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If you are lucky enough to be (or have a kid who’s) college bound, it’s an exciting time to be a student. Educational technology is unleashing more creative learning options than ever. Just one problem, content creation can be wildly expensive and its shelf life is short. (Stephen Laster, CIO Harvard Business School, on CIO Talk Radio, Wednesday, September 15, 2010: Can IT improve Education Governance & Business Sustainability? 25:13 – 26:17) While education is often touted as the “Great Savior” for so many problems, the frantic pace of change is creating new pressures on students and new ways to deliver learning. It will be difficult to keep pace, and there are institutional impediments to change that must be fought. (Jonathan Schaeffer, Vice Provost and Associate VP for IT, University of Alberta, Canada 26:18 – 33:51) Furthermore, accessibility to higher ed, especially during difficult times like the current one, is a hot button issue. (Jonathan: 10:39 – 11:26)While institutions are still dedicated to providing the best educational experience to anyone admitted, and providing aid to disadvantaged students, they will need to be more entrepreneurial to extend availability, especially since big research institutions find it all that much easier to attract the best known and brightest, making it all the more difficult for smaller institutions to provide comparable learning experiences. (Deidre Woods, CIO, Wharton, University of Pennsylvania: 11:27 – 12:59).
On the issue of Quality Education vs. Educational “Sticker Shock,” Steven Laster (CIO) of Harvard Business School pointed out that not every institution is right for every individual, but that technology is offering more ways to for elite institutions to create and disseminate their content so that greater quality can be available at smaller institutions. Focus on measurement and standards may even out quality across the board, and as for cost, IT may be able to halt the rate of cost inflation with peer-to-peer learning, and just in time education, as well as by reduction of administrative costs. (17:28 – 21:13)
Here is a link (http://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/about/welcome/online-learning/research.htm) to summaries on reports by researchers at various institutions discussing online education. The Sloan Consortium has free downloads here (http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/freedownloads).
POINTS TO PONDER: While institutions tout availability/accessibility for online learning, is the quality of such instruction the same as in a face-to-face classroom interaction with an instructor? Do you think students are more or less likely to graduate from an online institution?