Everybody Ready for the Big Migration to Online College? Actually, No

One consequence of coronavirus: It will become more apparent that good online education is easier said than done.

Comments: 252

  1. "The reason that many colleges are signing away up to 70 percent of future online tuition revenue to private for-profit companies is that those firms offer the financial capital and expertise needed to convert traditional courses online." That's very disturbing.

  2. @Sirlar Agree! It’s extremely disturbing. Not sure what is really going on with Corona Virus panic but wondering if Fed Reserve has crashed and burned and how that will affect the education in this country?

  3. @Diane Marie Hopefully, the privately-owned "Federal Reserve" has (or soon will) crash(ed) and burn(ed). When the US government takes back the power to create its own currency from these private bankers, then we may begin to see the emergence of "democracy" and real higher education in the USA.

  4. @Sirlar Why is this disturbing? It seems like a reasonable approach, particularly for a lot of the core courses.

  5. As a graduate student in business, I take half my classes online and half in person. I do love the convenience of online classes and being able to go back and repeat parts of the lecture, but there is no way to really ask questions and forget any kind of Socratic debate. I also miss interacting and building bonds with fellow students in online classes. Skype, WeChat, and text chats are sad substitutes to face-to-face conversations before and after class.

  6. @Kate: I once sat with a friend, a retired DuPont senior executive, who taught an advanced course in finance for Tulane Grad School of Business, from his house in Pennsylvania. He was able to interact with questions from students online, and he was able to manage discussion among students. I was quite amazed! The students in this virtual classroom were widely scattered geographically -- some foreign. How it worked, I cannot say, but it most certainly seemed to me, as an observer sitting next to the prof, to be working just fine.

  7. I am a full-time online student from Europe, studying at an American University. Many years ago, I attended the same university as a traditional student, so I also experienced in-person education. I am in my third semester online. Having taken classes in Summer 2019, Fall 2019, and Spring 2020, I can state that the environment and experience of online learning is rich, rewarding, and the comprehensiveness is on par with in-person instruction. Nonetheless, I don't think online learning will work for everyone. Some just need personal interaction to bounce ideas off of each other face-to-face. Of course, my online environment provides discussion groups and collaboration, but it really is not the same. And, naturally, one of the biggest reasons young people go to college (besides learning) is to meet new people, with new ideas, and build friendships and contacts for life. This is very difficult, if not impossible, online. However, as with working from home, the online learning possibilities presented by modern society are getting an unanticipated shot in the arm (sorry for the vaccination metaphor), and I think these may end up being two of the unintended positive consequences of the current dilemma. But, how can we justify making students pay for dorms they can no longer use, and a higher price for class hours than is typically charged online, now they are now being forced into this situation? Moving online may allow for education to continue, with further economic impact.

  8. Please address the question of the internet becoming overloaded and, in some cases crashing because of the load. My internet is already experiencing a slowdown because of people choosing to not circulate in public as much, and being online more. Our carrier is also about to declare bankruptcy.

  9. @Taylor Elon Musk is attempting to solve these problems with his 5G satellite launches. Soon there will be no place on Earth without internet access. Of course, we may also see an increase in 5G/microwave-induced diseases , but who cares when we can download entire movies (or university courses) in just seconds from anywhere on Earth.

  10. Universities are chomping at the bit to have a test run at on-line education. This is not really a plus at all. Over time, there will be massive reductions in professor staffs and many other associated jobs at universities, and throughout the towns with universities. The net effect will be a lower quality education and growth experience for the students, and far fewer jobs for talented people. Then the universities can turn to their real obsession: real estate development in all locations (not just at the university).

  11. @Kevin Except that students don't actually like online learning. And neither do faculty. That's why MOOCs didn't survive. Everyone hated them. And they were ineffective.

  12. @Cam But Kevin is saying follow the money.

  13. @Kevin People aren't going to pay absurd fees for online classes. That's the end of it. Khan Academy is free and if people have to go online that's where they're going to go. I agree the universities are trying to go online, but they don't really seem to understand where their value lies

  14. I'm a teacher and administrator at a local private university. We are facing these challenges right now. Having to move-on line quickly will be big challenge. Behind the big push to move on-line, however, there remains one basic reality--many people prefer having a face-to-face element. So for those of you worrying that universities will lay off all their faculty and move fully online--it isn't going to happen. Universities have to respond to what students want and need, and despite all our attempts at customization, convenience, and making online learning sexy, most students, most of the time, prefer a face-to-face experience.

  15. While I commend the effort to move classes online there are many disciplines that just can't be taught that way because they require hands-on learning. - Many science courses require lab work: chemistry, geology, physics, biology, etc. - Many courses require field work: geology, anthropology and archeoology, for example - Many courses require clinical work: law schools; medical training including doctors, nurses, technicians, dentists; - Many courses require working with materials and critiques: design fields including fine arts, industrial design, product design, packaging design, architecture and related fields - Music instruction (composing, creating music, learning instruments, etc) - Dance and physical education courses and training; - Engineering--much is classroom work that can be done online but much is also hands-on creating of structures, with groups. There's only so much online learning that can be done

  16. As a tuition-paying parent of a college student, I am concerned about the quality of learning being compromised by the loss of on-site, in-person instruction. Students at my son’s university will complete the latter half of spring semester online. As there is no comparable replacement for the lab portion of his three physical sciences courses, I’m having a hard time conceiving how the courses’ objectives will be met. As students are already too far along into the semester for classes to be canceled, finishing what’s left of the semester via online delivery does make the most sense, though the case could be made for resuming normal delivery of classes in the summer, if one were optimistic about the pandemic being quelled sooner than later. If in subsequent semesters the need for online classes remains, families would need to seriously consider whether their students, particularly those studying in the disciplines listed in the original post, should postpone pursuing their education.

  17. @Amy Lee I totally agree with you. Even though I teach online, I still believe that students still have better "a ha" moments in face-to-face instruction. Concerning quality, why would someone pay such high tuition for an online course at a private college/university than at a community college (who have developed pedagogically robust courses for years). My recommendation is that parents and students consider taking freshman and sophomore level basic education courses at community colleges during the summer.

  18. @Alive and Well Don't forget any professional degree, medicine dentistry or in our case aviation technology. You cannot weld online.

  19. The very nature of an education needs to be re-examined in view of the availability of so much information on the internet.

  20. @ndbza I think all of us in higher education *have* adjusted the way we teach in light of in internet resources. For example, we have to do more teach students how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information; we also have to address issues of plagiarism, intellectual honesty, and intellectual property differently when so much can be cut-and-pasted. But an education is not just the acquisition of "information." It's the development of habits of thought and inquiry that cannot just be googled and downloaded.

  21. @KSE: As an academic librarian I'd like to recommend your comment multiple times!

  22. These schools will use remote synchronous classes. That process, outside labs and performance sessions, is the same as a company’s team meeting. Remote asynchronous learning is totally different. That process is what on-line schools really do. None of these schools will do that path, not without the serious prep work. The author should make clearer the distinction.

  23. @Michael Blazin Some are looking into the eventuality that internet issues, and the fact that students are spread over many time zones, will not allow for synchronous classes. I imagine a Harvard student in Hawaii with a 9 AM EDT class.

  24. As a recently retired geology professor whose university has moved classes on-line for the foreseeable future, I am thinking about how I would handle the course I would have been teaching this term-Field Geology of the Northeast. It had 3 one-day trips, a 5-day trip (to West Virginia) and a 3-day trip (to NH/VT). Virtual is not possible, and even if it was, the person operating the camera is deciding what to "look" at, not the student (which is a big part of what we're trying to teach here). While this is an extreme example, the situation is similar for other lab and field work in other sciences. There are reasons why, despite huge efforts to "reform" the system, instruction is still taking place in much the same way it has since the first university was founded in Bologna almost 800 years ago.

  25. @Larry Davis Online colleges have more than one solution to this. First, they have regular meetings in person for such things as labs and field trips. Two, labs and field trips can be done by the individual student on their own. These work.

  26. @Jim Those work because they were developed that way and the students signed up knowing what was expected and there is still a field element. If my university switches to online only after our brief suspension, my dendrology lab students will not receive the same quality of instruction and will not learn as much material as my previous students. Why? Because I cannot expect them to go to our field sites and find the specimens as some students will likely be scattered all over the state and country as residence halls will be closed. The set up you're describing is not online-only, which is the situation we are facing.

  27. As an adjunct, I teach two courses at a small 2-year college in Florida. As of yesterday, its president resolutely refuses to close, saying that migration to online courses is being developed. I teach English Composition. It could easily be done just with email--BUT only if students are responsible and responsive. I'm 67, not a good risk group. Considering what adjuncts are compensated, I have to really weigh whether or not it's worth continuing. It's 50 students for three hours twice a week. I don't go anywhere else on campus. I'm trying get some direction from my doctor but nothing forthcoming yet.

  28. @pendragn52 - MFA in Writing programs are done effectively today through email, teleconferencing, phone calls, etc. as well as classroom instruction, which is really just talking about the pieces written by their peers, why they work or don't and how they might be improved. Good luck and stay well.

  29. @pendragn52 Tell him that Google has a program that is low cost or free called CANVAS. It does have to be implemented. There is also Blackboard which I like, and it took takes a great deal of technical implementation. But either way, there are in place active and good systems for students to learn long distance.

  30. This is the most perceptive article I have seen on the reality about colleges suddenly moving their curriculum to an online format. You cannot move classes to an online format in two or three days. A retired university professor

  31. @MSchrock Actually you can. There are universities that are already doing this. If the university already has the technology infrastructure in place to support online learning, it's not that difficult to video record lectures, present the Powerpoint slides for the lectures and have discussion boards where student can discuss the course material. Students can collaborate in real-time on group projects using Google Docs. Today's students are fluent on the use of technology and are very comfortable using a variety of tools they can probably adapt better to this than most professors, who tend to be very rigid in regard to change their teaching methods. I've actually seen this done at Michigan State University.

  32. @Carl I think what MSchrock is saying is that professors cannot just take all their courses and convert them to online with the push of a button. It takes time and thought to redesign courses for online, as you know, and 2-3 days is not enough time. Yes, the technology is there. But the heavy labor still has to be done by individual faculty.

  33. @Carl You are talking about one university, likely for a minority of students attending, and where planning took place rather than a reaction during a panic pandemic. Much of the online tools will be overwhelmed with so many switching to it overnight and without planning or instruction.

  34. I must admit. Online learning can be an efficient tool. For many students it can facilitate learning as effectively as in class instruction. As a college student during the 70s and 80s online learning was virtually nonexistent outside of videotape recordings of lectures. Personally I have no problem with online courses, and in most cases, actually preferring the format. However many students need the hands-on tactical environment of the classroom. In addition, there are obvious examples in which online learning would be a challenge (science classes with labs for example). Online learning can be a very efficient and profitable tool used by for-profit universities. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet, with its vast reservoir of knowledge, will initiate a societal re-examination of what an education actually entails. This current pandemic may very well force many paradigm pedagogic shifts.

  35. The university where I teach is switching to online instruction Monday. I downloaded the video conferencing program for which my institution has a license and started a session last night to do a trial run. It worked like a charm. The real test will start Monday when I actually "meet" for the first time with students online. Fortunately, all my classes this semester are small seminars, so it should not be very difficult to handle online discussions. If all goes well it shouldn't be too much different from holding a video conference call as many businesses now do. What remains to be seen is how well a sustained learning environment can be maintained online. I will be teaching from home, but students may be online in spaces where there are a lot of distractions. I am at once cautious yet optimistic that we can make this happen in ways that provide a good model for future scenarios when in-person instruction is complicated by severe weather, natural disasters, or other acts of nature.

