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Study: 80 percent of professors uneasy about online class quality

Faculty age, subject taught, accreditation contribute to overall instruction perception

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:00 am

The new frontier that concerns educators is distance learning, according to a study by Inside Higher Ed and the Babson Survey Research Group.

Fifty-eight percent of faculty members surveyed said online education is more fearful than exciting. The study reported 80

percent of administration staff was more excited about distance learning than frightened.

According to Inside Higher Ed, this fear is sparked from most teachers – 61 percent of them – not having much experience with online or blended classroom technology. The study reported that “75 percent of the respondents were full-time faculty members, many of whose teaching careers predate the online boom.”

David DeSilvio, part-time faculty member in the Wayne State Department of History, said he has taught history for 10 years and

does not believe that online courses are the best for every subject. He said he rarely uses technology in his classroom, tries to interact with the students and encourages them to read the text.

“The classroom offers better learning opportunities,” DeSilvio said. “The face-to-face interaction is important.”

This is where most faculty members and administration start

to divide. Researchers have begun to answer the question, “Is distance learning more beneficial than traditional?”

“Students in blended classrooms—those that combined traditional

and online instructional elements—did better than both purely online and purely traditional students,”according to distance

Studies from the Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online

Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies,

released by the U.S. Department of Education, found online education to be beneficial.

The teachers’ educational experiences contradict the governmental studies and become more apparent when dealing with for-profit institutions.

“Nearly 80 percent of all faculty said they were concerned about

the quality of online instruction at for-profit universities, with only about 7 percent actively defending those institutions,” according to

Accreditation is a major factor for students and employers. If a

student receives a degree that is not considered acceptable to employers, then the education they paid for is null and void. The quality of online for profit entities is sometimes questioned by students.

“I am taking online classes right now, and it seems to be going well, but I am taking these classes through Wayne State – a school that already has its accreditation,” WSU freshman Chiara Woods said. “I understand why some students would worry about it if they only attend an online college.”

When Inside Higher Ed asked survey participants whether online

education could be as effective as the face-to-face education, “only 29 percent of respondents who did not teach online said it can.” Among those surveyed who do teach online, however, “66 percent said online (education) is capable of matching

face-to-face instruction on learning outcomes.”

Universities are incorporating these types of classes to attract

different types of students, as there is a market for returning graduates and non-traditional students.

“Personally, after working in higher education, I would not recommend (online learning),” Yousif B. Ghafari Hall Community Director Carlos Northern said. “However, they work well for some people who are better at doing work independently and don’t require a physical classroom to learn. Parents, students with ailing family members and students who work heavy hours at a job to pay for college may also prefer online classes.”

More options for distance learning could potentially encourage

traditional college students to participate online rather than attending universities.

“There is a decent amount of on-campus residents that take online

classes to avoid the hassle of having to go to a class. I find it weird, but it works for many of them,” Northern said. “It just means that we need to find a better way to engage students in their living environment.”

The study reported that online education can be “an effective

method for many ages and subject matters. This includes college-level, graduate and professional studies— and many different types of degree programs.”

The study, however, makes a point that students who are “on

task in online classes tend to learn more than students in traditional classroom setting.” Successful online students need to possess skills in time management, independent learning, comprehension and technology, according to

“Of course, something can always be lost when there is a lack of physical contact or communication between people,” Northern said. “Online classes aren’t going anywhere; it’s our turn to meet the change rather than let the change meet us.”

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