The New York Times has an article today all about the rise of online classes and how the trend relates to the spiraling cost of college tuition. More than one in four college students today are enrolled in at least one online course—a huge increase over just a few years ago. The Times brought in a panel of experts to weigh in on the topic, including Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.
Online learning has been growing much faster than traditional enrollment for at least six years, and almost one in four college students now takes at least one class online. This can be great news for students, but only if institutions take advantage of the latest research in designing online courses, and — a bigger if — if they pass the savings on to students.
The phrase “distance learning” betrays a snobbery that online classes must be a ways away from the real thing. It doesn’t have to be so. Professor David Wiley at Brigham Young says classroom teaching is to online teaching as regular polo is to water polo.
You can’t run the same plays in the more fluid, immersive environment and expect the same results. Online classes consisting of prerecorded video lectures and multiple-choice assessments are flat, poor imitations of a teaching model that’s outdated to begin with.
In the right hands, though, online learning can be even better than the “real thing.”