  36. @Metaphor: I hope that the positive experience continues for you online. I'm an academic librarian at one of the small four-year liberal arts institutions in the State University of New York system, & had a senior come to see me almost in tears. She had tried out the online system w/a seminar class & found it to be, frankly, terrible. It was text only & slow/unresponsive. A discussion wasn't possible. She's also taking a piano pedagogy class & uses a piano on campus, as she doesn't own one, & doesn't know what she'll do if campus closes completely. I don't know if things will improve in a few days; I'm hoping so, but based on how things have been going this semester already (the library staff is temporarily encamped in a building because the library building is closed due to asbestos being found just after New Year's...& many of our personal belongings & most of the library's collections are trapped in the building w/no plan to get them out anytime soon), I'm not expecting things to go smoothly.

  37. On-line humanities professor here. One cannot underestimate the challenges to learning on-line courses impose upon students. Despite its convenience, a student must possess the diligence, discipline, intelligence, honesty, and academic ambition to succeed in on-line coursework. My experience has been that at least one third of on-line enrollees drop out, withdraw, or submit minimal work for an on-line course. In a brick and mortar course with person-to-person instructional contact, the professor can better engage and motivate more students to pursue work to successful conclusion. No number of on-line bells and whistles works as well, alas. Institutions of higher education need to anticipate that conversion of all coursework to on-line may well adversely affect student retention, even if one assigns the very best instructors to the courses. There are indeed other important issues involved here (e.g., instructor preparation; content management; tech support; supplementary student support services; et. al.), but at the end of the day one must acknowledge that many students (and faculty) will find on-line formatting to be pedagogically too challenging and ultimately an inferior educational experience.

  38. @Holly Thank you for your insightful comments. As a graduate school adjunct for over 20 years, I have experienced an increase with all on-line courses, and observed similar situations with these learners. Overall, I find the more research-based and technical concepts most effective and suited for this communication style. However, may topics do not receive the depth of discussion that I enjoyed in a classroom setting (put those phones away, LOL).

  39. @Holly I write from real-time experience. The quality of the instructional information is at issue during online instruction. College textbooks are notoriously flawed, inaccurate, factually erroneous, and so on. That fact is amplified when a college "goes with" a particular publisher which provides online tests for its textbooks. Those tests are equally as problematic as the junkie content of the textbook. Only at very high level and expensive colleges/Universities will you find an online instructor who not only knows her stuff but knows the entire milieu of reliable technical content, which can be exhaustive.

  40. @Holly You correctly note that "a student must possess the diligence, discipline, intelligence, honesty, and academic ambition to succeed in on-line coursework" and that "at least one third of on-line enrollees drop out, withdraw, or submit minimal work for an on-line course." These are the students that should never have been in college in the first place.

  41. Like most college students, some of my classes were large lectures with little interaction between students and lecturer or among students. Some lecturers were engaging, some were dull, but all could have been viewed remotely, live or on-demand. The back of a 300 seat lecture hall was already quite remote! On the other hand, I also had some small classes with 15-20 students and a professor, with lots of engagement and interaction. Those were the best classes, the ones with questions and challenges and instruction not available in a book or set of Power Point slides. Those were the classes that taught me to think. It is inevitable that on-line instruction will expand significantly. The current pandemic is just a big push in that direction. But, there should always be a place for classroom instruction as well.

  42. @MEM As a frosh at MIT, I took independent-paced Calculus and it was liberating. No internet, it didn't exist - just me in the Math Room. Calculus was the exception. The rest of the classes were large/medium/small classes taught by great researchers but mostly terrible teachers. Further, they did not want to see you - if you look at their posted office hours and you don't get that message, then maybe you are dumber than you think. So, I learned to think on my own. I can do that today online.

  43. @Alf No one has ever learned to think on their own without the presence of living, breathing, in-the-flesh fellow humans. Our minds are literally shaped by the presence of others, living as a part of a community. We would never acquire language itself any other way.

  44. @MEM I am now at a 50-yr “distance” from my university experience. No question the classes I remember vividly are the 300-400 level courses where 15-25 students interacted with a fine prof. AND the teeny conversational sections where we practiced beginner-level for-langs. Of the huge core-course lectures, only those of a singularly accomplished international expert in his field – which could of course be delivered online today. However the reading and big papers I did for those courses also taught me a great deal about “how to think” – that domain is not restricted to small classes and superb teachers. Remember “reading for the law”? Many wise and accomplished thinkers of an earlier time got their education through reading and correspondence. Those lacking the motivation and dogged perseverance to learn under less than ideal circumstances will struggle, period.

  45. I taught on campus at Brandeis University and at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. I now teach online at Embry-Riddle. The two options were like stations on the radio dial - pick the one you like. I say were because online is now becoming the de facto channel. To make online work, one needs: - disciplined and persistent students - faculty that are available As a professor, I give my students my cell phone and tell them to call, text, whatsapp, or email. Students must feel like they are not alone and that you are walking alongside them, as it were. Otherwise, the experience will not be the same as an on campus course, especially that of a seminar-like setting, which is probably the optimal.

  46. @Alf Yes, but this is still really limited in its scope. I teach an introduction to sculpture class which is now going online. We were in the middle of a woodshop assignment, which was to be turned in after spring break. I have some ideas for 3D modeling, but that's one skill in a class that was intended to introduce them to a range of very, very hands on skills. Texting, whatsapp, etc isn't useful if you don't have access to the facilities you need (a woodshop, or a science laboratory). I get that this is necessary right now and I am in no way opposed to it, but I think the reality is that some courses - my partner teaches ceramics! We're still stumped on that one - won't translate well no matter what sort of supplementary technology or materials we have available to us.

  47. @Dale Agreed. You teach a class that should be presential. I don't. My classes are all "quant" so all you need is a spreadsheet. That said, the key weakness of online classes, especially quant ones, is that the problems are not refreshed every time the course is taught. This saves money but does not prevent students from posting solutions online for others to copy. I bristle at that and change my course questions every term. That's the price and I am willing to pay it. Most schools don't pay it.

  48. I fear that my university will declare the move to online to be a great success -- regardless of the reality -- and that we never go back. Online classes save lots of money and fit the ideology that we are here to create and disseminate knowledge, and that students are passive recipients (customers) rather than co-creators of that knowledge. I think this is terribly misguided but the attractions of the revenues without the costs are, I fear, going to be irresistible to deans and presidents.

  49. Online college will never be as good as the real thing -- and it may never even be good. It is a necessary compromise in quality these days, considering our economy and world. This is a tragic reality of a world brimming with inequality.

  50. Holly NYC comments are spot on regarding the challenges of converting to online classes. Readers’ comments on the benefits and difficulties of distance education are all valid points. But the real discussion should focus on the immediate conversion of face-to-face courses to online instruction and learning. As a science instructor at a major university, I taught majors face-to face courses, hybrid courses and online courses. One online course typically enrolls about 650 students each semester. Adapting face-to-face courses to online instruction basically overnight is a major challenge to faculty, especially if faculty has never taught in online format. Learning management systems like Canvas and Blackboard are organizational backbones to courses, but it takes time and creativity to develop meaningful alternative curriculum. The laboratory sections cannot be replicated online and at this late date in the semester there is no catch up. Video conferencing is only one component of adapting instruction from a distance. Faculty need support too!

  51. These interim situations are not really on-line classes. They are just regular classes where people are in different rooms, at the same time. No recordings, no archives, no on-line texts. You email take home exams, essays and papers to the professor. The professor sends out handouts, if applicable, via e mail prior to class. Private firms have successfully done it with simple tools for years. The problems and prep issues occur at the student side, not the school. If a student just wings his set up prep, he will be the one that suffers.

  52. I am a retired high school Mathematics teacher who has been teaching on-line "live" classes for the past 10 years. These are NOT just "watch and work" videos but a live classroom where full interaction among students and teacher can occur on an electronic shared whiteboard with all the features need by most teacher. Video is available so that students and teacher may see each other, uploading of documents to be shared in the classroom, drawing tools and graphing grid are included and classes are all recorded for absentees or for those students wishing to view the lesson again. One of my hopes is that such an online classroom might encourage more personalized interactions among the teacher and the students, something,I find, often missing in college classrooms compared with high school classrooms. I find that teaching an online class in this manner is the next best things to being in a classroom with students which certainly is the very best way to teach. So university teachers in this environment where they teach smaller classes anyway would not have any extra time needed to prepare for such classes. They could simply continue teaching from home on the same schedule they already use and the students just come to the class using their browser. Certainly not all courses can be taught this way but Mathematics in particular works very well in such an environment. Support for other types of classes could also be handled this way as could tutoring perhaps.

  53. During this crisis, many adjuncts will be called upon to teach online courses. We have been in the front lines since the beginning of the revolution of online learning in higher education. We worked side by side with instructional designers to develop vibrant, content rich and student focused online courses that rivaled if not surpassed the learning objectives of face-to-face courses. Having taught online courses for over 15 years, I can attest to a time when some full-time faculty looked down at adjuncts who taught "distance learning" courses. Well, our time has come and we will meet the challenge and showcase how our pedagogical flexibility, digital know-how, and student centered approach to online learning.

  54. @JRF Adjuncts have been the vanguard of teaching but they are paid poorly and are often looked down by the tenured faculty. Universities are essentially mismanaged and rely on adjuncts to shore up their budgets. Further, universities produce too many PhDs for too few jobs. The situation may get better with the increase in online teaching. I am not optimistic, though. There are too many PhDs out there hustling for teaching positions and it's a buyers' market.

  55. I teach at a community college in class only although I have taught online. While I can adapt and move to online, we need to talk more about the students who signed up for in class and are now being forced online. While I agree with the need, I do worry about the students. I intend to simplify. I cannot put up a full online course as my students did not enroll in that course. I'll make it easy to use and to learn while knowing some students will struggle to succeed. I'll devote extra time and resources to helping all my students do the best they can. Do I want to do this in less than a week? No. But it will get done. My focus, as it should be for any faculty moving online, is my students. How do I help them in this unprecedented situation. If I keep that in mind, we'll all be OK.

  56. I work for an online program at a highly respected, research university. I don't think anything can replace face-to-face learning, but I do think after this pandemic has subsided, we'll see an increase in colleges investing even more in IT and ensuring that all students, faculty, and staff have access to work remotely in the future. There are faculty at my university who have not been trained to teach remotely and that will to be a major problem for those having to quickly learn how to do this. I also fear for smaller colleges that do not have the tech resources to provide for all faculty/staff.

  57. 1. I have a degree in library science that was earned completely online. In preference to my next statement, I will note that I had worked in libraries as staff or a student worker prior to that time for somewhere around 6 years. With all respect to the institution where the degree was earned, online learning is, largely, lots of busy-work and a whole lot of self-teaching. Personally, I would not hire someone whose degree was from all or mostly online courses, and I'd question most any online classwork. 2. I am finishing up a BFA in studio arts. Bluntly, there is no reasonable, much less practical, way to study (or teach, I am sure) studio arts online because it is all hands-on work. While one can set up a studio at home, it is expensive and, for much of it, requires specialized (read: expensive) equipment and furnishings (from kilns to easels to print beds), modified and installed safety items (plumbing, waste reclamation for oil-based paints, solvents, etc., proper venting, etc.), and thus, generally not practical for the budding artist or craftsperson. As well, let your insurer get wind that you're oil painting or doing metal work, etc., at home, and you'd best be prepared for a major increase in your insurance(s), if not a cancelation for those who don't want to deal with an acetylene tank in the "shed out back". So, this "virtual" education is problematic for certain fields, even one who focuses on drawing, such as myself.

