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Archive for August, 2010

College in the New World

Technology and College: A Match Made in Heaven?

Wow, talk about a controversial subject. I’ve been teaching in higher education for almost twenty years, and in the beginning, computers were not even used in classrooms, let alone any discussions of computer-based classes. Then came email which had everyone all in a tizz — attachments? OMG — that was cause for chaos and cold sweats. Things progressed more quickly, and then with lightening speed. Every new school year, training session after training session were held for this, that, or the other thing, always having to do with computers. Soon the classroom were technology enabled with the instructors having control over computer, projector, television/VCR, and whatever else could plug in and be projected.

I was one of the lucky ones. On my job at the time, I was involved with technology since its very early days. As each stage came along, it was merely a matter of quick updating for me, and when the classrooms became technology enabled, I was in my glory.

I taught in a liberal arts college for many moons, and unfortunately, my colleagues were generally not technology savvy  — or willing. I often found myself in a position of helping out, which was fine. But then came the next phase, and that was online classes. What wasn’t fine was the overtly negative, even condemning attitudes, of many of my liberal arts colleagues.

As technology goes, so did the evolution of college from a few online classes here and there to full-fledged online colleges. Wow. No surprise,  the introduction of online colleges was accompanied by wails of woe and cries of condemnation from many in traditional higher education institutions.

Now, let’s step back a minute. Being able to attend the traditional college means having scheduling flexibility, physical capability, and transportation. Many, many people do not have one of all three of these things. Some people have families to take care of and can’t afford the child care that would be  necessary for them to attend school.  Some people have anxiety so bad that to sit in a physical classroom would be agony. And there are people who travel for their jobs where the necessary absences from class would jeopardize their ability to pass.

Now, with online classes and online degrees, the options become wider and the playing field much bigger for both instructors and students. I teach in an online college and after some initial trepidation, I love it. I love the students (mostly) because of their earnest, focused, committed approach to their education (mostly), and I love the school for its professionalism and support.

There are those traditionalists who balk about the quality of online college education. To them I say, try it! Having taught in both environments I can unequivocally say that the online college is by far the most challenging, by far, of the two.