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Should College Go Online?

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the time-to-level-up-my-calculus dept.

Education 261

An anonymous reader writes "The Atlantic has a story about the slow pace of technological innovation in higher education, highlighting the reluctance of many universities to take parts of their curriculum online. '[L]ack of funding isn't the only reason that the traditional universities and colleges aren't responding with their own strategic acquisitions. In all industries it's hard to convince successful incumbents that innovations at the low end of the market really matter. That was true even for Sony's Akio Morita, whose top executives didn't like his Walkman, which had no recording capability; it seemed smarter to focus on more-sophisticated products for the high end of the consumer electronics market. Regard for tradition and academic freedom make it particularly hard to undertake apparently low-quality innovations in higher education. But that's true to varying degrees in all industries. Whether the business is computers chips or steel, successful incumbents have difficulty responding to disruptive technologies, often until it's too late.'"

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Or maybe not? (4, Insightful)

siegeman (1332761) | about 3 years ago | (#37522592)

Cause engineers need to learn to be even less socially inept....

Re:Or maybe not? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522708)

Nope. Because colleges/universities are more interested in making money than educating.

Re:Or maybe not? (3, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about 3 years ago | (#37523422)

There are many public university around the globe, who also do not put their curriculum on-line, largely due to the over-reach of copyright locking out knowledge from the public good, for no other reasons than greed and ego, even when it was taxpayer dollars that paid for those works to be produced.

Even if universities wanted to change, many short sighted lecturers, professors and of course ass hat journal publishers will block it. Can't have the highly profitable text book market (profitable for the publishers only). locked out by open shared technical documents, reports and text books.

Many governments have long forgotten it is not always about making money but more often saving money will produce far better results. Rather than wasting huge sums of money on for profit text books, they should start investing that money in the future and pay for the production of open text books (digital and print, that can continually be revised with minimal investment).

Re:Or maybe not? (0)

joocemann (1273720) | about 3 years ago | (#37523180)

Hey, ya'll can study in your cubicle just like you'll work in it... Authors and poets can do the same, or meet at coffee houses for fieldtrips or something...

But artists need canvas, scientists need beakers, actors need stages, athletes need fields, and mechanics need tools.

1.4 trillion a year in military industry spending... I'm sure some cuts to be spent elsewhere can be afforded. Or maybe we quit defending *LOOPHOLES* in taxes. Maybe there would be some sense in stopping select few from *EXPLOITING* a *LOOPHOLE* that was *NEVER INTENDED*.

Sorry, I just got enraged for a second about the illogical thoughts that some people maintain....

Anyway. Public education, single payer medicine, and better technological and transportation infrastructure could easily be achieved with modest military industry spending cuts. People won't even talk about it, but I do because its worth talking about more often. The loopholes, too. If you want tax breaks for the rich, do it the honest way, with congressional votes and presidential signature and supreme court agreement.... Loophole exploit is wrong no matter how you frame it.

We have some of this--kids hate it (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522594)

We have online quizzes and homework for some of our low level math classes at my Big Ten university. Kids hate it. We have a few online courses. Kids largely do poorly in them and are nit prepared for the followup courses. So why do we want to push for online? The quality of education will suffer and it won't be popular.

Re:We have some of this--kids hate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523096)

Why? Because it lowers costs and increases availability (and supposedly improves convenience). Of course, those who always advocate this crap are those pushing all the papers and signing everything under the Sun. These people are also the leeches of higher ed that almost always weigh well over their standard BMI!

It's all bullshit. These fucking online classes do nothing but further the downward spiral of identity removal. As these wondrous breakthroughs of technology keep infesting shit, so too will the quality of education decrease, especially here in the United States. But oh well, right? Nobody gives a shit anymore. T

Re:We have some of this--kids hate it (2)

luke923 (778953) | about 3 years ago | (#37523250)

And, for some reason, that's worse than the tenured university professors who have to teach to a classroom of 500 students, each who never interact directly with said professor, but with the often barely-competent TA? Or, instead of having instruction from the aforementioned prof, the course is, instead, taught by a TA who is burdened by his/her own coursework to barely be effective in the classroom? Education has been on the decline way before the Internet -- online learning is merely a tool. Unfortunately, that tool is in the wrong hands.

Re:We have some of this--kids hate it (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523316)

Too bad the female TAs have to act like whores to get a grade. Yep, bend over Betty, Professor {whatever} needs to check your temperature.

College is more than listening to a lecture. (5, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#37522610)

The best thing you get out of college, if you go to a good one, is not merely learning from the occasional great mind and a bunch of above mediocre minds.

It's that you are surrounded by brilliant people from dozens of fields. They are your community. Sometimes the professors--depending on how much the school emphasizes teaching as opposed to research--but mostly the students. The students you meet at a great college are more intelligent than almost everyone else you will meet in your lifetime.

It's great for networking, too.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (5, Interesting)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 3 years ago | (#37522726)

I couldn't agree more--and one of the courses I teach is online so I'm not speaking in the abstract here. You can take something as simple as helping a student learn to write a better argument during office hours. Such a thing cannot occur online and online chat is no substitute. I can tell so much more about where and how students needs help when I talk with them in person. Most importantly, I am a human being to them and they are human beings to me. I am someone who cares about them, inspires them, pisses them off, or bores them. They encourage me, irritate me, depress me, or make me more optimistic about the future. Human contact is a prerequisite to the very human growth that accompanies these experiences.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523352)

I am an e-learning administrator, but I'm not going overboard for online courses. I totally agree with you that learning is a social activity, and any number of studies show the value of teacher-student interactions. Obtaining material online, and learning to collaborate online, are skills that will carry over to the world of work, but the deep learning happens in periods of strong interest, and human interaction is what grabs our attention the most.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (1)

cashman73 (855518) | about 3 years ago | (#37522782)

The truth is that most modern Universities only emphasize teaching vs. research about 50% of time because at least half of all the activity in a modern University IS (and always has been) research. Sure, you do have to start out the first year or two in those big lecture halls learning the basics with all the other students, and perhaps that's where online components can help the most. But the best professors are the ones that recognize not only the top students in the class, but also the ones truly interested in going the extra mile, engage them in the classroom, and get them interested in helping with their research. The best students are the ones that realize this, and become more involved in the research activities in their department (they learn a whole lot more that way). These are the students that succeed. The rest of the students, and the bulk of the ones that go on to complain about unavailable teachers and professors that don't care about their students, are the ones that have somehow come to expect that going to college is the next thing to do after high school and necessary in their path to that six figure income with the corner office (that most of them are now realizing is a bunch of crap). Online courses are popular with the for-profit sector because those "colleges" are only interested in getting more students paying their overly-priced tuition into the pockets of their rich administrators, while churning out useless sheets of parchment to hang in the family rooms of unemployed former corporate drones that thought they were getting that degree to get the promotion that dried up when the company downsized,. . .

