While I still don’t have a good bumper sticker for the argument that I used to misclassify, a commentator from Down Under reminded me that I tend to be a little harsh about online education:
I’d buy your bumper sticker in the long form, but I have to speak up for online education charlatans, of whom I’m one. Down here in Australia we’re also being told that the solution to the bubble is to let it float up to the cloud, and believe me this is even more alarming to those of us who really are trying to teach all sorts of things meaningfully, quietly and quite well online.
Certainly, not everyone involved with online education is a charlatan. I know some people who are doing really interesting things with distance learning, especially in history. The question of whether or not you’re a charlatan revolves around motives. Consider this current story from the Huffington Post:
The New York Times Knowledge Network and New Jersey’s Fairleigh Dickinson University are teaming up to offer online courses in subjects ranging from homeland security studies to global health care.
The courses will be open to all students and they may be taken individually or used toward an academic certificate.
Why doesn’t the New York Times offer its digital services simply to the existing students on the FDU campus? The answer is easy: They need the money that online students can provide. Serving the students attending Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey simply isn’t a big enough market for a company that desperate.
The people I know in online education who are not charlatans tell me that creating a good online education course takes much more work than teaching it face-to-face. You can’t just upload your lectures and call it good. Especially in history, you need to rethink the entire way that you present facts and foster discussion and analysis.
I’d like to think the NYT has the best interests of Fairleigh Dickinson’s students at heart, but somehow I doubt it. Being a slave to the bottom line is a pretty good indicator that you’re an online education charlatan.