I just submitted final grades for the last time. This means that today marks my last day teaching online. 🙁
For the past 3+ years, I’ve been an online adjunct faculty member at a university here in the US – teaching undergraduate courses in critical and creative thinking, along with a fair bit of writing and logical reasoning.
But, I just can’t shake the feeling that my students would have been much better served in a more traditional face-to-face setting. So, sadly, I know that it is now time for me to put down my grading mouse and walk away from the keyboard.
To be fair, I’m confident that all students did learn something in the classes I have taught, but that doesn’t mean I should call the courses a success.
Let’s walk through many of the reasons for why I feel that education, including MOOCs (massive open online courses) and online distance learning, is traveling down a dangerously slippery slope.
- The measures of success are often wrong – learning experiences are far more important than a checklist of standards and objectives
- Relationships, connections, and networking are minimized in the rushed online world
- Differentiation and personalized learning is lost in the pre-created curricula and assembly line experience of most distance courses and MOOCs
- Motivation and engagement suffer through isolation – we’re seriously becoming ok with virtual science labs!?
- The subject matter (and the learners’ needs) should drive instructional strategies, not technology
If you agree or disagree with any of these, please read on for more and add your thoughts in the comments below.
Please understand that the purpose here is to spark a discussion around the current trends in education and hopefully provide a gut check to us all on our priorities and practices. I’ve been an online educator, earned a masters degree almost exclusively online, have happily participated in several MOOCs, and hold two certifications in online teaching – one for K-12 virtual schools in Texas and another for the university I have worked for.
In short, I’m as guilty as anyone and I’ve been riding the online education wave for years. In that time, I have met, taught, and worked with tons of excellent educators and students. This isn’t a commentary on people – but rather the direction we are all collectively heading.
Who are we talking about?
If you keep up at all with mainstream tech blogs and news media, they’re regularly filled with posts about new funding for “edtech” startups and new partnerships between for-profit companies and public universities.
For example, here’s a quick look through my feed reader recently:
- Millennials Believe The Future Of Education Will Be Virtual
- Texas Poised to Expand Virtual Education Through Online Network
- Georgia Tech Teams Up With Udacity, AT&T To Offer $6K Master’s Degree In Computer Science, Entirely Online
- MOOCs being embraced by top U.S. universities
There is way less in the media on the drawbacks of all this online learning, with the notable exception of last week’s announcement by San Jose State to suspend MOOCs on Udacity after low passing rates.
But even this negative attention may have been a bit overboard and misleading after reading this joint blog post by the Provost and President of San Jose State University.
(As an aside and part disclosure, San Jose State is an Edublogs Campus customer and the link above is to a blog we host.)
Is it all bad?
MOOCs for professional development, online learning for self-help, and courses for personal enrichment are all totally different stories.
There’s no question that access to quality content online is a significant improvement for those in rural or developing areas around the globe.
Online education is also crucial to working adults supporting families and provides learning opportunities to many that never before would have the ability to attend traditional schools.
And a handful of online courses in a university degree program may be appropriate, depending on the content of the courses.
But while there is a time and place for online education, the direction we’re taking should still scare every educator and employer out there. Especially with increasing numbers of fully online K-12 programs.
Are students really motivated by online learning?
When I began thinking about online courses, especially large ones with a lot of students and MOOCs, I thought about the large “traditional” classes I had freshman year at the University of Texas.
I remember walking into my first university course ever, and taking a seat among at least 500 other students in an intro to Chemistry course. There were more students in this one “classroom” than in my entire high school graduating class. We’d watch what the professor wrote on a piece of paper projected on one of two big screens. And we would listen to what he said over a microphone. I really couldn’t even see him, so I might as well have just watched a video of the lecture.
These large lecture courses are popular at bigger universities – and it is fair to say the learning experiences are similar to those in online MOOCs. Nobody knew my name. I certainly can’t tell you my professor’s name or anything about him or other students in the course – or anything at all that I “learned” about Chemistry.
Anecdotally, for me, these courses were the opposite of motivating and engaging. And as the semester went on, you’d find more and more empty seats.
Perhaps this partly explains this recent meta-analysis of 29 courses found that completion rates were less than 7 percent! Students lose interest, aren’t motivated to complete course work, and simply stop coming.
I’d argue that relationships are motivating. Seeing the passion good instructors bring to a classroom live and in-person is motivating. Being in a classroom without distractions for an hour at a time to only think about the subject matter at hand is motivating.
Greater than or equal to traditional learning?