Interestingly, many Universities are utilizing the Internet heavily for research activities. Whether for reading the latest literature, creating online surveys on a variety of topics or communicating with patients, or even doing science "experiments" on supercomputers. True, you can't exactly inject mice or synthesize compounds on a computer, but you can run simulations of proteins and small molecules, and even run financial simulations and other calculations. And it's also easy to engage students to get involved in this sort of research, too, because all they really need is to use their computer to connect remotely to a campus computing cluster. There's not too much overhead in terms of laboratory space and chemicals to order and things of that nature -- the supercomputing clusters can be shared among multiple research groups on campus, or even across campuses, such as on the TeraGrid [] .

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522820)

I'm a professor at a major US university, and I couldn't agree with you more.

Everything *should* be online. But it doesn't matter. The real value comes from interacting with real people.

Also, a lot of things are online already, just not open. There's a big difference between those two things, and it seems the article conflates the two. In fact, the article is sort of making a mountain out of a molehill because so much is online anyway. It's the openness that's the big deal.

All of this concern about how universities should be run is coming from talking heads interested in things because businesses are increasingly asking for a degree as a stamp of quality. Until that ends, things won't change much. There's a bubble in higher ed, and it's not coming from the intrinsic motivation of the students, it's coming from corporations demanding degrees for things that don't require it.

Even with all courses being open online--which I think is a great thing--you'd still end up with a educational hierarchy, with people at the bottom being those who never bothered to get out of their pajamas and talk to people in real life. To some extent this already happens--the students who are involved and those who aren't, but it will just clarify it even more.

There will always be those who can succeed without a university degree (plenty of them), but for them it won't matter if things are online or not. More importantly, as you say, is the fact that a degree isn't the reason why you should go to college. It's to be part of a community. A large university is a community--it's its own city, a place. It's not a factory.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523064)

I teach both face to face and online. Classes with content that can be taught in a seminar format are often better online. Better participation and time to think make for more meaningful discussion. Classes that involve content that comes with a considerable amount of anxiety like statistics are much more challenging to do well online. Of course, one can't take a seminar online and decide that it is OK to have 50 people in the course.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (1)

ranton (36917) | about 3 years ago | (#37523008)

I agree with all of the points you make, which is why I think colleges should offer more night class oriented bachelor's degrees as opposed to online options. I got my bachelors from University of Phoenix (just so I could get my masters at a real school) and the education is abysmal. The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities" because they are a complete waste of money for anyone who isn't just getting a peice of paper to show pointy haired bosses. But people keep going to these schools because traditional colleges do not cater to those who cannot just quit their job and go back to school (like me).

Local colleges that offer online classes with physical access to professors and teacher assistants would get most of the benefits of both venues. You can set up study groups, talk in person to your professors, but also have the flexibility of online programs. I agree that it wouldn't compete with truly great universities, but it is a great alternative to most schools out there.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523108)

If they accepted you for a masters with a University of Phoenix bachelors, it isn't a real school...

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (2)

ranton (36917) | about 3 years ago | (#37523244)

If they accepted you for a masters with a University of Phoenix bachelors, it isn't a real school...

I worried about this, which is why I talked with admissions at Northwestern and DePaul before starting at Phoenix. Both said it wouldn't be a problem, and sure enough I am at DePaul right now. It's not MIT or anything, but I definitely consider it a good school.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (2)

narcc (412956) | about 3 years ago | (#37523132)

The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities"

They do. Go learn about how accreditation works.

While I have you, what would possess you to select the least-respected yet most expensive distance program around? Plenty of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges offer distance programs, many at a much lower price.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (2)

ranton (36917) | about 3 years ago | (#37523234)

The federal government really needs to start regulating these "universities"

They do. Go learn about how accreditation works.

If you ever looked at the coursework at one of those online schools, you wouldn't think that accreditation was worth anything. Most of these online schools just build their program on top of a school that already has their accrediation.

While I have you, what would possess you to select the least-respected yet most expensive distance program around? Plenty of traditional brick-and-mortar colleges offer distance programs, many at a much lower price.

1) When I started taking classes there were not as many CS-related online bachelor's degree programs at brick-and-mortar schools. I knew how bad Devry Online was from two friends of mine, and was hoping UoP would be a bit better (it wasn't, it was even worse).
2) I was at the stage of my career where a bachelor's degree (especially online without direct access to professors) was basically just a peice of paper. At UoP I could finish my last two years in 50 weeks and get easily get a 4.0 GPA while working full time (which made getting into DePaul very easy).
3) Because UoP is just after your money, you can take out 3 years with of Stafford loans in a 12 month period (actually a little over 12 months, I took a short break during a very hectic work project). The Stafford loan program is so abusable it's rediculous.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (1)

khallow (566160) | about 3 years ago | (#37523026)

The students you meet at a great college are more intelligent than almost everyone else you will meet in your lifetime.

I think the intelligence of students at "great colleges" is overstated (further, most students don't go to such a place). Rather I think it's that everyone is learning and being challenged in a positive, highly social environment. Even a mediocre college has this vastly different environment.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523388)

Gee I guess us socially awkward types really should just go kill ourselves, huh. We can't even learn right, apparently.

Re:College is more than listening to a lecture. (1)

nerdyalien (1182659) | about 3 years ago | (#37523412)

I did a STEM degree abroad... and it is far beyond sitting in a lecture hall.

The biggest thing of all (at least for me) is, learning how to survive independently in a different country/environment.
Also, how to live on a "shoe-string budget" was quite useful too.. especially last few months (yep, am unemployed).

Jobs, that's why (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | about 3 years ago | (#37522618)

University employees are basically protecting their jobs. If you can do classes online, you won't need as many administrators, logistical personnel, and yes, even profs...

Re:Jobs, that's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522648)

Agree. This can be done online with substantially less physical infrastructure than they currently have, for much, much less money. Hell, I bet that most of the work could be done offshore in India to cut prices even more. There should only be a token physical presence for the university accountants, legal dept, etc.

Re:Jobs, that's why (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#37523170)

...Because correspondence schools didn't exist before the Internet?

While social networking has managed to level the field a bit in that you can now build a network of contacts in your field through online interaction, and collaborate better than via snail mail, it is still very very far away from the level of stimulation the intellect gets from direct human contact in a learning context.

That, and parents want somewhere to send their kids to get them out of the house and away from those high-school friends.

So it's no surprise that colleges haven't been in decline any more than the general economy.

Re:Jobs, that's why (1)

luke923 (778953) | about 3 years ago | (#37523268)

They have to pay for their new football stadium somehow.

Re:Jobs, that's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523362)

Don't forget the cheerleaders. That's a real skill needed in this lean times! Oh, and the other fake Title IX sports for women. The school has to finance these government mandates somehow!

Re:Jobs, that's why (2)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#37522906)

I take it you've never actually tried to take an online course. For most people it's not anywhere near as good. Having good study skills helps, but it's just not the same. Things like study groups and being able to play off each other to find a solution or better formulate a question just don't work as well online as they do in person. Where an exchange in class might take 2 minutes, a similar one online can easily take an hour if both parties aren't obsessively glued to their keyboard.

