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Should College Go Online? 261

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-to-level-up-my-calculus dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic has a story about the slow pace of technological innovation in higher education, highlighting the reluctance of many universities to take parts of their curriculum online. '[L]ack of funding isn't the only reason that the traditional universities and colleges aren't responding with their own strategic acquisitions. In all industries it's hard to convince successful incumbents that innovations at the low end of the market really matter. That was true even for Sony's Akio Morita, whose top executives didn't like his Walkman, which had no recording capability; it seemed smarter to focus on more-sophisticated products for the high end of the consumer electronics market. Regard for tradition and academic freedom make it particularly hard to undertake apparently low-quality innovations in higher education. But that's true to varying degrees in all industries. Whether the business is computers chips or steel, successful incumbents have difficulty responding to disruptive technologies, often until it's too late.'"
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Should College Go Online?

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  • Or maybe not? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by siegeman (1332761) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:24PM (#37522592)
    Cause engineers need to learn to be even less socially inept....
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Nope. Because colleges/universities are more interested in making money than educating.
      • Re:Or maybe not? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @12:56AM (#37523422) Homepage

        There are many public university around the globe, who also do not put their curriculum on-line, largely due to the over-reach of copyright locking out knowledge from the public good, for no other reasons than greed and ego, even when it was taxpayer dollars that paid for those works to be produced.

        Even if universities wanted to change, many short sighted lecturers, professors and of course ass hat journal publishers will block it. Can't have the highly profitable text book market (profitable for the publishers only). locked out by open shared technical documents, reports and text books.

        Many governments have long forgotten it is not always about making money but more often saving money will produce far better results. Rather than wasting huge sums of money on for profit text books, they should start investing that money in the future and pay for the production of open text books (digital and print, that can continually be revised with minimal investment).

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Maybe it is different at private university but my oldest is in private and the teachers were nice enough to sidestep the whole copyright mess by simply making their own PPTs to help out the students and have them all online.

          Maybe it is because they are a christian college but I have to say the amount of personal attention and help they've given my oldest really impressed me. If it even looks like he is starting to struggle with a subject they have tutors ready to go, they even found him a sponsor because h

        • I think the truth is far more benign. I'm a university researcher, and in my experience most professors just don't have the knowledge or inclination to do this. My prof can barely work a mobile phone, so the expectation of her putting course materials up and understanding how students will want to interact with it is a bit fanciful. She's still a great lecturer. Also I had a prof (back in my undergrad days in 1998) who could not believe that students had personal computers in their own rooms!

          I guess I'm

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:25PM (#37522594)

    We have online quizzes and homework for some of our low level math classes at my Big Ten university. Kids hate it. We have a few online courses. Kids largely do poorly in them and are nit prepared for the followup courses. So why do we want to push for online? The quality of education will suffer and it won't be popular.

    • by DurendalMac (736637) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @01:45AM (#37523626)
      THIS. I took one online class. It was absolutely horrible, far more than ANY real class that I've ever taken. I'm sorry, but online is not the same as a classroom. Not even close. It may be useful in certain situations, but trying to push colleges all online is an idiotic move. The quality of education seriously does suffer.
    • Some kids hate it. Some kids do poorly. Some people will do better by just going to the college. Some people learn better in different ways. Is this a surprise?

  • by Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:27PM (#37522610)

    The best thing you get out of college, if you go to a good one, is not merely learning from the occasional great mind and a bunch of above mediocre minds.

    It's that you are surrounded by brilliant people from dozens of fields. They are your community. Sometimes the professors--depending on how much the school emphasizes teaching as opposed to research--but mostly the students. The students you meet at a great college are more intelligent than almost everyone else you will meet in your lifetime.

    It's great for networking, too.

