Caution: Ostrich Posturing can be Hazardous to Your Future

But I don't think we should worry about online education being an adequate substitute for more traditional forms.  That is.......yet.
Prompted me to respond as follows:
I find interesting that the NYT chose to characterize the study's findings so positively. Perhaps the reporter read the abstract only?  For example, the study authors observe:
"the observed advantage for online learning in general, and blended learning conditions in particular, is not necessarily rooted in the media used per se and may reflect differences in content, pedagogy and learning time."
The study authors also observe:
"the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and pedagogy. It was the combination of elements in the treatment conditions (which was likely to have included additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration) that produced the observed learning advantages. At the same time, one should note that online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction."
One might take away from this that student time-on-task is the central factor driving differences observed in the meta-analysis; that online and blended (online combined with face-to-face meetings) expands student time on task. It would seem that any tool that expands the time students spend working with course material would be beneficial to the educational process.
Not addressed by the study is my hunch (yes, pure speculation) that on-line and blended course delivery requires that learning outcomes be specified with greater clarity than may be the norm for face-to-face classes. We know from the Brightman workshop that measureable student learning increases in parallel with the specificity of the learning outcomes communicated to students.
Overall, my take away is that the study suggests that course delivery method -- online, face-to-face, or blended -- is a comparatively minor factor in learning effectiveness. The study findings suggest that, from the perspective of student learning, online delivery is a viable substitute for and alternative to, face-to-face the delivery channel.
Following the classic path of a disruptive innovation, online and blended delivery bring to the table and leverage an attribute on which face-to-face instruction cannot compete. That attribute is convenience. Like it or not, students regard courses as commodities.  Given a choice between commodities, consumers will choose the more convenient alternative. Indeed, convenience can trump better performance (as witnessed when you take a photo with your phone rather than a dedicated camera). Are our course offerings competitively convenient?
For digital natives – i.e., our current and future students -- online learning is a traditional form. Online delivery is non-traditional only from the perspective of digital immigrants (i.e., those of us old enough to have lived BC … where BC could be interpreted as Before Calculators and/or Before personal Computers). Bowling Green just opened a new middle school.  The school is designed for distance learning. This is the norm, not an exception. Imagine the expectations those digital natives will have when they come to college!
We in higher ed ignore these market dynamics at great peril.

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