  58. @DKM "In preference..." Well, that's pretty embarrassing. Ahem. "To *preface* my next statement..." I'd blame it on aging, but I refuse to submit to Old Age. Sigh.

  59. So many people scorn online college classes or degrees; yet, in the real world professionals and regular employees use online classes all the time to gain certifications to move up in their jobs. I realize many of these certifications are fluff, but there are good ones (and some required for employment). So why is that good enough for serious work, but can't be used and recognized respectfully for higher education?

  60. I have three degrees gained with traditional physical campus attendance at state universities, and one degree from a public online university (Western Governors' University, BS cybersecurity 2018). My online degree is by far the least expensive, since I was able to move at a rapid pace without paying extra tuition to do that. The WGU quality was also good, and I gained several valuable industry cybersecurity certifications along the way. I didn't need much personalization, and the available topics are limited, but if your interest is in computing technology or another WGU offering, I urge you to look into WGU. I avoided the for-profit online options; WGU was a lot less expensive.

  61. Great article. On the other hand my provost just sent an email saying how great the 2000 zoom classes are going. I guess there must be 2001 classes

  62. Given the ridiculous cost of a college education these days, I would hope that these institutions would dip into their overgrown and overblown endowments to help ensure all students have reliable internet access and a decent laptop. Wait. Who am I kidding?

  63. @Kat The universities and colleges with enormous endowments are doing fine making sure their students are connected. It's the ones without enormous endowments that are having trouble. Which makes sense, if you think half a second about it.

  64. College is a joke. Have you been inside a lecture hall at 1000 AM? it is completely empty. The students that are present are texting or on their phones. When I went to college I was expecting intellectual curiosity and seriousness towards studies. In fact most are squandering their parents money or financial aid. Make military or civil service a requirement for the first two years. At least it will reduce all the unnecessary student debt.

  65. @Jonny K. Guess you have visited the wrong schools. The students at the universities where I have taught are largely brilliant, dedicated and extremely hard working. I am fortunate and proud to work with them.

  66. @Jonny K What is 1000 AM?

  67. @chris That could be why the lecture hall was empty then.

  68. Well, only a fool thinks the right time to plan and execute an online education is in a mad panic during a pandemic. Zoom is going to fail, I suspect, when all these students attempt to use it at the same time. The Internet is likely going to slow with all the additional traffic of video/audio streaming. Ancient professors simply won't know how to use this, and we'll likely hear about lots of "can you hear me now" type stories. We'll find out Monday....

  69. @David The "can you hear me now" stories are not just because professors don't know how to use the computer, but because the technology is not perfect (eg. your comment about bandwidth) and because the equipment is not always up to par either on the sending or receiving end.

  70. Seems provosts are declaring victory a little too early- wonder why. Perhaps a remedial course in experimental design is in order

  71. SUNY is shutting down classroom instruction and many of us have kids coming home to be part of questionable online learning. A technological neanderthal myself, how do hands-on majors like Education, Nursing, and Engineering carry on? Where do students get tutoring? Some Old School professors have no experience with online learning. Seniors should be rightfully concerned. Good luck to all.

  72. Harvard University Extension School has online learning down pat. It's very successful with both students and faculty. Perhaps they can be of assistance to all of us.

  73. Compared to the money saved on room and board, the cost of an unlimited data package seems trivial.

  74. @Will -- Not everyone attends a college with "room and board." The CUNY system - the largest public system in the world - is an almost completely local commuter population. (BTW, there happen to be plenty of commuter colleges everywhere else too.) For some of those students, the cost of an unlimited data package is absolutely not "trivial". And when student mom and student kids, both in schools shut by COVID19, are trying to livestream at the same time, it gets tricky.

  75. @Lowell Whatever. The best data/internet package is still less than the cost of commuting, not to mention the time saved from not commuting.

  76. Reach out to education experts in your community: The Association for Talent Development(ATD) and its local chapters are resources for how to transition educational content from face-2-face to engaging and educationally effective virtual deliveries.

  77. Perhaps that's a bit cynical of me, but if the said universities and administrators really cared about the student education, they would waive the tuition charges for the next semester to allow the students to receive the education they originally signed up for. If my mechanic told me they got sick halfway through the oil change and didn't finish the job, but are still keeping my money for the inconvenience, I'd feel conned.

  78. @Alexander The professor is not sick, it is that the universities are trying to prevent the students from spreading/catching a potentially deadly disease. We will finish the job, and well. Most of us are spending long hours each day in video chats with our students, helping them through problem sets and research tasks.

  79. @Alexander "Perhaps that's a bit cynical of me, but if the said universities and administrators really cared about the student education, they would waive the tuition charges for the next semester to allow the students to receive the education they originally signed up for. " A lot of colleges and universities are really struggling financially and could never afford to do that.

  80. @Engineering Prof. I am spending long hours each day in video chats with my students as well, and I hope they will find my performance satisfactory, as they have always done in the past. It's just hard to pretend that depriving them of the structure of in-person lectures, access to lab space and state of the art software that they can neither purchase nor install on their (sometimes nonexistent) computers is a problem I can fix by becoming a YouTube persona overnight. As another comment pointed out, this is an act of disservice to the students, with a subpar replacement frantically showed in place of a well-designed and tested course. And no, I'm not allowed to slip on any of my other work requirements while solving this emergency for my for-profit school.

  81. Online education will never be able to completely replace in person education for a couple of reasons: 1) Many instructors have not received proper training in teaching online and therefore are nowhere near as effective as they are in the classroom 2) Even the best video-conferencing software programs don't do a good job of conveying tone/body language 3) Online discussions are not as good as in-person class discussions. There are certainly topics that can be effectively taught online...but online education is not the panacea that it's proponents often make it out to be.

  82. @Matt - You have obviously never lived with a Seattle gamer:) Anything that can be done in person can pretty much be done online. My neighbors have evening prayers every night with their family back in Samoa. They all gather around a table in front of a laptop and everyone can see everyone - body language and all. They don't even have an IT department.

  83. Online education is NOT preferable to learning in a class with a great instructor/professor who lectures well. The US has online college classes which have been co-opted by educational publishers. Of those publishers, nearly zero have QU'd the content of their online material/study questions and answers. The content within their books is suspect of being wrong. The Publisher O'Reilly is the best of all the publishers on computer programming, design, networks, and any subject which is highly technical. Though their books are expensive, are authored by PhD. level experts and have been QU'd. O'Reilly has online classes but not with college credit. US Colleges use textbooks marketed to them. The colleges permit the instructors/assistant professors or professors to use the online tests that the publisher creates for their "books". The online college tests' questions are flawed. The mechanisms which calculate score are broken often. As such, the online testing puts the students in an adversarial relationship with their instructors and colleges. A student will not trust the instruction he/she receives. California plunged into the online studies and failed to test the tester. The students will revolt against being graded by an online testing program that was not authored entirely by their instructor. Finding solutions on the internet which is rife with erroneous technical content is a waste of time and energy. Stick to good books.

  84. @RR I'm sorry your experience has gone badly. I have some knowledge w/online publishers' learning systems and they shouldnt all be tarred with the same brush. It might not suit all learning styles, but educators want successful students, so responsive, accurate learning systems are a must. We have access to personal service for any issues, usually handled on the spot, and the ability to input/edit material. Frankly since students nowadays have access to their instructors' emails/cell numbers, educators have a vested interest in quality material and goof proof mechanics!

  85. First: Being "technologically challenged" because of inferior internet capability or computer costs is insignificant when compared to the challenge of attending on campus based courses. Secondly: On line course development will not be achieved just by having tenured professors switching from on campus lectures to on-line lectures. It will be achieved with the development of new course work that is less dependent on individual teacher/professor input. The model of individuals paying $$$, travelling to live on campus and attending classes lectured by tenured professors or their non-tenured lower paid adjuncts is a modern day anachronism.

  86. Far from being a "tipping point" in favor of online teaching, as some educational consultants, marketers, and software designers hopefully declare, this crisis will decisively drive people away from it. Its inherent shortcomings will become painfully plain, and the accidents and glitches that necessarily come with it, though fixable, will be so maddening as to seem insurmountable. The negative experiences generated in the coming months will set online education back two generations.

  87. @Jim Let's hoping you're right.

  88. Based on 35 years as a university teacher, I am decisively ambivalent (irony intended) about online teaching. There is no effective "one size fits all" approach to teaching online, but unfortunately that is what available technology and software packages tend to impose (granting that both have steadily improved). Online teaching seems to work well for courses involving straightforward delivery and individual mastery of content in which clear procedures and answers exist, less well for courses involving nuanced presentation of materials whose mastery requires critical engagement with multiple viewpoints. Too often, online teaching requires that the syllabus become almost a script to be followed rigidly, with no opportunity to build on "learning moments" when both students and instructor see things from a different, unexpected perspective. I don't doubt there are instructors highly skilled at online content delivery, but I am far less certain that effective teaching and effective content delivery are at all the same thing. Effective teaching is highly performative, requiring two-way active involvement of both student and teacher. Online instruction too often diminishes the student's role to that of respondent rather than participant. There is a place for online instruction, especially in the present crisis, but it imposes constraints on learning that must be acknowledged.

  89. I am your ideal case study, with control group: This semester I was teaching two sections of the same course, one f2f and one online. The f2f course was much better, students enjoyed it much more and learned much more. The online course is adequate, but not nearly as good. Anything they write is immortalized, and in the public domain. Socrates was right when he said he would not write anything down. Discussion is stilted for the same reason. Most of the grading is in weekly quizzes, to make sure they are doing the reading. In f2f I can ask them...5 nod yes (and talk about the reading), 2 sheepishly say no (and don't talk). That's not to say there's no value to online. They do learn the basics. And the ones who don't do the reading will fail. In f2f a teacher's subjective judgment just might let the non-readers pass.

  90. Please do not assume that all or even most college instructors cannot learn and/or need "help" teaching their classes online any more than teachers ever needed "help" engaging in their profession face to face. The fact is that instead of actually hiring full-time instructors who would and could be in charge of their own "instructional design," colleges have preferred to add an entire new layer of non-teaching staff and full-time salaries with benefits to be the sudden arbiters of good education, nudging actual teachers down yet another notch into "graders" or "facilitators" who basically stare at screens and click buttons as directed by the instructional "experts."

  91. Undergraduates in the traditional age range do not learn as well online as in person. But, this is not either/or. The best learning designs, now, use a "hybrid" of online and in person ("face-to-face") learning designs. And, true, most faculty do not have good experience translating their classroom methods to an online venue. Learning is not content; this is a huge misconception. It is process: conversation, brain-storming, testing ideas and so on -- learning is a social process, not a performative process. Online is a pallid imitation of learning in person. For older students, different factors figure in.

  92. My university has recently chosen to switch to entirely online classes for at least two weeks, and it's wreaking havoc on lab classes. You simply can't identify specimens or attend field trips online. Not only that, but medical and veterinary students aren't able to do the hands-on learning that they need right now. It's wishful thinking to say that our education in this stunted online format would be of the same quality as it would be in person.

