Written By: Robyn Shulman
According to the research firm, Ambient Insight, there are approximately 12 million post-secondary students who take most or all of their classes online at this time. Also, according to Ambient Insight, this number is statistically showing that over the next 5 years the number will reach nearly over 22 million students.
Therefore, I must ask: Have we compromised higher education for convenience? If this is the case, how is this affecting our society and can we measure or assess the outcomes?
These questions warrant a great amount of our attention, as so many of us have become tightly wrapped up within our virtual worlds.
I pose the following questions about our education system:
• What are the motivating factors as to why a student would choose an online course over an on-site course?
• Have we blinked an eye at the differences of delivery methods and how they affect the learning process?
• Which courses are truly appropriate for an online setting, and which courses are not applicable?
• How has online learning affected one’s skills?
• Has online learning affected our communities in a positive or negative manner, and are they measurable?
• Which degrees and vocations require an on-site presence, and are we addressing these degrees appropriately?
• Have institutions lost their framework, integrity and purpose in replacement for enrollment and dollars?
• Is money the driving force?
• How has this rapid movement affected professors?
• Have we lost the human touch within education?
I am going to address the last statement: have we lost the human touch within education? Personally, when I went through my M.Ed., online courses were not available. Since I am a teacher, many of my courses focused on hands-on learning, along with materials & methods; which truly required my presence. I was also able to meet and create friendships that I still hold dear today. As 25 teachers gathered to meet once a week, we shared stories, laughed a lot, hosted debates, and developed ongoing relationships. Would I have had the same experience online? Doubtful. Since I did not have online courses, did I miss out on virtual learning, development and growth? Probably.
Education and the online environment is now a given.
Most graduate degrees are offered online, and many graduate students have not had the chance to attend or experience courses in person. Have these students missed out? I say yes, they have possibly missed out from different perspectives. Have they grown as virtual students? I say yes too, they have grown. There is a place for on-site courses and a place for online courses. We must have a middle ground for success, not only for our students, but also for the growth and development of our society.
Which question would you like to address about our education system?