Bias against online learning: The Enemy Within?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by Cardinal Biggles, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. Cardinal Biggles

    Cardinal Biggles New Member

    I was reading this article on the website of Canada's flagship newspaper, The Globe and Mail.

    The article was mostly speculation surrounding a discussion paper from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities tabling an idea that Ontario Universities compress their 4 year degrees into 3 year degrees. The author, a University professor, was aghast at the idea, covering a lot of ground in his rebuttal. One particular line of attack that disturbed me was the following:

    "The most unrealistic recommendation in the Ontario report is that students take more than half of their courses online. This would radically curtail the shared study that builds lifelong friendships – and the web of personal contacts that supports a successful career. Ontario universities are already experimenting with online courses; the results are sobering. Not even the most sophisticated software can replicate human interaction or foster the depth of learning generated by the classroom experience. I recently sat on a committee that interviewed undergraduate applicants for a semester abroad. When we reached the practical part of the interview, the students who had taken the online version of the prerequisite courses all underperformed. Three of them said to us: “I’m sorry, I took the online course. I know that was a mistake, I won’t do it again.”​

    Aside from the dubious logic of extrapolating a single incident to a general assessment, I was also struck by the rather romantic notion the author had of the more traditional education's "shared study". It is also a rhetorical ploy to characterize Ontario Universities as "experimenting" with online learning. The "experiment" has been going on for years, and is deeply entrenched in the offerings.

    Where the author went next was also very interesting:

    "The Ontario report also forgets that students are people who mature at their own rate. This process can be encouraged, but it can’t be forced."​

    The crux of this argument was that cramming 4 study years (or more) into 3 may do a disservice to those still finding themselves. I won't opine on the merits of what was explicitly quoted above. I do, however, note that the implicit assumption is that University students are all 18-21 years olds and in need of finding themselves.

    I think this is a fine illustration that a portion the bias against online education comes from within the walls of the University itself.

    I don't know the author from Adam. I have no idea if he has any particular axe to grind against online education, but I can see the limited perspective which is rooted in the traditional notion of the undergraduate experience.
  2. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    RE: Red Text- So is that what people are paying tens of thousands of dollars and spending years of their life for? Human interaction? Well it's a good thing colleges provide it since I can't fathom where else on earth that would ever happen.

    RE: Blue Text- Listening to an uninspired professor repeat what the students already read in the textbook the night before, classmates arguing about how much homework should be assigned and when exams should be scheduled, professors scolding students for asking questions too advanced for the course and every last person patronizingly speaking about those without college experience as if they were liabilities to the world instead of the bulk of labor force and respectable human beings. By the way, whose fault is it that the school's online courses were inferior to the on-campus versions? Certainly not the fault of the internet, I can guarantee. How can I take this guy seriously when he says things like that? Would you take seriously PC World magazine if it insisted that Apple products were superior to Microsoft by comparing Mac OS to an early version of MS-DOS?
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Do you have a link to the article?
  4. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    The words "this article" are a link.
  5. Cardinal Biggles

    Cardinal Biggles New Member

  6. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Yeah. Sorry. Missed it.
  7. SurfDoctor

    SurfDoctor Moderator

    From the experiences with my young college student daughter, I agree with the article. As I have already said here before, she absolutely hated the online experience because she missed the interaction. I believe that online education is better suited to working adults than it is for most undergrad aged students. Many young students need that interaction and most do not have the self-discipline or maturity necessary to excel in an online environment. I'm sure there are many exceptions, but I would wager that a majority fit this description.
  8. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    I tend to agree that most young people don't have the self discipline for online learning. I suspect, for many, it applies to all modes of learning. Technology driven education though would seem to me to be in tune with their generation. How much interaction is actually face to face these days? I think the Professor is dated in his thinking. I think the economy and efficiencies will drive online learning, not the privileges of the past.

    I think the following questions need some consideration:
    1. A large number of young people enter the workforce after high school and do not have social interaction laid on in their workplace or special consideration for their immaturity, why are College students a special case?
    2, In subsidized universities, is it fair on the taxpayer to have period of education lengthened because of a student's immaturity? Perhaps the student's maturity should be developed before entering the university by a "gap year" in the workforce;
    3. I know in this country, in large classes, not all the students attend. A designated student attends and supplies notes to others. These notes are using passed by use of the internet and electronic devices. Is the professor making assumptions that are not borne out by the evidence?
    4. Have we created societies where young people are not hungry enough for education? I have some contact with former refugees from Africa. Education is something they thought they would never have. These people would go to school 7 days a week for 12 hours a day if they were allowed. Anyway it comes, they want it. In our societies, we seem to get it later when the realities of life set in (mortgages, jobs, family costs). How do we get the hunger there earlier, because I suspect that we are getting left behind and we have to get there more quickly.
  9. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Traditional faculty from Canadian schools are against online education for few reasons:
    -They don't like that the University or College can easily outsource courses outside the University when courses are online
    -One online section can replace multiple traditional sections

    The reality is that online courses in Ontario cut jobs in education. A professor in Ontario makes more than 100K in average, it is not surprising that the government wants to cut the program from 4 to 3 years and promote more cheaper online education. The rationale is that British and Australian programs are 3 years and students perform about the same in the job market than people that graduated wth 4 year programs.

    I have taught online courses in Ontario in the last 4 years. There is no issue of quality as the exam and assignments are exactly the same as the one you give to on ground students. The social aspect can be the case but might not impact all the students as many are part time students that do not have time to socialize because they have a job and a family.

    The internet is making things cheaper and is reducing jobs in all the economy. Professors the way we know them are becoming obsolete. It is not very cost effective to have a professor taking an office space, benefits, large salary, union, etc when you can just outsource the courses to people that can work from home and take no benefits.

    There is nothing wrong with online education. On the opposite, students like it because they are flexible and provide the opportunity to work at the same time. The social aspect can be replaced with social groups and meetings.

    The issue is more political than pedagogical.

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