The future of education is online

DEANZ Panel on the Future of Distance Learning By Choconancy1 on flickrLast week, I spent a few days at in Tyler Texas attending the Northeast Texas Consortium Summer Distance Education Conference.

I was lucky enough to get to present at the conference (more on that in a future post!) and got to spend some time talking to university and college educators from around the northern part of Texas.

I was surprised to find most of the universities and colleges were offering their programs online to traditional and non-traditional students regardless of whether that student was on-campus (dorm, etc) or off-campus.  In addition, it was surprising to hear that at some universities that around 60% of students living in dorms where taking at least one course online. There were even a few people telling me of entire programs offered online regardless of the location of the students.

Back in 2001, I started my MBA at The University of Texas at Dallas. I lived close to campus but really (really) wanted to take some online courses to make it more flexible for me to work on my courses.  Because I was an ‘on-campus’ student, I couldn’t take online courses….I would have had to transfer to their ‘online MBA’ to take online courses.   I always thought that segregation was strange…but it seems that there’s no longer a segregation between on-campus students and off-campus students…and I think that’s a good thing.

One of the things that became very clear to me while at the NetNet conference was that universities are really interested in moving more courses and programs online.  Perhaps this is a cost saving measure – or maybe there’s just that much demand for online courses these days…regardless…the future of higher ed (and perhaps, high school?) is online.

Does online education mean fully online with no face-to-face interaction?  I’m not sure. For some courses and/or programs, perhaps it does.

In my doctorate, I’ve not met a single professor from Dakota State University and I’ve only met one other doctoral candidate face-to-face…in face, I just met him last week at the conference even though I’ve ‘known’ him virtually for 4 years.

The future of education is online.

What does that mean for social interaction?  Is an education really only the things you learn from a book and/or from a professor or does it also include the social interaction that occurs during class and throughout campus?   Using aspects of social media, can that social interaction be recreated or simulated?  How well does knowledge really flow in online courses?

All interesting questions I think….some of them are being looked at by one of my doctoral candidate cohorts…more on that research in later posts too 🙂

What’s your thoughts on the future of education being completely online? For it…against it?  Would love your thoughts.

Image Credit: DEANZ Panel on the Future of Distance Learning By Choconancy1 on flickr

25 responses to “The future of education is online”

  1. KevinWilliams Avatar

    The traditional model of education is being phased out at most universities; this is not necessarily a bad thing. To reach more students, universities must be more flexible that in the past.. their continued existence depends on it. I have attended graduate schools in both online and F2F formats. I notice that the biggest thing missing in the online environment is the socializing. A quality education can be received through either outlet but I pose this question: Which is a great benefit to students who attend Harvard University? the education they receive or the contacts they make?

  2. jfbauer Avatar

    I look forward to how the traditional education model evolves just as @KevinWilliams has stated. It seems for the near future that having the blend of online interaction as well as in person interaction is reflective of the current work environment. More and more I am interacting with corporate peers over internal corporate social networking, instant messaging and virtual conference calls rather than traditional face-to-face meetings. Thus, for students to be successful in the current corporate environment, they need the communication skills that are reflective of the current work environment. Having slugged through my undergrad and MBA programs in the traditional, face-to-face, non-online manner, I am a bit loath to just dump the benefits of in person learning and contact building.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective Eric!

  3. ericbrown Avatar

    @jfbauer @KevinWilliams Thanks John. You’ve actually nailed it with your comment of ‘face-to-face’ and ‘contact building’….those two things are key to learning. Building relationships are a large aspect to learning as you and @KevinWilliams have both said.

    I see education moving toward a more mixed environment in the future for sure – but i also see it trending to be more online than face-to-face – especially since that is how a lot of businesses are conducting themselves these days.

    @KevinWilliams is actually in the same doctoral program that I am and is studying this topic – in fact, his dissertation is on this very topic….can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

    Thanks for stopping by John!

  4. ericbrown Avatar

    @KevinWilliams Thanks for stopping by Kevin…you know i agree completely with your comments 🙂

    Moving education online is a good thing I believe…it allows more people to take more courses to improve themselves (if they believe a formal education is the way to do that…). The current missing equation from online education, as you well know, is the social aspects. Looking forward to sharing more about that (from you research as well as mine).

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  16. joebertino Avatar

    @ericbrown @jfbauer @KevinWilliams Yeah, I completely agree with both Kevin and John. Universities need to integrate digital technologies into core curriculums in order to attract matriculating students and better prepare them for a future filled with increasingly complex social networks. I’m currently enrolled in a MFA program that utilizes on-campus and online classes. This isn’t required, but the school makes it easy to jump between the two in order to fulfill major requirements. In addition, our professors constantly stress the high correlation between a well-maintained online presence and job placement, which for most students is enough of a motivating factor.

    In short, we the students, need to realize much of this on our own and take the necessary steps in order to succeed.

    Thanks for posting, this got my lazy Friday blood flowing!

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