Friday, September 04, 2009

“The recession has been a bonanza for the online education industry...”

I just read an interesting article at CNBC entitled, "Online Schooling Picks Up Students—and Respect:"

Thanks to the recession, Internet schooling is taking on growing importance—and gaining acceptance.

The huge cost of a higher education—plus the need by many laid off workers to learn new skills—has sparked a sharp increase in the number of people taking online courses. And online degrees, especially from well-known institutions, are gaining acceptance among educators and employers.


And apparently, these online classes can be quite effective:

UC Santa Barbara's Conoley also says online courses are effective. She cites a study in which students at the University of Texas, Austin who took a course online posted similar test results as those who took the same course in a classroom.

The internet, is there anything it can't do?

24 Comments:

Blogger dr.alistair said...

the internet is a very efficient communication network, and perfect for transfering information, which is a significant part of learning.

i am in a distance learning program, supported by the internet, that i couldn`t afford to be invoved in otherwise.

the traditional bricks-and-mortar school system is becoming increasingly more expensive to run, as is reflected in ever growing course fees.....on top of suspect return on investment for many degree courses that these schools offer.

5:42 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Particularly as more lectures become available in PDF-format, what's the point of brick and mortar? It's always about time spent studying AWAY from the lecture hall that will determine your end result.

6:38 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

well yeah, but the unfortunate thing is that we will lose the culture, the socialisation and the community of college life.

i would have loved to have been able to afford some years at school in study hanging out with like minded types and all....but such is life.

7:54 PM, September 04, 2009  
Blogger Doom said...

It has not yet netted a wife. But then, the internet is not a wishing well and I am merely a frog. *kiss?* Well, not you but maybe you know what I mean. You can call me Prince, though I prefer not to party like it's 1999. It was a drag, really really.

Word salad, hate it or fake it. Ha!

7:24 AM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

How does the internet do anything for you that a book could not do? This is a serious question, because I really don't see that much benefit to having the material on line as opposed to in print. Why not just read the book?

I realize that the book cannot award you a degree at the end, but in terms of knowledge transfer, it seems like the traditional textbook should work just about as well.

3:58 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

How does the internet do anything for you that a book could not do? This is a serious question, because I really don't see that much benefit to having the material on line as opposed to in print. Why not just read the book?

Younger people actually prefer to read PDF documents to physical textbooks on many occasions. First off, they save space. Second, you can put images in a PDF so you sacrifice no content in digital format. YMMV of course. Personally I'd do well with a mix of both if I had to pursue a college career now.

For sure I can tell you that back in my day I was lugging around REALLY heavy text books. I wish I had a laptop back then with only a couple of light textbooks. That would have been much nicer.

4:07 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

with my girlfriend`s daughter shelling out over $2000 on text books for her college courses pdf would be a better bet.

4:44 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

A good bit of the $2k is because she has to have that particular edition of that particular text for the course. If all you want is the information, not the degree, used book stores are full of fairly cheap text books that can be had for a song.

I don't think that new texts are going to be available cheaply in pdf form. They may be light and compact, but they will find some way to keep the price up. Otherwise, the publishers will loose out, and they are not going to let that happen if they can help it.

One of my objections to working on the screen is that I can't draw on it, unless of course I am in a CAD program. Thus if I have a graph on the screen, I can't add lines or point, to try out ideas.

@ Alex: Please translate for me, YMMV? I don't recognize that.

5:06 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Dr. D:

YMMV - your mileage may vary

5:10 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

$350 for a parking pass?

$2500 for a basic meal plan.

$6500 for tuition.....

$2500 for her car.

$1700 for insurance.

and the insult; $10 for an orientation booklet.

10:45 PM, September 05, 2009  
Blogger jay c said...

It is not a medium for building deep personal relationships. That can only be done face to face, in person. It can facilitate friendships and relationships, but there is a point beyond which it cannot go, and probably never will.

3:03 AM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm on my university's distance learning committee; at our last meeting, a vice chancellor bandied about some figures:

this year about 4 million people in the US are enrolled in distance learning courses

about 1/3 of them are "true distance" learners, i.e., doing courses only via distance methods

the rest are students enrolled and attending classes at colleges and universities, filling in part of their schedules with online courses for convenience - they work, they can't get the course/section they need otherwise, etc.

Universities will be doing more with this, because the market is turning that way. I'm persuaded it can be done credibly, with high standards, because I've taught online courses for about 10 years now, in combination with my regular classroom load. Experience tells me that freshman aren't particularly suited to online learning, because they need to develop discipline and organization and self-motivation first (and there really is something good about classroom interaction). Students who already have a good sense of how they learn best and can organize their own study schedule do very well.