    • by cervesaebraciator (2352888) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:43PM (#37522726)
      I couldn't agree more--and one of the courses I teach is online so I'm not speaking in the abstract here. You can take something as simple as helping a student learn to write a better argument during office hours. Such a thing cannot occur online and online chat is no substitute. I can tell so much more about where and how students needs help when I talk with them in person. Most importantly, I am a human being to them and they are human beings to me. I am someone who cares about them, inspires them, pisses them off, or bores them. They encourage me, irritate me, depress me, or make me more optimistic about the future. Human contact is a prerequisite to the very human growth that accompanies these experiences.
    • by cashman73 (855518)
      The truth is that most modern Universities only emphasize teaching vs. research about 50% of time because at least half of all the activity in a modern University IS (and always has been) research. Sure, you do have to start out the first year or two in those big lecture halls learning the basics with all the other students, and perhaps that's where online components can help the most. But the best professors are the ones that recognize not only the top students in the class, but also the ones truly interes
      • by 517714 (762276) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @01:09AM (#37523474)
        Under seventy years is not "always". Research as a significant portion of the Universities priorities is a product of the twentieth century, specifically the post WWII era. In 1961 Eisenhower warned [h-net.org] us that "a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity." It is relatively rare today that a student is allowed to pursue pure research - the kind that has no direct application in a weapon ^h^h^h^h^h^h product.
        • by blueg3 (192743)

          It is relatively rare today that a student is allowed to pursue pure research - the kind that has no direct application in a weapon ^h^h^h^h^h^h product.

          This simply isn't true. It's very common for students to pursue pure research.

      • Interestingly, many Universities are utilizing the Internet heavily for research activities.

        Well that was its original purpose after all; not games, music or pron.

    • by ranton (36917)

      I agree with all of the points you make, which is why I think colleges should offer more night class oriented bachelor's degrees as opposed to online options. I got my bachelors from University of Phoenix (just so I could get my masters at a real school) and the education is abysmal. The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities" because they are a complete waste of money for anyone who isn't just getting a peice of paper to show pointy haired bosses. But people keep going t

      • by narcc (412956)

        The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities"

        They do. Go learn about how accreditation works.

        While I have you, what would possess you to select the least-respected yet most expensive distance program around? Plenty of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges offer distance programs, many at a much lower price.

        • by ranton (36917)

          The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities"

          They do. Go learn about how accreditation works.

          If you ever looked at the coursework at one of those online schools, you wouldn't think that accreditation was worth anything. Most of these online schools just build their program on top of a school that already has their accrediation.

          While I have you, what would possess you to select the least-respected yet most expensive distance program around? Plenty of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges offer distance programs, many at a much lower price.

          1) When I started taking classes there were not as many CS-related online bachelor's degree programs at brick-and-mortar schools. I knew how bad Devry Online was from two friends of mine, and was hoping UoP would be a bit better (it wasn't, it was even worse).
          2) I was at the

    • by khallow (566160)

      The students you meet at a great college are more intelligent than almost everyone else you will meet in your lifetime.

      I think the intelligence of students at "great colleges" is overstated (further, most students don't go to such a place). Rather I think it's that everyone is learning and being challenged in a positive, highly social environment. Even a mediocre college has this vastly different environment.

      • At a university, you get to choose your friends from a wide selection including a lot of very intelligent people. You won't automatically find yourself among the best and the brightest, but they're there if you look. Most importantly, they're not all in the subject as you. I studied computer science, but my friends included linguists, engineers, physicists and chemists (no biologists - they never seemed to get out of the lab), and a few other disciplines.
    • by mcrbids (148650)

      It's entirely true that the contacts you make in college last a lifetime. It's also just as true that the college experience is unnecessarily costly. Basic Chemistry hasn't changed significantly in 50 years, yet textbooks still cost well over $100. Similar for basic Math, Science, and even many Literature texts.

      It would cost society a pittance to create open-sourced versions of these books without copyright encumbrances, but colleges are reluctant to step aboard for two reasons:

      1) Arrogance: if it's free,

      • The university I attend tries to get flatpacks whenever possible, which is usually an early edition of a textbook (one that won't suffer as a result) bound in a simple spiral notebook. Costs maybe $25. I've had professors that offered online textbooks for free or didn't even have one, just taught via handouts in class, which worked well enough. You can't really avoid the price-gouged books entirely, though. It's a shame.
    • by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @02:59AM (#37524016)

      Sometimes the professors--depending on how much the school emphasizes teaching as opposed to research

      In my experience most of the top universities, particularly in STEM degree programs, emphasize research and the government funding that goes with that. They want Nobel Prize winners who can attract federal grants and private corporations to foot the bills and enhance their research prestige. In such cases the undergraduates are mostly an afterthought until the more promising ones manage to crawl out of the muck and become PhD candidates or useful assistants for more research. In fact, I would argue that many community colleges have lower division instructors who are at least as good as any that are likely to be found in most four year universities. Perhaps my experience was unusual, I did attend a research university after all, but surely I wasn't the only one who noticed that some professors viewed teaching less as a profession and more as a necessary chore that distracted them from their true ambition; fully funded and self directed research.