I'm sure there are people who do as well or better in online classes, but I doubt that they're in a substantial enough majority to justify cutting back on physical schools.

OTOH, for some things it works just great, for instance one off virtual seminars can be quite useful.

Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522622)

As a professor, I can tell you that the value of an online class is much less for many subjects than its in-person counter-part. There are exceptions, but for the most part, the implicit premise that online classes are valuable is exaggerated. The related questions are what should go online and whether a university should be willing to sell its brand name, rake in the extra cash, and pray that the public doesn't figure out that online classes cost far less to host, while the same tuition will be charged.

Re:Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522916)

And what happens when they discover that they are only worth about 1/10th of what you get in a real class....

Re:Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (1)

E.I.A (2303368) | about 3 years ago | (#37522940)

Well, you can always try it for free: [] University of the People accepts students tuition-free, but you kind of have to prove your intentions first. Interesting at least..

Re:Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (1)

luke923 (778953) | about 3 years ago | (#37523278)

Dude, this is awesome! It's the real South Harmon Institute of Technology.

Re:Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (1)

ranton (36917) | about 3 years ago | (#37523028)

Online classes won't show their real value until they are priced accordingly. Right now no one notices the high prices because taxpayers are just paying for everything through stafford loans. Online classes may never be as good their in-person counterparts, but once you can get most of the education included in a bachelors degree for a quarter the price of a brick and mortar school there may be real value there. Especially since you can get four years of job experience while getting the degree (well, in an economy where there are actual jobs for 20 year olds without a degree).

Re:Disagreement with Value of Online Classes (1)

j33px0r (722130) | about 3 years ago | (#37523408)

As a professor, you should know that current research has effectively shown that there is no significant difference in student achievement when comparing face-to-face and online courses. You should also be aware the the primary method of comparing the delivery method is the results of a traditional assessment. This means that there are problems with online courses but the end result that quantitative research is concerned with has been met. Spend five minutes doing research in online/distance/computer education and you will find countless articles to verify this.

  This is not to say that there are not problems and in many ways I agree with you but to claim that online courses are not "valuable" is, sorry to say, rubbish. If you want to say that many professors are not trained to teach online and do a poor job? Fact. Many students are not prepared for taking online courses? Fact. Universities have implemented online courses without proper preparation? Fact. Now, online degree mills are a completely different subject...

Should College Go Online? (0) (843637) | about 3 years ago | (#37522624)


End of discussion.

Undergraduate education is largely a scam early on (2)

xtal (49134) | about 3 years ago | (#37522642)

The truth is that the first 2-3 years of undergrad are generic, profs generally hate teaching them, and it's about a cash grab before the students go on to something else. Online school can eliminate that for those students most likely to continue on - in my opinion, for what that's worth.

It is not until your final years in engineering, anyway, that I felt there was real engagement from faculty. There are exceptions to this - some brilliant ones, even in my experience - but in general, universities don't want to start to compete on that lowest denominator yet.

Whoever goes first, though, will make some money.

Re:Undergraduate education is largely a scam early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522752)

Those classes are there to make sure those students that have no business attending a university flunk out.

Re:Undergraduate education is largely a scam early (1)

xtal (49134) | about 3 years ago | (#37522942)

Show up in person and write your exam unassisted.

Problem solved..

Re:Undergraduate education is largely a scam early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523036)

Sure, the first 2-3 years of undergrad may be generic if you're doing something like economics or liberal arts. All of the engineering and hard science degrees (at least in Arizona) are pretty much core classes the whole way through.

Re:Undergraduate education is largely a scam early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523124)

The truth is that the first 2-3 years of undergrad are generic, profs generally hate teaching them, and it's about a cash grab before the students go on to something else. Online school can eliminate that for those students most likely to continue on - in my opinion, for what that's worth.

No, it doesn't solve the problem at all.

First, remedial courses do two things: 1) they make up for shortcomings in students' backgrounds, and 2) bring everyone to the same level. Not all high schools are good. Many are kinda lousy, and despite their best efforts to destroy their students' learning skills, kids still manage to do well enough on the SAT to get into good schools--after their inflated grades have been kicked in.

Finally, even if the high school isn't a total wipeout, not everyone learns the same stuff. Textbooks and curricula are different, especially for out of state students. You can't assume that everyone knows facts X, Y, and Z from high school, so said facts must be taught in a low-level course. You can't have students signing up for advanced biology when they don't know what mitosis is because their high school teacher decided to show reruns of Wheel of Fortune that week of class instead of teaching. Thus, these remedial classes are designed to make sure students aren't pre-destined for failure in the 200+ level courses.

An online course doesn't fix these problems. It's high school 2.0. Sure, it may present the same curriculum, but standards of ensuring that the intended knowledge was actually acquired are more difficult to enforce. And, of course, an online course is especially problematic for the kids with poor study habits. Part of these remedial courses is to install something resembling study skills in students too.

Universities hate offering these kinds of courses. It requires them to hire more people, and create larger infrastructures. Do you think classes schedule themselves? Professors choose their own classes to teach? The more classes there are, the more people needed to put them together. That's money that is spent on things that don't directly benefit the students--they don't get anything extra if it takes 100 people to schedule the university's 60,000 classes or 10 people to schedule 6,000 classes.

Finally, understand that tuition does NOT pay the entire cost of education. It's anywhere from 30-50%, depending on how much state or other funding the school has. If schools didn't have endowments or state funding, the price of tuition would be outrageous--go look at the sticker price at any private school to see that. Of course, such schools have other sources of income, so it's rare anyone pays exactly that price, but it shows you the true cost of education.

In short, needing all these remedial courses actually costs the university money, since they can't take away from the real courses to offer them. Universities save money by hiring more graduate students and adjunct faculty to teach them, but that makes undergraduates complain. They want more for their money--but don't realize that it's a double waste of money to hire a Ph.D. to teach an algebra class whose material they should have learned 2 years ago in high school.

Re:Undergraduate education is largely a scam early (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523152)

I had a Nobel laureate, 2 ACM award winners, and several MacArthur Genius Grant recipients teach my classes in the first 2 years. And I think all but 1 was fantastic at lecturing (and even he really liked teaching, he just wasn't very good at it).

It wasn't an exception, it was a rule. So, I guess YMMV. Depends on the priorities of the university.

Online Graduate Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522668)

Just slightly off topic, but does anyone know of accredited universities that do graduate degrees online? A lot of people are working and can't do normal classes, but might still want to get a higher ed degree. I'm thinking both Masters and PhD here. Anyone know of respectable (mostly) online programs?