  93. @Elizabeth You're absolutely right, Elizabeth. If you online only lasts two weeks consider yourself lucky. If it lasts for entire quarter or semester, I can only wonder if your students will be prepared for the next level.

  94. @Bob I think it's highly unlikely that it will only last two weeks given the exponential increases in viral cases worldwide.

  95. Billy Preston says this best about any promised technology that the tech Wizz kids tired to fostered on us mere mortals - Will it go around in circles? Millennials ask any boomer what that sentence means.

  96. @Missiandei I'm a boomer. I know who Billy Preston is. I have no idea what you're talking about

  97. No. Rural America doesn't have the infrastructure for neither advanced nor elementary.

  98. @Phil It appears that Nashville lacks the resources for teaching English grammar.

  99. So-called "scaling up" will result in dehumanization the same way the 500 person lecture hall does. I created my first online class in 1995, writing the html by hand, cobbling together mailing lists and hosting services on my own. I know the challenges of teaching and learning online. Humanization and scale are inherently and fundamentally incompatible. Just think back to the great MOOC fraud and failure.

  100. I remember a commercial for an online college that said you can now go to class in your pajamas...Okay but if you ever walked through a college campus you'd realize that the students are already doing that. I do feel bad for the seniors that won't get to celebrate their last few weeks before graduation with classmates.

  101. I have been teaching online for 15+ years (not all courses, just those most suitable to this environment.) Given the constraints of the situation, my advice to first timers is: 1) Teach only ASYNCHRONOUS courses: students will work on assignments when it best suits them; 2) Because of 1), be absolutely ferocious about deadlines. My deadlines are always at 11.59PM of a given day. (If I wrote 12.00, AM or PM, 50% would get it wrong regardless.) No extensions, no exemptions, no make ups. 3) Don't even think about teleconferencing or uploading video lectures. In teleconferencing nobody pays attention. With video lectures you will never like what you did and waste time for nothing trying to do it better. Finally, good luck. And when supercilious colleagues tell you dismissively that online teaching is for the lazy, ask them if they want to switch.

  102. @College Prof So do you upload lectures of some sort? Just audio? Powerpoint decks?

  103. @ST - The best advice I got on this was to do an audio narration over a PowerPoint slideshow (Slide Show >> Record Slide Show), then ideally publish it using the iSpring plug-in. The students will be quite happy not to see your face. And if you want to fine-tune your voice you can do it one slide at a time. If your school doesn't support iSpring you can upload the whole video.

  104. Online classes aren’t that hard. I excelled in my online high school system with a 4.0 GPA. It teaches students responsibility because we have to teach ourselves. Obviously many people will struggle. Not everyone learns as easily as I did through an online system. But there really isn’t no need to stress over this transition.

  105. @Nathan The question is not whether it’s hard. It’s whether it’s good.

  106. @Nathan You gave yourself away when you said online classes aren't hard. If they weren't hard and you have a GPA, you're not challenged. I wonder if the same will be true when you go to a university where you have to engage with both the professor and your fellow students.

  107. @Bob I am at a university. Online (and homeschool) gave me an advantage because I had to learn to teach myself. Still on track for the 4.0 GPA. I learned well through online school. Its something that worked for me. Yes there were hard classes. I had a dual credit online English writing class. Hardest thing I ever had taken in school. I'm surprised the teacher wasn't annoyed with me since I went to her office hours every....single...time. Obviously many students will struggle to transition. Many people need the face to face interaction. But my point is it's not that big of a deal.

  108. I teach at a U. This move to online is being done to close out the term because we are in a world crisis. You cannot have tens of thousands of kids on campus in close interaction. The resulting chemistry would blow up the health care system. What kind of testing, homework, quizzes and labs will be done remotely? We will wave our hands and say this is something. But please, don't confuse this with real higher education.

  109. @pat Yes. And the social aspect, too. College is a great place for learning how to be a citizen in a society. Yes, one can read about how to be a citizen online, but it is quite another thing entirely to enact. Not to mention the enhanced social cues and nonverbal feedback in a classroom...

  110. Many quite rightly fear that the shift to online education will compromise quality, intensify equity gaps, and diminish experiential learning opportunities. In the mad rush to go online virtually overnight, most small classes will become videoconferences, while larger courses will consist of digitized lectures, PowerPoint presentations, multiple choice exams, and discussion forums. But online education can offer much more: Personalization of pace, content, and learning trajectory; sophisticated simulations and interactives; access to a wealth of learning tools and resources; rich multimedia; shared displays and whiteboards; sophisticated simulations and interactives; collaboration opportunities through hangouts and chat rooms; field experiences; and frequent formative assessments and nudges to keep students on track. Unfortunately, due to a lack of preparation, most students will experience impoverished examples of technology-enhanced education’s possibilities. -- Steven Mintz, University of Texas at Austin and Hunter College

  111. @Steven Mintz All true. I'm an online graduate student at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. And I can honestly say that I have interacted more with my peers virtually (through discussion boards, webinars, and GroupMe), than I ever have face-to-face. In a lecture hall, I can sit back and disengage, essentially disappear into the mass. I'm just a number. In a virtual classroom, my grade not only depends on how much I engage, but also on the quality of my engagement, the citations I include, and on whether or not I have addressed the specifics of the rubric in detail. My online education involves a much deeper dive into the course material making the assignments and work, in general, that much more rigorous. In turn, I have become a better writer, I'm more in tune with my professors, and without a doubt, I will be more than prepared for my next profession.

  112. @Texas Gal If you sit in the back of the room and disengage, that's on you. The best students sit up front. Also, you're likely to find yourself in a workplace where you engage face to face most or all of the time. It's be nice if you had some practice that mimicked the work place environment. Online doesn't mimic the work place.

  113. OK, boomer. (I can hear that already) Having attended college multiple times - and receiving multiple degrees - at brick-and-mortar institutions, I can safely say that a large part of the education was interaction with other students and faculty, both in the classroom and outside of it. My teaching experiences at the collegiate level mirror that. Before electronic devices the students paid attention in class or they failed. PCs and cellphones appear to have eroded the learning process by creating an infatuation with the tools, and not the processes. Everything is supposed to be available for them to download at their own leisure. "Why should I learn how to do this? I can always look it up online!" was a common refrain.

  114. @Chris - I'm a boomer and have gone back to college a few times in life and can interact with students and the professor online just as easy as I am interacting with you. If I need face to face, I can ask my Samoan neighbors how to use Portal since they have evening prayers every night with family back on the island. I guarantee you that almost every student sitting in those classrooms is quite adept at an online video game with teams and they have no problem interacting with each other. M.I.T. offers an entire chemistry program online complete with quizzes and tests. No credit is given and there is no charge but if you want to learn chemistry its there. I have spent the last couple of years studying recording engineering both in college and online. For a nominal fee, I could get one of the top producers/engineers to personally go through my tracks and give advice. If a bunch of boomers could get to the moon and back without a phone app, surely we as a country can start acting more like Star Trek and less like Gunsmoke. Signed, Boomer who builds web-responsive websites for millenials who can't figure it out on their own...even with a phone app.

  115. @tom harrison CEOs from the Forbes 400 disagree with you, Tom. In a poll from about two years ago, they overwhelming said that the skills they need most, and most lack, and interpersonal skills - the ability to work with a diverse group of people. Gamers can relate to other gamers. But CEOs are saying they need gamers to relate to people who don't play video games.

  116. Full-time teacher at one of the Ivies here. My colleagues and I have been shaking our heads at how the University administration thinks we can "go virtual" with the snap of a finger. They also have unrealistic expectations about online testing. Academic integrity will go out the window for many students (not all) when there is no proctor present. My University never invested in remote proctoring and now we will see the results of that decision. Faculty are working many extra hours (uncompensated, of course), trying to move our courses to the online environment, while also trying to maintain a rigorous and highly informative academic experience for our students. The students deserve such an experience. We are pretty stressed about this, as are the students. We know that trying to do this in a hurry (we start back up in a week) is so far from optimal as to almost be a joke. But we will do our best, because the pandemic leaves us little choice. For me, the upshot of this experience has been one of shock. Shock that a huge university did not have an emergency preparedness plan in place and has been flying by the seat of its pants. Did we learn nothing from natural disasters, like Hurricane Sandy? Clueless administrators (or administrators in denial; take your pick) have been engaging in magical thinking, sending out optimistic emails to students and assuring them that they will still get a great Ivy education this semester. Somehow, we faculty will be expected to deliver.

  117. @JenD Of course the administration want it moved online. That way they can charge the outrageous tuition fees to an unlimited number of students, without having to pay anything extra for the "personnel" (which is just a cost in their spreadsheet to maximize their profits). Once the course is "in the can", they don't even have to pay for "labor".

  118. @Chris my daughter is at an Ivy and they are planning to refund room/board expenses on a prorated basis. Just FYI.

  119. @JenD How will the courses be filmed or will it just be the professor talking to the camera on their computer ? Without students to ask and answer questions during the filming of the course, when and where will the lecturer pause to let the students catch up in their note-taking and understanding of the new material.

  120. What company provides the best online platform?

  121. @Bob Canvas.

  122. In an Advanced Placement (AP) History course with 11th and 12th Grade Students, a study was done to evaluate the impact of Visual Syntactic Text Formatting (VSTF) on Remote Learning. The first semester demonstrated equivalency between study groups. In the second semester, in-class reading began. One group read in the computer lab with VSTF, while the control group read from the paper textbook. Quizzes were provided by the textbook company, and were administered directly after an in-class reading session. For the first 4 quizzes of the second semester, students from both groups were first listening and taking notes from a teacher’s lecture about the section topic; then the reading was done, and the quiz came right after the reading session (LECTURE- READ-QUIZ).  For quizzes 5 through 8, the process was reversed, with students in both groups reading and taking a quiz first, and then the teacher lectured to the section as a backup (READ-QUIZ- LECTURE). The experiment showed that, for quizzes 5-8, without the auditory, traditional instruction, the control group dropped quiz score averages, from 80 to 60 percent correct. By contrast, the students in the VSTF group maintained high quiz scores, at 80 percent correct, even without having heard the lecture before the quiz. The results are significant at a p< 0.001 level. ‪http://www.liveink.com/pdf/NECC%20Live%20Ink%20research%20synopsis.pdf‬

  123. @Toms Quill As an AP US history teacher, I am all ears. I feel like I missed your key point though. What I got from the link was that VSTF is a way of formatting text to increase comprehension? And that means what? That the sequence of instruction (where to put the lecture component, for example) wasn't as important for the VSTF kids because they had better skills? Can you explain a bit more?

  124. @Toms Quill An AP class is hardly the demographic of most high school classes.

  125. @Teacher The point here is that Reading is the original technology for Remote, or Distance, (in space and time), learning. Reading challenging texts in VSTF improves one’s comprehension of the text. In a situation where in-person lectures cannot be given, and where, quite likely, a streamed or recorded lecture seems “too distant,” and loses effectiveness, then getting better results from one’s reading can mitigate the loss of the in-person lecture. The AP experiment was used to assure that the texts were truly challenging for the students, as many of a class’s better students read too well for mainstream content. Also, it is an indicator of probable benefit for actual college students. Conversely, similar experimental results have been shown with mainstream students, reading mainstream texts.

