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As colleges experiment with eLearning, faculty urge: ‘Do no harm’

California’s example is typical of other states as higher education cautiously embraces online instruction

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California’s example is typical of other states as higher education cautiously embraces online instruction. 

California Gov. Jerry Brown and state university officials say it’s inevitable: Targeting a tech-savvy generation, they are paving the way for more students to pass courses and obtain degrees without ever going to class.

Given budget constraints, they say boosting online instruction is the only way to accommodate more students without expanding campuses and making higher education even more expensive.

“There’s not a luxury of sitting in the present trajectory, unless you don’t mind paying ever-increasing tuition,” Brown told the University of California Board of Regents last month.

Distance learning has been around for decades, typically as a means of offering extension and enrichment courses, but the new wave goes far beyond recorded classroom lectures. Online instruction can incorporate face-to-face interaction via Skype, as well as chat rooms, blogs, discussion forums, electronic tutoring, instructional games, and push-button audio or video.

Students can use online instruction to tackle studies at any hour, from any location. Colleges can use it to unclog bottlenecks that keep students from obtaining vital courses they need to earn degrees on a timely basis.

But the landscape is dotted with obstacles, including course development costs and concerns about academic rigor, faculty acceptance and adequate student assistance.

Faculty representatives at colleges in California, as elsewhere, say they do not necessarily oppose online instruction. If it must be done, they say, care should be taken to maintain faculty control over content, preserve teaching jobs, and ensure that students have an adequate opportunity to obtain individual assistance.

(Next page: California’s example)

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2 Responses to As colleges experiment with eLearning, faculty urge: ‘Do no harm’

  1. michaeldufresne

    February 11, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    The pressure on all educational institutions to do more with less has led to a variety of innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Flipped learning maximizes the productivity of on-site class time and going fully online, as discussed in this article, opens many doors.
    These approaches can work well if institutions invest the time and money to provide quality resources backed by real, qualified faculty and support staff. Teaching online well takes a tremendous amount of teacher time, often more than required by an on-site class. Providing a personal touch and maintaining individual student accountability and engagement remain essential for successful learning and program completion. These goals cannot be guaranteed by pre-recorded resources alone. Additionally, institutions must responsibly prepare students for the rigors of online eduation by providing academic and other advising as well as resources to help students build time management and other essential success skills.

  2. kajalsengupta

    February 12, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Online learning is way ahead of distance learning in its prevalent form. With the advent of virtual classrooms (http://www.wiziq.com/Virtual_Classroom.aspx ) it is now possible to create the same atmosphere as a face to face class. The advantage is that a single teacher can teach hundreds of student at a time thus reducing the cost. Neither the student nor the teacher has to travel thus saving time and money. With so many pros online classes are going to be the answer to many issues faced by the education system at present.

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