast majority will resort to online credential factories.

    Education is a thing of the past. It's all about getting the right credential now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have to agree here with STEM Doctor. Going on my fourth year of teaching intro courses I have come to realize that getting an education is supremely irrelevant to the students. It was even when I was an undergrad 10 years ago. They just need a degree to get on with their lives.

      Delete
    2. Again, in theory, I agree with you, but go read the student reviews for online universities before you start predicting their dominance.

      Delete
    3. @Anon 10:27 PM:

      I didn't mean to imply that online teaching was better than traditional classroom teaching.

      I think that online teaching is far worse than traditional classroom teaching.

      But just like your service experience at Walmart, the Division of Motor Vehicles, traffic court, FEMA, or (substitute whatever other entity that must contend with scalability to the masses here), when scalability to the millions is required, the overall quality of the teaching/learning experience will suffer in the name of scalability.

      The best solution is to go back to a system where a credential is not needed in order to practice your trade. But when a credential is required for such simple tasks as changing an electrical outlet in your own home or pulling a tooth out of your own kids mouth, then scalability and the loss of overall service quality are inevitable.

      Delete
    4. I'm with STEM--Epsilon got it backwards. Credentialing is all that matters. For grad students and undergrads. There are people in my sociology grad program who can't write a coherent sentence, but will graduate and lord their doctorate over the monkeys. I decided that there are better things to do with my life than bore teenagers, so I'm getting out.

      Delete
    5. I would have to confess that I'm a bit of an optimist. Even so, I think that both of us are likely right: there are those who will conclude that knowledge is more important than credentials, and seek ways to find a living without a degree...while there are certainly those who will seek credentials without worrying about knowledge (and both employers and employees are guilty of doing so).

      What's equally sad is that, there are many professions where you could expect apprenticeships to thrive--doctors and lawyers are two that come to mind--except that, in addition to plain social obstacles to such things, there are legal ones as well!

      Delete
  10. If we want to run education like a business, online is the way to go. In no time flat, institutions will be able to offshore instruction, since many of those educated people possess a strong enough command of the English language to create online teaching modules and grade them.

    I don't think online will replace classroom. It will become more of what colleges offer (maybe 20-30%? but probably not more than that). My experience teaching online is that it works well for the students who were already going to do well because they're highly disciplined. Otherwise, online students struggle worse than in the classroom because they're not doing the basics - getting their butts to class on time, listening, taking notes... so they fall behind too far to catch up, where in a classroom they could shape up. But it's a great exploitation ploy since you can milk those students for more money to retake the class.

    Furthermore, many students want to talk to a human. Some colleges that do a lot of online are starting to restrict their online instructors to people who live within a 100 mile radius because students (gasp!) sometimes want to talk to an actual person.

    I see this like I see the book business - publishers are going to have to adjust to a world where they no longer have 95% of the market share.

    Now, online class offerings will be a significant part of what colleges do, but it won't replace classroom. But in many ways it may become a cash cow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Higher education is already run like a business. It's run like ENRON, with almost no regard for the interests of the customers (students) or the investors (parents/tax payers).

      If your 20-something students still need to learn the importance of showing up and listening, then there isn't much hope for them. If good students are learning online, then why shouldn't they learn online?

      You don't think it's exploitative to charge people the price of a house to sit through 120 weeks of class?

      Delete
    2. "If your 20-something students still need to learn the importance of showing up and listening, then there isn't much hope for them."

      So give up on more than half the students? You would be popular here in education committee of the Texas legislature. I hope you have decided not to go into education since we really don't need more people with this attitude.

      I do have problems with the costs, don't get me wrong. But education is not a business, it never will be, and it never can be. There is no quantifiable product and the value cannot be accurately quantified - ie: Steve Jobs said calligraphy was the most important class he took b/c it gave him ideas. Everyone else in that class might have thought it was worthless. How do you quantify that?

      If what we want is job training, than we should look at how the military trains people. People get trained up to perform even the most complex technical jobs in a year. Education is not training, though.

      Delete
  11. Related to this - An alarming trend I've noticed on higher ed job search boards these days is the increasing number of jobs that require you to teach more than one discipline.

    I've seen a decent number of announcements this year, certainly more than last year, that literally want you to have degrees in multiple subjects. Ie: a PhD or Master's in one subject area, and then a Master's or enough graduate hours (usually 12 to 18 depending on the state's requirements - practically a master's) in ANOTHER subject area so you can teach that.