  126. This article is using the imminent forced shift from classroom learning as jumpoff point for a discussion of the merits/challenges of online/learning. While this a great discussion and is unquestionably a large amount of work needed to optimize a course for online delivery, we must not lose sight of what is upon us NOW. To slow the pandemic spread so that our healthcare system won’t be overwhelmed and to allow time for antivirals and vaccines to be developed, we are forced to stop large gatherings of people. At that point we have two choices: do nothing until we can start traditional learning next month, or semester, or next year or when? Or do the best we can and leverage a non-perfect medium that exists today? I vote enthusiastically for the latter. Many, many of our newly anointed digital projessors will do fine and continue to impart knowledge and inspiration on the majority of the relocated students. And all will immediately be immersed in this experiment and being to learn the new skill and leave ideas on how to dramatically improve this medium going forward. As a result of this next 3-6 months, I think we will learn a lot more about online learning and its role in an inevitable future that benefits from face-to-face and online distribution of knowledge.

  127. @Jim Pollock Absolutely true. But those of use with a bent towards conspiracy theories, it seems like a really convenient way to test the waters to go "online all the time!" Now, there's a slogan that makes a kid want to go to college.

  128. I've taught online and in person courses for graduate students for years. In the online world, it's essentially a flipped classroom model where students interact with prerecorded material (readings and lectures and uploading responses that I monitor and can reply to) for half the content and then a live session in zoom to practice, digest and discuss the material together. I find it to be very effective and students get a lot out of the course. I've also taught on the ground, and I find the experience different in one main way: There is less of the fluid give and take in the online class - student responses seem to be more structured (have to raise a hand) rather than a free-flowing conversation. Sharing material, demonstrating something, watching video, having students present information is all essentially the same as in an actual classroom. And by the way, most material for courses is now online anyway, so this is less of a stretch than imagined. I am in the midst of taking in-person courses online, and I'm not too worried.

  129. @Fran You'd be worried if your passion was dance. Or studio art. Or ceramics. Or acting. But who needs the arts. It's all about STEM now. Which reminds me. Gen X went big time for MBAs in business and finance, and the country suffered a brain drain because of it. Imagine if those smart people went into public service instead. The next brain drain will be in the arts. Isn't Netflix bad enough now?

  130. Of course if rather than develop an online version of a particular class taught at an institution, they simply import a class for the same material that has already been developed one would actually realize immediate advantage. Do we need 10000 instances of English 101. A bad example because if it is a writing class, maybe yes we do. But for many other courses we only need one version, taught across the country or the world. Higher education has to date avoided significant increases in productivity, such savings as have been achieved are mostly by substituting cheap adjunct contract labor for full time faculty with the same old teaching model.

  131. @GeneD What you're suggesting is a one-size fits all sort of class. One American History 101 class for the whole nation. Now, that'll get 'em thinking. And, for those of a libertarian bent, you'd really only need one teacher to lord over 50 different classes. Get the software to read the papers, and who needs the teacher.

  132. In my experience, an online academic environment is far inferior to a traditional collegiate environment. There is no way that the professor gets to know her or his students to the same extent as in face-to-face classes. There, the professor can easily talk to students before and after class; humanize herself or himself by remarking on or discussing humorous personal or other public events, which he or she would not do online; and get to know the students' personalities and capabilities. Faculty form informal professor-student mentoring relationships. They also start clubs and organizations with students, devoted to common community service interests not necessarily related to the course. In short, online teaching, distance learning, non-residential campuses (granted residential campuses are not always possible due to costs to students), etc, severely erode the benefits of a university education. However, in my own experience, higher administrators care vastly more about what looks good on their resumes than what constitutes an excellent education.

  133. @Monsieur Wikipedia Your last sentence is mostly true of young professors working on tenure at a university that requires publishing. Once you've got tenure, unless you're a driven sort of person, you can turn your attention towards your students. It's a lot more rewarding than publishing another article no one will read.

  134. @Bob At my college, we are required to devote one quarter of our work-time to service work, and one quarter to research. Failure to do so results in loss of merit pay and promotion to full professor. And I'm at a regional state university, not an R1 school.

  135. Just an observation: I see many experienced online instructors here or those who have tried it making definitive statements about how students learn and how to teach, but in my experience as someone who does know these things and works with many faculty, the great majority of faculty don't have this knowledge (even Phds in Education). I feel that it's a great mistake to believe one is an expert in teaching and learning simply because they are an expert in one (different) content area, and/or because they've taught for a long time.

  136. @John Maybe they're expert in how students learn by being around learning students for 30 years.

  137. I teach at a college which is suspending classes and moving to online/distance teaching in a week. As an old dinosaur who has never had any interest inlearning how to teach online/remotely, I suddenly have to redesign two courses half-way through the semester. This is forcing me to consider things that I've never had to consider. For example: Once I learned about my campus's Zoom system, I thought: "OK, that's not so hard. I can use that for some of the class sessions which require group interaction." Then a colleague asked me: "But your class is at 9:00 am on Eastern time. What will students who live on the West Coast do; join Zoom at 6:00 am?" Uh oh, I never thought about that! And even though I attended a training session about how to use Zoom presented by our IT department yesterday, no one brought up that issue either. It's one thing to read how-to manuals about "the benefits of asynchronous instruction"; but what we really need is people to tell us (in non-jargon): "Hey, before you do that, think about this."

  138. @Paul-A you can record your lecture.

  139. @Paul-A Use Canvas. It's simple, and you don't have to worry about how you look on camera.

  140. @Bob Canvas uses Zoom. For video, it's important to be fully dressed and to make sure there's nothing embarrassing in the room behind you!

  141. As an engineering student, one thing that is unclear is what to do about lab and design classes. Some classes can’t be pushed online and other require university resources. So far many of these classes appear to just be abruptly over.

  142. Yes. My chosen fields of study were chemistry and architecture which, at the time, required lab or studio time. I don't imagine that the performing arts students have it much better ( how do you teach dance onli)?

  143. The problem we are facing today. Right now, Friday, March 13 is not the debate over what's more effective--face-to-face or online instruction. Both have their place in education. The problem is, for example, Monday afternoon the University I teach at shutdown the campus and ended classes at 6:00 pm. Students were given 24 hours to be out of their residences. Instructors--tenured, non-tenured, adjuncts-- were told to immediately get their classes up and running online. Oh, by the way, here's a link to a video on how to do it! Moving from a classroom teaching environment to an online environment doesn't happen with the flip of a switch. Online teaching and learning requires different skill sets. The online courses at MIT, Harvard, and every other college and University weren't put together in 24 hours. They were built and tested over time. And, like any in-classroom teaching, modified as needed in response to the effectiveness of the program. A number of my students were completely panicked. Not only did half of them not have access to the software needed for the course once they left campus, many in this group didn't even have a computer at home, or at the very least one current enough that they could work on. But my students are great. Once the initial confusion subsided, we coordinated email discussions about projects, exchanged PDF files with comments in-place, and provided some alternatives for the students without software. Okay for a couple of weeks. Long-term. No.

  144. @GM Are you suggesting that institutions should have had a contingency plan for such a crisis? But, that would have required forethought.

  145. @GM "Oh, by the way, here's a link to a video on how to do it!" I SO hear you! Unrealistic expectations, to say the very least. The dedicated faculty I work with will do their best to create a good online experience for students, but university administrators needed to have an emergency plan in place. They did not, unfortunately.

  146. @JenD They get paid 2-4+ times as much as we teachers do, though!

  147. Having taught extensively online at multiple universities, I know full well that the transition from F2F to online is neither quick nor easy. Online teaching and learning can be richly personal, deep and peer-interactive for instructors and students alike, but effectiveness requires extensive training, practice, acclimatization and tolerance for disruption. It isn't achieved overnight for a short period followed by an equally sudden re-transition back to the traditional classroom. I may not know much, but this I know like the back of my hand. I wish students and teachers every success during these challenging times and urge patience. Know that many extra hours of work will be required if people intend to manage this professional transition successfully.

  148. @John lebaron So well stated! Thank you! As a fellow online instructor I too have had many enlivening and deeply satisfying experiences teaching virtually. I believe that this crisis will be a defining moment in higher education. We will see the inequities and disparities in our higher ed ecosystem. I am proud to be an alumnus of a community college and now I teach online for a community college that has invested heavily in online training and capacity building for instructors. My students are mostly first generation and come from various socio-economic and ethnic groups. Online education is the great class equalizer providing a vehicle for upward mobility for underrepresented and marginalized segments of our society.

  149. Actually, it very much depends upon the student. Self-directed, highly motived learners can definite get a good bit if not all of their education on line. However, there are people who need peer support and more hands on approaches to learning. But think of how the cost of higher education could be reduced through on-line learning. Also, it would reduce the need for housing on campus and the associated cost (you know those thousands in “fees”). It would also facilitate education for those who need to work while in college. Not for everyone, but had it been available, it would have worked great for me,

  150. @T Smith My neighbor took an online degree. He tried to take statistics but failed it, as he might have anyway, but there was very little direct instructor interaction that could have made a difference. Some folks really need that.

  151. @T Smith It is a common fallacy that online education is cheaper. A few decades worth of research has shown required infrastructure, training, etc. is actually very expensive. And there is actually a lot lost that people who teach online all the time, like myself, are in a constant battle to attempt to recapture.

  152. @T Smith Every student needs peer and professor support, even the straight A students. Support isn't always academic, sometimes it's just listening, sometimes it's pointing a student in the direction of mental health services. Sometimes, in my experience, the most seemingly self-motivated students are in many ways the most depressed, especially if that self-motivation comes from having really intense parents.

  153. Call me a boomer but back in my day...I learned how to be a gourmet cook by watching Julia Child every afternoon. I must have learned something because when I went back to college to study chemistry, I had a first lab test. And I literally treated the entire test like it was a Julia Child episode complete with her accent. The lab director offered me a job in her lab on the spot. The last few years, I have been studying recording engineering. I went to a local college for a while until I got very sick and had to drop out of college altogether. At least 80% of what I have learned, I got from 2 different Youtube channels. One is a master producer/engineer with awards up the ying-yang. I have asked questions and he has almost immediately responded to. There was no one at the local college with his experience and he doesn't teach at any university so if I want to study with him its either online...or move to L.A. and try and become an intern working for free. As for lectures? When I did go to recording school, I took a summer class in theory/piano. Only about 7 students ever showed up. And being the oldest in the class, I quickly took over and made it my own private tutorial for the summer. I suggested to the professor years ago to put a webcam on a tripod in the back of the room and record/upload the lectures for the 43 or so students who couldn't make it to class due to sunshine in Seattle. We got to the moon and back without a phone app - we can do this.

  154. @tom harrison That's great, but what happens when you're actually standing in front of a mixing board that you've never once touched

  155. Spring break starts today for my son, but his school has opted to close for the remainder of the semester and complete classes online (I decision I fully support). In his case it will be especially interesting to see how it all works out, as his college is a music conservatory. Fortunately for him, most of his coursework this semester is in composition and film-scoring, which I assume shouldn't be TOO difficult to do online. His private weekly private piano instruction may be trickier (he was also wondering how they will teach his conducting class!). Had this happened when he was in high school, and dealing with a late-diagnosed mild learning issue, I would have been really worried about his ability to manage his time and stay organized. Fortunately, he's VERY focused on his musical education, and I'm sure that he will handle it very well. But for others who might have similar issues it's going to be a difficult transition. His school may actually be better prepared for this than most, as it has had a thriving online education component for a long time. It's also helpful, I think, that he's had much of the semester to get to know his professors and vice versa. For students without access to the necessary technology, I hope that we can all make an effort to help where we can by donating computers, etc. I wonder if a fund can be set up whereby donations can be made to provide help in paying for decent wifi, etc. These are bizarre times, and we need to help each other.

