… when large universities shift their course offerings online during a global pandemic, it might get students wondering – why would they continue to pay exorbitant fees for dorms, meal plans, and parking, when they can get the same instruction sitting at home in front of their computers?
Once a large university proves it can provide a reasonable facsimile of its course offerings without the enormous expense, students may start to demand they do so.
College affordability and student debt are two of the most pressing issues to young Americans today – they would no doubt look favorably at any arrangement that allows them a way to finish a college degree without significantly hamstringing their economic futures … If a high school student is offered an online Ivy League-level education at one-third the cost, many would no doubt jump at the chance.
That is why, as coronavirus has spread and the move to online classes has gotten underway, some academics have begun to warn others about the dangers of posting their lesson plans online. Last week, Arkansas State University Assistant Professor of Sociology Rebecca Barrett Fox wrote a post on her blog titled “Please do a bad job of putting your courses online.”
“For my colleagues who are now being instructed to put some or all of the remainder of their semester online, now is a time to do a poor job of it,” Barrett Fox says, arguing that students watching an online class may not be technologically advanced, or might not have the right technology to view the class, or may be working longer hours in their everyday jobs to protect the public from COVID-19.
In essence, Barrett Fox is arguing in favor of protecting students by giving them a worse education – even though they’re paying the same tuition.
But the subtext is very different — no doubt some academics are concerned that if professors did a good job of promoting online education, it could make many other academic jobs obsolete.
University faculty members promoting online education would be akin to McDonald’s employees singing the wonders of automated ordering machines that will eventually cost them all their jobs.
There’s more at the link.
I strongly support this concept. I have four university qualifications – two Bachelors degrees, a post-graduate certificate and a Masters degree – and every one of them was obtained through part-time and/or distance learning, because my parents couldn’t afford to fund my full-time tertiary education. (This was in the days before the Internet, too; everything had to be done by mail. The Internet has made distance education vastly easier and more interesting.) I don’t think my education suffered at all through not being on a full-time campus. In fact, in many ways it was better for me, because I was earning my living while studying, and gaining experience every year. Later, when I became a manager, one of my strongest hiring principles was to put experience ahead of education. If I had two people with the same Bachelors degree, but one had three years on campus plus one year’s work experience, while the other had six years’ work experience while completing the same degree more slowly via distance education, guess who I hired?
I think far too much time and money is wasted at university on the “party culture”. It does students no good at all, and does nothing to prepare them for the responsibilities of life. In fact, it seems to make many of them “special snowflakes” who are less prepared to face life when they graduate than when they were freshmen! Furthermore, the student loan “industry” is burdening young graduates with exorbitant debts they find very difficult to repay. If the cost of a degree can be drastically reduced by online and/or distance learning, it’ll remove a great deal of that problem. If a large number of academic and support staff lose their jobs as a result, I won’t shed a tear for them. Let them earn an honest living for a change, far from the shelter of their academic cocoon, just as most of their students will be forced to do!
If the coronavirus pandemic can help to solve those problems, it’ll be an unexpected positive side effect of an otherwise very nasty situation. I’ll take whatever benefit we can get from it, thank you very much!