Excellent Op-Ed (And From Me, How to Hold Colleges Feet to Fire with Online Access)

Here’s What Will Truly Change Higher Education: Online Degrees That Are Seen as Official – NYTimes.com.

From my perspective, as a former math professor, this excellent article misses only one important point about the conflict between traditional colleges and online courses – a point that my experience teaching from an online MIT course at Washington U. in St. Louis, makes clear.

Many traditional colleges, seeing students as “customers”, teach only what those customers “think they need to know”, not what “they need to know”.

Here is an example of how online courses can expose this strategy.

When I taught a math course that is a critical requirement for engineers, I utilized the available MIT online materials. Those materials were excellent, but challenging. My chair and the administrators from the Engineering school were upset.

My Chair told me that he wasn’t going to let the Engineering School take away (the apparently highly lucrative) course and he demanded that I teach the normal “cookbook” course.

When I wrote the Dean of Eng. Student Academic Integrity that the students who cheated on the homework were the ones who did poorly on the test, he replied that I shouldn’t “discourage” students and that “retention” was critical.

(The documented story is on my blog inside-higher-ed .)

On the web, one can access both the MIT course (which I did teach) and the “cookbook” course that Wash. U., and others, usually teach. That way, the value of online courses will be apparent; and, some so-called “elite” schools will have to clean up their act.

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