The popularity of the entirely online class, despite questions about quality, is spreading. Now even many regular colleges are developing courses that students can access without ever leaving their rooms. According to an article by Trip Gabriel in the New York Times:
Online education is best known for serving older, nontraditional students who can not travel to colleges because of jobs and family. But the same technologies of “distance learning” are now finding their way onto brick-and-mortar campuses, especially public institutions hit hard by declining state funds. At the University of Florida, for example, resident students are earning 12 percent of their credit hours online this semester, a figure expected to grow to 25 percent in five years.
Many students at the University of Florida now take whole classes in their pajamas, simply watching lectures online. It’s often convenient for students who now don’t have to wake up early and walk across campus to class. But it’s not for the sake of the students that the university is pushing online courses. As Gabriel explains,
The University of Florida broadcasts and archives Dr. [Mark] Rush’s [Microeconomics] lectures less for the convenience of sleepy students… than for a simple principle of economics: 1,500 undergraduates are enrolled and no lecture hall could possibly hold them.
Right. The trouble here is that Florida wants to pack 1,500 students in a class taught by one professor. Due to budget cuts the university only wants to pay one person, but it wants to keep all those paying students.
But despite the fact that the course is cheap to administer and arguably not as good as a real course (if a student doesn’t understand something, Rush sure isn’t going to be able to help), the classes aren’t any cheaper for students to take. Students pay the same tuition no matter how the university chooses to administer the course. [Image via]