This may be a first step toward reducing "production" costs for student credit hours.
TnTech was doing this (called Distance Education) for graduate students located in Chattanooga (TVA location). The reason is that TnTech has a research center in Power and there is also a TVA professor in my former dept. here. I had a girl in my undergraduate class whose father was working there. So, it has been common in some universities.
I am not sure if TnTech is still doing it because the professor who was teaching this class (my 92-year neighbor) retired some 15 years ago.
I should have conceded in advance that distance education and computer-based teaching have already grown enormously at U.S. universities. Measured in terms of tuition paid per credit hour, this has been a highly profitable approach.
My question relates more to learning that involves interpersonal interactions or (for the most part) graduate programs -- and not mainly "lectures" and "readings" and "click on the correct answer tests." For the most part graduate education requires in-person, group, and team interactions to be most effective. The same for many courses that use lab equipment or machines. But of course a huge part of education at both the undergrad and grad levels is solitary -- reading, writing, problem solving, drawing, etc.
I think Juris is hitting the nail on the head when he refers to distance learning's "profitability" and its use to decrease "production costs" for student credit hours.
In our state, the board members of the system and the board members of individual university campuses are nearly all corporate types and/or political party hacks, with nary an educator to be found among them. And the same is true of much of the state legislature.
Distance learning--such a highfalutin' euphemism for what used to be called correspondence courses--appeals to bean-counting state legislators and bean-counting university board members. There may be a place for it, but it's starting to become the tail that wags the educational dog. It appeals to the kind of people who consider education to be a "product," i.e., a process for delivering a marketable credential to a "consumer." It ignores and subtracts out all of the ways in which education is a social process not just been teacher and student but between students and other students, students and lecturers visiting campus, etc.
I see it as part of a larger phenomenon. We live in our detached houses, we travel around in our single-occupancy metal containers, we shop on the Internet, we "learn" through "distance" education. And then we wonder why American society seems so lonely compared to what we observe when we travel elsewhere in the world. I think it's because a lot of American society is arranged to minimize the need--but also the opportunity--to personally encounter other human beings.
Well, that's my two cents.
Which reminds me of a one of George Carlin's "imponderables": When someone offers "a penny for your thoughts" and you "give them your two cents," what happens to the other penny?
When I am home in Michigan, I live in a neighborhood.
I know my neighbors, we look out for each other, and we have neighborhood get-togethers.
I go to the Y when I am home or to an exercise class here where we spend the winter. I have plenty of social interaction.
And there is family, of course.
I loved working with students. Shortly before I retired in 2000 I got the clear sense that a number of students inclined to at least a component of online learning. But I am long gone.
However, re lack of social interaction I have noticed a single posture that seems to cross generations--the head down slumped over a smartphone. And that appears to be wholly voluntary--even if it has the distinct look of an addiction (or is the word "tethered?").
^^^I had no idea that higher education was so rife with Socialists and Communists. I guess our university must have been atypical.
Moving on, and returning to The Reality-Based World, here's a new article from The New York Times, discussing the pros and cons of jobs which involve working "remotely" at home rather than in direct personal contact with other human co-workers. I think the issues are very similar to those raised by "distance" learning.
That's a good article, Etoile. Thanks for posting it. As someone who had a career in academia, I should confess that a large majority of my work was performed at home, or at least away from frequent communication with fellow faculty members, technical staff, students, or service units on campus (including the library).
Interaction with students and colleagues was part of my routine. About a third of my career involved administrative roles. We had a curriculum to administer, and students to meet in classrooms and in office hours. As a department chair I had to deal with many personnel issues.
While I "went to work" every weekday, aside from classroom teaching, meetings and other administrative tasks most of my work was solitary: reading, doing data collection and analysis, and writing. About half of my "typical working week" of 60 hours hours were accumulated after the "standard" working hours -- during evenings, weekends, and on "vacation time".