This is a topic I’ve been sitting on for a while, which may be of particular interest to anyone out there who teaches online, or is/was a student at an online university.
A little bit of relevant personal background — typically, I teach an online class once per semester, and one in the summer. Online education has been at the front of my mind recently, as I’ve been overhauling my online classes.
I’ve often wondered if those who have completed degrees online felt they’ve had an equivalent experience to their traditionally-educated peers. I can imagine that, these days, the answer is more likely to be “yes”. Certainly online education has had more time to mature.
Listening to debates on the matter reminds me of the great ebook / traditional book divide. I often hear complaints about how ebooks don’t have the smell and texture of print books. Holding an ereader “just isn’t the same” as holding a print book.
On the other hand, the content is the same. Have you ever heard something like, “I finished The Hunger Games and I just loved the way the book smelled!” Once the reading experience is over, how much does the medium leave a memorable impression?
College, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. After all, college life usually sits in the gray area between childhood and adulthood. It would be hard to argue that the experience of campus life doesn’t leave a lasting impression on the student. It would also be hard to argue that campus life is the only way to obtain many of the same experiences, or is appropriate for everyone. Who lives in a dorm at 30?
The deeper question is of the longer-term implications of online education. With final exams this week, I’ve yet to find time to gather my own thoughts. However, I’ll leave a question for interested parties to ponder.
If you haven’t heard of them yet, The New Yorker published an article about the world of the MOOCs back in 2013. Massive Open Online Courses could open up the doors of places such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, and other big-name schools — courses and lectures which used to be available to only a select few — to the nation and world. On the other hand, they could potentially centralize education, stripping away academic freedom and reducing many professors to classroom aides, much like teaching assistants at larger universities.
Where do you think the world of the MOOC is headed — and is its direction a positive one?