This seems to be the underlying thesis for many – virtual learning and MOOCs can replicate (and even improve upon) traditional classroom settings more efficiently and more economically.
Or so they say.
Well, the only way to compare would be to have some sort of standardized or summative assessment at the end of 2 courses that cover the same material.
But this would be making a false assumption that many politicians and business leaders seem to constantly make:
Learning experiences are far more important than learning outcomes.
If you leave this blog post with only one takeaway, I sincerely hope it is this. Our education culture thrives on test scores and completion rates. We ignore the learning process, the challenges students face, the products they produce, and their experiences.
While there are ways to include collaboration, projects, and non-lecture-based instruction in online courses, so much of what we see revolves around video lectures and the reading of texts.
This type of teaching will work for some students, but I’d argue these same students would learn just as well (or even better) in traditional classrooms.
When we can harness technology to reach and engage students that haven’t historically done well in traditional classrooms, then we truly will have arrived in a technology revolution in education.
How’s teaching online different than face to face?
For me, the difference is night and day.
My face to face experiences have been more rewarding personally and professionally – perhaps because I got to know my students better and was better able to pass on my enthusiasm for course content. I’m the first to admit that there are better online instructors than me, and perhaps I’m just not as cut out for it.
That being said, typically the lessons and activities are all pre-set before an online course begins. It is next to impossible to really deviate no matter how students are achieving.
In a traditional course, through fluid conversations and other means of instant feedback, instructors can change plans right in the middle of a lesson if the class needs more time on a concept than expected.
My experience, and fear, is that online classes are too rigid, too much like a factory, and less responsive to individual students’ learning.
So what’s the solution?
I’m glad you asked.
We’re particularly excited at Edublogs by the increase in more “blended” learning environments. Essentially the best of both worlds – face-to-face time along with a web or virtual component. And we think blogs and new products and features we have up our sleeves can be major players in improving blended learning experiences.
Along with blended learning programs comes a re-evaluation of the content in courses we teach in this technology age. For example, we’ll see more and more trading in of memorization of facts and processes for problem solving, communication skills, and a focus on critical thinking. After all, we have entire libraries and encyclopedias in our pockets for all those facts.
But, there are other arguments that can be made, and again, the purpose of this post is to start a discussion.
So leave a comment below, or even better, write your own blog post and share a link with your own ideas about online education and MOOCs. Are they here to stay?
62 thoughts on “Why today is my last day teaching online…”
I realize this is an old post but thought I would add my 2 cents. I am an online student (who appreciates your honest article) BUT would like to point out that online classes are a life-saver for women like me! I have an extremely busy life: kids, husband, career, etc. I also live an hour away from the closest university/college available to me. I do not have two hours for a commute or the money for the gasoline required to drive that far! I’m currently doing a mid-life career change and online classes have absolutely made this change possible! I have found that I enjoy the online format quite a bit- it’s clear and concise. I always know what content I need to know, when assignments are due and how to structure my time. When I went to university to earn my BA (over a decade ago) I often felt disorganized, the professors were all over the place, I wasn’t always 100% sure what content was the most important. After taking a learning style test I realized I am almost 90% a visual learner- my college professors lectured… I barely processed what they said because I am not an auditory processor. Online classes have provided visual interest for me, along with well thought out power points! I do not miss the droning of university professors one bit- I love learning online!
Great post, Ronnie. Although I agree on most of the points that you mentioned, I would like to point out that in many cases online classrooms have a lot of advantages that traditional classrooms don’t. These days there are online learning programs like http://abcte.org which help people become “teachers” with their online courses.
I am coming to this conversation late but with very similar experience. I stayed teaching with my online university–perhaps the same one not mentioned in the article–for eleven years. I often felt like I was cheating some of the students from a richer experience, no matter how hard I worked to change that. In addition, the university became very inflexible and did not update their curriculum for years. I found myself teaching the same thing over and over and over again, and I was forced to use their base curriculum and first-week assignments. The policy directions were confusing at times because they came from different sources. This made my ability to help the students significantly decrease. The classes became an assembly line. There were classes I taught in a blended environment with this and another university. These were much richer experiences for everyone.
This is only the teacher-centered part of the story.
There are also hidden facts about the way students lear.
We have to consider self-regulations skills in addition to inflated, manipulated and combined grades.
Academic success can be achieved independently or as a result of conformism.
