Our regular contributor Jason Fertig offers some thoughts about online courses here at NRO, and links to this CHE story about a recent study concluding that such courses have significantly higher attrition rates than those in traditonal classroom settings.
Jason records his own skepticism about the utility of online courses, and provides some useful suggestions for determining which students are more suited for them. I've expressed similar skepticism about this much bally-hooed wave-of-the-future educational innovation myself, and I've never seen any reason to change that opinion, except to feel vindicated and reinforced by studies such as this one.
But as a teacher, I really don't need a big empirical survey to reach what strikes me as a common-sense conclusion: online courses ( they're here to stay, they're here to stay!) can indeed be the ticket for the small minority of students who are successful autodidacts, and possess an uncommon measure of self-discipline and time management ability. That, however, is the extent of their usefulness. They aren't, and never will be, the silver bullet that so many fervently wish them to be, similar to the hopes once lavished on telecourses 30 years ago.
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