A two-part tale of higher education and online instruction...

"Students demand free beer too"

A May 29 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reads as follows:

Opponents of online instruction believe that traditional, face-to-face teaching is always better. A colleague of mine, wary of caving in to students' demands for online courses, remarked recently that "students demand free beer, too; that doesn't mean we should give it to them."

What her academic colleague somehow, incredibly, fails to realize, of course, is that students don't have to attend his institution. Since postsecondary students vote with their feet and their pocketbooks, the institution does indeed have to give students online courses if that's what they want. Otherwise, the university literally won't have any tuition revenue because its potential students went elsewhere instead.

I can't wait to see what happens over the next couple of decades. As online courses become even more prevalent than they are now, colleges and universities either will have to get in the game or be left behind. There are too many options available to students for anything else to occur. Some postsecondary institutions are going to realize that they must become more responsive to student needs and desires in order to survive; others won't realize it until it's too late and will disappear altogether. It should make for interesting times.

In the meantime, all I can say is... stupid faculty.

"I'll never do it again"

Another article in the same issue of The Chronicle describes one faculty member's woeful experience teaching online. The author goes into detail regarding all of the problems that she had with the course, including (but not limited to):

  1. there was a 'lack of immediacy' in communication;
  2. she was 'only able to introduce students to a limited amount of material outside of the textbook readings;'
  3. it is 'simply impossible to replicate a lecture online;'
  4. there wasn't 'enough time or a proper forum' to help students 'develop writing and critical thinking skills or to foster original ideas;'
  5. online courses are too big;
  6. she had no time off during the week like she would with a regular 3–hour, once-a-week, face-to-face class;
  7. she got too many e-mail messages from students; and
  8. she suspected her students didn't like her very much.

This faculty member obviously has no idea that 1, 3, and 5 are dependent on how the course and the technology were structured. Setting up the course in a different way might have alleviated many of her concerns. Issues 2 and 6 seem to be the result of her own decision-making, not any inherent flaw in online instruction. Issue 4 doesn't make any sense to me; didn't she have the same number of weeks as for her other courses? It's hard for me to be sympathetic regarding Issue 7: My students contacted me too much and asked me too many questions! Waaahh! I guess she prefers it when her students stay out of touch and don't try to get their questions answered. Finally, can she really blame Issue 8 on the fact that the instruction was 'online?' There sure are a lot of faculty who teach online and also have students who like them.

Again, my main thought on this is... stupid faculty.

Wrap-up

Whether we want it to or not, the paradigm shift is occurring around us every day. As postsecondary faculty members, it behooves us to learn about it and adjust rather than dismissively rejecting the new learning landscape and stubbornly trying to stick to the status quo.

[Okay, calling these faculty members stupid probably is a little harsh. But I think clueless fits quite nicely...]