    • Again, it really depends on the person. Some people would likely do better in the online course.

  • University employees are basically protecting their jobs. If you can do classes online, you won't need as many administrators, logistical personnel, and yes, even profs...

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I take it you've never actually tried to take an online course. For most people it's not anywhere near as good. Having good study skills helps, but it's just not the same. Things like study groups and being able to play off each other to find a solution or better formulate a question just don't work as well online as they do in person. Where an exchange in class might take 2 minutes, a similar one online can easily take an hour if both parties aren't obsessively glued to their keyboard.

      I'm sure there are pe

  • by xtal (49134) on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:32PM (#37522642) Homepage

    The truth is that the first 2-3 years of undergrad are generic, profs generally hate teaching them, and it's about a cash grab before the students go on to something else. Online school can eliminate that for those students most likely to continue on - in my opinion, for what that's worth.

    It is not until your final years in engineering, anyway, that I felt there was real engagement from faculty. There are exceptions to this - some brilliant ones, even in my experience - but in general, universities don't want to start to compete on that lowest denominator yet.

    Whoever goes first, though, will make some money.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday September 27, 2011 @08:31AM (#37525186) Homepage

      That's not always correct.

      For instance, if you go to a smaller school that only really does undergrad, those first 2-3 years are a big part of what the school does. The profs who work at places like that do so in large part because they want to teach, and they genuinely care about the freshmen students because that's how they're going to pick up people majoring in their subject. In my alma mater, for instance, the English courses geared towards first-year students were not "English 101", they were something like "The Heroic Epic Tradition" so the professor could teach both of his favorite Old and Middle English epics and some Heinlein.

      If you're at a big research university, then you're may get professors who care far more about their research than they do about teaching. That's perfectly fine if your goal is to get involved in some big research projects. But if you want professors who care primarily about teaching, you need to seek out schools that care primarily about teaching and rate their professors on how well they do at teaching.

  • It used to be that wealthy families sent their children to college so they'd have a leg up on the proletariat's children.

    According to The Screwing of the Average Man [google.com], the rush to college started after WWII. All the male veterans who were trained as warriors came home to dismal job prospects... They said, "okay we fought your stupid war you politicos better take care of us". Rather than have a bunch of rebellious unemployed PTSD'd ex-military roaming the streets, Congress sent them to college with the GI Bil

  • by cosm (1072588) <thecosm3 AT gmail DOT com> on Monday September 26, 2011 @10:37PM (#37522686)
    I've been around the community college and university circuit, and I can say that many community colleges are becoming highly reliant on the likes of Moodle/Blackboard for delivering quizes/test/material/exercises. Also, many classes at universities now require continuously larger amounts of online coursework and thus the curriculum. At community college, I took all my foo-foo fuzzy classes purely online for full credit. I'm a STEM major, so pre-reqs like Art History and Intro To College (yes that is a required course some places) were a blast to take online, i.e. a breeze and at my own leisure), giving me more focus on classes I actually cared about.

    At the big-U's, of course there will be a latent aversion to prof's lecturing to a camera and reusing said lecture every semester. If I am just watching a video of a prof or reading his lecture notes online, it will be more difficult for the universities to justify the ever-more exorbitant admission cost if it's just delivered online (although most classes seem to be more of teaching yourself than the lecturer teaching you, but that's what college is about anyways, learning how to learn). College has been going online for awhile, but the question of 'should it be' is a reasonable one; will it save students money, or just dilute the college process into even more of a degree-mill spectacle than it already is? Or just create more busywork? I say it depends mostly on the context, subjectivity, and type of degree program.

    I bet in 100 years our descendants will be asking what it was like to sit in a classroom with people and how weird it must have been to learn in a group.
    • by macrom (537566)
      I find that community/junior colleges are embracing the online courses way more than traditional four-year universities. I would love to complete my BS in Computer Science (left school a long time ago, in 1997) but there are precious few programs for a *true* BSCS. Florida State University is the only Tier 1 school that I've found to offer it.