Online education is ONLY for independent learners. Online classes are the end of symbiosis teacher/student success. Online students can work in Learning centers with tutors and other students. These experiences are important and should be encourage.. These experiences are free of any schedule and predefined lessons. Ii use flipped classroom online via my discussion forums every week. The problem is that online classes are for self-regulated learners, capable to monitor and improve, skilled in critical thinking, honest, SMART working. My lessons are only 5 to 10 minutes via YouTube. Students have open forum to ask questions, to reflect and dispute ideas. Via my video tutorials, I am teaching what is missing in the textbook – how to use technologies as learning tools.
Even some dependent learners are successful, because I can teach online versus lecturing.
I completely agree that learning independence should be develop in hybrid classes. However, students need competent instructors in both – the subject and technologies.
Resistance is important to me, but let’s be honest. If you cannot teach online, may be somebody else can. If some students cannot Lear online, may be the others can. It is time to admit – not everybody can.
i completely agree with you. i have taught online for the last ten years and came to online teaching from a decade of face-to-face instruction as a drama teacher. online, i teach english. i have learned to use this forum to connect with students as individuals, to inspire creative and collaborative work, and to encourage reflective thinking. learning how to do this has been a long process. i encounter many in this area of teaching who spend their time creating material in various platforms that is then left to do the teaching for them. this is isolating and unengaging for both the teacher and the student. it is crucial for all online teachers to break through the virtual fourth wall in order to remain present in the process of teaching and in so doing to customize and personalize the learning experience for every student. it can be done. and the results can be as astonishingly brilliant as they are fulfilling for both parties.
I really appreciate the discussion here. I wish I had time to read all the comments. I agree with the standard complaints about standard online learning styles. Obviously, I believe, face 2 face is better than text and videos. However, there is another option which I experienced as a student, which is synchronous classes taught live online to a live class. It was awesome. It’s not that purely online is bad, it’s that we are doing it wrong.
Ya even I agree that relationships and experiences make an offer of very good learning. you made a very good points about this traditional classroom and a online training. hope we will experience the same. thank you
Some of your followers may be interested in what it is like teaching at an online, for-profit university. If so, watch this show entitled, “Teaching at a For-Profit Online University” located at, http://youtu.be/gtMIafWUS74 . It is part of our YouTube series, “Technology and Education Today.”
All online students have multiple opportunities to use Learning Centers, clubs, face2face study groups, SI, you name it. The world is changing – classroom experiences are not the only possible experiences. I am in my at home at the moment, and I am discussing something with you – this is experience. This experience is real and free of time and space.
Nice post, it gives us a good idea for the good and bad sides of the online education. In order to succeed in online education you have to be focused and organize your time very well.
I agree with your reasons for leaving teaching. If this is the way you have been forced to teach, then you are right. The institution you were working in doesn’t understand learning. But I don’t see how online learning force you to do any of those things. And you make the same mistake most people considering online vs ILT make. You pit things against each other. I think this is a male brain tendency, to posit everything in either/or terms. But reality isn’t either or, society isn’t either/or and your learners aren’t stuck with either online or ILT. They never will be. It’s always additive. Human brains are greedy for stimulus and interaction and when it comes to technology we just add them, we don’t substitute one for another. That’s because the developers of technology are trying to solve DIFFERENT problems, so different technologies do different things and serve different needs. Human beings have all the needs. So if you are stuck with some kind of weird program that requires you to eliminate learning experiences because you’re teaching online, or won’t allow you to create secondary and tertiary social channels to create community, then you shouldn’t teach for them.
There’s another option that you, and many others who express your misgivings, rarely seem open to considering. Isn’t possible that just like there are people who aren’t very good at teaching in person, perhaps you’re not very good at teaching online? There are lots of jobs we’re not cut out for, that aren’t a match for who we are and how we think. It’s no reflection on the job or the person. Just a mismatch. Perhaps online teaching is not your thing, or the place you were stuck doing it didn’t understand how to do it well. That doesn’t necessarily tell you about online learning. It’s a bit like lovemaking. If someone says they don’t like it, doesn’t it make you wonder if they are doing it right?
I am a online instructor for middle school. I have found that this school works for some students while other students need that face to face time. I believe that if planned effectively online instruction can benefit most people that are motivated to work independently with little to no help.