    Scary.... another way to reduce ft faculty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm curious what disciplines you're talking about. Sociology + Fill-in-the-Blank Studies, or...?

      Delete
  12. My impression is that online teaching is extremely low-status within the profession, so it's the kind of thing that adjuncts and junior faculty get saddled with. I don't know if it's a good thing to have on your CV or not. On the one hand, everyone seems to need people to do it. On the other hand, the lowliest colleges have their pick of candidates to hire, so they're going for candidates with sterling CVs. "Online" is not a word that shows up on sterling CVs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Guess what--TEACHING is extremely low status. If you've attended actual grad school (as opposed to getting an MSW or something) surely you've figured this out by now...? It's all about pedigree plus publications. The folks who get FT gigs at junior colleges, Nowheresville SLACs and teaching-focused state schools are nobodies, just like the online teaching folks and adjuncts.

      Delete
    2. So true, but even small liberal arts colleges prefer folks with elite degrees and little teaching experience to well-seasoned teachers with less prestigious degrees.

      Delete
  13. I thought of this post when I saw this headline in the New York Times:

    Online Education Venture Lures Cash Infusion and Deals With 5 Top Universities

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/technology/coursera-plans-to-announce-university-partners-for-online-classes.html?_r=1&ref=education

    This line really caught my attention:

    "He and Dr. Koller dismissed the idea that companies would 'disintermediate' universities by spotting the brightest talents among students and hiring them directly."

    ReplyDelete
  14. He and Dr. Koller are obvious fools. If companies can 'disintermediate' them they'll do it in a heartbeat. How do such suckers get so high up in academia? Oh wait...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. On the contrary, they know exactly what they're doing. They want to challenge traditional universities in the credit/degree granting business and make a fortune in the process. For the time being, however, they have nicely paid jobs at Stanford that they want to keep, so they're not saying anything that will rock the boat. When they have their millions, they can walk away, or perhaps then they'll be worth more to Stanford than Stanford is to them.

      Delete
  15. Is there any logic to saying that maybe if more teaching jobs are moving into the online realm, less people will study masters degrees, thus, leaving more jobs for the rest of us?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, too many people were getting graduate degrees before the online revolution, and now even more people are getting them. There were already too few jobs before the online revolution, and now there are even fewer (at least relative to the number of people who want them). The job academic job crisis just gets worse and worse.

      Delete
  16. There are really two issues here. The first concerns the long-term impact that technology will have on higher education and the likelihood that most college teaching positions are going to disappear. The second issue is more immediate; it concerns the effect that technology has already had on professional teaching at the college level.

    With regard to the long-term future, obviously no one knows exactly how things are going to play out. It's hardly far-fetched to believe that financial considerations will drive students to cheaper alternatives than brick-and-mortar colleges, but the magical aura of the college education has to wear off first. It's amazing that the aura has lasted as long as it has, and it might have a lot of life left in it. Never underestimate irrational belief, especially when gigantic institutions and interests are feeding it.

    Online teaching may not be eliminating jobs yet, but it is definitely changing the nature of the jobs that there are. For one thing, it's hastening the replacement of permanent faculty with adjunct faculty. Colleges hire instructors "as needed" rather than investing in full-time employees. Online instructors don't even have to live near campus. It's also de-personalizing teaching, expanding the distance between instructors and their students, as well as the distance between instructors and their institutions.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anon@ 6:56 PM writes: "It's also de-personalizing teaching, expanding the distance between instructors and their students, as well as the distance between instructors and their institutions."

    Entry level STEM courses have long ago been de-personalized.

    When I observe a freshman physics, chemistry, or calculus class with a large number of students (sometimes 150+) attempting to learn what is arguably some of the most difficult material they have encountered in their lives to date, I think the sheer number of students has already put a distance between the instructor and the students.

    Going online just makes the process more efficient by not requiring the 150+ students to assemble at a given place and time. One could even argue that this helps the campus to "go green" by saving on all the required transportation to get everybody in the same place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's conceivable that online education would be a big improvement over what most students are now getting from their college educations. Classroom instructors will argue until they're blue in the face that online learning will never be as good as what you'd get on campus, but that's because it threatens their profession.

      That said, the movement toward online course delivery and massive enrollments is terrible for people counting on teaching jobs. What's best for students is rarely what's best for higher ed professionals.

      Delete
  18. Here's another pertinent NY Times story.

