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… The result of these so-called budget pressures, as we try to educate increased numbers of students with ever-smaller budgets, is espousal by administrators of things like online education or larger class sizes or “distance” education despite evidence that these “changes” do not benefit students to the same extent as face-to-face education. For example, at one campus, administrators have encouraged faculty to teach yoked classrooms where the professor is only present in one but is broadcast to students in the other room — something tried and discarded in the ‘70s when TV teaching failed as an educational innovation.

I am regularly contacted by students at online universities seeking hands-on research experience in my lab, because it is not offered at their school and they cannot apply to graduate programs without it.

… This year I will be teaching face-to-face a class formerly taught only online. Students are grateful and tell me they hated the previous approach, that they avoid online classes whenever possible. Faculty who teach online have published studies showing that more faculty time is required to teach an online class effectively, not less, so class sizes cannot be increased even though there is no physical seat restriction.

But class sizes are increased and faculty thus are forced to teach less effectively. This kind of experience is being ignored by administrators because they care more about the efficiency of instruction than its quality. Then when professors point out these things, we are accused of resisting fundamental change, as if we have a collective personality flaw that makes us too rigid to recognize good ideas or “inevitability.” …

I hear you, baby.

A professor at a public university in California prefers to go unnamed in an Inside Higher Education piece about the poor white trash of education, online classes. The writer points out that among the spectacular advantages of online is that graduation rates at some schools improve markedly with them. This is largely because students can get a friend or family member who knows the material to take the course for them; or because the overworked person running the show isn’t very rigorous.

… But I mean I hear you when you complain that distance devotees call people who say the obvious out loud – these courses are dreck – rigid, flawed, regressive… Oh yeah.

You forget to mention the other thing, though – the thing for-profit distance devotees say about you and me: Elitist slime! You’re slamming the door to self-improvement shut in the face of people who have no option but to take out enormous loans they can’t pay back in order to sit at home and talk to a screen! That’s the only form of higher education available to these people, and you’re denying it to them!

Yeah. UD‘s heard them all. All the beautiful claims made for the superiority of a total separation between two human beings as one of them tries to learn something.

You know what that person learns? She learns that legitimate schools won’t accept her expensive credits from for-profit online schools.

Let’s think about what might be in the mind of schools that consistently reject her credits. Let’s take our time…

Actually, we can do this fast. Reread this post’s headline.

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6 Responses to ““[F]aculty are being offered a new role consisting of regurgitation of pre-packaged material to hordes of diploma-mill students via impersonal technologies.””

  1. Clarissa Says:

    Now my question is: how can I possibly make the administrators of my university to understand and recognize the self-evident things stated in this post? No matter how much you talk to them about it, they just don’t get it. To make matters worse, I teach languages. After years and years of training in the methodology of language teaching, I still have no idea how a language can possibly be taught on-line.

    This is too frustrating for words.

  2. Cody Says:

    When I saw the title of this post, the first thing I thought was, “Oh wow, that’s exactly what Prof. Richard Quinn was doing at UCF.” But I digress.

    Cash-strapped community colleges with multiple campuses have been resorting to videoconferencing for several years, under the guise of low enrollments and minimizing travel for students. To me, it cheapens the college experience. Somewhat unrelated: I wonder, have there been any studies to examine grade inflation in online studies?

    Clarissa, I find math and vocabulary-heavy science courses just as difficult in distance format. Would an online language course resemble Rosetta Stone or something like that? Not saying it’s effective…just trying to picture how it would be structured.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    “Cheapens” is precisely the word, Cody. And of course grade inflation in online courses is insane, for all the reasons one would expect.

    I love that argument about “minimizing travel for students” at community colleges. Yes indeed people will travel thousands of miles to go to their local community college! What bullshit. How stupid people are to fall for it. Let them be cynical and realize that online classes are simply guaranteed, easy credits. That’s the honest route.

  4. Al Says:

    Maybe curriculum is composted at your institution, but not our Land-Grant university. We have 31 distance degrees available, and every course in every degree plan was created and designed and is taught by campus faculty with support from our center for teaching and learning.

    EVERY course is fully comparable to the same course on campus, and carries the same weight on a transcript.

    Those who commit trash need to be careful about assuming that everyone else is doing the same. Some of us have busted our butts for more than a decade to create well designed, quality online learning experiences which improve people’s lives and which are every bit as good (sometimes better) than the same course offered on campus.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Al: How do you know who’s taking those online courses? How do you confirm the identity of the person taking the exams, writing the papers and comments, etc.?

    And how do you know that the faculty member said to be teaching the course is in fact teaching it, and has not given it – in whole or in part – to someone else to teach?

  6. Monica Says:

    I am learning Italian online. There are many audio files and I’m repeating what I hear. That includes, for example, common expressions like “Come stai?”. Some expressions are also recorded separately, so I can click on a link hundreds of times to hear them and repeat. Some things such as the numbers simply must be learned by heart. There is simply no other way. Some lessons are about grammar, such as the main verbs. All lessons also have PDF transcripts and some have online “flashcards”. Some lessons are about culture or reading articles but I didn’t get to that level yet. There are three songs (I learned them). The teachers may answer questions emailed to them or left in the comments but basically, the course is online. In fact, I can hardly call it a course since the learning is self-paced and not graded or credited. Still, learning takes place. If I heard the same phrases in a real classroom, maybe I would actually learn less because I would forget what I heard unless I also repeat a lot at home like I’m doing now. And of course, I can see the added benefit of actual experience with people once fluent. However, I’m sure learning can take place online, too. For real (or more expensive) courses, some verbal interaction is possible (at the very least, over the phone, if not using some modern computer-based technology). The teleconferencing equipment for actually seeing people’s faces as well exists, although it won’t necessarily be set up for courses and some people actually prefer to be seen less. Essays and comments about them can be sent online. If properly done, this is the way of the future. Maybe it’s jut that many courses are not well designed or serious schools assume they were not. Due to work scheduling issues, I wasn’t going to set foot in a classroom for my Italian courses, especially not until I become proficient and decide to pursue further studies or get my actual learning certified, if I even get there and see a need for a piece of paper to prove what I know. In fact, if online learning was not possible, I probably wouldn’t even have started. I know what it takes (I learned other foreign languages, too), so I realize that learning is likely to take a long time. Even if I were to take real courses, this extra practice can’t hurt.

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