As a teacher if secondary school mathematics here in the UK I have grown tired of the constant bearocracy that dictates every day tasks. In fact I am currently on sick leave with stress!! For 15 years I have been in this profession and I have just about burnt out. I’m not sure what it’s like in the US (I’m fairly confident that it’s the same world over) but I usually start my day in the classroom at 7am and leave at 6.45 s 7pm, when I get home I then spend time trawling the scheme of work and planning the lessons for the next day (after having spent several hours marking the books of my 210 students). Saturdays is spent entering data about behaviour, attitude to learning, progress and predicted progress!!!! So I don’t get to see my bed until 2/ 3 am on any given day. The holidays are spent going in to school to update wall displays, and file away any resources that I have not found time to do so in the week!!! Fifteen years of this has bought me to my knees. I have been told that I am a good to outstanding practitioner by HMI (Her Majesties Inspectorate) LEA (Local Education Authority) OFSTED (Office For Standards in EDucation), colleagues and my head of department…..but it is just not sustainable. I am considering a total change of direction at this point, however before I give up the ghost completely I wonder if online teaching is worth a go??
The world of online teaching has changes bigtime and it has become an electronic mess. Many people do not know that online colleges regularly spy on faculty in their classrooms. We have an article on the topic on our blog.
I am sorry you left teaching online but I can also understand why you did it!
I totally agree with you and I chose to leave the traditional classroom because I felt it was to much work and that online would be so much better and enable me to get a masters not only paid for by the school, but give me time to work on it. Boy was I mistaken. All my co-workers told me, “give it a chance, trust me it’ll get better, it’s like your first year teaching.” Please my first year teaching was never this bad, but I got what I wanted. I wanted to see what corporate was like (but with teacher vacation) and this is definitely the corporate side of education where you just need to produce no matter how much of your own time it takes and you need to fulfill quotes each month. I had no idea I’d be on the phone for hours on end and data entry and logging of information. I never felt a job so draining, not only mentally, but physically yet so tedious and monotonous. I wouldn’t want anyone to incur this. It’s not good health-wise because even if you work at home, you have no time to made deadlines and still be able to take breaks and relax. I’ve become so lazy with this stupid job and feel like I’m losing brain cells and putting on weight.
Anyway, back to logging information….thanks so much for this blog and nice to know I’m not alone.
Very interesting article about online teaching effectiveness, opening a discussion and many insightful commentaries to all of us interested in teaching a content and reaching all learners.
It’s true that online courses are helpful for all of those living in isolated areas or busy taking care of a family but is sometime challenging and reserved to those who are ready (academically) and determined to follow and keep working on these courses. The blended courses are more effective and I think that face to face classes are essential in education.
Great review on the better and ugly sides of getting enrolled in an online learning school. But can you please elaborate more on this issue? Actually, I am planning in getting enrolled this month but after reading this, I think it convinced me that it would be much better enrolling on universities/schools rather than in an online education. However, Yes it really is convenient.
You make a lot of good points about online learning. I personally love MOOCs because I love to learn. I have signed up for five MOOCs in the last 3 months. One of them I never attended because of a schedule change. The other four I intend to complete to refresh myself on content I will be teaching this year (I teach 6th grade Earth Science), and get a refresher on classroom management. The greatest thing about MOOCs seems to be one of the most criticized, the fact that there is no penalty for not completing the course or failing the course. People could fail a course and have learned a lot. The focus seems to be grades and “pass rates” when evaluating the usefulness of MOOCs. I am a K-12 teacher that uses a lot of technology in my own classroom. I have accounts with Udemy, Udutu, Odijoo, and many others to create online courses. The courses are differentiated for my learners, include hands-on activities, discussion and blogs, and connect learners and people with common interests across vast distances. I can create several versions of an online class with added or removed modules for different students easily and for free or with little cost. I am preparing my middle school students for life where online learning in some form is here to stay, whether it be a training or professional development class offered in the workplace, or an online university. I have also attended online universities and graduated from two online M.S. in education programs. I learned a lot, and all content was delivered via online live sessions with a professor, video lectures, and activities and papers. I attended online programs at Full Sail University and Nova Southeastern University. Peer connections and discussions were a requirement. I feel more connected to my online education peers and professors than I did in face to face brick and mortar school. I rarely knew anything about my professors or engaged with them outside of class, although I attended an excellent small liberal arts college (Spelman). Never once in high school or college did I have a professor follow me on Udemy, Facebook, or a social media or online course site. I feel like I know much more about my classmates and professors, having taken online courses. The problem is not online delivery, it is the design of the course. If the course is designed to be differentiated for learners, for example I assign projects and require students to videotape themselves or link to the project and discuss their experiences during the process, and upload it to the community, allowing them to choose how they will represent their learning. That is an easy way to differentiate learning and build community in an online course. If people are looking to fire good professors in favor of a cheap online course that is nothing more than digital worksheets and easy to assess, MOOCs are going in the wrong direction. The right direction is to support and promote in person communities of online learners. For example, I would love to see MOOC groups meeting in public forums like the Barnes & Noble coffee house to have a communal learning experience. With free MOOCs we could bring back the intellectual discourse popular in commons areas of the days of old, like the Boston Commons that helped lead to the American Revolution. Finally, my children attend an online K-12 school. My daughter is in 8th grade and my son is in 11th grade. I am not worried about the social problems facing students in school today, such as bullying and socialization interfering with learning. When it is time to socialize, my children have to work at making friends, and have friends all over the world that share their interests. They are not limited to the pool of children in their neighborhood that they may or may not gel with. All of their work is not done online. They have a state certified teacher, take state assessments with proctors, and have non-digital activities that they share via digital medium. Think about all of those YouTube science videos out there. Students in online courses can engage in more project based learning opportunities than their non-online counterparts depending on the creativity of the teacher. I hope people look at the quality of the course and develop quality online learning opportunities with a community-based, project-based component for degree programs. This is the best way to deliver a distance blended learning program.
