The Virtual University: Why cash strapped colleges need to stop worying and learn to love the online classroom.

“Today nine out of 10 American high school seniors say they want to go to college,”  writes Kamenetz (2010). She suggests that around the globe “150 million students are enrolled in some kind of education beyond high school.” She argues that this is, ” a 53 per cent increase in less than one decade.” Implying that in other parts of the world there is more of a demand for higher learning, but that in the United States we are falling behind the rest of the educated nations.  Kamentez points out that we have fallen from number one to  number ten, “we’ve now fallen behind nine others.”

Kamenetz goes on to suggest that the cost of student tuition is one factor in this country, she suggests that tuition has been “outpacing inflation for decades.” As college tuition increases, the possibility of a college education is delayed, and the suggestion in this article is that the solution is in online learning. She points out, “More than one in five of the nation’s 19 million college students took at least one online class by the fall of 2006…”

Kamenetz quotes David Wiley of Brigham Young University, who comments on his blog, “If universities can’t find the will to innovate and adapt to changes in the world around them…universities will be irrelevant by 2020.”  She suggests that universities should be proactive in the use of online learning. One example she uses is MIT which in 2001 began a OpenCourseWare project” funded by Hewlett and Andrew W. Mellon foundations. She suggests that if you investigate  MIT’s website you will find the following online: “Full syllabi, lecture notes, class exercises, tests, and some video and audio for every one of the 1,900 courses MIT offers…” She points out that by 2009, these courses had been viewed by “students, alumni, professors,” and others around the world.

In this article, Kamenetz also discusses what she calls the Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources in which she comments that “approximately 140 colleges have signed on to share textbooks…” these textbooks, “can be downloaded, edited, and used for free.”  She writes, that the biggest hurdle has been “intellectual property rights.” But, the administrator of this program, Judy Baker has been persuading professors to write their textbooks. However, instead of relying on their royalties which would generate them a small profit,  instead the professors have been guaranteed that they would have a larger audience read their works instead of 1,000 to over “100,000 page views.” Baker, suggests that she has a long rang plan, not just free textbooks, but a vision of open education shared with the world.

It was also discussed in this article that Universities in “NCAT’s Course redesign program” have come up with a plan and a solution for courses in all disciplines to “blend social-media tools and software-based drills with peer-to peer instruction, tutoring, and traditional classroom settings.”

One of the schools in this group was Alabama who saw an increase  in students scores from less than 50 per cent to just under 70 per cent. They also noted in that in relation to Alabama that “Women and African-Americans made even larger gains.”

It was also mentioned that Senator Durbin and others introduced The Open College Textbook Act, which is a law that would “mandate all educational materials, including curricula and textbooks, created through federal grants to be released under open license.” The suggestion at this point in the article is that “hybrid, NCAT-style course-redesign models seem most compelling.”

I liked this article over all, it was mentioned in the beginning of the article that “Today nine out of 10 American high school seniors say they want to go to college.  Also mentioned in this article was, “In the U.S., about 30 per cent of high school students drop out, and just 56 percent of college freshman complete their bachelor’s degrees after six years.”

What was mentioned, but was not discussed was, “In the U.S., about 30 per cent of high school students drop out…” My question is what happens to the 30 per cent of those that drop out of high school? Can they be somehow reached through digital media? 

One of the experts in this article, an expert in the use of gaming in teaching was quoted saying a couple of interesting things, I would like to point out:  “Technology can’t make a bad teacher into a good teacher.” And she also said, “Students who don’t want to learn won’t suddenly become great students when you put a gadget in their hands,” (referring to gaming or the digital divide.”) 

So, the question I put forth is, What will happen to the 30 per cent who drop out or those that choose to not go to college after high school, will online education help them also?” Or will money be used in other areas such as in the community colleges or vocational programs? We still need skilled workers in this country. One point that has not been discussed, is the question no one seems to want to address,  is college for everyone ? Or to be put in a better light is the opportunity to go to college or to be trained in a high demand skill or new technology for everyone?


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