This article is not conjecture, wishful thinking nor strategic planning. It has happened! It's happening around us. There are already programs granting credits (via CLEP) and certificates for free online offerings, which are promising some major impacts on higher education with rippling effects yet incalculable.
“Online education is not an enemy of residential education,” Hockfield said, “but rather an inspiring and liberating ally.”Is it surprising that there could be hundreds of thousands of learners eager to participate who otherwise would not have the time, money and/or confidence to enroll in traditional academic programs? What incredible discoveries, breakthroughs, inventions and intellectual adventures await the expansive class, the institution, the academic community ... the greater culture as a whole? I believe that we are going to witness the unearthing of a vast intellectual power otherwise left untapped by mere logistical obstacles! This is incredibly exciting news!
She added that in facing the dramatic changes brought about by technology, “You can choose to view this era as one of threatening change and unsettling volatility, or you can see it as a moment charged with the most exciting possibilities presented to educators in our lifetimes.”We need not be threatened by this revolution. It's time to embrace it. It's time to see that by opening the doors of our programs even wider, we are exposing more minds and hearts to education, and enhancing the richness of human potential, the depth and breadth of human knowledge and the texture of human experience.
At the present time, the courses are limited in number and entire degree programs are not yet attainable in this approach. Yet. I can't imagine that the movement will stop here. So why would a learner choose to enroll in a "traditional online program" (did you think we'd be saying THAT so soon?) rather than avail themselves of the free curriculum being offered online? What will differentiate us in the pool of global choices for an online degree?
In a word? Engagement. Engagement with an instructor or professor who personifies intellectual curiosity, wisdom, experience, dynamic breadth of knowledge, great communication skills and an insatiable desire to learn themselves. Ideally.
Wait! And assessment. How well can an automated computer program assess knowledge and learning, especially learning that is more qualitative than quantitative in nature?
But that begs the question: how well are we assessing learning NOW? Our commitment to innovative and comprehensive assessment strategies has never been more important if we want to distinguish ourselves to learners and distinguish our learners to the professional world that awaits them. Assessment presents a prime opportunity to personalize our expertise, our energy, our passion and our commitment to learning. And since the most valuable assessment strategies are interwoven deeply into the learning experience, rather than being an afterthought logistic that "seals the deal" on a grade and credit hours, we have a unique opportunity here to lead our own revolution/s.
So what is your place in this revolution? Are you pushing ahead at the front of the movement or lingering in the back to see what happens next before you decide? What are you doing today that will enhance your teaching tomorrow? How can I help?