What Is The Ratio Of Online Learning To Traditional Classroom

The Los Angeles Times over-counts online classes by the companies that run them.

There is a far greater ratio of online to in-person education.

Today we are going to briefly look at some research on online education, focusing on the proportion of in-person classroom-based instruction vs. the proportion of online instruction.

First I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that the studies being put out online are all very valid — or even valid. They’re not. But they are representative of what’s happening out there in the online community. It’s quite possible that the concepts they articulate, as reported by such organizations as SEMIL, are incorrect, or insufficiently documented, but that wouldn’t detract from their validity.

Some people might respond by saying, “Well, it’s a rough approximation, and we can’t claim that all online education is ‘better’ than in-person instruction,” but that is absurd. It’s completely ridiculous. I only posit such a response because it’s a political issue. A majority (or, at least, a certain demographic) that has thus far been resistant to a return to classrooms in favor of online classes, needs to be persuaded to change their minds. That they won’t change their minds because they’re getting quality education online is foolish. The research says the opposite.

Here’s one research paper (from the Nonprofit Information Management Resource Center, meaning it was funded by, among other organizations, the U.S. State Department):

It’s also important to note that these studies do not address a number of important issues, and instead they measure abstract trends. The lack of academic rigor doesn’t concern me; it seems to me they’re measuring a wide range of the possible outcomes of education in a given country; it does concern me, however, that these trends are measuring the outcome in one year — most of the studies they’re reporting on have a six-year time span. I also fail to see why we need to evaluate the quality of training offered to recruit a next-generation workforce. There’s an argument to be made that such training (and the employment opportunities that come with it) lead to the creation of the productive citizenry the United States needs, but it doesn’t seem that that’s the best path to guide us in the next generation of study.

Another indication of the low quality of these studies is that the online educational experiences they report on tend to be heavily weighted toward rote learning. This is the case despite the fact that, like the models mentioned above, that is the basic shortcoming of all other strategies. Employers often have requirements for the particular training they’re looking for, but online classes often only provide the bare minimum of required content. That shouldn’t really be a surprise, as most employers don’t need deep-dive knowledge of copyrighted software technologies, so taking (and teaching) tutorials is likely one of the more important skills an online lecturer needs to teach. That being said, not every employer can have a hardware lab, or a networked classroom, but the vast majority can have an open data room to gain further insight into their efforts and intellectual property.

That is a broader point about what’s known as gamification, where a lot of online courses incorporate badges, virtual currency, and other micro-purchase mechanisms into the course content and distance learning delivery. The question, though, is that as game mechanics and purchase mechanisms increase the chance of students taking the course instead of reading up on how to do online courses, can you really prevent people from taking the course, making the courses, and actually completing a degree program because they do so on their own schedule? In reality, isn’t the student paying a substantial price to get the class, and just not showing up for them in an e-course like that?

We should never forget that it’s digital, digital, digital. There’s no doubt that we live in a digital age. It is simply that digital takes many forms. In the digital age we have approximately four hundred forms, and only eighty-five of them is displayed, essentially. Of the eighty-five forms, a large proportion (the eighty-five) are of the online variety. As far as our educational institutions are concerned, they have only begun to realize how fundamentally digital they are, and how digital they have become. Until they recognize this, their future cannot be assured.

You can read more of Will Verois’s work at: http://willverois.com. He also writes about technology on: http://www.dempsci.com/en/

*Mr. Verois is the Director of

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