Mark Edmundson, a professor of English at University of Virginia, wrote an Op-Ed called, “The Trouble with Online Education,” which appeared in last week’s New York Times. Timing of the op-ed coincides with UVA’s recent announcement that they would be developing and offering online courses with Coursera. To boil down the article, Edmundson says he thinks of online education as a one size fits all experience, yet thinks of traditional learning experiences as that of a jazz composition. In response, Josh Kim published an open letter to Professor Edmundson exposing some of Professor Edmundson’s incorrect assumptions and confusion, which you can read here: An Open Letter to Professor Edmundson.
Believe it or not, Professor Edmundson is not alone in his feelings. Administrators and faculty remain conflicted about the adoption and growth of online education.
Change is not always an easy going process, especially at large universities and colleges where the drive for the innovation may be there but the consensus on how to do it is not. While change management is a tricky process the key to getting things done is open communication. What else can be done to help move the conversation on online education from negative chatter to an exploration of concerns?
- Have an Open Conversation on the Value of Technology. The fear that computers will replace teachers is one that comes up more than you’d think. Of course, it doesn’t take much to debunk that myth but it just goes to show that only through open conversation on how online education can be integrated into an education for life will we be able to get everyone on board.
- Make Sure the Leadership is on Board. Administrators and leaders have one very important function when preparing an educational community – they have to buy into the change as well. If an administrator doesn’t think that an online education initiative will work, it probably won’t.
- Tie It Into Larger Institutional Goals. It’s difficult to get excited about something when you can’t see how it fits into the big picture. Framing online education as one component of creating an exciting and dynamic learning experience is a great way to demonstrate an appreciation for all forms of education.
Moving from concerns to conversation is the first step – but the way we’ll change minds about online education’s function in our curriculums is by connecting it to the larger goal of engaging active learners.