Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka made this abundantly clear in 1954. My hope is that it can serve as a warning against efforts to segregate online components of education from “regular” and “traditional” classwork.
From the Associated Press on September 25, 2008:
Nearly 3.5 million students nationwide took at least one online course during the fall 2006 term, according to a report last year by the Sloan Consortium.
The integration of the Internet into the school environment is proceeding at a very slow pace. One barrier to the evolution of the classroom may be philosophical – instead of a movement to incorporate online technology into all classes where it is appropriate, there instead appears to be a sharp distinction made between online and offline classes.
The Associated Press reports that the University of Illinois has had difficulty with the successful development of an online education program:
An $8.9 million online campus launched by the University of Illinois nine months ago has had disappointing enrollment and fewer course offerings than expected, but the man who created it isn’t giving up.
Instead, University of Illinois President Joseph White said he wants to turn the school’s Global Campus into an independent, accredited university to speed up development of degree programs.
So far 121 students have enrolled in just five degree programs – far short of the 9,000 students White projected would enroll by the end of the Global Campus’ first five years.
When it started offering classes in January, White hoped his professors would quickly create online programs in business, engineering and other high-demand fields.
For the most part, “That has not happened,” White told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not mad at anybody about that. I think we’ve come to realize that we have a university faculty that is at capacity.”
I think that it could be a mistake to move the University of Illinois Global Campus into a separate program, because it appears to be a serious mistake for the University of Illinois to segregate online learning from the general college experience. If this philosophy is taken to the extreme and no resources are invested in bringing online technology into on-campus classrooms, the University of Illinois could lose a competitive edge as other universities bring their classes into the 21st century.
I find it interesting that President White believes that the current failures of the Global Campus are due to “a university faculty that is at full capacity.” If online technology was being regularly incorporated into traditional on-campus classes, it would be easier for faculty to develop online education programs, because the development work would overlap with and build on the work already required for their “regular” classes. The transition to fully online classes for appropriate subjects would be a lot easier in an environment that is already moving online.
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