  156. @NGB I know that my college is keeping Disabled Student Programs & Services (DSPS) open. Those tend to be one-on-one sessions and therefore not so likely to spread infection.

  157. I've taught fully online and in person. I hated teaching online. It took away everything I love about teaching: the interpersonal interaction, the energy from students, the unexpected insights from class discussion that taught me something new.

  158. @prof At my college, about 47% of students have taken an online class. Almost 0% take all of their classes online. That should tell us something.

  159. @prof That's why my department is developing hybrid courses. My course will be 50-50, with one face-to-face meeting each week and the rest online. The classroom meeting will be "flipped" because the students will be doing the reading and most of the work online before coming to class. I'm curious as to how that will change the dynamics.

  160. There's a very real assumption of privilege in assuming that all students can get online and work online easily. Those assumptions include but are not limited to a student's internet access away from campus, either because of financial constraints or because of limited or poor service due to region or provider, regular access to a functioning computer, a quiet or otherwise focused workspace away from school, and varied levels of digital literacy/skill within a classroom population. As my students might say, "just saying!"

  161. Of course all will not be perfect at first, but what an opportunity to get much better at distance learning techniques and technology. All the bottlenecks, issues and best practices can then be assembled, addressed and learned from for the future.

  162. @Si Seulement Voltaire Watch depression rates rise among young adults as the country moves to an increased use of online courses. The lack of socialization will be killing.

  163. I am a professor at a major research university. A significant number of courses in my school (may not apply to other schools on our campus) were already, at least partly, online. Which made the campus' decision to go online in the spring quarter with two weeks notice somewhat easier for us, but still, given the sudden scale, quite challenging. In the short run, what you're going to see is faculty teaching in empty classrooms with the class being live-streamed and recorded for subsequent viewing which is a big plus. Videoconferencing and learning management systems are essential and will help maintain ongoing engagement and Q&A with the students. While there is no question you lose some positives, especially around interaction and figuring out in real time if students are keeping up and in helping them stay motivated and interested. On the other hand, we've learned that online courses have advantages too. It requires faculty to be more structured both in dissemination and in testing learning. We are now working with instructional designers, who are incredibly helpful. I would argue that that this process makes most of us better teachers. Prior to now, we engaged infrequently with instructional designers. All in all, this is a necessary step to flatten the curve. There may be some bumps in the road, but classes flop quite often in the traditional world of teaching too. We'll get through this, without too much loss to our students, and perhaps, good outcomes.

  164. @California Dude How does one do science labs? Also I see many advantages, especially after Biology Discussion sections I taught at 7 am, 8 am and 9 am. Participation increased with hour; and one student evaluation (from 7 am) compared me to a zombie. I was.

  165. @Ivy I don’t teach science though I studied science in college. I don’t see a good solution. However, sadly, I think this pandemic is going to be far worse than people realize and we’ll have to accept weak solutions.

  166. Online testing is very feasible. From my experience taking online classes, all tests were open book AND time limited. The time limit allowed for testing all basic knowledge without allowing the time to search the book for many answers.

  167. @PB Yea, open book! It means you don't have to memorize those pesky facts. "Say, doctor, what does this medicine do, exactly." "Uh, let me look that up."

  168. Not so easy as that. Online coursework opens up higher education to more students, not less. The privileged may be able to afford on campus tuition and housing, but many many others simply cannot. And it opens opportunities for those who have to keep a day job. Brick and mortar campuses are by no means more supportive of low income students.

  169. @KJ Brick and mortar campuses SHOULD be more supportive of low income students, and would be if we, as a country, valued education. College costs in the U.S. are vastly higher than in many European countries, and in the long run, our ability to have a flexible, robust economy will suffer because of the inequality in education. And I'm pretty sure you wouldn't use a lawyer who got their degree online.

  170. My engineers continue their education online. Brick and mortor bettet experience but elitist to shun other methods of higher ed.

  171. Online courses are good for first or second year survey courses but are not a choice for courses that are teaching skills, like nursing, social work, and occupational therapy. College is best as a whole experience, not just a lunch ticket to a job.

  172. @nora m I see your point -- but from experience, I can tell you that first and second year survey courses teach some of the most essential skills: how to read, how to study, how to learn. Online courses are great for adults who need a good introduction to a subject and who already know how to study and to learn. But that's about it.

  173. Some skills have to be learned in person. The psychomotor skills involved in medicine, nursing and other disciplines cannot be taught exclusively online. They form a part of every semester of learning. How now?

  174. A very good article. One additional point: under normal circumstances, many people who don't have reliable personal Internet connections go the library. But the libraries are closing, too.

  175. I would have appreciated a link for this observation: "the popular idea of individual 'learning styles' has been largely discredited by academic research." Is this as much the case as Carey claims?

  176. @Shane "Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence" in Psychological Science in the Public Interest is an excellent article summarizing the lack of evidence for learning styles.

  177. University of Virginia Cognitive Psychology professor Daniel Willingham has, among others, done some solid research debunking the theory of learning styles. If you search for his work on the internet, you’ll be off to a good start.

  178. On line learning has created a second class higher ed system. Would wealthy families - the ones who attend Bowdoin and Tufts - stand for such a thing in non-emergency times? Absolutely not.

  179. Gee, the intellectual crowd is happy to see every other field taken over by computers/internet-but they "can't be replaced" in such a manner. If anything, posting one very good lecture online for everyone to watch at their leisure is very easy to do.

  180. @skshrews And how do you replace your fellow students?

  181. @skshrews "posting one very good lecture online for everyone to watch at their leisure is very easy to do." Properly designed online courses go far beyond that. In my courses there are questions/issues for discussion to which students must respond and then engage in further discussions with their classmates and me. There often is a more in depth paper due each week as well in which students are expected to provide a summative discussion of the course concepts covered in the week. In addition, I can provide a variety of supplemental resources and sources to enhance student learning. As noted in another post, success in student learning outcomes depends on both the course design and the skill of the professor (in addition to student motivation/effort) whether the course is online or in-classroom.

  182. @Sonja You have online discussion rooms. Question sites and lots of Graduate Students to answer all the questions.

  183. I've sold & been using webinar / online tools for over 10 years. If the task is to sit like a bump on a log & pretend to absorb yet more "cartoons for adults" (PowerPoint decks) the tools are acceptable. For learning... looooooooooong way to go.

  184. It's a libertarian fantasy - one instructor teaching 25 classes online. A couple of years ago, there was a polling of CEOs from the Forbes 500. Overwhelmingly, the skills they sought in employees were the ability to think creatively, and an ability to work with a diverse group of people. You don't get either online, and you don't get much of either in a strictly STEM environment.

  185. For years, ed-tech companies with enormous resources have been shaping the discourse of academic administration with the aim of lowering the cost of expertise while capitalizing on the potential growth. We may look back on this epidemic as the turning point where online education became the primary mode of college access for the rabble while the wealthiest ten percent or so (including the children of the ed-tech profiteers) continue to send their children to elite brick-and-mortar schools, complete with all of the social connections, varied campus events, nuanced and truly interactive pedagogies, and personal relationships with faculty necessary to propel them to the high paying and high status they aspire to. And we'll see, that was the plan all along.

  186. @CraiginKC It will be how college was before World War II and the GI Bill.

  187. Many schools operate on a quarter system calendar, where there is a whole academic term after spring break. Some of these are prestige schools, such as University of Washington, University of Chicago, Dartmouth, UCLA, and Northwestern University. These schools are proposing to conduct a whole term by distance learning. This cannot go at all well. I anticipate demands for refunds of spring quarter tuition, especially at the costly elite schools on the quarter system.

  188. There are A LOT of challenges to converting courses designed for face to face delivery to being delivered on-line. However, I am heartened by the efforts of my university (Fairleigh Dickinson U) leadership and faculty colleagues working together to create a great second half of the semester for our students. We can't recreate everything, but please know that so many dedicated faculty members care A LOT about doing right by our students/your children.

  189. Contrary to almost every statement in this article, most US universities have for over a decade made contingency plans to move their entire curriculum online in the event of just such an emergency. Will everything work as planned and move ahead glitch-free with the same quality of instruction and learning experience as in a live classroom? Of course not. But are most higher learning institutions "Ready for Big Migration"? Actually, Yes.

  190. @DLS "US universities have for over a decade made contingency plans to move their entire curriculum online in the event of just such an emergency." As someone who has actually taught at several US universities, I can tell you this is false. If the contingency plan is "buy a subscription to Zoom or Skype", then sure, but you are flat out wrong if you think it's more developed than that.

  191. @DLS Nope. One thing that became painfully apparent was that my University had NO contingency plan and has been scrambling to suddenly move curriculum delivery and testing online. It's not a pretty sight, and definitely not going smoothly. Why would it?

  192. Nearly 20 years ago, The Gates and Hewlett Foundations, made a grant to a small group at Carnegie Mellon University, establishing the Open Learning Initiative (known as OLI). From this investment came mountains of data that was used to develop learning platforms that “embeds the learning process in technology” (to quote the article) and built algorithms that deliver “The long-sought-after dream of technology-enabled education is to build machines that can assess these differences, react to them, and give students a better educational experience — personalized to what they know and need.” I disagree that ‘There are decades of research in this field, and many promising theories and tools, but as of yet no breakthrough technologies in terms of cost and student learning.” The decades of research existed to build OLI, a modern technology with an easy-to-use course builder to enable any school to input their lessons and output a ready-to-use version of their course intended for use for online, traditional, or hybrid environment. What has not to-date existed is the motivation of any administration to invest resources to push through the meaningless objections of the old guard educators and push them to adapt and adjust to the changing times and new modern tools that will not replace educators but make them more efficient and effective. Oh the irony that even CMU, host of the treasure that is OLI has never really implemented it across their catalog in any meaningful way.

  193. This is long, long overdue. Ten years ago, you could see a future where there would be perhaps five top general university lecturers for a given subject, with videoconferenced small group discussions and submissions to a remotely located set of TAs. The intensive, in-person, high-labor approach to higher education is the reason our educational costs are astronomical without any obvious benefits in bringing along a smarter, more educated generation of college graduates. I know many love to think that Dead Poets Society, Goodbye Mr. Chips and History Boys are the models for inspired learning and teaching. Most forget those were high school students, and in any event, most people never have those kinds of experiences as older students (and even if they do, it is not obvious that benefits outweigh the costs). Graduate school and work are admittedly a different matter. But there will be a lot fewer PhD candidates pursuing a college professorship in this kind of future.

  194. @madmax159: I cannot even begin to express how wrong you are. It's not the costs for the professors that are driving the costs of education; more than 75% of classroom learning at US colleges & universities is provided by adjuncts who in general receive no benefits & work for wages that work out to be less than the minimum wage. At present the pay that an adjunct gets to teach a three-credit course is in the $2,500/3,000 realm. I'm not a college professor or adjunct, but I do teach on a college level & am very familiar w/what goes into preparing for even just one lesson in one class. Many of the adjuncts I work w/teach multiple classes at multiple different colleges & universities to try to make ends meet. And getting back to your comment on astronomical college costs, you might not be aware that college administration jobs have increased by something like 40% over the last quarter-century or so, while numbers of teaching faculty have remained the same or dropped. When college administrators decide that a DIII school's priority is to have a brand-new sports stadium over refurbishing 50+ year old classroom buildings, priorities are badly misplaced...& that's not a decision made by the teaching faculty.

