Students of the Screen: What's Next for Online Ed?

Ashley Thorne

Four articles this week give a window into the debates over online education.

Two NAS professors who have taught online courses - and care about rigorous liberal education - wrote at NAS.org.

David Clemens argues that online education's proper role is as a home for orphaned liberal arts and "boutique" courses for motivated students. In his view, online education is less than ideal, but as more and more institutions cut liberal arts programs, he seeks to "expose students to classic texts about perennial questions" by any means possible.

Jason Fertig advocates the hybrid classroom model, and submits that a combination of online and in-class instruction can help restore academic rigor in college courses. "Why make this issue an all or nothing proposition?" he asks.

Then, in his latest Chronicle blog post, Peter Wood forecasts that online education, either rigorous or at "the level of a video game," will become a standard feature of American college instruction.

A longer article in the Chronicle by Mark David Milliron urges academics to put away tired arguments for and against online education. "We need to end the family feud over learning strategies," he writes. "Particularly for low-income students, the journey to and through our institutions is the pathway to possibility. We owe it to them to steer our conversations about online learning away from the tired 'use it versus don't use it' arguments."

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