Lets take a look at the teaching economy market as well as the major trends that have impacted and continue to impact it.
When Did Mooc Impact Online Learning Enviornment
An anti-academic organization is releasing a new report that seeks to discredit access to online learning. The study was reportedly commissioned by a nonprofit group called Legal Schools of America. The “study” relies on a company called Academic Edge to provide the result. The company website contains no more disclosure than a generic disclaimer, and anyone who is interested can look up the details on this Bilerico Project website. Also, a full-page advertisement for this report appears in today’s New York Times, and shows an open web browser, which would be relatively easy to guess should a less than competent reporter not have noticed.
The research team of Jayne Cox, Jeremy Croy, Karen Devore, and Gary Horton quoted studies from 2010 showing that when people are offered a choice between attending an expensive brick-and-mortar institution and attending a free online program, just 35 percent of the time they choose the online program. After noting that online education has significantly increased in recent years, the researchers concluded that they had done a good job and decided to discuss the future of higher education.
Of course, 35 percent is a rather large number, and the authors made an effort to point out how the number could be deceptive, since some subjects may be too young to understand the statement. A first instinct is to see the dubious research as purely an anti-online learning tool of a partisan outfit, or an effort to make public higher education funding a political issue. I also think it probably has an ideological origin, and it was likely designed to be either good for Republican constituencies or motivated by a desire to project the academic authority of traditional educators.
Still, in my professional opinion, more researchers should conduct such surveys. The educational experience is influenced by a huge range of factors beyond the virtual classroom. Students become emotionally attached to the school environment, professors or administrators often look good on paper, and the skill set of faculty members often varies from university to university. A bit of misdirection can and should be considered in marketing most content, but this company’s methodology isn’t helping itself in this instance. It’s probably designed to upset some people, but if the results are accurate, it’s pushing a message of anti-online learning that is nonsense. People do more than read something online and have a good experience.
A few more examples of methods that were used to produce poor results include:
Understatement. Supposedly prospective students are being asked to endorse multiple claims (e.g., “Compared to attending an expensive brick-and-mortar institution, visiting this online course will be much more fun!”) In reality, they are asked about an individual program and are asked to leave out any relevant information. In using the term “online,” the companies imply that it’s a convenient pastime, which is generally not the case. Admission rates. The authors never mention the statistic that according to Department of Education statistics, not one campus discriminates against applicants based on characteristics such as “race, color, national origin, gender, or religion.” Other results are questionable as well. As has been widely reported, graduation rates for online and traditional schools are comparable.
At the conclusion of the article, the authors recommend that the traditional one-size-fits-all method of distributing undergraduate and graduate degrees be replaced by an “online world,” which they identify as a single, public institution. This seems like a better approach to the problems than one single institution trying to claim to do all things.
Overall, this is a bad article, and the company that released it should be ashamed of itself. In hindsight, their research should be denounced. It’s unfortunate that a few of the organizations that have generated the supposedly unbiased studies are also the beneficiaries of public subsidies.
If there’s someone reading this whom you think should be ashamed of themselves, do them a favor and take them out to lunch.