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Will online courses replace college?

BeliavskyBeliavsky - Posts: 1,253 Senior Member
edited June 2013 in Parents Forum
I wonder how quickly and to what extent online courses will replace residential colleges and K-12 schools. I think the potential is especially high for math and computer science. The natural sciences and engineering require laboratories, and in the humanities, class discussion and comments from a teacher or professor on written work are important. The breakthrough for online education will come when/if big-name employers decide that degrees earned online are credible.

So far my kids have used EPGY and Art of Problem Solving (AOPS). AOPS courses have weekly online classes lead by instructors where students can answer questions in real time.

Two recent articles on online education are

One Man, One Computer, 10 Million Students: How Khan Academy Is Reinventing Education - Forbes

The Year of the MOOC
Post edited by Beliavsky on

Replies to: Will online courses replace college?

  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,593 Senior Member
    Not in this lifetime. Too many good things about real college they cannot duplicate. Very small niche.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    I think that things are shaking out re: online education.
    At both my and my daughters schools, some classes for some courses are only available online.

    Her chem lab for example is online, which seems awful to me, I really need the physical interaction to learn.

    Online education may be fine for some students, and may be a solution for those students who are interested in less popular or esoteric courses which are offered infrequently on campus.
    It also is a wise idea to conserve fuel ( for commuters), and instead of one non- tenured prof traveling to 2 or 3 different schools, they can teach from wherever they have an Internet connection!

    However, do we want the bulk of profs to be disconnected to the schools through which the students enrolled or do we think there is a benefit to having profs physically on campus?
  • InpersonalInpersonal Registered User Posts: 150 Junior Member
    Being among classmates is the best part. Together we learn, encourage, support, eat, entertain, walk, cry, laugh, root, protest, debate, work, volunteer, complain, party, have fun, counsel, travel, rescue, disagree, sing, climb, separate, join, grow...

    On-line is a weak substitute. Not a replacement.
  • NJSueNJSue Registered User Posts: 2,789 Senior Member
    I imagine that hybrid teaching will become the norm, with an online component and a classroom component; however, college is also a kind of intellectual and social finishing school, and extensive human interaction is essential for that enterprise. I don't see online education seriously displacing or replacing bricks and mortar, at least not for 18-22 year olds.
  • annasdadannasdad Registered User Posts: 4,827 Senior Member
    Will it be increasingly possible to get a piece of paper strictly through online study? I think the answer is, clearly, "yes." And if the piece of paper is all you're going to college for, then by all means, get it through the cheapest, fastest, least painful method possible.

    But those students who genuinely care about the quality of the education they attain through their college experience would do well to consider the evidence:
    In addition to knowing what things do not differentiate among colleges and universities in their abilities to promote student learning and growth, we also know what factors do differentiate among educationally effective institutions. … student involvement in the academic and nonacademic systems of an institution, the nature and frequency of student contact with peers and faculty members, interdisciplinary or integrated core curricula that emphasize making explicit connections across courses and among ideas and disciplines, pedagogies that encourage active student engagement in learning and encourage application of what is being learned in real and meaningful settings, campus environments that emphasize scholarship and provide opportunities for students to encounter different kinds of people and ideas, and environments that emphasize scholarship and support exploration, whether intellectual or personal.

    -- Ernest T. Pascarella and Patrick T. Terenzini, “How College Affects Students, Volume 2: A Third Decade of Research.” San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005, p. 642

    When online courses can replicate those qualities, then yes, they may become a viable alternative. Until that time, anyone who desires an excellent education is much better served by seeking out a bricks-and-mortar institution where those things are prevalent.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,896 Senior Member
    Online misses the collaboration. Even in my CS experiences, that was crucial.

    I think it's important to realize the current push for online availability is at least partly motivated by profit. Many online classes today are free, but it's acknowledged this is a window, to draw attention. Existing "extension" or community learning programs U's offer are seen as "profit centers" versus the "cost centers" of classroom teaching. I agree many electives can be handled as digital classrooms or lectures online- those same sorts of extras, eg, that we watch PBS or CSPAN for.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,415 Senior Member
    Online chem lab is a really bad idea. It reminds me of the lines from Alien:
    How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
    Thirty-eight . . . simulated.
    How many combat drops?
    Uh . . . two, including this one.

    The lab is not needed so much to learn the chemical concepts as to learn to work safely with the chemicals and equipment. There are a lot of hazards in a real chemistry lab.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,896 Senior Member
    I did like the idea of simulated frog dissections.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,415 Senior Member
    I agree about the simulated frog dissections. They are great.
  • lookingforwardlookingforward Registered User Posts: 24,896 Senior Member
    I used to watch surgeries on, I think, Lifetime, when it was new. One early idea behind them was that watching counted as ongoing learning credit for health professionals. Yikes. You don't want to know what surgeries these were.
  • QuantMechQuantMech Registered User Posts: 7,415 Senior Member
    I think it's good for pre-meds who have completed organic chemistry, math, physics, and the introductory biology courses reasonably well to perform actual dissections in the more advanced labs. But you could save a lot of frogs by having only simulated dissections in intro bio.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Registered User Posts: 35,861 Senior Member
    I'm reminded of how technology is being used for meetings and education for organizations like IBM, and the US Military.

    Everyone has an avatar and they interact with each other via SecondLife.
    ( I really wanna know if their avatars are accurate or if I could be WonderWoman)
    It sounds pretty wild to me but then I've never used it.

  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,487 Senior Member
    NJSue wrote:
    college is also a kind of intellectual and social finishing school, and extensive human interaction is essential for that enterprise.

    While human interaction is desirable in many contexts, remember that the "college experience" is not necessarily that of a four year residential college that appears to be what people on these forums think is the norm. Indeed, commuting to community college or the local university may be the actual norm, where college-related human interaction is limited to class time, and the students then go back to home or work (where they may have other kinds of human interaction) as soon as class is over.
  • barronsbarrons Registered User Posts: 24,593 Senior Member
    The payoff for that type of college is generally relatively low. Few even finish what they start compared with more residential colleges.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 63,487 Senior Member
    However, the commuter school is likely the "college experience" for the majority of college students.
This discussion has been closed.