      I live in Dallas, Texas, and we have several good schools to chose from in the state. Baylor, Texas A&M, University of Texas, Texas Tech, University of Texas @ D
      • My master's level program has some classes that are "hybrid" - classes alternate between online and traditional classroom settings. We get the benefits of both learning styles that way. Things that require class participation and interaction with the professor get them. Things that are busywork straight out the textbook (or online tutorial) can be done at home whenever.
      • Having finished my BSCS in the FSU Distance program, I can sort of recommend it.

        I say "sort of" because the CS courses were, with one exception, excellent. Pretty solid, too, but if you're going to consider it, for the love of all that's holy, take your 3000/4000 level Statistics somewhere else first! That is not a class you want to take with an absentee professor and no TA. TRUST ME.

    • by ThorGod (456163)

      There is a lot more to learning than sitting through a bunch of lectures. Having said that, I've seen distance ed in action before and it's not so bad. The trick, though, is that not all of a professor's message is conveyed on camera and through sound. There are subtleties that I swear you have to 'be there' to get.

      Plus, who's a professor going to feel confident writing a recommendation letter for? Someone he/she only ever met once or twice (if that) and the rest of the time talked to through a camera? I ca

    • At the big-U's, of course there will be a latent aversion to prof's lecturing to a camera and reusing said lecture every semester. If I am just watching a video of a prof or reading his lecture notes online, it will be more difficult for the universities to justify the ever-more exorbitant admission cost if it's just delivered online (although most classes seem to be more of teaching yourself than the lecturer teaching you, but that's what college is about anyways, learning how to learn). College has been going online for awhile, but the question of 'should it be' is a reasonable one; will it save students money, or just dilute the college process into even more of a degree-mill spectacle than it already is? Or just create more busywork? I say it depends mostly on the context, subjectivity, and type of degree program.

      I bet in 100 years our descendants will be asking what it was like to sit in a classroom with people and how weird it must have been to learn in a group.

      I'm teaching a course at UQ that I've deployed some of my own teaching technology onto [blogspot.com] (hopefully rolling out to the masses soon... ok, maybe not 'masses' but a trickle'd be nice). Part of my theory is that "online" is not so much about pushing teaching out onto the web as it is about pulling the web into teaching. So in my course there's a fair amount of "web" interaction that happens right there in the lecture theatre (more as I add missing features), and that provides continuity that means the discussi

    • all my foo-foo fuzzy classes...were a blast to take online, i.e. a breeze and at my own leisure), giving me more focus on classes I actually cared about.

      It has been a while now since I completed my degree, but I do recall that there was, and probably still is, a lot of politics between departments and schools regarding those "foo-foo fuzzy" classes. Indeed, the ongoing debates between the engineering, arts and humanities schools over just what constituted a "foo-foo fuzzy" class became quite heated at my university; flaring up from time to time when new students enrolled and rehashed the same arguments. Of course, the science and engineering students resent

    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      Of course the cost of a course is in developing what goes into the lecture, not delivering it. It's preferable to have the person who wrote the lecture deliver it, if nothing else because then they are there to answer questions.

      Also, while lots of material doesn't change from year to year, subtle changes make for a lot of work. 2 or 3 years ago we didn't really touch mobile computing (tablets, mobile phones) in web development. Now you have to figure out how to squeeze that into a course that was already

  • When I worked for UCLA they wanted build up online classes so the could increase revenues without increasing campus expenses. They were saying they could possibly increase enrollment by up to 50%, but the sticking point then was who owned the classes. The school claimed ownership they pay teacher to create curriculum. Teachers figure they own the class materials they create for classes.

    I think online is a great idea especially for general education leaving campus space for high-end and lab work.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      The deal there is that the teachers typically own the materials unless it's otherwise specified. It's not hard for the school to gain ownership, they just need to put it in the contract and pay the teachers to create the materials. Teachers generally assume that they own the materials because it's something they do on their time without any compensation.

