Members of the academic community have very strong opinions about online education. These opinions are often negative and based on myths, not evidence. Some like to share their negative perceptions in the comments section of articles or blogs about online education. Here is an example from the comment section of a recent Inside Higher Ed article entitled, “Online Education Ascends.”
Are we really ready to accept that the students are the best judges of the quality of an education they are just starting? And all kinds of things are here to stay, and most of them are horrible. That’s hardly a selling point. And maybe this is the heart of the problem. Online education for most administrations is a selling point and has very little to do with educational quality. (By: 3rd Tyrant)
I think 3rd Tyant’s comment was in response to Stewart Sutin’s comment that online education is here to stay. Sutin shared some well researched tips about how to ensure the quality of online education by:
- Carefully selecting online instructors
- Providing instructors with adequate training and access to course design specialists
- Providing adequate budgets to support faculty and quality programs
- Providing ample tech support
- Ensuring institutional objectives extend beyond enrollment growth
I agree with all of the above. I also appreciated Chris’s reply to 3rd Tyrant’s comment,
“Why the assumption that in-person is high quality but online is not?”
I’m guessing 3rd Tyrant has bought into the common myths about teaching online and hasn’t done research on the subject. 3rd Tyrant and other online education naysayers need to take time to learn the facts about teaching online. The video below does an excellent job of responding to the ten most commons myths about teaching online.
This video is one of the many excellent resources from Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence.
This is an excellent video about the importance of quality course design in online courses from the student perspective. Visit the Quality Matters website for information about the Quality Matters Standards and Rubric.
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.”
Ron Legon, the executive director of Quality Matters, wonders why so little attention has been paid to the quality of MOOCs. He states that quality in online learning can be defined is the following ways:
- quality of design
- quality of instructional delivery
- quality of outcomes
In this IHE blog, MOOCs and the Quality Question, Legon explains the difference between MOOC 1.0 and MOOC 2.0. He believes that MOOCs miss the mark in general and take no responsibility for learning results and unlike traditional online courses, students have little if any contact with their instructors in MOOCs. I think he makes some excellent points and agree that the quality question should be an important part of the conversation.
Interesting presentation titled the “Seven Futures of American Education.” The Sixth Future predicts that the 2nd era (the 1st era is access) of online education is improving quality – not just for online education, but for all education. I hope that the Sixth Future is realized and “Education Improves” because some of the other scenarios are more dystopian. My experience has been that when you ensure the quality of online education, traditional education also improves. This shift to quality assurance is long overdue in higher education. We need to demand that in addition to being content experts in their fields, ALL higher education faculty members are certified to teach, just like our K-12 instructors. I believe that online education has and will continue to be the main driver for improving the quality of teaching in higher education.
This presentation is based on John Sener’s book “The Seven Futures of American Education: Improving Learning & Teaching in a Screen-Captured World.” The Seven Futures posits that we can improve education by “cyberizing” it which means we can use emerging technologies to improve educational quality.