    "A recently released study has concluded that computers are capable of scoring essays on standardized tests as well as human beings do."

    www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/education/robo-readers-used-to-grade-test-essays.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't hold your breath on having grading jobs taken away from robo-graders just yet. Looks like they're still easy to fool with giberish.

      http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/04/23/1326254/how-good-are-robo-graders?utm_source=slashdot&utm_medium=twitter

      Delete
  19. I wonder if we should consider parallels between online teaching and home schooling?

    Home school works for some, but it's not the greatest option for everyone, as you miss out on some of the best parts of growing up. School is much more than just what you're learning in class, just as college is much more than just what you're learning in class.

    As anyone who's observed more than one college knows, the education is similar at most institutions. Physics is physics is physics. The difference from taking physics at small state U. vs Yale or University of Texas, is that in Yale or UT in the 2000s you might have had a class with one of the president's daughters.

    At your university you may make connections that will be valuable in the future.

    The social capital is a very important part of the value of colleges, and with online that's completely lost. I think there's value in a classroom. Again, that may be where you meet your future spouse or others in your field that may help you at some point.

    Technically you get a better view of a sports game on TV, yet people still want to go in person for the experience. You can have a conversation online like we are here, but I think everyone would agree that having a conversation in person is more enjoyable. Online dating, while more acceptable now, has not replaced regular dating - to the extent that online dating sites are not doing so great financially anymore. You may have great conversations online but there is no substitute for physical chemistry, which can't be conveyed online.

    Online does not replace everything, and I doubt it will replace the classroom. It's a component that will be important, but not a replacement.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Colleges have been banking on that "social capital" argument for the last 15-20 years, so now every other school has a fireplace in the admissions office, a rock-climbing wall, a branch campus in Venice, and a staff of 25 "career services officers" who give PowerPoint talks about how to format a resume.

      The "maybe you'll meet your spouse in college" argument worked better when college-educated people weren't waiting until their late 20s or 30s to get married.

      When you're 23 and living at home with your parents and a shiny $100,000 degree in International Relations, how much good will all that nice workout equipment back on campus be doing you? How much good will it do you when you're 45 and still paying off your student loans?

      Delete
    2. Some words taken out of context from Aaron: "there is no substitute for physical chemistry"

      If you have ever taken that particular course as an undergraduate, you know that it is indeed a painful experience for which there is no substitute.

      It is also a course that would be very difficult to teach online. Lots of heavy math...best taught with a chalk board (oops...I'm dating myself...best taught with a white board and dry erase markers)...too many derivations to simply spit out on a PowerPoint or some other canned online format.

      Delete
  20. The other side is that colleges have at least as many horrible people as great people. Insulation from market pressures ensures that they will stay, and will stay pricks, as long as they want. (I call it the personality corollary of Gresham's Law.)

    Online, especially in the "massively multistudent" model, can be a less aggravating alternative.

    All a student really needs to get the social benefits of college is be on campus for extracurriculars and office hours.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I've never taken an online class in my life, but I'm on the market now and most community colleges seem to be looking for online instructors.

    Does anyone have any experience teaching online? How does it work? Are there lectures? Do you record yourself lecturing? Do you interact with the students directly or is it all over email? Did you like it? Did you hate it?

    For the record, it wasn't my plan to apply to community colleges, but I've got to the point now where I'm applying for everything and hoping for anything. I haven't even had an interview yet, but if I ever get one at a place where the work is online, it'd be nice to know what I'm talking about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I took a couple online courses in 2006, back then it was kind of a blog format.

      Today, there have been great strides, and it can actually be kind of fun to set up; there are a lot of things that can be done with ipads, smartphones, etc... Different instructors handle the "lectures" differently, but generally that kind of communication is a smaller component of what you'd do as an online instructor.

      It's probably fine to say in your cover letter that you're open to teaching online, even if you've never done it. Schools contract with different companies that set up the systems, so you'd have to go through training regardless.

      Delete
    2. "or the record, it wasn't my plan to apply to community colleges, but I've got to the point now where I'm applying for everything and hoping for anything."

      Try not to convey that attitude. They will sense it and you won't get called.

      Delete
  22. I'm convinced! I'm dropping out of my PhD program in June and I can't wait! I've never been this happy in my life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations!!! Enjoy the big wide world! You're free!

      Delete
    2. good for you!!

      Delete
    3. Congratulations! It's tough as hell to leave no matter what, but if there's one thing to be learned from this blog, it's that you probably won't miss a damn thing about academia. Best of luck!

      Delete
    4. Well done! You are my hero. Hope to join your ranks soon!

