Friday, February 13, 2009

"Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective"

In another example of the Chronicle of Higher Ed's misunderstanding and misapprehension of education, technology, and online learning, they have published an article called "Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning" By David Sheih. There is nothing wrong with reporting the results of a survey. That is what they should be doing: reporting. But what I don't understand is why they find that so significant when other stories should be taking precedence. If they are going to have a tech section, they should be writing more about web 2.0, new trends in learning theory (Connectivism perhaps?), the open source movement in the changing economy, and a hundred other topics besides something that has been pretty much settled since the early 90s.

I am not sure that I see any relevance in a survey of what faculty and administrators "feel" about online learning. There is already enough research to show that there is No Significant Difference in the learning between online and face-to-face students. I have taught online and off and also work as an instructional designer. In my experience, face-to-face and online take the same amount of time. What I find is that instructors who say that it takes more time have not been properly trained in how to teach online. They are often not taking advantage of the full range of tools available to them and have unreasonable expectations of themselves and their students (24/7 faculty availability; 24 hour turn around on all postings, emails, and assignments; futzing around with email attachments instead of using the LMS, etc.) It is not the same as teaching face-to-face and when instructors try to replicate the face-to-face experience online they run into trouble.

The print version of the Chronicle is worse. They have headlines in the tech section like "MIT Lab Gets New Wall Sockets and Plugs" with pictures of administrators at ribbon cutting ceremonies wondering what the new holes in the wall are for and why they were so expensive. The real news about the faculty and administrators who think that online learning is less effective is how little they know about online learning and the possibilities of online teaching.

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