2:00 PM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger Beth said...

jay c - distance learning done well combines the personal with distance. Instructors who meet with their students via phone and video chat increase that personal touch. I use Second Life to allow synchronous interaction, for instance.

Also, since so many distance students are taking classes on their local campus, we tend to schedule at least one or two meetings in our offices, and hold exams on campus. I agree that personal interaction is useful, so a hybrid of online and traditional methods is a good thing.

2:03 PM, September 06, 2009  
Blogger george said...

There are some obvious advantages to online courses. For instance, it is possible to have the absolute best teacher in the country teach EVERY course rather than having a grad student for whom English is at best a second language. If you find a particular lecture or lecturer doesn't do it for you then just click on another. You aren't stuck with just one way of looking at things... or learning things. Audio, video, powerpoint... all at your disposal.

People who are brilliant in their fields can spend their time adding to our knowledge base. Those who are not as brilliant can teach the rest of us about it. Students can study whenever they like since everything will be on video etc... Lessons can be interactive to a greater extent than they are now. Ear training for music students is just one example of this.

Oh --- and this is a huge one --- everyone can learn at their own pace! Just because the class or teacher is ready to go on doesn't mean all of the students have mastered the material. There is no way to justify holding everyone back for the sake of a few and there is no reason to online. Indeed there is no reason for any time limits at all. Even in classes where I got an "A" there were concepts I was fuzzy on. There is no need for that when there are no time constraints.

Yes, you will miss the human interaction but with chat features etc... there is no reason you can't get all of your questions answered by people who are dedicated to doing so.

Oh, and it should be a HELL of a lot cheaper. Once you get a selection of lectures in the can things aren't going to change a whole lot at the undergrad level. The fact that they do says more about the teachers than the subject matter.

Of course I write all of this as an engineer. If you are studying a subjective field like English composition then you will need a person to grade your paper because there is no "right" answer.

Where academia will fight tooth and nail is that they will have to give up indoctrinating students in leftist dogma. I foresee much of the the liberal arts portion of the curriculum being dropped as requirements altogether as they add nothing to the value of a degree. In fact, if you ask most employers they detract from the worth of the graduate since all of that crap has to be unlearned.

Better to start with a clean slate IMO.

8:28 PM, September 07, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

George, let's talk about this with respect to engineering specifically. I am a retired Prof. of Mech. Engr., so I can discuss this with you knowledgeably.

You say, "Once you get a selection of lectures in the can things aren't going to change a whole lot at the undergrad level." Well, it is certainly true that one you have a bunch of stuff on tape, nothing is going to change at all unless you undertake to re-tape parts of it. I don't know any teacher who does not continually try to improve his course, so that means that you will be showing tape that the teacher knows he could do better, or at least thinks he could. I taught one particular course 10 times in 12 semesters, and it continued to evolve over the entire time. I was always adding material, putting in new examples, cutting out material that did not seem to be as useful as I first thought, etc.

You talk also about having everyone proceeding at their own pace, but then you also talk about having questions answered, presumably by the teacher. How do you envision this working? The students are all watching a series of canned videos, and the student calls in and says, "say, on video #12, I don't understand ..." and then expects the teacher to recall out of the blue what is in video #12? I think you are overlooking the human element in this; it is not going to work well. At best you will have a North Korean graduate student paid to answer the questions.

9:02 PM, September 07, 2009  
Blogger Micha Elyi said...

"At best you will have a North Korean graduate student paid to answer the questions."
--Dr. D

Naah, I expect the call centers handling student questions for all but boutique classes will be located in India. Calls about lecture 12 of course 8 will be routed to the specialist in cubicle BN-63.

10:07 PM, September 07, 2009  
Blogger Dr.D said...

@Micha Elyi

I stand corrected. You are, of course, correct on this point.

10:15 PM, September 07, 2009  
Blogger tomcal said...

Whenever times are slow, I always fall back on education. I Just spent a week at Stanford Biz School. Worth every penny.

1:52 AM, September 08, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

CNBC missed one of the major selling points of the online univerisities: no tenured faculty = no gratuitious leftist political indoctorination.

11:14 AM, September 08, 2009  
Blogger dr.alistair said...

i imagine the gratuitous leftist bureaucracy will pass a gratuitous law limiting the reduction of gratuitous leftist tenured faculty members, along with maintaining the redundant facilities and programs themselves, citing cultural necessity or somesuch...and tax the process of on-line education to support thier "historical" programs.

6:30 PM, September 08, 2009  
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