Almost 70 Percent of Classroom Faculty Fear The Growth of Online Learning

Over six million students are now taking at least one online course, upping the rate of online enrollment to 10 times that of traditional higher education. Yet, while the world is reveling in free online classes, faculty members are frightened by the Internet’s growing popularity, according to a survey by the Babson Survey Research Group.

The report, which polled 4,564 faculty members, reveals that 58 percent of respondents described themselves as filled with “more fear than excitement” over the growth of online education. However, about 75 percent of the respondents were full-time faculty members, “many of whose teaching careers predate the online boom.”

Nearly 70 percent of the respondents who taught solely in the classroom said they feared the online boom, which doesn’t come at much of a surprise. The traditional lecture might not be dead, but it is severely flawed, and the professors who don’t incorporate some alternative, whether it be peer learning or an online component, won’t be able to keep up. Online education will turn from a supplement into a replacement, and that’s where the fear is leaking in.

But will the replacement be reputable? Sixty-six percent of respondents said the learning outcomes from online courses were inferior to that of traditional courses. Yet, the future still looks promising. Nearly 40 percent of full-time professors said “online learning has the potential to match classroom learning,” while another 14 percent claimed to have a neutral opinion, “putting the naysayers under 50 percent.”

Much like the traditional classroom environment, online courses will be dependent on the quality of the instructor. When speaking with local educators about the future of the MBA, many were optimistic about where online education could play a role. John Gallaugher, a professor of information systems at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, admitted, “New learning tools will allow us to outsource lecture time spent on rote work, so we can have more applied learning by doing.”

What online education is forcing schools to do is revamp and modernize their curriculum. As Babson’s Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Dennis Hanno said, “It has pushed schools to come up with a value proposition.”

Companies like 2tor have tried helping universities adapt by partnering with them to build, administer and market online degree programs. To 2tor co-founder Jeremy Johnson, “The 21st century will largely be dominated by the schools that go online first,” and those “who embrace technology and change are going to have an oversized advantage.”

If anything, this survey’s highlighted what teachers can’t afford to continue — fear this change. The longer educators go without embracing online education in their traditional settings, the quicker online education will consume them. Argue all you will, but the sooner faculty members hop on board, the sooner they can make a meaningful impact. If they want to keep control of their classroom, they’ll need to gain control of online education.



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