Higher education will be transformed by online learning, argues Jeffrey Selingo in College (Un)Bound.
“These free courses developed by elite institutions that serve tens of thousands of students at a time will likely become the content provider for the core courses that every college offers. By using online materials to power these face-to-face courses, colleges can accommodate more students with the same number of instructors or spend their limited resources on top professors teaching the courses best presented in a physical classroom.”
“Elite” professors may not be the best teachers, especially for introductory courses taken by non-elite students, responds Matt Reed, the “community college dean,” on Inside Higher Ed.
If we’re looking at “core courses,” on what basis should we assume that an institution that hires faculty on the basis of research, and that treats intro courses as a sort of dues-paying, would do a better job on, say, Intro to Psychology than would an institution that hires faculty based on teaching ability, and that defines teaching as the core of the job? It’s possible that a research superstar is also a gifted teacher, of course, but it’s far from tautological.
The best College Algebra instructors aren’t likely to be teaching at elite institutions, where the lowest-level math class is usually Calculus I, argues Reed. “And what are the most effective ways of teaching that level of material to college students? (Hint: they don’t involve watching videos.)”
The majority of community college students place into developmental English, where they “read, write, get feedback, discuss and write some more,” notes Reed. Nobody learns to write by watching an eminent professor talk about writing on screen.
College (Un)Bound assumes higher education’s changes will preserve the prestige of the current elites, writes Reed. “The Harvards and Williamses of the world can keep on doing what they’re doing; disruptive change is for the proles.”
In writing about the tuition cost spiral of the last decade, Selingo ignores the “flatlined budgets of community colleges,” Reed points out.