The more isolated you are, the more helpful is online teaching for you. But ist should be xMOOCs.
Read more in my blogpost in German: http://fontanefanopco11.blogspot.de/2013/08/online-teaching-moocs-und-internetlernen.html
I greatly appreciate all the comments and discussion this post has generated around the web. To be honest, I’m surprised by the majority being supportive or in agreement with most of the post. I expected quite a bit of negative feedback.
The comments above bring out many additional important issues and shed light on promising pockets of progress. I look forward to learning more and seeing how we can improve education, not just for the sake of convenience or money.
“My experience, and fear, is that online classes are too rigid, too much like a factory, and less responsive to individual students’ learning.”
So, instead of being a revolutionary, taking some risks, and initiating change in the system, you’re just leaving it? Interesting tactic. Your assessment is spot-on. As someone with ample personal experience as a student in online courses, I would LOVE to see someone shake things up and make it more personal and connected. Address individual needs and styles. Incorporate significant opportunities for virtual f2f conversations (video), make assignments open-ended, involve more collaboration, do SOMETHING different.
I guess that won’t be you, though.
Hi Randy, thanks for the comment! I’m definitely done in online settings where I have no control and little freedom. But through work here at Edublogs and other projects, we’ll certainly be innovating and trying new things that will be different.
Nicely written article.
I think everyone comes to the table with different backgrounds and preconceived ideas about traditional vs online learning because of their personal experiences. Motivation of the student is KEY. I wasn’t particularly motivated right out of High school – and my grades showed that. Incomplete and dropped classes, etc. After marriage, I spent 18 years raising kids before I returned to school at 46. I have since had traditional classes that were fabulous with lots of discussion – like my JC Eng Comp/critical thinking and ones that were painful – like a intro physics that the professor made blatant mistakes – and I left each day with a migraine, or a Masters class in Curriculum that had us with 1/2 hour of useful instruction, 1/2 hour of useful discourse, and 2-3 hours of “what are we supposed to do now?” as the professor circulated the classroom, and always got to our group last after all other students had left, or the Science Curriculum teacher that read the PPT’s to us. I have had mixed courses I loved. 1 day was at school, 1 was online – reading and responding to other’s comments (which, by the way, I learned FAR more student’s names in that class – you saw their name every time they posted)- or less face to face – only 1 initial meeting, 1 in-class test – everything else was read from a book or online – And I think I learned a lot in those classes – but then again, as a returning adult learner – I was highly motivated to actually LEARN the content – not just get a good grade. As I watched the “kids” (17-2?) around me disrupt or distract the class, I wished I could just learn it online, and have the professor respond to my queries – but then again – if I didn’t understand something – I asked. I was not willing to go into a test without having complete confidence that I didn’t just know the material, but I understood it. So, I would assert that the completion and passing rate of a student depends mostly on that student’s interest and motivation, somewhat on the instructor’s presentation skills/online discourse and very little on the medium in which the class is offered.
Best of luck in your future ventures.
I read your post with a great deal of interest because I currently teach(adjunct) a blended course and am finding success at that. However, my online portion is conducted 50% in real time using Blackboard’s Collaborate. At least the students and I can interact live through chats, in video and auditory. That has helped to bridge that gap that occurs when you do strictly everything offline. Never-the-less as a 35 year teacher/principal/tech director veteran of the public schools, I empathize with your concerns, but in reality, depending upon the teacher, if they are subject or teacher centric, then the same thing happens in the face-to-face environment. We become educators because of the people connections, thus I believe that online learning for us is more difficult, because it does not meet our expectations for being able to care for our students beyond the subject matter.