Re:Online Graduate Study (1) (843637) | about 3 years ago | (#37522704)

I'll suggest that they bite the bullet and go to a classroom. I don't think I know anyone that would respect any ticket obtained on the Internet. I wouldn't. I'm willing to bet that most others in a position to discriminate between such things will feel the same. Consider this: we all know how easy it is to cheat in a 'supervised' classroom. Imagine how easy it is across the world on the other side of a computer monitor...

Re:Online Graduate Study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522918)

Plus on top of that, especially in grad-school, how would you make professional contacts? How would you get letters of recommendation whey you are just a faceless name on a computer screen?

Re:Online Graduate Study (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#37522936)

To an extent I disagree, the school I got my most recent certification from offered it both online and in the classroom with the credits issued by an accredited institution. Anybody inquiring about my credentials would have no way of knowing whether the classes were online or in class without actually seeing my transcript.

That being said, be careful, not all certificates and degrees are equal and make sure that the accrediting body is going to be recognized by people that you're likely to be applying to.

Re:Online Graduate Study (1)

narcc (412956) | about 3 years ago | (#37523354)

There are innumerable accredited universities that offer graduate degrees fully online or with partial residency requirements.

The most respected would probably be University of London [] Though you can't really go wrong with any traditional brick-and-mortar school which additionally offers a distance program.

No, it's not a U.S. institution, but the U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on highly-raked and well-respected schools! South Africa has several well-respected institutions that offer distance programs such as University of South Africa (UNISA), University of the Western Cape (where Desmond Tutu serves as chancellor), University of Cape Town, and Rhodes University (yes, you've heard of it -- I'll bet you didn't know it was in South Africa!)

The least respected, of course, would likely be University of Phoenix -- even though they are NCA accredited (one of the regional bodies) They're also one of the most expensive, so it seems like a silly choice. Though Liberty University (SACS accredited) may have an even worse reputation due to it's history, a friend of mine who picked up some graduate credits there through their online program assured me it was both rigorous and undeniably secular.

There are zillions of others. Just make sure that any school you select is listed in the CHEA database [] . If a U.S. institution isn't listed listed there, it's not accredited.

You might also want to check out for some good feedback on any particular program your interested in.

Finally, if you're having trouble deciding between a schools, check out their ranking on 4icu [] .

What is college for? (1)

nido (102070) | about 3 years ago | (#37522670)

It used to be that wealthy families sent their children to college so they'd have a leg up on the proletariat's children.

According to The Screwing of the Average Man [] , the rush to college started after WWII. All the male veterans who were trained as warriors came home to dismal job prospects... They said, "okay we fought your stupid war you politicos better take care of us". Rather than have a bunch of rebellious unemployed PTSD'd ex-military roaming the streets, Congress sent them to college with the GI Bill. College costs immediately started to spiral out of control.

While you go to high school for a grade (because you have to, and social pressures make it difficult to do the right thing, which is drop out and educate yourself), in college you get to choose what you want to learn about. That kind of choice is valuable, at least.

It's Already Online Many Places (4, Interesting)

cosm (1072588) | about 3 years ago | (#37522686)

I've been around the community college and university circuit, and I can say that many community colleges are becoming highly reliant on the likes of Moodle/Blackboard for delivering quizes/test/material/exercises. Also, many classes at universities now require continuously larger amounts of online coursework and thus the curriculum. At community college, I took all my foo-foo fuzzy classes purely online for full credit. I'm a STEM major, so pre-reqs like Art History and Intro To College (yes that is a required course some places) were a blast to take online, i.e. a breeze and at my own leisure), giving me more focus on classes I actually cared about.

At the big-U's, of course there will be a latent aversion to prof's lecturing to a camera and reusing said lecture every semester. If I am just watching a video of a prof or reading his lecture notes online, it will be more difficult for the universities to justify the ever-more exorbitant admission cost if it's just delivered online (although most classes seem to be more of teaching yourself than the lecturer teaching you, but that's what college is about anyways, learning how to learn). College has been going online for awhile, but the question of 'should it be' is a reasonable one; will it save students money, or just dilute the college process into even more of a degree-mill spectacle than it already is? Or just create more busywork? I say it depends mostly on the context, subjectivity, and type of degree program.

I bet in 100 years our descendants will be asking what it was like to sit in a classroom with people and how weird it must have been to learn in a group.

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (1)

macrom (537566) | about 3 years ago | (#37522860)

I find that community/junior colleges are embracing the online courses way more than traditional four-year universities. I would love to complete my BS in Computer Science (left school a long time ago, in 1997) but there are precious few programs for a *true* BSCS. Florida State University is the only Tier 1 school that I've found to offer it.

I live in Dallas, Texas, and we have several good schools to chose from in the state. Baylor, Texas A&M, University of Texas, Texas Tech, University of Texas @ Dallas, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University; absolutely none of them offer anything remotely technical as a distance learning program. Texas Tech has a degree in General Studies online, and I've seen some other school offering things like English or Humanities. It's always some sort of basic, generic degree, and that's a frustrating fact.

I should clarify that I'm referring to Bachelor's degrees. Graduate programs seem to be plentiful at many schools. I guess they want the young kids to come spend their money and go to class. Despite discussing the issue with those friends and acquaintances in education, I've never heard a convincing answer. "I don't really know" seems to be the standard response.

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 3 years ago | (#37522888)

My master's level program has some classes that are "hybrid" - classes alternate between online and traditional classroom settings. We get the benefits of both learning styles that way. Things that require class participation and interaction with the professor get them. Things that are busywork straight out the textbook (or online tutorial) can be done at home whenever.

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523034)

Florida State is a tier one school? WTF?

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (2)

ThorGod (456163) | about 3 years ago | (#37522926)

There is a lot more to learning than sitting through a bunch of lectures. Having said that, I've seen distance ed in action before and it's not so bad. The trick, though, is that not all of a professor's message is conveyed on camera and through sound. There are subtleties that I swear you have to 'be there' to get.

Plus, who's a professor going to feel confident writing a recommendation letter for? Someone he/she only ever met once or twice (if that) and the rest of the time talked to through a camera? I can't tell you how many times professors have reacted differently to me in person than to an email or phone call. I can't believe that's just an academic phenomenon, either. It's much more likely that real people function better with 'real, in front of their face' people. From personal experience, I can tell you people are definitely more humane toward physical humans. How many rage emails have you gotten?

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523068)

Or like many education reforms it will end up in the dust bin. People do not change, or at best slowly. Adding a computer may not make a big difference. Watching a course on a tape or film has been around long before the internet. Watching it as an MPEG may not teach more. It would make a great thesis. Does "distance learning teach more, less or the same as a traditional class room.

Online != Not in person (1)

williamhb (758070) | about 3 years ago | (#37523182)

At the big-U's, of course there will be a latent aversion to prof's lecturing to a camera and reusing said lecture every semester. If I am just watching a video of a prof or reading his lecture notes online, it will be more difficult for the universities to justify the ever-more exorbitant admission cost if it's just delivered online (although most classes seem to be more of teaching yourself than the lecturer teaching you, but that's what college is about anyways, learning how to learn). College has been going online for awhile, but the question of 'should it be' is a reasonable one; will it save students money, or just dilute the college process into even more of a degree-mill spectacle than it already is? Or just create more busywork? I say it depends mostly on the context, subjectivity, and type of degree program.

