SR Education Group Interview Response to Online-Education Critique

Since an interview appeared on the SR Education Group website and my blog, I have received quite a few hits and rather interesting e-mail.

One was from an art historian with a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota who is very tech savvy and questioned my dismissive comment on online instruction as an impediment to class discussion:

“As for your question: <I wonder how class discussion can be replicated digitally? >

“I recommend that you try to utilize the Discussion Forum on Blackboard some semester: of course there are cons, but also many pros [one of the cons being that it takes a lot [more] faculty time. the chief pro–you can achieve near 100% student participation.]”

I do use Blackboard fairly frequently but have not used the Discussion Forum. I use Blackboard in conjunction with brick-and-mortar courses that I teach which I presume is its primary utilisation. Yet I will explore this medium with our tech people this summer to get a better understanding of its use. It may indeed facilitate student interaction and add to the dynamic nature of instruction.

I still question the comparative worth of a strictly online course with a brick-and-mortar course in lending itself to student discussion within a class. Perhaps this aspect of online exclusivity maybe effective. I don’t know. Yet I think education is enhanced with face-to-face contact. Can faceless education conducted on a computer screen be effective and useful in the advancement of knowledge. I have avoided sweeping denunciations of a mode of education I have not engaged in. Yet I believe a student who matriculates only in online education, while perhaps benefiting in various ways, does not have the quality of education overall that is generated by dynamic contact with both professors and students.

I am sure SR Education Group does its job very well and I am aware of the growing interest in online education. Its decision, however arrived at, to publish my interview is an indication of its tolerance of academic freedom and willingness to explore disparate views of its raison d’etre.

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