Thomas Klassen has an opinion piece in the Toronto Star about online classes moving teaching from the stage to the screen. He concludes with:
At the moment, online education is like the internet in its infancy: surely a good thing overall, full of hype, but not well understood and riddled with perplexity. For the sake of the students returning to class, more effort is required to ensure their online learning is as valuable as possible.
I think he make some valid criticisms, primarily having to do with the regulation. He points out that colleges and universities have “few standards for online programs.” In many way I think this is accurate of those who have come the the game late. But some institutions have very good internal regulations to provide quality learning experiences for students. We use a rubric to assess online courses in a faculty driven process to assure that students receive quality courses that are accessible. In fact we require more evidence for our online courses than we do of our face-to-face classes. Both of which are closely reviewed by our state and region accreditation bodies.
I do think he is incorrect in his assertion that the “most glaring” deficit is the lack of research on “which types of online education are most effective” for specific groups of students. There is a vast amount of quality research out there on how to reach various types of learners in the online classroom.
I think a more accurate criticism is that many faculty members do not really understand the underlying issues with student preparedness and success, resulting in not providing the necessary elements to make sure students are successful in their courses. One of the best ways to do this for the institution to assist in this heavy lift, so each faculty member is not require to recreate the wheel in each course. We offer an orientation course to assist in this. It provides learners with tools to assess their preparedness for online, their learning preferences, and their ability to navigate the technology they need to use for online courses.
The article is available here:
Distance learning has many advantages, but questions regarding standards, tuition fees and effectiveness remain.