I bet in 100 years our descendants will be asking what it was like to sit in a classroom with people and how weird it must have been to learn in a group.

I'm teaching a course at UQ that I've deployed some of my own teaching technology onto [] (hopefully rolling out to the masses soon... ok, maybe not 'masses' but a trickle'd be nice). Part of my theory is that "online" is not so much about pushing teaching out onto the web as it is about pulling the web into teaching. So in my course there's a fair amount of "web" interaction that happens right there in the lecture theatre (more as I add missing features), and that provides continuity that means the discussions you're having in the lecture can be continued out of the lecture, in revision, etc. Universities have never actually cared about owning content delivery -- more often than not the course textbook was not written by the lecturer. They care about delivering the teaching experience. So much so that in the course I'm teaching this semester, we decided to get the students to give about two-thirds of the talks (as tech conference talk+demo presentations) so they'd get some experience not just building tech but also explaining it and teaching their peers. Lectures aren't just about "reading out the notes", and online isn't just about "put a video on iTunes U or Lectopia.

Re:It's Already Online Many Places (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | about 3 years ago | (#37523384)

all my foo-foo fuzzy classes...were a blast to take online, i.e. a breeze and at my own leisure), giving me more focus on classes I actually cared about.

It has been a while now since I completed my degree, but I do recall that there was, and probably still is, a lot of politics between departments and schools regarding those "foo-foo fuzzy" classes. Indeed, the ongoing debates between the engineering, arts and humanities schools over just what constituted a "foo-foo fuzzy" class became quite heated at my university; flaring up from time to time when new students enrolled and rehashed the same arguments. Of course, the science and engineering students resented being forced to "waste time" with courses in the arts and humanities, with only grudging concessions made to the English department regarding basic undergraduate writing skills. These STEM students made good and logical points, but they never seemed to express them as well in writing or debate with the arts, humanities and philosophy students. Looking back on it, I have to admit that the liberal arts people did have some good arguments to make. Do we really want brilliant scientists and engineers roaming this earth with no sense of moral philosophy or human history? What sort of results would that yield? Remember that it was STEM people who built the bomb for Stalin, produced biological and chemical weapons for Saddam and are doing both now for the mullahs of Iran. So, despite my computer science background, I have to admit that courses outside the college of engineering weren't quite so useless after all; even though I didn't always see that at the time.

Maybe, but I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522690)

...that before the end of this century, with the innovations we are seeing in affordable 3D printing, the rise of global electronic high speed communications, the increasing volatility of markets, and the open source software/hardware movement...

If we still are using money by the end of this century and we haven't progressed to a world government or stateless society, I will be surprised. I think education will grow beyond institutions and will become commonplace as a daily activity individuals pursue out of their own desire to learn.

I've been called crazy before, but really... Look at where we are really headed with our tech, and tell me we aren't growing as a species (at least in the west) faster than our institutions are.

Re:Maybe, but I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522900)

And here is why you are wrong. Bringing about such a society takes an assload of capital but only benefits you if you have below average access to it.

One school issues going online (1)

ToasterTester (95180) | about 3 years ago | (#37522696)

When I worked for UCLA they wanted build up online classes so the could increase revenues without increasing campus expenses. They were saying they could possibly increase enrollment by up to 50%, but the sticking point then was who owned the classes. The school claimed ownership they pay teacher to create curriculum. Teachers figure they own the class materials they create for classes.

I think online is a great idea especially for general education leaving campus space for high-end and lab work.

Re:One school issues going online (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 3 years ago | (#37522944)

The deal there is that the teachers typically own the materials unless it's otherwise specified. It's not hard for the school to gain ownership, they just need to put it in the contract and pay the teachers to create the materials. Teachers generally assume that they own the materials because it's something they do on their time without any compensation.

Don't forget about everybody else on the planet... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522698)

Nobody should forget that there are many other people who work busy schedules, who aren't looking for an Engineering degree - who want to make their lives better. Going to school online presents opportunities that may be otherwise completely unavailable to them. While online classes might not be for everybody, it can make a difference to some.

Re:Don't forget about everybody else on the planet (1)

ThorGod (456163) | about 3 years ago | (#37522952)

While online classes might not be for everybody, it can make a difference to some.

Yeah, and I'd bet different types of classes lend themselves better to online/pre-recorded lectures. There's also a lot to be said for 'continuing education'. Another example, if I have a hobby I want to take a class developing, well, maybe an online class is the right fit.

My Experience (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522762)

I did my undergrad at a traditional public university. A good one. A public ivy. Most of my degree was on-campus, but I took about a quarter of my classes online or in other off-campus formats. The quality of the classes I took had little relationship to the format of the course - instead, what mattered was the subject and the instructor. Keeping classes on campus - or taking them off - doesn't solve the problem of a poorly taught class. For whatever reason, the board of trustees decided that the number of courses I took online was excessive and redeveloped the curriculum requirements so that what I did is no longer possible.

Now, four years after graduation, I'm in a graduate program (professional masters) that I could finish completely online, and which was intentionally designed this way. But I commute an extra hour twice a week to take at least one class each semester on campus even though I don't have to. Why? Because I'm paying too much for my education not to get all of the benefits that should come with it: teaching assistantship and other job opportunities, guest lectures, being able to easily bounce ideas off of classmates and instructors, retaining some good recommendations from my professors, etc. Online classes are great, and I won't argue that the right person can't get an equivalent education from them. But for a five digit investment in my education, I expect to get a return on investment that at least pays for the time spent. That requires that my job coming out is better than my job was going in, and the classes I take alone will not ensure that.

Re:My Experience (1)

bky1701 (979071) | about 3 years ago | (#37523062)

"A good one. A public ivy"

There is no such thing. The Ivy League is a specific organization, not a classification of quality. That organization consists of 8 members, ALL of them private universities. []

People who claim they went/are at/are going to X Ivy League school, which does not appear on that list, never cease to amaze me.

Re:My Experience (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523114)

Meh, not my term.

Re:My Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523194)

I can post a link to Wikipedia too! A public ivy is a specific term, coined in 1985 by an admissions officer at Yale.

Re:My Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523380)

It's a colloquialism, and one which even college guides use.

Re:My Experience (1)

narcc (412956) | about 3 years ago | (#37523430)

Take it easy! You sound like someone who went to U. Penn. and can't stand that people don't immediately recognize it as being an Ivy League institution...

Middle Ground (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522764)

I've always found classes that mix both online and in-class materials tend to work out well. It depends on the subject matter, but I don't see a lot of classes that can be taught in their entirety online, at least not to the standards college courses should have. Online courses should be treated as a supplement, in my opinion, extra training or a head start on next semester. I'm certain there are people who have an easy time learning what they need to from an online course, but even they would likely benefit from being in a class.

