Why Online Learning Is Bad For Students

Online programs are wonderful and overdue developments in education. Unfortunately, we shouldn’t be surprised.

Why Online Learning Is Bad For Students

Students — not teachers — will have to pay back the borrowed money, no matter how little they earn.

If you’re asking yourself why prospective employees would even consider bringing on a teacher without a college degree, then this article should suffice. The answer is that a college education is unaffordable for most Americans in the current economy, and this reality leaves young people with few opportunities other than to become the employees and the parents they are. College graduates are the only ones without a significant drop in lifetime earnings when compared to those with four-year college degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Online education lacks depth. “The technology allows learning to be scaled back to work time,” said Dominick Ficarino, a finance professor and co-director of the Center for Financial Literacy at the Yale School of Management. “What happens then? At two hours a week, is that really enough?”

There’s more to an online course than simply an avatar, a Blackboard page and videos. Instead, one must consider substance, the metrics of which include how well students learn, how useful the knowledge they gain is, and how knowledgeable they are in what they’re learning. Online courses that are built around specialized subjects like coding or data science or business courses that are not taught by actual business people may put far less emphasis on in-class learning, instead simply relying on survey research and data collection that distills real-world knowledge into its essence. It’s also difficult to get guidance on how to proceed from an instructor, in what order to write a paper, or the consequences of grading an incomplete work. These often are unattractive options for students who need a single point of contact and guidance in preparing for the post-graduation years.

Teachers also are in a position of power, which can also be an advantage in getting better students. On the one hand, most teachers are good teachers, and teaching at the master’s level is no easy task, so teachers may have an advantage in recruiting and retaining the students who are willing to attend such courses. But, Professor Ficarino said, there’s also a risk involved with hiring instructors who are not qualified for the job. If the instructor gets four A’s and three B’s, would that mean that Ficarino and his fellow faculty members have done something wrong?

“The school’s perception is that you need the best and the brightest to teach,” Ficarino said. “But a question has to be asked: are they still in the classroom being tutored by people who can make their marks, but not the best and the brightest?” It’s also easy to get frustrated with nontraditional schedules, and with students who can’t “do it online” or “get their work done” while on vacation or watching shows like YouTube Red. I recall sending an in-person assignment through the mail once to a friend who lived abroad. It took days before she received it, and the world over about how he failed a packet.

Online courses rarely align with what employers want. It’s a no-brainer that employers demand more depth and focus in job candidates and that you must differentiate yourself if you want a job. Universities are good at providing ready-made competencies, but often don’t equip students with the skills employers demand, especially in the specialized areas, leaving open the question of whether students are getting what they need. “Employers expect you to possess the core skills and knowledge in your skill group that they need to excel in their job,” Ficarino said. Employers and entrepreneurs, in general, want to know that you’ve got the real stuff down, rather than just the pretentious methods and tools.

The key takeaway, Ficarino said, is that teachers — not employers — should be in charge of offering their students the option of learning online. “This is a question of who will be in the audience, and who’s setting the standards,” he said.

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