Welcome to eCampus News’ Symposium, where higher education professionals explore topics of urgency and controversy with their peers, often in a point-counterpoint format. In our first Symposium, our contributors address what might be called the “irrational exuberance” around online learning. We welcome your thoughts and responses to these essays, two of which are posted below the main arguments. We are also eager to read your brief thoughts and opinions, so be sure to leave your comments with any/all responses. Welcome to Symposium!
– Meris Stansbury, Editor of eCampus News
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Claims about increasing access to higher education are at the heart of arguments for MOOCs, and rightly so; expanded access and greater equity in educational opportunity must be at the heart of any discussion about the future of higher education.
But access is a complex, even slippery, term. It means much more than the mere opportunity to enroll in a course just as access to the middle-class dream of home ownership meant much more than the opportunity to get a loan and move in for a while.
For access to be meaningful—and not just an empty advertising slogan—students must have a real chance, if they work hard, to succeed in getting a quality education.
How MOOCs measure up to their access claims can only be assessed by asking specific questions about the access they provide: Who is getting access to higher education through MOOCs? And to what?
The benefits of online learning are undeniable. Barriers inherent in traditional learning such as time, space, location, and access are eliminated with asynchronous internet courses. But all that glitters is not gold.
In its present form, online learning is far from a substitute for traditional instruction and may be damaging to certain students, even faculty.
Susan Meisenhelder, in her essay in this issue, exposes the fallacies and problems with massive open online courses (MOOCs). This article will further the discussion by showing that the problems are not limited to rogue MOOCs, but instead permeate online courses, which have become an established and lucrative staple on most college campuses.