It might get there, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522766)

I don't see a big percentage in being way ahead of the curve. The problem is that college is much more than a series of lectures, papers, problem sets, and exams... in America at least, college is a four-year transition between childhood and adulthood for kids (and their parents) who aspire to be in the professional class.

But if Jeff Bezos enters the field in a big way, that's when colleges better start worrying.

The 60's ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 3 years ago | (#37522818)

About 10 years ago, I read an article that discussed how universities were planning to deliver instruction via television in the 1960's. This particular article noted that a particular university was designed around that philosophy, by incorporating television studios as well as other infrastructure to support the new wave. Alas, it all failed because students didn't want to learn through the impersonal instruction offered via televised lectures and inexperienced teaching assistants.

But hey, they declared, all of that infrastructure is a boon in the 2000's because it can be adapted to the new era of online learning. Which gave me a chuckle, because online learning is the televised learning of the 21st century.

Alas, when I told my friends about this they all scoffed at me saying that online learning is the wave of the future. Well, one friend didn't. But she lived through the tail end of the televised learning fad, so she understood that university is about a heck of a lot more than stuffing information into brains. Heck, it's even about more than learning.

Re:The 60's ... (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 years ago | (#37523162)

I did not know about this television experiment, but I am not the least bit surprised. Learning and teaching is _personal_. Remove that and nobody is motivated anymore. And motivation is the one key requirement for any learning and any teaching.

reality (2)

bcrowell (177657) | about 3 years ago | (#37522830)

The article is long on vague opinion, short on facts. Many of the facts it does give are wrong.

"Yet lack of funding isn't the only reason that the traditional universities and colleges aren't responding with their own strategic acquisitions. In all industries it's hard to convince successful incumbents that innovations at the low end of the market really matter." Except that this isn't true. For example, I teach physics at a community college in California. We have a ton of online classes. The school is 98 years old, so it's certainly "traditional."

"Physical campuses and prestige will always matter at the top end of the higher education market, so the most elite traditional institutions will survive competitive disruption. Many of them are developing their own sophisticated online education capabilities. MIT, with its OpenCourseWare initiative, and Cornell, with its profitable e-Cornell subsidiary, are only two of the most visible examples." Except that this is grossly misleading. MIT's OpenCourseWare isn't meant to provide an online education. MIT's students still show up to class and get their education while breathing the same air as their professor and the other students.

"The real disruptive threat is to the hundreds of institutions that emulate the elite few at the top. Many of them lack the prestige to hold off for-profit competition and the money that the elites can spend on online curriculum." Except that this is grossly misleading when applied to any state in the US that has a decent state university system. For example, California has UC, Cal State, and community colleges. None of these systems are worried about for-profit competition, because they're cheaper than for-profit schools like the University of Phoenix.

Some realities of online classes:

  • Online classes don't save money. Costs in education are virtually all labor. The labor cost to offer an online class is the same as the labor cost to offer a meatspace class. The huge cost savings comes from hiring lots of part-timers rather than tenured faculty, and that became a fait accompli ca. 1970-1980.
  • Online classes don't work very well. At my school, typically the success rates in online classes are much lower than in meatspace classes. Faculty say they basically don't see the same level of commitment from students in online classes.
  • Online classes aren't suitable for many purposes. You can't teach a physics lab online. You can't teach a music performance class online. You can't really have a good student discussion online, since the students are all online at different times.
  • The author talks credulously about the University of Phoenix, which is a pathetic diploma mill. The author talks credulously about Khan Academy, but Khan Academy is aimed at the intellectual level of high school students, not college students.

It Depends (1)

dokebi (624663) | about 3 years ago | (#37522848)

If Higher Education == College, then online lectures and collaboration software are already changing how students learn.

If Higher Education == Graduate level, then try waiting another 100 years. It's still an master-apprentice relationship established centuries ago, and after completion, you put on a robe and get hooded by your advisor^H^H^H^H^H slave "master".

I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online? (1)

StupendousMan (69768) | about 3 years ago | (#37522874)

I teach at a large university. My university is pushing for faculty to sign up for on-line courses. My guess is that they see two economic incentives: they can appeal to a larger customer base -- students who can't attend in person -- and they can cut costs by increasing the number of students enrolled relative to the number of professors.

What's in it for me? What do I gain by agreeing to teach on-line? I lose the give-and-take relationship with my students; how can I see if my explanation of a new concept is working if I can't see the expressions of the students as I try to explain it? I contribute to putting myself and my colleagues out of a job. I implicitly support the idea that the best way to teach is to give students videos to watch.

Actually, all of my course materials ARE on-line already. See [] . Anyone who wants to use these materials to teach himself -- go for it! So I'm not lazy, and I'm not trying to keep knowledge secret. I just think that teaching college students in person is better than doing so via web pages and videos.

Re:I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online (2)

macshit (157376) | about 3 years ago | (#37523098)

Actually, all of my course materials ARE on-line already. See [] . Anyone who wants to use these materials to teach himself -- go for it!


There are vast amounts of great course-materials freely available online, for all sorts of classes, at top-tier universities. They're a wonderful resource for somebody that wants to learn about a subject, and has motivation and some basic grounding but not the time / money to attend a formal class. You can find course lecture notes, links to papers, examples, reading lists, etc. Discussion groups etc tend to be university-private (which makes sense), but there's tons of stuff available to the world at large.

Most major universities have been "online" in this very valuable (but apparently not so fashionable) sense for ages...

Re:I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523192)

Most people can't teach themselves just anything. And I'm not talking about "dumb" people here. Try, for instance, teaching yourself quantum physics. I don't mean like "I can define Compton scattering!" but REALLY teach yourself the nuances. It can be done, of course, but it's going to take you 2-3X longer than it would if you sat through a class. Plus, if there's something you just can't seem to understand, where are you going to go? Another author? The first author's explanation is probably not the problem.

You can get the gist of stuff by reading, but unless a Wikipedia-like overview is what you seek, you're going to need more somewhere along the lines. If you just want to learn tidbits for fun, then it's fine, but that superficial level of knowledge just isn't going to get it done as a general rule.

PS: Math Ph.D. I had to teach myself most of my research because my advisor was away for most of the time--and that's how it works anyway. Just reading books doesn't get it done. When I had to explain it to other people is really critical for understanding--writing my thesis, giving presentations, writing grant proposals, answering audience questions, etc. That's when I really learned it. Without that interaction, my knowledge didn't develop. Didn't have to. It's easy to convince yourself that you know it, but convincing others---now that takes real understanding.

Re:I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online (1)

macshit (157376) | about 3 years ago | (#37523294)

Most people can't teach themselves just anything. And I'm not talking about "dumb" people here. Try, for instance, teaching yourself quantum physics.

Sorry if I gave the wrong impression—I wasn't claiming that these online course materials are a replacement for taking classes. I think in-person classes are extremely valuable (and calls for moving teaching online horribly naive).