  • My Experience (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I did my undergrad at a traditional public university. A good one. A public ivy. Most of my degree was on-campus, but I took about a quarter of my classes online or in other off-campus formats. The quality of the classes I took had little relationship to the format of the course - instead, what mattered was the subject and the instructor. Keeping classes on campus - or taking them off - doesn't solve the problem of a poorly taught class. For whatever reason, the board of trustees decided that the numbe

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      "A good one. A public ivy"

      There is no such thing. The Ivy League is a specific organization, not a classification of quality. That organization consists of 8 members, ALL of them private universities. [wikipedia.org]

      People who claim they went/are at/are going to X Ivy League school, which does not appear on that list, never cease to amaze me.
      • by narcc (412956)

        Take it easy! You sound like someone who went to U. Penn. and can't stand that people don't immediately recognize it as being an Ivy League institution...

        • by bky1701 (979071)
          Most certainly not. I wouldn't go there if I had the option; being an engineer, I'd much rather CMU or MIT... however, I do often hear people mixing up Pennsylvania State and University of Pennsylvania. It's not a hard mistake to make, honestly.

          I kind of think the whole idea of using a sporting league as a measure of academic quality is a bit off. That there are "accepted" terms, apparently, for good colleges that are not in the Ivy League to be "Ivy" just strikes me as entirely backwards. But then, it i
  • About 10 years ago, I read an article that discussed how universities were planning to deliver instruction via television in the 1960's. This particular article noted that a particular university was designed around that philosophy, by incorporating television studios as well as other infrastructure to support the new wave. Alas, it all failed because students didn't want to learn through the impersonal instruction offered via televised lectures and inexperienced teaching assistants.

    But hey, they declared

    • by gweihir (88907)

      I did not know about this television experiment, but I am not the least bit surprised. Learning and teaching is _personal_. Remove that and nobody is motivated anymore. And motivation is the one key requirement for any learning and any teaching.

    • About 10 years ago, I read an article that discussed how universities were planning to deliver instruction via television in the 1960's.

      I don't know about the 60's but the UK's Open University has been doing this since the early 70's. In the early/mid 90's Before TV in the UK was generally 24 hours and there were only 4--5 channels, the OU got the after hours slots on BBC2 (I guess they figured that people had VCRs by this point) and would broadcast university level education programs. As a kid, I would oft

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:01PM (#37522830) Homepage

    The article is long on vague opinion, short on facts. Many of the facts it does give are wrong.

    "Yet lack of funding isn't the only reason that the traditional universities and colleges aren't responding with their own strategic acquisitions. In all industries it's hard to convince successful incumbents that innovations at the low end of the market really matter." Except that this isn't true. For example, I teach physics at a community college in California. We have a ton of online classes. The school is 98 years old, so it's certainly "traditional."

    "Physical campuses and prestige will always matter at the top end of the higher education market, so the most elite traditional institutions will survive competitive disruption. Many of them are developing their own sophisticated online education capabilities. MIT, with its OpenCourseWare initiative, and Cornell, with its profitable e-Cornell subsidiary, are only two of the most visible examples." Except that this is grossly misleading. MIT's OpenCourseWare isn't meant to provide an online education. MIT's students still show up to class and get their education while breathing the same air as their professor and the other students.

    "The real disruptive threat is to the hundreds of institutions that emulate the elite few at the top. Many of them lack the prestige to hold off for-profit competition and the money that the elites can spend on online curriculum." Except that this is grossly misleading when applied to any state in the US that has a decent state university system. For example, California has UC, Cal State, and community colleges. None of these systems are worried about for-profit competition, because they're cheaper than for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix.

    Some realities of online classes:

    • Online classes don't save money. Costs in education are virtually all labor. The labor cost to offer an online class is the same as the labor cost to offer a meatspace class. The huge cost savings comes from hiring lots of part-timers rather than tenured faculty, and that became a fait accompli ca. 1970-1980.
    • Online classes don't work very well. At my school, typically the success rates in online classes are much lower than in meatspace classes. Faculty say they basically don't see the same level of commitment from students in online classes.
    • Online classes aren't suitable for many purposes. You can't teach a physics lab online. You can't teach a music performance class online. You can't really have a good student discussion online, since the students are all online at different times.
    • The author talks credulously about the University of Phoenix, which is a pathetic diploma mill. The author talks credulously about Khan Academy, but Khan Academy is aimed at the intellectual level of high school students, not college students.
  • If Higher Education == College, then online lectures and collaboration software are already changing how students learn.

