Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Something to Think About In Regards to Distance Ed

We know the world is changing, and we know that includes the university. We need to consider the implications of everything we do, and the following essay about distance education provides some food for thought:

Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning


Online courses may be gaining a foothold in higher education, but substantial skepticism over their effectiveness remains, according to results of two recent surveys. The surveys, conducted by the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, also found "widespread concern" that budget cuts would hamper distance-learning programs.

The preliminary results of the surveys, which polled faculty members and administrators separately about their opinions of distance-learning programs, were unveiled here Monday at the American Council on Education's conference.

The survey of faculty members found that while a majority of faculty members acknowledge that distance instruction offers students increased accessibility and flexibility, developing and teaching online courses can be burdensome.

"What faculty tell us is, 'It takes me more time; it takes me more effort,'" said Jeff Seaman, chief information officer for the Sloan Consortium, who is helping Nasulgc oversee the faculty survey. The consortium works with institutions to improve online education.

Instructors' extra time and effort aren't being rewarded financially or professionally, and what's more, online education doesn't translate into better learning outcomes, said respondents in the faculty survey. More than 10,000 faculty members at 67 public campuses responded to the survey.

While 30 percent of faculty members surveyed felt that online courses provided superior or equivalent learning outcomes when compared with face-to-face classes, 70 percent felt that learning outcomes were inferior. Among faculty members who have taught online courses, that figure drops to 48 percent, but that still represents a "substantial minority" holding a negative view, Mr. Seaman said.

The survey also found that a majority of faculty members felt that institutions provided inadequate compensation for those taking on the additional responsibility of teaching online courses. And many respondents said that students needed more discipline before they could benefit from online instruction. Low retention rates among students and the lack of consideration of online teaching experience in tenure-and-promotion decisions were also cited as barriers to faculty interest in online teaching.

The survey of administrators, which received responses from officials at 45 public institutions, found concerns about how budget cuts and economic uncertainty may affect distance-learning programs.

"People would say, 'This is what we're doing now, but my hunch or my gut fear is that six weeks from now … we can't say that we'll be on the same path or trajectory,'" said Sally McCarthy, a research consultant for Nasulgc.

Administrators surveyed also cited the need for institutions to incorporate online learning into their mission statements, create a single office to oversee online-learning programs, and bring people from across the institution in on discussions about online learning.

Full survey results are scheduled for release in April.

This is from today's Chronicle of Higher Education; http://chronicle.com/free/2009/02/11232n.htm

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"...The preliminary results of the surveys, which polled faculty members and administrators separately about their opinions of distance-learning programs, were unveiled here Monday at the American Council on Education's conference."

A related opinion piece NY Times this week on America's national shame: education at large

Op-Ed Columnist
Our Greatest National Shame
Published: February 14, 2009


"So maybe I was wrong. I used to consider health care our greatest national shame, considering that we spend twice as much on medical care as many European nations, yet American children are twice as likely to die before the age of 5 as Czech children — and American women are 11 times as likely to die in childbirth as Irish women."

"Yet I’m coming to think that our No. 1 priority actually must be education. That makes the new fiscal stimulus package a landmark, for it takes a few wobbly steps toward reform and allocates more than $100 billion toward education."

"That’s a hefty sum — by comparison, the Education Department’s entire discretionary budget for the year was $59 billion — and it will save America’s schools from the catastrophe that they were facing. A University of Washington study had calculated that the recession would lead to cuts of 574,000 school jobs without a stimulus."

..........One of the greatest injustices is that America’s best teachers overwhelmingly teach America’s most privileged students. In contrast, the most disadvantaged students invariably get the least effective teachers, year after year — until they drop out."

"This stimulus package offers a new hope that we may begin to reform our greatest national shame, education. "