Online ed threatens universities, OSU faculty member warns

Online courses are catching on rapidly with students — and universities can either take advantage of their popularity or risk being left behind, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reports.

That was the message delivered Monday by Oregon State University educator Kevin Ahern at the monthly meeting of the Corvallis City Club.

“I have a great passion for education,” said Ahern, a senior instructor in biochemistry and biophysics at OSU. “I have concerns for education as well.”

Ahern is no stranger to the power of online education.

Some years ago he began videotaping his lectures and making them available for free on YouTube, where the curious also can access recordings of Ahern’s “Metabolic Melodies,” which set nuggets of scientific information to the tune of popular songs.

With his wife, Indira Rajagopal, Ahern wrote a free online textbook on biochemistry, and he teaches four classes through OSU’s Ecampus distance learning program.

With the cost of tuition and textbooks soaring while middle class incomes stagnate, Ahern said, it’s no wonder that online courses are becoming more popular.

“The numbers are definitely growing. The rate of growth online is higher than the rate of growth for traditional courses,” he said, using computer slides to illustrate the point with graphs.

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