I agree with a few of the posters above, it depends HOW you do it (I’m talking about online tutoring here).
If you prepare well, you can minimise any losses in interaction, and I think that it’s certainly a case of, ‘are you cut out for this?’. Some are, some are not.
I’m an online tutor on http://www.chalksy.com, and I feel that it works best when teaching a language online.
I really appreciated your article and the way you stressed opening up the discussion. I haven’t read all the comments yet. I myself am moving in this direction of more online teaching. I have only done blended learning myself (hybrid courses) but I have taken online courses which I think can be very exciting and excellent learning experiences–basically what the student puts into it. However, like most internet work, I feel that it lacks depth. Maybe that depth is the combination actual face-to-face contact and “learning experiences.” More written, visual and oral productions would help. In any case it is worth thinking about and discussing these ideas.
Hmmm…I think that as academics, we often can get seduced by the claims of distance ed…We can teach in our pajamas! We can lecture from the beach! We have a super captive audience of hundreds all around the world hanging on our every word!
Though in theory all of these ideas are true (and I’ve tested the first two…many, many times over) in practice it’s a lonely place and I’d speculate, actually a lot less glamorous than teaching with a bricks and mortar university or college. Sure you can lecture from anywhere and you’re not tied to a physical space, but you also lack a sense of rootedness and a community in which to share the quirky struggles and water cooler banter that comes with traditional academic life. No one on the beach cares about the insane email you just got about why your students work is going to be late yet again.) And, the same goes for the students. They have the ability to “get their degree at their own pace and in their own space” and yet they never chance run into their profs while eating lunch or while shopping at the grocery store and they certainly never see their profs as 3D people, engaged in all the trials and triumphs of life.
In short, the advances in distance learning have allowed everyone to access an almost totally pure stream of education and information and yet like trying to breathe pure oxygen, that stream of information is too much for our finite bodies to handle and process. And so the students disengage. And so the pressures of the “real” trump the responsibilities of the virtual+academic. And so classes, which never seemed so real to begin with begin to fade and students drop out and distance ed drops another percentage point in the polls. In turn, instructors get frustrated and lacking any real sense of connection to either their students or their admin leave as well and return to the places where they actually have to wear pants and are once more subject to the constraints of a physical location. And honestly, who can really blame them?
So…what do I as a grad with a distance ed MFA, an Associate Dean in an online college title, and an EdD candidate in Distance Education think about all of this? Good question.
I think that distance ed, with MOOCs and asynchronous learning and for-profit schools, is being put through its paces in a major way and the next 3 to 5 years are going to be very very interesting to watch because they very well might be make or break years. Honestly, I think that the MOOC system is unsustainable and I think that even asynchronous learning (and any other sort of learning-at-your-own-pace system) is destined for failure because it’s just not in the wheelhouse of what it means to be human…we just don’t learn in a vacuum and we don’t learn in a totally closed and isolated environment. We can learn small things and rote facts but without the support of a like-minded community and a couple strong mentors, what we learn is just head knowledge…recite it and perform it but it doesn’t change and challenge us deep inside.
I also think that as an Associate Dean in a program that has allowed me a fairly phenomenal level of autonomy and requires 4 hours of synchronous lecture per week, I’ve been unexpectedly blessed. My students are all “real people” to me even though they live scattered across four time zones because in my school the students are required to check in with me even as I am required to maintain consistent two-way contact with them. In my doctoral work, I am part of a tight-knit cohort and though I’m not even in the same country as many of my classmates, we are all bound by the consistency of weekly (or even daily) communication.
In conclusion…I don’t think distance education will save the world, or redeem overcrowded campuses or allow every person with an internet connection to gain their PhD. I think it’s a great dream and a compelling vision but I think in the end, people are people and where distance education will succeed is when the structure of the program itself honors what it means to be human. When the structure of the program seeks to be the magic bullet, thrusting into a sphere that is yet “unreached” or “undiscovered” it’s going to shine bright but then fizzle out, and for good reason. Can distance ed survive? I’m willing to bank the next 5 years of my life on a solid yes. : ) But…only if it happens on a human level that emphasizes transformational relationships over mere content regurgitation. The distance ed that emerges will be more long-distance relationship than YouTube tutorial, and I for one and happy to get through the growing pangs to see that reality come to pass.