Questioning the Online Course

The New York Times on Monday (Feb. 18th) posted an interesting editorial piece : “The Trouble With Online Colleges.” This editorial questions the educational efficacy of course offerings that are 100% online, questioning the push among institutions to increase such course offerings. With recent attention being given to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) as well as pressures of enrollments and escalating costs – 100% online courses seem like a boon. Certainly, there are interesting implications when you consider the possibilities for collaboration and sharing knowledge on a global scale. However, this article sites some limitations and drawbacks to fully online courses:

– low retention rates
– loss of engagement and a sense of community
– lack of competency

I recently went to a conference in which Standford equated the enrollment in a MOOC to Napoleon’s march on Russia. Many students disappear after Week 3. Fully online classes serve a specific function and an even more specific population. As such, it certainly can serve a portion of an institution’s population, but perhaps should be an option rather than the rule. As the article notes: “The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education”, but I appreciated the note of caution in this article. Such opportunities should be considered thoughtfully.

I have to say after reading this article I appreciated that Otis as an institution is moving forward and focusing on hybrid (only 30-50% of instruction is online) courses as research still shows student success in such courses that blend both online and face-to-face elements rival pure face-to-face courses.