Before I retired, I was the STEM curriculum coordinator for an international online high school, and I taught an online graduate level college course. While online learning is not yet perfect, it offers a lot of advantages for both teachers and students. At the college level it eliminates the need for a brick and mortar campus, does away with college level sports and student activity centers, and completely democratizes the classroom. No one’s racial identity or even their gender needs to be part of a student’s profile. The costs savings could be dramatic. At the moment most online learning is tied to brick and mortar establishments so online students are helping to subsidize students on f2f campuses, and colleges usually charge the same per credit hour no matter how the class is taken. If the cost of maintaining the brick and mortar campuses is eliminated, the savings could be astronomical. The big losers in the transition to online learning are the administrators. We ran a high school with teachers and thousands of students located on every continent except Antarctica with 12 full-time administrative employees, which included the 3 people who managed the computer network and the receptionist who answered the phones.
I see the current climate on college campuses as an impetus for the expansion of online learning. There is no safer space for learning than your own home. If the cost savings are passed onto students, it will make the level of student loans needed for most people to attend college drop dramatically. Students will be able to bend their hours devoted to college around work and family responsibilities much more easily when they can time-shift their classes opening doors for a lot more people to learn. A lot of opportunities exist already. What’s missing is the recognition that an online degree is as valuable as one earned in a brick and mortar school, but that will come.
I also see a bigger future for cluster class certification in subjects where a student completes a programmed group of courses that will prepare him to begin working in a field before a degree program is completed. Rather than an unpaid internship, a person could begin to look for a paying job in the field. This is already happening in fields like software engineering where technical skills are more important than an actual degree. The student works at degree completion while actively employed. Students will once again be able to work their way through college.
If college campuses erupt to a point where they aren’t “safe spaces” for the people who are going to school to actually learn, the appeal of online learning will become more universal. As more teachers who aren’t tied to the traditional methods of teaching enter the field directly into the online environment, online teaching will become more innovative than it is now. Most traditional college professors who are tapped to teach an online course try to take their f2f course and plop it on a server somewhere, but a prof who specializes in online teaching methods offers a course that usually feels quite different with lots of opportunities for teacher-student and student-student interactions. With a teacher freed from standing in front of a class lecturing 3 times a week, his time can be spent on other things. If lecturing is a part of the course, a lecture can be recorded once and used from even beyond the grave.
Many top-tier colleges already offer a broad selection of online courses. Some places like MIT, Harvard, Georgia Tech, and Arizona State already have the course materials online for free. To get credit for the course and to have a teacher available, you need to pay them, but someone who just wants to become better educated can access the course w/o paying anything. If 2016 is the year our college campuses erupt into violence, many schools could become virtual learning centers with the flip of a switch. While I don’t want that to be the impetus that propels education into the 21st century, I’m watching with great interest how far school administrations will let the crybullies go, knowing it’s the traditional colleges, not the students, who will be the biggest losers. From a student’s perspective the only downside is the expectation that adulthood will once again begin at 18 because there will no longer be a four year vacation between high school and life. Many young people already experience that, but the fortunate students who have time to disrupt other people’s learning obviously have nothing better to do.
Thanks for the soapbox space, Klown. 😉
Our entire education system is fubared. The only real solution is to burn it all down and salt the land around the ruins. Then start over from scratch.
Elliesmom has some great ideas, but don’t hold your breath waiting for any of it to come true. The people that ruined our current system are not going to relinquish the death grip they have on it.
We are so fucked.
Have a nice day.