    If Higher Education == Graduate level, then try waiting another 100 years. It's still an master-apprentice relationship established centuries ago, and after completion, you put on a robe and get hooded by your advisor^H^H^H^H^H slave "master".

  • I teach at a large university. My university is pushing for faculty to sign up for on-line courses. My guess is that they see two economic incentives: they can appeal to a larger customer base -- students who can't attend in person -- and they can cut costs by increasing the number of students enrolled relative to the number of professors.

    What's in it for me? What do I gain by agreeing to teach on-line? I lose the give-and-take relationship with my students; how can I see if my explanation of a new conc

    • by macshit (157376)

      Actually, all of my course materials ARE on-line already. See http://spiff.rit.edu/classes [rit.edu]. Anyone who wants to use these materials to teach himself -- go for it!

      This!

      There are vast amounts of great course-materials freely available online, for all sorts of classes, at top-tier universities. They're a wonderful resource for somebody that wants to learn about a subject, and has motivation and some basic grounding but not the time / money to attend a formal class. You can find course lecture notes, links to papers, examples, reading lists, etc. Discussion groups etc tend to be university-private (which makes sense), but there's tons of stuff available to the world

    • by haus (129916)

      You gain the capability to reach students which would not be able or willing to attend courses in the fixed time/place which your courses are currently available.

      Currently I am a student at Harvard's Extension School. I have worked in the field that I am currently studying for over 15 years, and I am unwilling to step away from my career in order to pursue a degree. Hence any program that failed to provide a considerable amount of flexibility around physical location and time of day/ day of week scheduling

    • Would you consider donating your class material and your time to CK-12? (http://www.ck12.org/flexbook/)

      What is CK-12?
      The CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the "FlexBook," CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational materials to be used both as core textbooks and as the basis for customized materials.
      To learn more about our organization, visit http://www.ck12.org/about/ [ck12.org]

  • Some of my professors use Blackboard for various things - putting out assignments, receiving assignments, putting up Powerpoints of lectures and so forth.

    The problem with all of this talk is, what are the motivations to put more things online? I work in IT and I am suspicious. All I see is the US government trying to kill off Pell Grants and student loans, schools cutting library and computer lab hours, raising tuition and the like. "Pay us the same, but now you work from home and do some lessons we drew

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:12PM (#37522898)
    Not all the information is in the books, or the lab notes. Even with recorded lectures and interactive material, a lot is learned by interacting with others. IRC cannot replace personal interactions.

    So where is the chem lab and the bio lab in this scheme? Are we not going to train doctors or chemists or physicists any more? I don't see a lot of homes with lab benches these days.

    Working in groups is enhanced by physical proximity. Look at all the big tech firms. What do they call their big central facilities? The Campus These is a good practical reason for that.There is telecommuting, but that is in addition to, not a replacement of, the academic environment.

    Online teaching is wide open to abuse. On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog. Who is going to be taking that test and doing the homework, exactly? It's already a problem in traditional schools settings, and this lowers the barrier dramatically for bad behavior.

    The current system works. It has known problems, but the higher level educational environment has evolved (at least in the West) since the middle ages. Yes, undergraduates can be treated as cattle, but graduate education is based on the master/apprentice model of learning a craft. Why do you think it's called a "Master's" degree? This is truly one of those "it it ain't broke don't fix it" situations.

    This could so easily turn education into a meaningless and worthless way of extracting money from people with false promises with nothing to show at the end but a big debt. In fact, when it comes to many of the for profit national schools, it already has.

    You want to waste a bunch of time and money? Just enroll in a for profit school that claims it will turn you into one of those well paid game developers or CGI artists. The actual post graduation success rate is near zero. The classes are too simple to do much good, because the goal is to keep getting that tuition, not to impart useful knowledge. I had a friend who worked in the film industry, and then tried teaching. He got in trouble with both the school management and the students for showing them how to type on the command line. It was "too technical", "too hard", and it made the students "uncomfortable".

    So no, it is not a good idea.

