Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Can a University really refuse to offer online courses?

learning technology: Can a University really refuse to offer online courses?

This posting by a fellow blogger deserves restatement -

"Is it really possible for an institution of higher learning to refuse to offer or stop offering online courses to its students? Baylor University has taken that position and will no longer offer any online courses.

At first glance, that seems ludicrous and downright unbelievable; what is the leadership at Baylor thinking?

Many institutions, 2-year and 4-year, are literally and still rushing to the web to create and offer online courses; it often increases enrollment for the institution and scheduling flexibility for learners. However, most institutions are and will continue to struggle with the quality issue. Well . . . issues. What does a quality course look like once developed? What constitutes a quality online learning experience? What resources are necessary to develop a quality online course? Can faculty - trained in their content areas - create quality online courses? What sort of and how much training do they need to do so?

Faculty are good at what they do in the classroom, but delivering the same type of quality learning experience in the online environment - no matter how much administrators and faculty may insist otherwise - is a different animal. Teaching online requires using new technologies to develop materials, to present content in a meaningful, accessible and usable manner, and to interact with learners. The pace is fast and furious - from listservs to discussions to wikis to blogs to other social networking tools; and most institutions expect faculty to keep up with that fast pace. And, keeping up isn't as easy as many faculty and administrators would like to think. Emerging from graduate programs over the last five years are educational professionals that have spent their entire academic careers focused on the cognitive impact of technology, and that group is struggling to keep up with the pace. How can we reasonably expect faculty with terminal degrees in English, Mathematics, Political Science etc to keep up with a field - other than their own - that is moving that quickly when those trained in the field are struggling to keep up? Ultimately, a decision, like Baylor's, to focus on what the institution can unquestionably continue to do well, is not a bad one; that's much more desirable than joining a race that can not be won or even sustained . . ."

I agree with what is said here - if an institution is going to offer distance based courses - they MUST build and maintain the instructional and design and evaluations skills necessary to build and maintain the distance learning. Too many institutions are moving into alternative delivery and just adding more resposnibility and expectations on a Faculty that often hasn't even been taught how to teach, let alone how to design learning materials.

1 comment:

A real life GAR said...

Cambridge, too, states on its website that "One of the University's core values underlines the commitment to residence in Cambridge as central to most courses. While appreciating the value that online learning and blended learning (a mixture of e-learning, face-to-face teaching, etc.) can add to teaching provision, the University currently does not support courses which are taught entirely by distance learning, that is with no residential periods in Cambridge."