      Delete
    5. I really hope your decision was not made primarily off of this blog. Starting a PhD and ending a PhD is a major life decision that should really be made by you and you only. Good luck.

      Delete
  23. Love this blog - soooo happy I found it.
    http://awaywardscholar.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  24. In response to a New York Times column about online education, the president of Drexel University in Philadelphia sent this letter to the editor:

    ****

    To the Editor:

    Like David Brooks, I am excited that several of the world’s best-known universities have embraced online learning through open courses. But lest he leave the impression that Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford and Penn have newly legitimized the field, I want to note that online education has been central to the mission of a number of outstanding brick-and-mortar universities for a decade or more.

    Many of us are committed to delivering not just open courses but full degree programs equal to our outstanding on-campus offerings in quality and individuality of instruction.

    Online learning has proved very popular. At Drexel University, for instance, where we offered our first online degree program in 1996, about 5,000 of our nearly 25,000 students are enrolled through Drexel eLearning. Many of our on-campus students also take one or more classes online in “hybrid” programs.

    Knowledge seekers worldwide are well served by our colleagues’ plans to share great teaching for free. And our world is also well served by the proven ability of universities like Drexel to leverage online technology to expand access to a full college education.

    JOHN A. FRY
    President, Drexel University
    Philadelphia, May 4, 2012

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/opinion/as-elite-universities-embrace-online-learning.html

    ****

    Whatever the merits or faults of online higher education, it's here to stay. When I read about those 5,000 online students in Fry's letter, I immediately wondered who was teaching them.

    It looks like Drexel has 559 tenured and tenure-track faculty out of a teaching staff of 2,560.

    http://chronicle.com/article/faculty-salaries-data-2012/131431#id=212054

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "It looks like Drexel has 559 tenured and tenure-track faculty out of a teaching staff of 2,560."

      4 to 1. That's pretty high, but 3 to 1 will be the ratio of TT to Adjunct/contingent at most institutions not long from now, if it's not already at most schools.

      At least Drexel has buildings. I got a good number of credit from University of Maryland University College, their online arm. It wasn't bad. There are advantages and disadvantages, but yes it's here to stay.

      It won't replace classroom, though, not by a long shot. Classrooms are still needed just for the legitimacy factor. I have yet to hear anyone who does hiring for anything speak favorably about degrees from all-online institutions like University of Phoenix, etc...

      Delete
    2. John Fry--another con artist heard from.

      Delete
  25. This says something about where things are headed:

    "MIT Names Its Provost, Who Led Online-Education Efforts, as New President"

    http://chronicle.com/article/MIT-Names-Its-Provost-Who-Led/131896/

    ReplyDelete
  26. Here's another eye-catching story...

    Score One for the Robo-Tutors

    Without diminishing learning outcomes, automated teaching software can reduce the amount of time professors spend with students and could substantially reduce the cost of instruction, according to new research.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/22/report-robots-stack-human-professors-teaching-intro-stats#ixzz1vdo2GMRe

    ReplyDelete
  27. This blog is nice and amazing. I really like your post! It's also nice to see someone who does a lot of research and has a great knack for writing, which is pretty rare from bloggers these days.
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  28. My suspicion is, like "cram schools" in East Asia, and "after-school activities/"professional activities' in the US, all online learning will actually do is create another set of requirements for people aspiring to work in an academic discipline. At the undergraduate and graduate levels, you will have to attend your "actual" courses (and labs), then you will have to supplement this information with what you can pick up online, and do the work relevant to both, in addition to whatever research, (pre-)professional activities, dollar-chasing, and outside work you already have to do.

    For the most part, online education is a way to make the population feel connected to educational and vocational prospects without actually granting them to 99.9% of those who actually wade through the material (themselves only a fraction of those who express an interest). It is a population pacifier and a way to fault the economically disconnected (by engaging in that curious American meme claiming that the ways and means of economic self-improvement are available to all - if you aren't pulling down $60K as a chemical engineer, then that's your fault). It will be a (desperate) way to bloat resumes (probably mostly fraudulently) on the reception end, and a way to expand resumes (and for most, limit personal responsibility) on the production end.

    ReplyDelete
  29. The woman who runs the student health services clinic at my land grant university in the midwest recently completed her DNP from the University of Alabama online - she defended her dissertation via Skype.

    ReplyDelete
  30. While I read this blog, an ad on the right side reads:

    Earn a Master of Education On-Line in only 24 months. Apply Today.

    ReplyDelete