Restoring the ‘American dream’ with online learning

And then there’s the most common idea of an American college: the dorms, the tree-filled campus, the classic coming-of-age experience.

The majority of students that online education serves — adult learners with families and jobs — don’t need any of that, LeBlanc said, nor do they particularly want it.

“They’ve got more coming of age than they can deal with,” he said. “Thank you very much.”

And that’s an important thing to remember when a university puts together an online degree program, LeBlanc said. There are very different kinds of students out there, and education is not a one-size-fits-all service.

Take the concept of a credit hour, LeBlanc said, something that is now engrained in the very DNA of a college degree but was created by Andrew Carnegie simply for faculty pensioning purposes at the turn of the 20th century.

Would, then, the credit hour make sense for an online degree program that doesn’t actually include faculty teaching, such as Southern New Hampshire University’s College for America?

“The credit hour is good at telling you how long someone sat,” LeBlanc said. “It’s not good at telling you what someone learned.”

The changes that online education may bring to higher education shouldn’t be seen as a threat, LeBlanc said. Its purpose is not to replace the traditional on-campus experience, but to provide an alternative for students left out of the that model.

“These students are not coming to my campus, anyway,” LeBlanc said.

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