I just wanted to say how useful these materials are for those times when one does have enough knowledge to use them (a good grounding and intuition in the basic discipline, some broad knowledge of the specific topic, etc). No, they're not a replacement for personal interaction, but they're a great resource that often seems to be under-publicized.

Re:I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online (1)

haus (129916) | about 3 years ago | (#37523172)

You gain the capability to reach students which would not be able or willing to attend courses in the fixed time/place which your courses are currently available.

Currently I am a student at Harvard's Extension School. I have worked in the field that I am currently studying for over 15 years, and I am unwilling to step away from my career in order to pursue a degree. Hence any program that failed to provide a considerable amount of flexibility around physical location and time of day/ day of week scheduling were simply discarded from consideration.

Now having taken a variety of distance education courses over the years, I can tell you that there are good and bad ways to run distance education courses, just as there are good and bad ways to run a traditional course. Student faculty ratio is just as important in online courses as it is with in person courses. The 'personal' touch I received sitting in a lecture hall with over two hundred students in a Biology course was just as worthless as a similar number of students watching a lecture online. It quickly becomes clear in such circumstances that the staff does have the time or availability to really interact with the students.

If a professor is willing to invest the time and effort in an online course, there are several types of tools available to connect to students to ensure their understanding of the material at hand. The dirty trick in this is that it takes time and effort, just as it does when meeting in real life. The problem comes in when a school or a teacher come to think that the Internet is a magic wand which one will wave and everything will become better. Take my current course as an example. I have exchanges several messages with the Professor (mostly email, but not exclusively), in each instance I have received very thorough and timely. The assignments are not only well though out, the feedback is detailed and comes quickly.

To do this well takes time and effort. Those schools and professors that find a way to be successful in a new medium will likely thrive. Those that opt to treat distance education as a holding bin for warmed over leftovers will suffer.

Re:I'm a professor. What do I gain by going online (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | about 3 years ago | (#37523392)

Would you consider donating your class material and your time to CK-12? (

What is CK-12?
The CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the "FlexBook," CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational materials to be used both as core textbooks and as the basis for customized materials.
To learn more about our organization, visit []

Motivations (1)

br00tus (528477) | about 3 years ago | (#37522882)

Some of my professors use Blackboard for various things - putting out assignments, receiving assignments, putting up Powerpoints of lectures and so forth.

The problem with all of this talk is, what are the motivations to put more things online? I work in IT and I am suspicious. All I see is the US government trying to kill off Pell Grants and student loans, schools cutting library and computer lab hours, raising tuition and the like. "Pay us the same, but now you work from home and do some lessons we drew up online" doesn't sound like anything I'm interested in. If I wanted to do that, I could have just bought all the college textbooks and read them, without going for class or going for a Bachelors.

Professors already put stuff up on Blackboard. Every semester, I'm getting about 32 hours of instruction in each course (although some classes, like science classes with lecture and lab are more hours). Topics being covered in those 32 hours are things such as : databases, theory of computation (P/NP, Turing Machines etc.), data structures and algorithms, as well as courses in languages such as C++ and Java. My data structures and algorithm professor knew his stuff cold, explained it well, and I would have loved to have had 64, or 96 hours of lecture by him. The same with the intermediate C++ professor, who did some algorithm work as well.

This is a time of austerity, budget cuts, and the like. And why is that? People talk about the economy like it's not a thing of human design but something more like the weather, an uncontrollable thing, which on the small micro level it is to an extent, but not on the large macro level - but that's another topic. I view any discussion of this type of thing extra suspicious at these times.

No, it is not a good idea (3, Interesting)

Required Snark (1702878) | about 3 years ago | (#37522898)

Not all the information is in the books, or the lab notes. Even with recorded lectures and interactive material, a lot is learned by interacting with others. IRC cannot replace personal interactions.

So where is the chem lab and the bio lab in this scheme? Are we not going to train doctors or chemists or physicists any more? I don't see a lot of homes with lab benches these days.

Working in groups is enhanced by physical proximity. Look at all the big tech firms. What do they call their big central facilities? The Campus These is a good practical reason for that.There is telecommuting, but that is in addition to, not a replacement of, the academic environment.

Online teaching is wide open to abuse. On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog. Who is going to be taking that test and doing the homework, exactly? It's already a problem in traditional schools settings, and this lowers the barrier dramatically for bad behavior.

The current system works. It has known problems, but the higher level educational environment has evolved (at least in the West) since the middle ages. Yes, undergraduates can be treated as cattle, but graduate education is based on the master/apprentice model of learning a craft. Why do you think it's called a "Master's" degree? This is truly one of those "it it ain't broke don't fix it" situations.

This could so easily turn education into a meaningless and worthless way of extracting money from people with false promises with nothing to show at the end but a big debt. In fact, when it comes to many of the for profit national schools, it already has.

You want to waste a bunch of time and money? Just enroll in a for profit school that claims it will turn you into one of those well paid game developers or CGI artists. The actual post graduation success rate is near zero. The classes are too simple to do much good, because the goal is to keep getting that tuition, not to impart useful knowledge. I had a friend who worked in the film industry, and then tried teaching. He got in trouble with both the school management and the students for showing them how to type on the command line. It was "too technical", "too hard", and it made the students "uncomfortable".

So no, it is not a good idea.

Re:No, it is not a good idea (2)

Lawrence_Bird (67278) | about 3 years ago | (#37522998)

All very good points. I would add again the personal interaction with the lecture or recitation as well as the ability to ask your professor questions - either during the class or during office hours. And meeting with your fellow classmates to work on a project or other assignments is not going to be the same as doing it in person. Are you going to be able to walk down the hall of your dorm or fraternity and ask the smart kid or upper classman for help? Sure you can post a question on a forum but how long will it take to get the answer? Will you understand it? What about follow up?

I think the appropriate role of 'online' studies is to augment the existing classroom. That may be as little as access to hw, notes, etc or include a rebroadcast of a lecture or guest speaker. Or maybe more depending on the subject being taught. But it is not a replacement for the classroom or the college environment.

Unconvincing .... (1)

udippel (562132) | about 3 years ago | (#37522912)

it is a tad shallow, the whole matter. Who, in the first place, has 'declared' online learning to be disruptive? We've had this for decades. First, it was the radio that was supposed to bring education into the dark forests at the edge of humanity. Then, pictures were added, and Sesame Street was to revolutionize child education and bring about Einsteins by the dozens. Now the author claims lack of historic research as a new paradigm.
Been there, tried it myself (as university lecturer), failed miserably.

