The results from Inside Higher Ed’s Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology are not that surprising for those of us who work in higher education. Although this survey is titled faculty attitudes about “technology,” the primary focus of this article is faculty attitudes about online courses. The majority of faculty members surveyed consider online courses to be lower quality than face-to-face courses. But of course, another result is that appreciation for the quality & effectiveness of online learning grows with instructors’ experiences with it. I think it would be very difficult to evaluate whether the quality of an online course is inferior to a traditional course if you have never taken or taught an online course.
As always, the comments on the article are just as interesting as the article itself with online learning enthusiasts arguing that online courses are as good or better than face-to-face courses, while the other side argues that online courses are inferior.
As an online learning proponent, I’m not going to try to convince anyone that online courses are any better or worse than face-to-face courses. But I am happy that the survey addresses the issue of quality and learning outcomes – these are important in all courses, regardless of the delivery mechanism. There are both excellent and “not so excellent” courses in both the online and face-to-face environment. Improving the quality of ALL courses should be the focus of these discussions instead of online courses vs traditional courses.
Below is a snippet from a comment by John Ebersole that I wanted to share here because I agree with him that we should not lump traditional for credit online courses into the same category as MOOCs.
“We do a dis-service to “traditional” online learning when we lump it together with MOOCs. We have had over 25 years of experience with the former and have consistently seen learning outcomes equal to or greater than those found from a classroom experience. MOOCs, on the other hand have yet to demonstrate ANY significant learning . Many have no assessments and those that do are from exams of dubious origin and conducted with little security. The online courses offered by over 70% of public and 60% of private institutions (remember there were nearly 7 million students taking at least one on line course in the fall semester of 2012) have high completion rates (over 80% at my institution), while MOOCS struggle to retain even 5%. We should not conflate the two.”