If there is one windmill that I have addressed throughout my career in higher education, it is leveraging online education to advance the learning of all students.
The idea is simple. Even if it is not an important part of a school’s educational offer, online education can have a catalytic effect in improving teaching and learning throughout a school. To use a different and current metaphor: online education is like a vaccine that strengthens the entire institutional body of teaching and learning.
Is online education still good for advancing (all) student learning? Not in cases where schools are outsourcing basic skills to OPMs, such as instructional design.
Online education is beneficial for schools because it opens a window for integrating research-based pedagogical practices into course development, teaching and learner support. Online education has been the Trojan horse with which we smuggled the learning sciences into curriculum and course design.
Teachers who work with instructional designers to plan, design, and run an online course will bring this experience to their face-to-face lessons. Online education is a platform from which research-based educational advances can be disseminated to all places of teaching and learning. These best practices include universal design, upstream design, assessment for learning (formative assessment), student / learner-centered design, and prioritization of learner engagement and learning. presence of the instructor.
So if all of this is true – if online education is an effective mechanism for advancing teaching and learning in the school – what happens when schools do not invest in online education? online learning?
What happens when e-learning does not become a critical strategic priority?
What is the cost to student learning when schools outsource basic skills – such as instructional design – or allow online programs to be opportunistic and fragmented rather than strategic?
If online education is a powerful force in advancing teaching and learning, why do we see so much variation in higher education in the degree of attention and investment that top management does? establishment grants it?
The inevitable answer to all of these questions about failures to leverage online education to improve teaching and learning is that much of the responsibility for failures or gaps rests entirely with us, the community. online learning.
We (and I’m including myself here) haven’t done enough to make the case that online education is strategic from a learning perspective. We left the online education narrative too focused on income generation and not enough on learning (by all students). We have been inconsistent and ineffective in persuading key institutional leaders and faculty stakeholders that investing in online education is essential to advancing the learning ball on our campuses.
We must do better.
This indictment of our online learning community is of course not fair. At many institutions, local e-learning leaders have been successful in aligning the growing investment work in online programs with a commitment to advancing student learning. The link between online education and inter-institutional student learning is clear and explicit on many campuses.
We need to discover and celebrate these cases and do all we can as a community to replicate these successes. As a starting point, I hope we can engage in a larger conversation that links and integrates online education to advance teaching and learning for all of our students.
How might we change the online education narrative from income generation to learning?