Chicken sandwiches and presidential politics aside, perhaps no topic is as divisive in the United States these days as the future of higher education and its relationship with the Internet. The results of a recent nationwide survey underscore that notion.
More than 1,000 Internet experts, researchers, observers and users were polled in the Pew Internet/Elon University survey, called Bricks and Clicks: What is the potential future of higher education and the Internet by 2020? In their responses, some technology stakeholders view online learning as the savior of higher education, while others feel the Internet will spell doom for enriching learning experiences.
A few highlights:
- 60 percent agreed with a statement that by 2020 “there will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning … [and] a transition to ‘hybrid’ classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings.”
- Many of the respondents who agreed with the above statement are fearful that Web-based learning “will lack the personal, face-to-face touch they feel is necessary for effective education,” according to Pew Internet Project director Lee Rainie.
- Conversely, others feel the use of more technology will only enhance the learning opportunities. One respondent wrote, “Technology will allow for more individualized, passion-based learning by the student, greater access to master teaching and more opportunities for students to connect to others [...]”
The complete study paints an elaborate picture of the perceived benefits and faults of Internet-based learning, with an analysis of major themes and arguments made by the respondents.
This debate of good vs. bad also recently took shape in a New York Times op-ed piece that claims Internet-based courses cannot provide a “real” education. That spurred a respected technology blogger to write a response in favor of all education — delivered online or face-to-face.