Friday, July 27, 2012

Distance Learning has Cons... and Pros

A recent article on the Chronicle of Higher Ed website describes concern about the effects of distance learning:

In response, I offer these thoughts:

In cases where no better alternative exists, distance learning is a wonderful thing, even a life-saver for some: 

  • Radio-based "School of the Air" instruction has been very useful in places like Australia, and created many educational opportunities long before the internet as we know it (e.g. see ); 
  • While growing up in a remote part of Africa, I was spared exile to a faraway boarding school by two years of middle school correspondence courses from the Calvert school in Baltimore; 
  • As a manager, I work with employees who can't simply walk away from their jobs and go to a campus- they need flexible distance curricula for their own advancement, in parallel with their employment; 
  • A large number of our service-people benefit by online coursework in places where no alternative exists; surely we can all agree that education should not stop when a soldier ships off to war, yet some choose to lament the quality of the schools offering that service rather than try to make it better by actually sitting down with a soldier and helping them with their homework once they come back home and try to catch up.

That said... now is the time to defend the real and non-virtual, experiential education, and indeed to grow it.  We can do this! And without behaving like Luddites and sequestering our students from the internet.

1 comment:

  1. I recently spoke to somebody in the midwest who had attended a for-profit college that was primarily online. According to him, this college provided a sub-standard education that put him $30,000 in debt after only one year.

    The reason he enrolled was because he wanted to go to college and he was working full time. Apparently, he fell into the clutches of this seemingly exploitive institution because he didn't know that non-profit universities also offer distance education.

    Distance Ed could very well become the market disruption for education that the Kindle was for publishing. If more lectures become free and accessible, will certification bodies pop-up to let people write exams to prove their knowledge (rather than paying college tuition)?