Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

I just read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning, which discussed the initial results of a survey about distance learning.

Interesting findings:

  • more work with less compensation and respect for faculty
  • worse learning outcomes for learners

Honestly, the results do not surprise me. There is a lot more work with online and distance education, and there is not compensation for all these additional efforts. It is a great challenge to engage and maintain the attention of people without the benefit of body language to assess attention, mood, and questions. Fostering a sense of community and shared learning(?!); do not even get me started on these hurdles . . . 

Perhaps this demonstrates how those of us who work in distance education are still considered pioneers (martyrs?) for a changing learning modality? Perhaps institutions embraced distance learning too quickly without considering the additional financial and personnel support needed (beyond the pricy systems themselves)? Perhaps these are the normal growing pains involved in every major shift in teaching and learning?

Let’s face it, changing any aspect of the status quo (and higher education changes very very very very slowly) is a challenge, especially when there becomes more of a flattening of authority in education (the teacher no longer is in front, much of human knowledge is a few keystrokes away, etc.). Whatever the case, I am glad I teach and learn online, as the many benefits of it changes the very dynamics of adult learning itself.

4 thoughts on “Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

  1. Well, without a good deal information about the study, i can’t say much. I suspect it has serious methodological and inferential errors.

    oF course, that is not to say that if you did take a proper sample of the same population, you would not find people agreeing that ‘online education is less effective’ but then, in a proper sample the number of people who have actually participated in online education tends to approach a very small number, so most of the story is the outsider’s story.
    The best evidence that we have of the students in distance learning courses is that overall outcomes have no significant difference, but any professor will say that the highly motivated students usually do better and the unmotivated students tend to drop out.

    So… where does that leave distance educators? who knows, but we do know that some students do much better in it. We also know that some professors don’t do particularly well at distance ed, people that want to ‘deliver lectures’ for instance.

    As for extra work, properly designed, it isn’t. As for more challenging, some people find shoes with laces more challenging than shoes with velcro, who am i to judge which is better for them.

    and really, who doesn’t want more pay, and the inference is supposed to be… if i use technology i get paid more. The truth is that… no, you don’t, you only get paid more if you take on more duties, not if the duties merely get updated to be contemporary.

  2. The first bullet doesn’t surprise me and is, I think, true. But the second is frustrating because the “no significant difference” findings have been proved again and again and again. It’s time for the “distance is less effective” canard to be buried.

  3. I am not sure that I see any relevance in a survey of what faculty feel about this. There is already enough research to show that there is no significant difference in the learning between online and face-to-face students ( I have taught online and off and also as an instructional designer. In my experience, they take the same amount of time. What I find is that instructors who say that it takes more time have not been properly trained in how to teach online. It is not the same as teaching face-to-face and when instructors try to replicate the face-to-face experience online they run into trouble.

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