  195. I'm currently getting my master's from NYU and the transition to online learning has been pretty awful. I mean, on a technical level, it has *mostly* worked fine. (I've experienced a number of technical connectivity issues on my end -- Spectrum internet is not great!) But for our program, so far about half of the classes have become very useless via remote learn. There is just no substitute for in-person classes when dealing with the performing arts.

  196. @Julie Or the visual arts.

  197. Online education works only when the will to learn is strong. I find the same issue in business meetings that we do online.

  198. @NorCalGeek "works only when the will to learn is strong." Equally true for in-classroom courses.

  199. There will be a forced evolution of techniques and technology. Because there is no alternative, students and faculty will find ways to make the systems work. Sometimes they won't. Some promising ideas will turn out to be duds. And in business and industry, the same thing will occur. This is what is called, sardonically, a "learning opportunity." One of the lessons that will be reinforced is the necessity of making high-speed internet available to everyone. Like a war, this epidemic will result in accelerated innovation. Unfortunately, this will not be the last epidemic, and there is nothing to say the next one won't be much worse. We have to be able to act much more rapidly and more comprehensively. This will push automation, the evolution of self-driving vehicles, and of course changes in education and training. I hope that the people in charge of responding to this crisis, in education and elsewhere, are taking notes on how to do it better next time. How will it all turn out? I haven't the damnedest idea. Too many complex and interrelated systems and people are involved. It's going to be interesting.

  200. @writeon1 "One of the lessons that will be reinforced is the necessity of making high-speed internet available to everyone." Absolutely critical if we expect students to get any benefit from online instruction.

  201. This is so true. Suddenly, professors must offer a course online without any real training or preparation to do so. It may be essentially a Skype course, which is not going to work as well as an in-person course. But there's not much choice but to go this route for now and try to make the best of it.

  202. @Neal Obstat No, it's not. We've been teaching hybrid and/or fully online courses for years now. This is nothing new.

  203. @Haumea YOU have been teaching hybrid and/or fully online courses for years now. In my experience as a staff person in academia (at a Research I university, no less), many faculty have little to no experience teaching online, and will struggle mightily with this transition.

  204. @Haumea No, "we" have not. Please speak for yourself only.

  205. Please don't speak for all professors. Some (if not most) of us have been training to teach online and have already been offering either fully online courses and/or hybrid courses. We benefit from strong computing and instructional support and well, we are in academia because we love to learn, so this is another learning experience and we are embracing this opportunity to not only maintain the academic integrity of our courses, but to explore innovative ways to be effective and engage our students in meaningful ways. Also, in this particular case, we already know our students since the semester is half over, so it's a different situation than starting a new class fully online at the beginning of the semester. And yes, there are lots of ways to personalize online instruction.

  206. It's funny that my requests to teach online classes have been consistently turned down because I have not taken a series of classes for certification---a process for which I'd receive 0 compensation. As an adjunct who works for little more than minimum wage with no benefits, I would never have worked on certification without compensation or assurance of a job or a contract even if I were to get an online class. Now I have one weekend to transform myself into an online instructor, likely for well beyond the two weeks administrators seem to be planning for.

  207. @DMS "It's funny that my requests to teach online classes have been consistently turned down because I have not taken a series of classes for certification---a process for which I'd receive 0 compensation." As noted by Louis Pasteur, "Fortune favors the prepared mind." Perhaps taking those classes, even without compensation or promises, might have led to a yes answer to your requests.

  208. @Dave Perhaps doing the right thing from the beginning and paying notoriously under-compensated adjuncts for the time required for certification would have allowed this emergency switch to all-online instruction go off without a hitch. But that's not what will happen now, and all because of people like you who think adjuncts' "pay" is a non-issue.

  209. @DMS yes, we’ll put. I had the same sort of experience. I also had to ask: why did regular permanent faculty want the online courses? They took the “certifications,” often on release-time from their full-time course loads. The pay was somewhat less than what they received for their regular courses. Often they were taking the online assignments as overloads. Now, I once met a permanent faculty member who was teaching a mix of online and f2f courses-ten in all! In one semester! This prof btw didn’t believe in the “grade system” No doubt an outlier, but... I don’t know what the mix is- A little more money? (Well, with 10 courses a semester maybe more than that). Love of online tech? (Sure) Ability to work from home? This latest golden opportunity for the online cartels is wearying to so many of us, adjuncts or not. All I can see is a crummy education, “delivered” by a hodgepodge faculty with a weird mix of motives and interests, or needs, and all of it increasingly surveilled by armies of sub-deans. But now I must talk to my iPhone and post the results for my suddenly online students.

  210. The online education push is the perfect metaphor for the Trump administration - lots of talk and promises, mostly one-way communication, and blame the people who don't share the same vision of what's good for everyone. Everything will be just fine! (Right? What could go wrong?)

  211. Having received both a traditional classroom education and earned a degree while taking largely courses on-line, classroom learning is better, hands down. On-line is affordable but that is about the end of its advantages. What's missing is the interaction with the professor and other students. And when you're stuck, struggling with a difficult problem, you are really stuck and alone. On-line is great for older students who can't uproot their lives, move to a college town, and live in a dorm. But it is a virtual education. Close to reality, but not quite like the real thing.

  212. @Garth "What's missing is the interaction with the professor and other students. And when you're stuck, struggling with a difficult problem, you are really stuck and alone." That's an issue of course design, not learning modality. Interaction among students and with the professor is in all the online courses at teach at the University level. That it was not in the courses you took is a failure of course design at the university at which you were enrolled.

  213. This author knows what he is talking about. Having been on both sides of the desk, both literally and metaphorically; on-line education is far from perfect. I just finished taking one distance course from the student side, and am half way through another. They're not bad, but far from a perfect learning experience. For instance, there's no way to handle my fundamental questioning of which answer is really "true," and which one "false." Of course, what happens in the classroom doesn't necessarily approach that, either. But sometimes it does, when there's magic between prof and students, unplanned ed new ideas introduced or even co-created, curiosity catalyzed, possibly a student motivated to make the subject a part of their future lives, even if the prof never finds out. Plus, these days there's an opportunity to model civil expression of differences, something badly lacking in society. And then there's the opportunity for fortuitous connections in the hallway before or after class, or the prof seeing an opportunity to utilize something seen while walking to class as a useful prop. I'm not sure there's much thought on how to even approach these admittedly rare learning goals at a distance. Plus, with the latter, while supposedly "frictionless," you have to worry about lost connectivity, sticky "L" keys, barking dogs. Still, the times are calling for distance. I just hope it's done with modesty, not with the typical spin, and as a learning experience for all concerned.

  214. @Matt Polsky " For instance, there's no way to handle my fundamental questioning of which answer is really "true," and which one "false."" That's an issue of course design, not learning modality. In my courses there is extensive asynchronous discussion of course concepts and questions along the lines you raise. Depending on the course level, the nuances of concepts may be as important as the concepts themselves. Additionally, in many disciplines there are "unsettled issues" for which the best we can say is that "it may be A or it may be B (or even C, D, etc.), but the data so far do not provide a clear answer."

  215. There’s a great scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid where Butch and Sundance are cornered on the top of a gorge with a raging river below. Butch wants to dive down into the river, while Sundance argues to shoot it out. Finally Sundance confesses that he can’t swim. Butch laughs and says, “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you!” They then yell something that is bleeped on TV as they jump together into the river. Mr. Carey really knows his stuff, and every one of his observations is on the mark. Yes, this won’t work smoothly. Except this is a “the fall will probably kill you” moment. We’ve already made the decision that we won’t hold face-to-face classes. So we can either abort the semester half way through, or we can do what we're doing—call on the faculty to switch as best as they can into a technology-enabled mode. So look on the bright side. For many if not most professors and students this WILL work. One thing that will enable this is that the use of learning management systems such as Canvas has been universal among students for some time, and almost universal among professors. So almost everyone is already posting readings electronically, hosting online discussions, allowing “papers” to be submitted online, etc. And, we can allow this experience to serve as a “pop quiz” on how we’re doing with learning technology, both in college and in K-12. OK, we won’t ace the quiz, but when the smoke clears we’ll have a much better idea of what we now need to do.

  216. Online coursework is a risk mitigation necessity due to the pandemic. Snarky reporting on the negatives is SOP for the NYT, but of little value. ( Their data plans are capped, their computers break, or their connections fail. Those with technology challenges are disproportionately low-income and students of color, who are also more vulnerable to dropping out.). Should we instead let the 20% be exposed to COVID19? I support my children’s university’s decisions in putting personal and societal safety first. And they ain't Harvard or MIT.

  217. Might we use the emptied campuses to quarantine people, way spaced out? They have the requist food sevices etc.

  218. Can a student pass their physical education requirement on-line? Do you have to wear your gym suit?

  219. In my freshman year, my psychology 101 course had 800 students in an auditorium with 300 other tuning in via CCTV. That was in 1967. If that is not 'distance learning' I don't know what would be. Look, it's all about 'getting in' (Rick Singer I'm looking at you) not actually about what you learn. In the really old days you looked at the number of the books in the library and the star faculty (their course taught by TAs). Today, any student can get all the info from Google including the 'Star' prof's views on xyz. Columbia University, my alma mater has a vidoe course which allows you to get a masters without attending. https://cvn.columbia.edu/program/columbia-university-computer-science-masters-degree-masters-science. Of course, you have to pay for the degree (proctored exam). So you see it all boils down today to 'getting in' and then taking exams. We can do all of this online

  220. I know a dance major. How is that going to work?

  221. @Kristine I know some music teachers who are using Skype and Zoom for classes.

  222. Online education is the modern equivalent of a correspondence course. There's a reason that degrees earned remotely have generally been considered inferior.

  223. @M Davis - I work with some incredibly talented, self-taught, globally-recognized, award-winning UX, visual and media designers and developers. Online education has helped many learn the skills they need to participate in higher value jobs with digital skills. For self-directed learners, I see a lot of evidence online education is as good or better than classroom education.

  224. The challenge for professors is to find the time to make syllabi adjustments and learn the technologies etc while having to take care of small children who are not in school or daycare. It’s going to be not-so-great learning however way you look at it, but this is like wartime... :-/

  225. NYT, I wish you'd provide a means for professors who are highly qualified in online teaching and learning to share our collective knowledge. It would be a much better use of your time, rather than criticizing the practice and generally demoralizing students and faculty who are trying to find the best way to keep our classrooms going in the midst of this chaos.

  226. @Beanie I have taught at the University level in the online modality for over 25 years. The quality of an online course, as is the quality of an in-classroom course, depends on (1) the course design and (2) the skill of the professor. There are many things that are better done online and many others that are better done in a classroom. Proper design of a course, any course, takes advantage of the strengths of the modality and minimizes its weaknesses. The skill sets needed to be effective as a professor in an online class are not identical to those needed to be effective in a classroom. One can learn the needed skills but one needs to be taught/shown them through proper faculty development. As to learning outcomes, a 2010 Department of Education study (available at https://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf) concluded "The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction." In other words, a well designed online course promotes student learning as well as a well designed classroom course. Two unspoken issues in this sudden movement to online delivery are (1) server capacity (including connection speed to servers) and (2) help desk support. The latter is crucial for both student and faculty success, especially if they are new to the modality.