Nothing to be seen, move on to the next /.-story; that my advice.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522970)

We always need to be updating our system of education, even as the knowledge that is taught is increased. Otherwise it won't.
Car analogy:
Not having an IT course available online is like riding a carriage to a car show.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37522994)

Having an IT course online is like saying you went to a car show when all you really did was sit in your underware eating cheetos googling pictures of cars.

testing online is difficult (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 3 years ago | (#37523066)

not impossible, but not as straightforward as one might think. Timed tests are very problematic. If you can't get reliable metrics because of the testing inadequacies, then you're not going to do it. Blackboard is a fucking nightmare - it has all the flexibility of a fireplace poker. Right now, tech and higher ed need to sit down and re-think how this is done. The profs need to know the students are learning what they set them to learn. The students need information and learning delivery systems they can use. Tech often gets in the way - it shouldn't. Old style profs (chalk and talk) need to on the tech wagon, and Blackboard needs to be abandoned wholesale. It isn't because WebCT induces seizures.

Convincing Incumbants on the low end... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523094)

See "The Innovator's Dilemma"/"The Innovator's Solution"

Online college is awesome. (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523126)

I got a bachelor's degree in Physics from Cal Poly, SLO. I hated every minute of that experience, and hated the professors.

Last semester, I took Perl, Java, and Javascript online, and loved it immensely. The online discussion boards meant that I could think before asking, or answering, questions, and I didn't have to get out of bed at the crack of dawn. It also made life INFINITELY easier to not have to squeeze in three classes with a full time job. The professors answered my messages quickly, and the students were active in the discussion boards.

This semester, I'm taking PHP online, and Android dev in a classroom (from the same professor no less). The classroom experience is largely a waste of time. I'm tired, stressed, and just want to go home and sleep. Then over the weekend I review the course videos and participate more actively in the discussions. All this comes at a TINY fraction of the cost of Cal Poly.

I realize some things are not taught well online; my physics labs would have been difficult to do in a browser to say the least, but for CS I hardly see why you need to be in class.

Of course, this will also mean that it will be increasingly difficult to be a professor, and at least at the school I went to they weren't particularly well-paid anyway. The administrators, however, including our ineffectual "president", made hundreds of thousands per year. They can go to hell.

Online-courses are NOT a good idea (4, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about 3 years ago | (#37523136)

I know this crops up all the time as "modern". People seem to mistake "modern" for "better". But the problem is it is not better, but far worse. Lectures need the personal, physical presence to work of both the teacher and the student. There are aspects of attention, respect, a formal setting, that all are essential for teaching success.

There is one approach that works well, but requires a lot more effort than traditional lectures: Self-study material on paper. This requires that you have local groups of students and access to a TA by phone if you get stuck. It requires larger meetings periodically. It has been done for decades by distance-universities (Germany has one for example, the Fernuniversitaet Hagen). It requires highly motivated students. This is not easier. It does not save time. It does not even save that much money. But it does work.

Now, putting this stuff online has been tried, it does _not_ work. (A friend of mine worked several years at Hagen after his PhD in Mathematics.) Paper material is still vastly superior to online representation.

This does of course ignore those students that can learn a subject by themselves using a book. I did that for some subjects during my university attendance and also after. But this only forks for some students and for some subjects, which are individually different. It is not a general solution.

The university is fast becoming anachronistic (1)

cberetz (317673) | about 3 years ago | (#37523150)

The idea of a university is a medieval one. In those times printing was so expensive that few beyond the wealthy owned books. It made economic sense to send your children (usually boys) to a distant university to board and learn. Now that the cost of information distribution is practically zero, this model of education increasingly makes little sense. Combine this economic trend with two others: (1) Most college graduates owe a debilitating amount of debt; and (2) most college graduates are finding that the implicit bargain of a four-year degree for a reasonable chance at financial security. These three trends spell doom for the current model of college. Change or die.

Re:The university is fast becoming anachronistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523214)

Keep telling yourself that when you stand in the unemployment line.

Re:The university is fast becoming anachronistic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523274)

I paid about $10k out of pocket for my bsee.
i interned at nasa and dabbled in a few grad programs (at no cost to myself).
if higher education saddles you with a debilitating amount of debt, you're doing it wrong.

No. (2)

dimethylxanthine (946092) | about 3 years ago | (#37523158)

Want social skills and the joy of direct human interaction, sports, walking to class [or bars] and having [even if occasional] sex lost to digital sensory stimulation, abscence of physical activity and a severe vitamin D deficiency?

Thanks, but me and my kids will do it the old fashioned way.

Blah...that (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523160)

The world of higher ed is going to shit in a hand basket. It's absolutely pathetic to think that there's people out there responsible for how you learn who truly believe that learning can be done through a website alone... What a fucking joke. Not ironically enough, it's been my experience that almost all of these losers have health problems (no doubt from sitting behind a damn computer their entire life) and all have personality flaws. They become known as shit stirrers, causing problems left-and-right in meetings and the committees they serve in. The hybrid courses aren't bad and depending on who you have to teach them, they can be kick-ass. But strictly online? Fuck that. I'll just get some late fees at a local library instead of showing some online dipshit how to organize his or her class through http requests... Too much leg work for so little gain. What a waste.

Books already exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523246)

1) A good textbook already can be used in the absence of a teacher.
2) For a studious student, 3 times as much time is spent with the textbook, pencil and paper, than with a teacher lecturing.... Already, the professor spends a quarter of the time lecturing.

college class times are a poor fit for working peo (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37523282)

college class times are a poor fit for working people it's one thing to do a part time job while at school but it's a other to do a full time office job and go to school at the same time and that's why university of phoenix is big and is why some jobs sign up there workers for continuing education with places like that.

Re:college class times are a poor fit for working (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523348)

college class times are a poor fit for working people

Tuff shit. If you can't make the time to attend a real University. You have no business attending one. Colleges shouldn't have to bend over backwards of your convenience.

Internet is the Anti-College (1)

CobaltBlueDW (899284) | about 3 years ago | (#37523340)

Colleges aren't dealers of knowledge as much as they are of branding. The college pitch has always been one of a luxury good. Now days, they try to pitch that it's a required luxury, which is moronic, but none the less, the case. Colleges have spent tons of money and effort weaving their narrative of college into our culture. In fact, even earlier posts in this thread demonstrate how pervasive their advertising has gone. Like Apple fans un-knowingly regurgitating subliminal-ish advertising.

Before I get too far out in left field, my point is, for that method to work they require that knowledge be viewed as a luxury good. The Internet has the ability to make storage and dispersal of knowledge nearly free and extremely accessible. Thus, to colleges, technology is candy being offered by a man in a window-less van. The environment has been changing, and colleges will have to adapt or go extinct, but like with everything else, until their hand is forced they will continue to grasp at what has worked in the past. --Which is, throwing money at branding opportunities like research and sports instead of worrying about pesky things like quality, efficiency, or quantity of information exchange.

IT should move to a more hands on / apprenticeship (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37523418)

IT should move to a more hands on / apprenticeship systems that deals with real world stuff vs text books and theory.

But even some more hands on classes are at times useing out of date course loads. The tech schools are more up to date.

f2f interactions with your peers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37523426)

One can gain everything in solitude, except character.

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