Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's ok to go slow on online teaching

The president of UVA was removed in part for going too slow on the move to online teaching.

(She was later reinstated for other reasons).

Everywhere you turn, someone is freaking out about missing the bus on online teaching.

That's because everyone can tell there's a good chance it's going to be big, and there's a good chance it's going to change everything for all of us in academia.

I think it's good that everyone is eager to support innovation in pedagogy. But I think there's not much to worry about, even if things do change a lot. 

I think people look at Google and Bing and think, Google is ingrained and while Bing is just as good, and now Bing can't get traction. The same with Facebook and G+. There are some technologies where you gotta get in on the ground floor and then the attractor state is so strong that no one will switch.

But I think education is not that thing. And the reasons is that the teaching isnt really what people pay for. It's the broader experience, plus the accreditation.


I think there's very little cost to being slow on internet teaching. In the future, teaching will be run by specialized firms that are orthogonal to universities, and that rent out their services. It will be more like the textbook industry than the search engine industry. The lecturers for each lecture will be the best lecturers. Look, for example, at The Learning Company, which takes the best lecturers from anywhere.

There are already a jillion universities joining Coursera and some other online lecturing websites.

I highly doubt that any of our nation's 100 most prestigious universities will ever allow anyone to get a degree without living on campus for 8 semesters. The lectures will let the professors "flip the classroom" (as the kids say today), and with lecturing as homework and homework done, with professorial help, during class. The lectures will be seen as the cart and the classroom stuff will be the horse.

If you think about it, interactive pedagogy is a lot more appealing to most academic professors anyhow. That's what grad school is like.

Not that it affects my life anyhow. My university has chosen to move slow on this issue anyhow. Some faculty I know have made moves to goad the admins along but, apparently, to no avail. They can wring their hands all they want, I'll be sitting here in my comfy chair, drinking lemonade.

1 comment:

  1. Well at the school I attended, online courses are the cash cow. Very little cost after startup, but you still pay the same tuition for them every semester. Which is why I disliked them, but why the university wants them. It helps the bottom line :/


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