    • All very good points. I would add again the personal interaction with the lecture or recitation as well as the ability to ask your professor questions - either during the class or during office hours. And meeting with your fellow classmates to work on a project or other assignments is not going to be the same as doing it in person. Are you going to be able to walk down the hall of your dorm or fraternity and ask the smart kid or upper classman for help? Sure you can post a question on a forum but how long w

  • it is a tad shallow, the whole matter. Who, in the first place, has 'declared' online learning to be disruptive? We've had this for decades. First, it was the radio that was supposed to bring education into the dark forests at the edge of humanity. Then, pictures were added, and Sesame Street was to revolutionize child education and bring about Einsteins by the dozens. Now the author claims lack of historic research as a new paradigm.
    Been there, tried it myself (as university lecturer), failed miserably.

    Not

  • not impossible, but not as straightforward as one might think. Timed tests are very problematic. If you can't get reliable metrics because of the testing inadequacies, then you're not going to do it. Blackboard is a fucking nightmare - it has all the flexibility of a fireplace poker. Right now, tech and higher ed need to sit down and re-think how this is done. The profs need to know the students are learning what they set them to learn. The students need information and learning delivery systems they can u
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:56PM (#37523126)

    I got a bachelor's degree in Physics from Cal Poly, SLO. I hated every minute of that experience, and hated the professors.

    Last semester, I took Perl, Java, and Javascript online, and loved it immensely. The online discussion boards meant that I could think before asking, or answering, questions, and I didn't have to get out of bed at the crack of dawn. It also made life INFINITELY easier to not have to squeeze in three classes with a full time job. The professors answered my messages quickly, and the students were active in the discussion boards.

    This semester, I'm taking PHP online, and Android dev in a classroom (from the same professor no less). The classroom experience is largely a waste of time. I'm tired, stressed, and just want to go home and sleep. Then over the weekend I review the course videos and participate more actively in the discussions. All this comes at a TINY fraction of the cost of Cal Poly.

    I realize some things are not taught well online; my physics labs would have been difficult to do in a browser to say the least, but for CS I hardly see why you need to be in class.

    Of course, this will also mean that it will be increasingly difficult to be a professor, and at least at the school I went to they weren't particularly well-paid anyway. The administrators, however, including our ineffectual "president", made hundreds of thousands per year. They can go to hell.

    • I got a bachelor's degree in Physics from Cal Poly, SLO. I hated every minute of that experience, and hated the professors.

      Hah! I knew that I was right to turn down their letter of acceptance all of those years ago. Well, too bad for you I suppose. However, if it's any consolation, you did make me feel better about pursuing my degree through the UC system instead.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Monday September 26, 2011 @11:58PM (#37523136)

    I know this crops up all the time as "modern". People seem to mistake "modern" for "better". But the problem is it is not better, but far worse. Lectures need the personal, physical presence to work of both the teacher and the student. There are aspects of attention, respect, a formal setting, that all are essential for teaching success.

    There is one approach that works well, but requires a lot more effort than traditional lectures: Self-study material on paper. This requires that you have local groups of students and access to a TA by phone if you get stuck. It requires larger meetings periodically. It has been done for decades by distance-universities (Germany has one for example, the Fernuniversitaet Hagen). It requires highly motivated students. This is not easier. It does not save time. It does not even save that much money. But it does work.

    Now, putting this stuff online has been tried, it does _not_ work. (A friend of mine worked several years at Hagen after his PhD in Mathematics.) Paper material is still vastly superior to online representation.

    This does of course ignore those students that can learn a subject by themselves using a book. I did that for some subjects during my university attendance and also after. But this only forks for some students and for some subjects, which are individually different. It is not a general solution.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DanAnderson26 (54603)

      So, you're a professor I take it?

      As a former student, both online and traditional:
      1. You don't get a useful physical or personal presence in a traditional college. You get the foreign guy, who seems brilliant and passionate, but you can't understand a word he says. Or you get the grad student, teaching something she barely understands because the professor can't be bothered to actually come to class and teach. Or you get the tiny speck, 30 rows down from you, who you can't hear and who can't apparently

    • There are aspects of attention, respect, a formal setting, that all are essential for teaching success.

