I recently read a Forecaster piece by Edgar Allen Beem in which he raged against the popularity of online courses and what a scourge this trend is on education (The Universal Notebook, Jan. 14). And in the Jan. 25 issue, Mike Langworthy expressed the same bias for classroom-based face-to-face teaching and learning. The provocative title: “Online college education isn’t college or education” reveals the all-too-common skepticism regarding online education. He seems convinced that a teacher standing before students sitting in a room listening to a lecture is how it’s supposed to be done to ensure quality.
True, this has been the method of instruction for at least a millennium, but does this mean we ought to emulate and perpetuate this system? Why assume that online education is suspect, and is foisted on unsuspecting students paying tuition for worthless products and services from profiteers? Technology, like classrooms, is simply another environment for facilitating the teaching-learning process. As is documented by reliable research, it is not a quick, easy, or impersonal means for students to accumulate credits with little effort and few learning benefits. Yet, critics within and beyond academia, many who have no knowledge or experience with online education, continue to malign this expanding mode of providing access to learning for students worldwide. Educational quality is not determined by whether a student sits in a classroom or at a computer, but rather by the value of course content and level of commitment by teacher and student.