Photo Courtesy of espensorvik
We live in a world dominated by computer technology. Most of us have grown up with a keyboard in hand and a 15-inch screen staring back at us for as long as we can remember.
Let’s face it. We are the computer generation. And since we live in a society dominated by the Internet, it’s only fitting that classes experiment in the online world as well.
Online schools like the University of Phoenix seem to be popping up everywhere. According to a recent study held by the Babson Survey Research Group “31 percent of higher education students now take at least one course online.” That’s 6.1 million college students taking online classes. The study also states that “65 percent of higher education institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long-term strategy.”
Online universities aren’t the only ones testing these virtual waters. Prestigious universities like the University of California Berkeley, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology continue to explore the possibilities of an online education. Just last spring, these universities announced the start of a program called EDX. The program offers free online classes this fall to thousands of students from all over the globe. Stanford University is also offering 16 free online classes this fall, a radical new concept to the online world. Even the University of California Santa Barbara tried experimenting with four online classes this summer, though unfortunately, they were not free.
Okay, so why the sudden boom in online classes?
There are a cornucopia of reasons, but universities are becoming increasingly fond of online classes because, for one, it could save them a ton of money. Think about the possibilities of enrolling hundreds, even thousands of students into one online class. This means more enrollments, more campus space for classes and, above all, more tuition. There is also the interest in experimenting with different forms of teaching methods.
Could online classes be a good thing for students?
In moderation, yes. Online classes offer a lot of conveniences and opportunities for people of all different backgrounds. If you can manage your Facebook page, you can manage an online class. I, for one, would not be here at this fine establishment if it weren’t for the help of online classes at my local city college. Online classes allowed me to be flexible with my time and they created room for other time-consuming activities. Many people need to work while attending school just so they can help pay for tuition.
Think of the flexibility offered with no set times for certain classes. You could do your homework whenever convenient. As a result, if managed appropriately, you could simply get more done in a day without things interfering with one another. It’s true that online classes require a great amount of self-discipline and accountability, but doesn’t college sort of demand that anyways? Plus, you wouldn’t have to start your early mornings with a rude awakening lecture on Gertrude Stein, like I do twice a week.
Did I mention the hopeful possibility that online classes might actually reduce tuition costs? I know, crazy right?
If online classes are such a good thing and offer an education to people that wouldn’t be able to come by it otherwise, then why are it not more prevalent at major universities? Just give it time; implementation of online classes requires a major system change and a lot of experimentation. Universities would need to be sure that an online education meets the standards of supreme higher learning. There is also the major fear of educating a generation to learn in an overwhelmingly isolated environment. This is a great point and possibly the biggest obstacle for implementing online classes. This is why the key to effective use of online classes is moderation. Nothing can replace the classroom environment, so we shouldn’t kid ourselves on the matter.
Lawrence S. Bacow a member of the Harvard Corporation eloquently states, “Online education is here to stay, and it’s only going to get better.” So it’s that simple, computer generation. Just keep doing what you do best: cling to your computers, and be on the lookout for a whole new way of learning. I promise it won’t bite.