Welcome to The CITE -- a blog on Course materials, Innovation, and Technology in Education, created by Mark Nelson and now part of the Publications Department of the National Association of College Stores. CITE is a pun with multiple meanings - referring to cite as in citation, something people reference; site as in location, website, or place people go to; and sight as in foresight or looking ahead to what is coming. Comments, discussion, feedback and ideas are welcome.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can Online Education Replace College?

David Youngberg, an assistant professor of economics at Bethany College, was worried all the talk about massive open online courses (MOOC) might put him on the unemployment line. After all, Udacity founder and Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun has been quoted as saying that only 10 institutions of higher education will remain worldwide within 50 years because of the video lectures, online discussion boards, and instruction from some of the top minds in the world his company offers.

So, Youngberg signed up for one of the first courses offered by Udacity to see what the all the fuss was about. After taking the course, he came up with five reasons why MOOCs are not all they are cracked up to be in a commentary piece that appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Youngberg outlines the problems with MOOCs as he sees them (easy to cheat; top students can’t shine; employers expect applicants with traditional education; computers can’t grade essays; and cheap classes cheapens the value of education), and explains why he thinks each is an issue. For instance, he suggests many employers look first to hire team players and not people who might be attracted to unconventional degree programs.

One interesting thing about the column is not the ideas Youngberg presents, but the strong reaction to them. In fact, the reason related to earning traditional degrees elicited responses that range from “nonsense” to “plain dangerous.”

Youngberg goes on to admit that there’s much to learn from online education. Perhaps his real point is near the end when he writes, “If we don’t learn from MOOCs, we will disappear.”

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