  227. @Beanie The article is not criticizing online teaching, it is making the (correct) point that thousands of professors who have no training in how to teach online suddenly have to migrate to that medium without any experience with or skills tailored to it.

  228. @Beanie That's not the Times' job. Go start a Facebook group or something.

  229. I taught as an adjunct for 25 years. I learned that no teacher, however gifted, can make up for a lack of student effort. I often taught a large class of law students in a theater type room with seating rising from the front row to the tenth row. Students always were concerned at the beginning of the semester about how well they would score in my class. I pointed out that they should note where they sit..front, back, our on the ends of the aisles. Where they sit was the first, and a powerful, signal of their interest and desire to participate. Those were also proxies for their preparation, which was the best indicator of their future succss. Online classes are a wonderful, efficient and inexpensive means of disseminating information. But they payoff most to motivated students, students that have the self discipline to study, to prepare, to work independently. No teacher to nag you, no parental figure to goad you or prod you. The students that need that...and many many do.....will learn even less when the success in the course depends even more on their weakest disciplines. Sure, its easy to cheat, the bureaucracy can promote them and then declare victory (thus preserving their funding), but the students will graduate knowing nothing. And business will then have to train them, or they will be tossed out of the labor force. Eventually, they will end up at a Bernie rally decrying income inequality and student loan forgiveness.

  230. @shirleyjw I was with you until those final sentences. All students need great self-discipline. Online students need even more. A well designed and administered course -- face-to-face, hybrid, or online -- provides a framework that helps students succeed no matter what their personal failings or politics.

  231. When students in many rural areas, like mine, go home they will find that their internet connections are not adequate for distance learning. That is why towns like mine are building fiber broadband networks. But there is still a long way to go before high-speed internet connections are ubiquitous and affordable in rural America. Don’t college administrators recognize this gigabit gap? What are the unserved students supposed to do?

  232. @eyesopen I've had a lot of ed tech training, and technological accessibility is always a factor that is discussed. Students in urban areas often have similar problems as access is more an issue of economics than distance. Bandwidth is expensive. Equipment is expensive. Training teachers and supplying IT experts is expensive. We need political will at the state and federal levels to make this work for everyone.

  233. When the country was in the middle of the Cold War, the government built bunkers, shelters - all stacked with medicine food, blankets in case of a country-wide catastrophe. Not full proof, of course, but it was something. The government had a continuity mitigation plan. Having squandered the peace dividend and having Wall Street launched a nuclear looting attack to our economy, no, we’re not ready for anything. That much is clear. There are no medical tests, hospital beds nor staff to care for a potential pandemic. And, no, neither primary, secondary schools, nor colleges and universities are equipped to fully deal with this crisis online or otherwise .

  234. Thanks for the article and especially the last paragraph. It was inspirational in a time of great uncertainty.

  235. I suspect that people who are worried about the rigors and quality of online education are missing the point. I teach college, and I know that my students (who are not wealthy) will be facing all kinds of financial, personal, and medical issues because of our massive economic slowdown. My goal is to give them achievable, simple goals to finish out the course and learn the most essential requirements. This isn't the time for getting fancy. This is the time for getting people through. They will have enough challenges to deal with as it is.

  236. @RVC Thank you so much for this comment. I also am having to shift to online instruction, and I'm focusing on essentials: doable, accessible, humane, supportive.

  237. @RVC It's all we can do. Miracles, everyday!

  238. @RVC thank you! People are acting as though these kids will become stupid because they don’t have two months of face to face learning- I am the parent of two college students. Two of the four classes they take are completely unrelated to their interests or career trajectory. The other classes are only meeting 10 more times before the semester is over. If they have managed to learn after all nighters, with hangovers, in the middle of drama with their friends/lovers/parents, and while checking their Social media accounts every five minutes, they can finish their last ten classes online -_-

  239. I taught my first online philosophy courses in the summer of 2000, and continued to teach online summer school courses for the next 12 years. I was pretty good at it, but I also grew deeply aware of how difficult it is to design and deliver a truly good academic course online. And for some subjects, it is virtually impossible. There are also security issues that can be difficult to deal with (how do you know who is taking that quiz or exam online?). It's great advantage, as you suggest, is indeed access to educational resources from a distance. The demands it makes on professors' time and energy, and on the technological resources of both students and institutions, are very considerable. The rewards are much less certain. Those rewards also require a very lively agreement between teachers and their students to genuinely cooperate in the learning process. It is, I submit, difficult to use online instruction to replace the traditional classroom altogether.

  240. One thing not mentioned in the article about online courses is that they must be accessible to the hearing impaired and even the blind or low vision students. I work in this industry, and is the law that every student have access according to their needs. That means transcripts of lectures for the hearing impaired, and it increasingly means video description for low vision students. Imagine a video of a biology lab class. The hearing impaired student cannot hear what is happening and isn't getting the instructions. The low vision student hears just fine, but cannot see the steps as the professor demonstrates them. It's actually been shown that hearing students also benefit greatly from transcripts. There are companies that provide one or both of these services, and this adds another layer of complication and expense for those who are not veteran online course creators.

  241. I earned my masters online from a very good academic university. It was a positive experience over all but it’s not for everyone. I was a working husband with two babies, so the flexible nature was crucial. I still highly recommend brick and mortar for undergrads, though.

  242. As someone fearful of online anything- shopping, banking, social media- I was pleasantly surprised with the ease and support offered in the online college course for which I received an A.

  243. Good Online and Good Education are Mutually Exclusive. Actually I kid, but you have to be really technology savvy or have an exceptional online teacher to make it work for beginners and less tech oriented. Online eliminates the crucial question and answers--that so many benefit from what others ask. it's the essence of followup questions with a dimension of "in the moment" that you will never get online.....

  244. I'm a college instructor caught between these two worlds. I've been receiving intensive training as part of a cohort developing hybrid courses for our department. The training and the development of a single hybrid course is a year-long, exhaustive and exhausting process. Now, I have been enjoined to put four traditional courses online in the next two weeks. I've prepared my students as best I can, making sure they can access the LMS and supplying materials that I cannot put online, but it's going to be hard going. Some students are going to fall through the cracks. I agree this social distancing has to occur to save lives (including mine, as I'm high-risk), but I'm grateful to see awareness of the difficulties we teachers face in carrying it out.

  245. i teach a class as an adjunct; in my professional life i am a lawyer. the need for remote learning in the current circumstances is pressing, but will likely deprive my teaching of much its usefulness. i don't have a theory to press. i don't have a view of the world. About one-third of my criminal-justice situated class relies on slides and facts. The rest, and all of the vitality of the class, relies on figuring out what those slides and facts might mean and how they could be used as we go forward in the world. I do not deny that some remote learning is needed to expand opportunity, but i fear that too much of it, even temporally, will hurt our potential to think things through. there are reasons individuals don't speak out in class, but i fear they are dwarfed by the disincentives to speaking out online.

  246. Working as an "instructional designer" for about 10 years in higher education, I find this whole situation fascinating. The debate of online vs. face-to-face seems like the wrong approach. It is not a zero sum binary choice, but has somehow turned into one. Where we see failure is when online course design tries to be “the classroom on computers”. It’s a different modality. However, when course design tries to hybridize the two, we start to see real instructional innovation, such as on-demand video instruction that can tutor students with difficult tasks and discussions or group activities that take place outside the classroom, but are still part of the classroom community. What the sudden pivot to online courses, or as one Big 10 school calls it, “alternate learning”, shows is poor administrative policy towards course design and delivery. The other blind spot is seeing how some learners don’t have the bandwidth to participate, which goes beyond higher education. Being able to interact with peers asynchronously, through web conferences, delivery speeches via video, or navigate social media are all skills that students can and should develop. I am arguing for a push for innovation that uses the best of both online and face-to-face. This way, if an emergency shift is needed (or an individual student has to miss classes), the disruption is minimal.

  247. Don't get fooled by colorful PowerPoint presentations. These you can google by the hundreds in a few seconds these days. What really matters and is worth paying for is the quality and motivation of the instructor the other side of the TCP/IP connection. NYU Tandon moved to online classes since last Wednesday. All the professor that was lecturing the presential classes had time to prepare were handwritten notes that he scanned and sent to us minutes in advance. The he called into the Zoom meeting. There was no video. All we had was talking about the subject while over his notes and stopping once a while to allow for questions to posed and to make sure the his phone connection was still OK. He is a true and humble expert in his field and this simple class he prepared was for sure the best online experience I ever had (I have been working for 30 years so I saw and made a lot of them). Again don't get fooled. If the online course does not support the student in all his/her needs, and if the professor can't project himself as mentor online in one way or another, it is better to go to YouTube or Wikipedia, specially if you are a graduate student and is doing all the effort to really learn and not only to get paper a nice (and sometimes handy) certificate of conclusion.

  248. I see comments here bemoaning that higher ed is too eager to convert everything online; they're chomping at the bit to rent out the buildings; they love cutting teachers and throwing money at Blackboard so much, they'll never go back to in-person teaching after this. If any of that were the case, we wouldn't be in crisis right now. The reason my own college is self-imploding is because we dragged our feet on distance learning for decades. Our previous president said students always drop out of online courses, so there's no point in offering them. IT decided providing cameras and software to faculty is a waste of money. Instructional VPs told our three-member eLearning department to build an "innovation center" for that kind of thing, but with no funding for equipment or staff. Faculty trainings? What for? Now BOOM, every class must be moved online. Right now. We want you techie types to do a Zoom thingy in three days--just show every employee everything they need to know about teaching online in two hours, 'kay? Few of our instructors have experience with online pedagogy. Many have never used the LMS even for assignment submissions. The college doesn't have the resources or support staff to help them, much less the students who will inevitably run into technical issues, melt down, and drop out. If the college had embraced online learning years ago, we'd be a lot better prepared to handle the current crisis.

  249. I have the week of spring break (now, and I’ve barely recovered from the flu and an infected lung) to convert my two courses into online courses. I have never taught an online course, though I have used some of the tools. There seems to be no help. Oh well...at the beginning of the current semester the computer accidentally attached me to an advanced course in a totally different department to teach a subject I know nothing about (electrical engineering...).

  250. Completed my MBA online via the UMASS Amherst Isenberg school. Excellent education. Yes, you need an internet connection and a computer. Distance learning is a must for both educators as well as students of all ages and walks of life. Free internet is everywhere, and free computer workstations are around. Used laptops can be had for $100. No room and board charges either.

  251. I'd argue that it is also a stretch to say that these colleges that are moving their instruction online with very few days preparation are even "conducting traditional education at a distance." Most will accomplish less than that, and I am not saying this to be critical. Online instruction is tough, few do it well, and I worry that students outcomes are bimodally distributed, w/some doing very well and some doing very poorly. The only fair approach given these circumstances is for professors to do their best, students do their best, with both groups not judging the other too harshly, and this includes grades. Give fewer Fs ad Ds (than indicated by the actual course points' totals), curve more generously. Remind students about upcoming deadlines. Reach out to those who miss the deadlines. Try to keep students connected. And remember that if students learn a little less this semester, it is OK. We are all sacrificing something to flatten the curve.