From the Times:
For those who have the time and money, the four-year residential campus still offers what is widely considered the best educational experience. Critics worry that the online courses are less rigorous and more vulnerable to cheating, and that their emphasis on providing credentials for specific jobs could undermine the traditional mission of encouraging critical thinking.
But most experts agree that given the exploding technologies, cuts to university budgets and the expanding universe of people expected to earn postsecondary degrees, there is no end in sight for newfangled programs preparing students for careers in high-demand areas like business, computer science, health care and criminal justice.
Chester E. Finn Jr., a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the president of theThomas B. Fordham Institute, predicted that all but the top tier of existing universities would “change dramatically” as students regained power in an expanding marketplace.
“Instead of a full entree of four years in college, it’ll be more like grazing or going to tapas bars,” Mr. Finn said, “with people piecing together a postsecondary education from different sources.”
Not everyone is happy about the competition online universities pose to traditional colleges–particularly professors at traditional colleges.
While many students at the nascent institutions offer glowing reviews and success stories, a recent study by Teachers College at Columbia University that tracked 51,000community college students in Washington State for five years found that those with the most online course credits were the least likely to graduate or transfer to a four-year institution. And traditional professors like Johann Neem, a historian at Western Washington University, see places like Western Governors University as anti-intellectual, noting that its advertising emphasizes how fast students can earn credits, not how much they will learn.
“Taking a course online, by yourself, is not the same as being in a classroom with a professor who can respond to you, present different viewpoints and push you to work a problem,” Professor Neem said. “There’s lots of porn and religion online, but people still have relationships and get married, and go to church and talk to a minister.”
Easy for Neem (what a classic Professor name!) to say. What about students who can’t afford to attend Western Washington University (where??)
But Anya Kamenetz, whose 2010 book, “DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education,” tracks the new wave of Web-based education efforts, says the new institutions will only continue to improve and expand. “For some people, it will mean going from a good education to a great one,” she said. “For others, it will mean getting some kind of education, instead of nothing.”
The last gasp of a dying cartel.