      Most of which are now negated by rude and thoughtless undergraduates browsing the web all updating their Facebook pages all while messaging eachother continuously on their smartphones, laptops and iPads. Professors look up and see that everyone is paying attention to their devices and not the lecture that their parents have paid so dearly for them to hear. In fact, it was one of my undergraduate CS lecturers who said something one day that I never forget. We didn't have smartphones or iPads back then, but l

    • I learn primarily by listening not reading, or writing. This is not that uncommon. The reading and writing helps though. Trying to teach the concept verbally to someone else is the final test and also a learning experience. This learning style means that watching a lecture online where I can pause and back up if my attention waivers or I can't keep up with the discussion, is even more valuable than a meatspace lecture, unless it is one-on-one instruction where I can be allowed to stop the discussion to

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "Paper material is still vastly superior to online representation."

      really? so how does reading the material from a pulped wood make it superior to reading it on a kindle? This argument falls on it's face hard.

  • college class times are a poor fit for working people it's one thing to do a part time job while at school but it's a other to do a full time office job and go to school at the same time and that's why university of phoenix is big and is why some jobs sign up there workers for continuing education with places like that.

  • IT should move to a more hands on / apprenticeship systems that deals with real world stuff vs text books and theory.

    But even some more hands on classes are at times useing out of date course loads. The tech schools are more up to date.

  • PLATO @ 50 [platohistory.org]: Perhaps the greatest untold story in the history of computing is the development of the PLATO system at the University of Illinois and later also at Control Data Corporation.

  • Online learning is no substitute for a good teacher. The secret to teaching is pace and emphasis. A good teacher introduces new concepts and explains each step at a pace that can be absorbed by the students. He places emphasis on the important steps and explains them more completely. A teacher can also read the class and will go over concepts that the students are having difficulty with. A good teacher can also say the same thing in different ways as one way is not understandable by everyone. Another secret

  • The original question is a false dichotomy; the question isn't whether or not college should go online or not. The question is under what circumstances is the application of information technology and integration of online access and collaboration to the university education process appropriate and to what degree?

    I am the Moodle Coordinator for the University of the People [uopeople.org], a completely online tuition-free university. We have students from 119 countries learning in a collaborative fashion through online
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      "universal access to quality, online post-secondary education to qualified students"

      Sorry but the "qualified students" part bugs me. Anyone interested in learning should be automatically "qualified"

  • Home schooling has proven the marginal value of institutionalized instruction. Many schools, such as MIT, are putting their entire courseware online. The only brick-and-mortar universities that will survive are the ones who emphasize their alumni networks for getting students jobs.
  • Some might fight me over this, but university really isn't about getting another paper on your wall, and it especially isn't about running exams for people who've learnt something from online sources (even if they are the university's own). Good universities are about getting you in contact with great people, profs, thinkers, getting a glimpse into their views, listening to what they have to say, getting to know their views, eventually working with them and get something plus out of it you'd never get by st
  • I have a BSc in Computer Science on my wall and I dont think purely online courses are the best idea (I had none in my degree)
    However, use of online resources makes a LOT of sense including accepting assignment submissions by email and distributing lecture slides/notes/recordings/assignments/etc.

    Being able to talk to tutors/unit coordinators face to face helps (being able to send them email questions right on the spot without needing to wait until they can see them in the flesh next time also helps)

    And yes

  • I'm currently studying a masters on a distance learning basis, where the whole course is delivered online - lectures come in the form of podcasts, and all supplied reading material is for download. Assignments are submitted via email, and we have regular real-time (text) chats and forum-based discussions.

    For me, it's been a great experience, since I can fit my studying in around my work, listen to my lectures when driving or doing the ironing and the like. However, on the other side of things, I miss the

  • Certainly not for undergrad degrees, a few courses maybe, but not the entire curriculum. For graduate degrees and graduate certificates (specially those geared towards professionals with a certain number of years of experience), online coursework is a viable alternative (talking from personal experience with UND, WPI, and UC Berkeley).
  • MY wife and I both tried the online studies track. In a traditional classroom we both do great and average 4.0-3.5 GPA. when we both tried online courses our GPA dropped drastically.

    Why? 90% of all online courses are taught by a "professor" that really cant hack dealing with students AND is majorly overloaded. Teaching 10 classes at a time was what I was told by one of them, oh and he was in China NOT the USA, but his education degree was from a USA college. Questions asked would go unanswered or

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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